The three work mates entered The Crane and took up their position at the usual spot at the end of the bar. They ordered the usual two pints of Guinness and a pint of Heineken. The conversation immediately turned to the refugee crisis.
‘It’s spreading out of control now,’ said Morris.
‘Yeah because the powers that be didn’t do the right thing before it got out of control,’ said Shea.
‘Same old story, trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted. Will they ever learn?’ asked Ray.
The three of them slugged from their glasses then Shea posed a question. ‘How do you guys feel about them coming over here anyway? Cards on the table like. How do you really feel about it? And not just in Ireland but all around Europe.’ His colleagues seemed reluctant to have the conversation. Eventually, Morris spoke.
‘Well when you see footage on telly of children drowning in the Med, and other footage of those murdering ISIS pigs on the rampage in Syria and Iraq and Libya, and who knows where else…well you gotta help those refugees I suppose. They must be terrified, God love them.’
‘It would be pretty heartless not to help them, Shea,’ Ray added.
‘Well, that’s all fine, your right about all that. I get the point about humanitarian action. But I’m not asking you about humanitarian efforts to help desperate people. I’m asking you about all these North African and Middle Eastern people arriving in Europe.’ Again Shea’s friends were hesitant. ‘Well, what about them Shea?’ Ray asked.
‘Jesus, do I have to drag it out of you? How do you feel about our country welcoming hundreds or possibly thousands of people, from countries that generally speaking can’t stand Western societies? People who have very little respect for anyone outside their own Muslim world. How do you think they are going to get on here?’
‘Well I guess they’re going to have to make the best of it and so are we,’ Morris said. That’s what America did when they opened up their borders to the world. They made the most of it and look at the USA today. It’s the most powerful nation on earth.’
‘And the most diverse in the world,’ added Ray.
‘Yeah right,’ Shea sneered.
‘What’s that for?’ asked Morris.
‘Don’t give me all that American one-big-happy-multi-cultural family bullshit. You know damn well the reality of everyday life over there. In the states people live in fear of each other. Nobody trusts each other. They don’t even like each other never mind trust each other. Fuck all that American dream nonsense.’
Morris looked at Ray and they both laughed. Shea eyed them both and asked, ‘What’s that about? What’s so funny?’
‘It’s only the first pint Shea, please don’t go off on one of your anti-American rants,’ Morris pleaded only half-jokingly.
‘Yeah spare us,’ Ray said, ‘it’s way too early.’
Shea banged his pint down on the bar. ‘For the last time, I am not anti-American. Stop fuckin’ saying that about me. I’ve nothing against the Yanks. I just don’t like it when people go on about the American dream, that’s all. Because it’s not a dream, it’s a friggin’ nightmare; racism, bigotry, poverty, inequality, unemployment, inner city squalor, rural devastation, crazy gun laws, round-the-clock violence. I should know, I was there remember.’
Morris looked at Ray and rolled his eyes. ‘You were in Los Angeles Shea. LA isn’t America. It’s one town and it’s a place I’ll bet most Americans wouldn’t live in if you paid them to.’
‘Meaning what? LA doesn’t count or my opinion doesn’t count?
‘Neither, I’m just saying…’ Morris replied, but didn’t get to finish the sentence.
‘Never mind,’ Shea interrupted. ‘It makes no difference to what we’re talking about here. We’ve gone off topic. Now what do you think of these refugees coming into Europe, particularly Ireland…our country?’
Ray replied with his quiet soft tone. ‘Well for me it’s like this. Generations of Irish people have been leaving this country and going to other lands in search of a better life for centuries. In the famine times they left or they’d perish. In times of war and rebellion they left for fear for their lives. Other times it was pure economics and lack of job opportunities. Whatever their reasons, they left and headed to places they hoped would be better; America, Britain, Australia, Canada. I just think it would be ludicrous for us to begrudge anyone wanting to come here for the same reasons. I’m not thrilled at the prospect of a wave of refugees coming here, but I accept it. I’m not fighting it Shea.’
Shea looked at Ray, then to Morris. ‘You feel the same, Morris?’
