26.06.2015 - 26.06.2015 21 °C
This is my last post for this trip. Tomorrow we fly out of Dublin for Dubai and I don’t expect to do anything of note over the next couple of days. SO it seems a good time to wrap it up and look back on the trip.
So a central theme that has been running through my head has been change.
Firstly the changes in me. Early on it was soon apparent that I was longer the 25 year old who last went on the “Grand Tour”. So this trip has been particularly hard in terms of stamina. I felt it a couple of times throughout the trip and more so at the back end. I think I shut down last week and ever since I have been counting down the days to my return. But I am still not looking forward to that cattle herding long haul flight.
I shouldn’t be surprised, but it was the changes in places that I had once visited that was the most surprising. It certainly had a lot to do with my experiences as a 25 year old and as a 55 year old. You see and do different things, so your experiences are different. Brussels and Belgium is no longer the city and country that I once loved.
Places and people change, but it re-enforced the fact that we always need to be mindful of these changes and respond to them, or you will be left behind. Places that were once the seat or centre of great political or economic power have been left behind – never to regain their former power.
Yet the more things change the more they stay the same, only the players have changed. Early on in the trip there were many visits to stately castles and grand churches, which rammed home the power and wealth that these institutions had on the lives of the ordinary people. They held extraordinary power and they wielded it to their own advantage. When you think about the amount of money that were expended by these institutions – if they just spent a fraction of that on making the lives of their “people” just a bit better – how much different would be the world today. Now these institutions have been replaced by the new masters of our domain – the financial and political elites. They now direct the wealth of the global finances, with the crumbs falling our way. There was an article in the London Daily Telegraph about Tony Blair having a net worth of £60m and you wonder how a politician can make that sort of money, except through inside deals. I know it is idealistic to think that we will have an equal society, but just a small redistribution will have a huge difference.
One thing that has constantly hit me this trip has been the internationalisation of Europe. I know that from the time of Jesus people have always moved from place to place, but the extent of this movement has really had struck me this time. It doesn’t matter if you are in a major city or a small Irish town – the chances are the people you inter-act with will be from different countries. Europeans now move to wherever the economic opportunities present themselves and the EU facilitates this movement. Fascinating!
National stereotypes have also changed, well for me at least. I didn’t notice any gangs of drunk English and if anything the Poms and Irish are into fitness in a big way. I have never see so many runners and cyclists than what I have seen in these two countries. Runner runners everywhere and they are both a nation of beanpoles. When driving the Ring of Kerry there were numerous 50+ cyclist doing the trip and you think to yourself – bugger me, well done to them. It certainly make the Aussies and Americans stand out in the crowd. I know that uploading photos of myself has been a painful experience – seeing the fat blob I have become.
Finally I never had the emotional reactions that I thought I would have when visiting some of my family footsteps. Possibly I was caught up in the moment of capturing the images that I never spent the time to absorb it. It was only today when I came across the famine sculptures in Dublin that it really did hit me. The Irish have spread far and wide around the world. Some of it forced upon them and other it was chasing economic and social opportunity. For my family it was forced upon them and I truly believe that it was for their betterment. However for many it was a journey of extreme pain, which I thought was reflected in the sculptures. The Irish diaspora is tragic, but it also brought many good things to the world. There was a great street art display in the Temple Bar District that sought to identify what it was to be Irish. It struck me that for many they had to leave Ireland to achieve their greatness. Society and the Church was so stifling that they needed to escape to realise their potential. So it was in Australia. The Irish contributed so much to our political life through freedom fights (Eureka), workers rights (trade unions) and political rights (ALP) that I am for one proud of my Irish blood. But I will always be Australian (cue I Still Call Australia Home). So it is goodbye from me and goodbye from him and I will see you on the other side.