‘Yeah, and sure even if you did want to fight it, how would you do that exactly? Form a militia of some sort? Call for an uprising? And how much support do you think you’d get for that? This is 21st century Ireland remember; the country that could not even get angry enough to fight back against the corrupt Irish fuckers who robbed their own people blind. Irish developers and bankers and dozy regulators, and they’re still robbing us blind with different tactics to cover their tracks, Irish Water being a perfect example. More dishonest people getting more bloated salaries and why? Because they are able to create these phony economic cartels for themselves. They have that power. And people still can’t get angry enough to rise up in violent retaliation. Face it Shea, we’re not a revolutionary country anymore. You know it, the government knows it, the banks know it, the property sharks know it, the phony cartels know it. The Irish are a docile people now, and it’s gonna stay that way. I’m not saying that’s good because it isn’t. But it’s a fact. Look around you Shea; who’s gonna join your militia?’
Shea finished his pint and called for another round.
‘Well I’m not talking about militias or violence,’ Shea said as he wiped the Guinness foam from the corners of his mouth. ‘I’m just talking about cultural changes. I don’t understand why so many Irish people feel like they have to kiss the ass of every foreigner who comes here as if they owe them something. What the fuck does any Irish person owe the people of Syria or Iraq, or Libya, or anywhere else? Irish people weren’t fleeing to Northern Africa or the Middle East during our troubled past. We never got any refugee welcome from those places. In fact, we didn’t get any refugee status from anywhere. America, Britain, nowhere. So why do so many Irish people act like doormats? Always saying we have to help these people and we have to help those people.’
‘But Shea we don’t have….’ Morris tried to butt in, but Shea wouldn’t let him.
‘But Shea nothing! Saudi Arabia apparently are not accepting any refugees from Syria or anywhere else. Bahrain, Oman, Quarter, UAE, Kuwait; they’re not either, you know why? Because they choose not to that’s why. Because they’ve got their own reasons for saying no. Reasons that may be entirely valid, but I don’t hear anyone calling them racists or heartless?
But you even suggest saying no to refugees in Ireland and you’ll soon find out who is your friend. The way some Irish are with their doormat mentality, they will play the race-card the first chance they get. It’s like they can’t wait to accuse you of racism. You can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices. They love playing the race-card; I reckon it makes them feel superior.’ Shea smiled and lifted his glass. ‘I reckon you’re a race-card player yourself Morris.’
Morris looked at him, then at Ray.
‘No I’m not actually, and I don’t want to be one of them because they’re nothing but a bunch of two-faced pricks. There are plenty of them at work in my department. Always preaching about compassion and freedom, but only on their terms, nobody else’s. Anyone who disagrees with them is automatically branded a racist or bigot right? Suddenly you find out exactly what their kind of freedom of speech really means. Fuck them, they’re assholes. I’m just trying to answer your question here Shea, and I’m telling you that Ray is right. We can’t stop migration; be it refugees or migrant workers. So really the only question is how to manage it when it happens. And I reckon the right way to manage it is to help those people as much as possible. To make things harder for them is crazy. What good would that do anyone?
‘And besides,’ Ray said. ‘Those people don’t want to come here Shea, but they’re terrified of those demented ISIS fools. Wouldn’t you be? Wouldn’t you do everything you could to get your wife and children away from those half-baked rapists and murderers?’
‘I would,’ said Shea. ‘I would do what I had to do to survive. I get the point about desperation. I also know that even understanding the desperation of it all still doesn’t stop the feeling of dread I feel about mass movements of people across borders. And whether that dread is irrational or not, it’s there and it’s real. I’m not the multiculturalist type that wants to embrace other people with open arms, because that mentality is alien to me. I don’t have any great love for multi-culture. Its benefits are overrated.’
‘Well I don’t have any great hankering for it either Shea,’ Ray replied, ‘but I know it’s what happens to all nations eventually. Every country becomes multicultural whether they want it or not. Borders on a map can’t stop the will of the people Shea. Multi-culture is an unstoppable force of nature. Trying to prevent it happening would be like trying to stop the tides from ebbing and flowing. Like trying to block mother nature’s path. She won’t be stopped Shea, not for man or beast. That’s just a fact.’
The three men got started on their second round. Shea let out a long sigh. ‘Deep down I know you’re right about mother nature. She’s all powerful and if multi-culture is what she wants then she’s gonna have it. I guess me and my kind are just gonna have to suffer the fate of the dinosaur.’
‘Oh please,’ said Morris. ‘You make it sound like people should feel sorry for you. Poor little Shea has to live in a new multicultural society. You poor man, God love ya.’ Morris reached out and stroked the back of Shea’s head with the palm of his hand.
‘Take your filthy fuckin’ hand off me,’ Shea demanded.
‘Wanna a hug Shea?’ Morris asked.
‘Drink your pint Morris before I break it over your fuckin’ head.’ They laughed and gulped some more stout and when the laughing subsided Shea raised the topic of the work fundraiser. ‘So I’m guessing you’re both gonna do the 5 mile fundraiser yeah?’
His friends were unanimous.
‘Yeah, I’m gonna do it Shea. Mind you I’m not looking forward to it. I don’t know if I could run 500 metres never mind five miles. Still if it helps raise a few quid for the refugees it’ll be worth the pain. Especially for those kids. When I see their frightened faces on TV I feel heartbroken. I feel it every time I see them. And I know damn well that feeling ain’t going away until I do something positive, something good. And this 5km run is just the ticket I reckon; short of becoming a Red Cross or Goal volunteer. Fuck that; I ain’t the missionary type. There’s only so much I’m willing to do for others. But I can persevere with a 5km run I reckon.
‘I’m the very same Ray,’ Morris said with an almost embarrassed tone. ‘I can only go so far with the humanitarian relief effort. I can donate and I can participate in a one-off event, but that’s it. I have to draw the line. I don’t feel any divine calling to save the planet, no matter how fucked up it gets.’
Shea didn’t respond but swallowed some more Guinness and pondered his friend’s words.
‘So…are you gonna join us?’ Morris asked looking at Shea but there was no response from his friend. ‘Hello…earth to Shea. I said are you gonna join us on the fundraiser?’ Shea snapped out of his trance.
‘Me…oh no, probably not. Not my thing. I can barely climb the stairs at home never mind run 5km. But hey, good luck with it lads. I’ll be right here on the day, supping a jar. I’ll be thinking of ye while I get quietly pissed.’
‘Come on be serious Shea,’ Morris said. ‘Sure you can get quietly pissed any time. Even on the day itself if you want, when the run’s over we can all go for a jar.’
‘I am serious Morris. I couldn’t run from here to the end of the bar. If I attempted 5km you’d better have St. John’s ambulance on standby for me.’ Morris laughed.
‘Well St. John may have to take a few of us to hospital on the day, but sure what harm? We’ll all go to hospital together! Right Ray?’
‘That’s right Morris,’ Ray replied with a smile. ‘All for one and all that jazz.’
‘Come on Shea it’s a once-off. 5km around Galway City, and out to Salthill prom. It won’t kill us Shea. All joking aside, we can do it. Join us Shea, don’t be a begrudger. Most of our department is taking part…actually most of the factory is. You don’t want to be the odd man out, do you? That might not go down too well with people. Might look bad.’
‘That sounds ominous; you’re starting to sound like a race-card player now. Intimidation tactics, is that it Morris?’
‘Oh bollocks. I’m just tired of seeing bad things happen and never doing much to help stop it, or even ease the pain of it. Sometimes those donations I give to Goal just don’t seem enough. Sometimes you have to do something a bit more tangible. Something that requires your physical presence. Something to test the mind and body. Something that might just wake us up out of this slumber we call our everyday lives.’
‘And so what if you don’t like multi-culture Shea,’ Ray said. ‘I don’t even look at it that way. Forget multi-culture. This is just about helping some people trapped in a really diabolical situation, not of their own making. It’s about helping people Shea that’s all. It’s nothing more than that. Just helping people.’
‘We’ll be like the three musketeers Shea,’ Morris quipped.
‘The three amigos,’ Ray declared. ‘We’ll do the run together, we’ll finish it together, and we’ll get pissed afterwards together!’
‘And in the process we’ll raise a few hundred hopefully. And it might just help someone in some small way,’ Morris said. ‘Every penny counts Shea, if we only raise €500, sure isn’t it €500 that can be put to some good use.’
Ray nodded his head. ‘Come on Shea, join us, offer it up for your auld sins. Bite the bullet.’
© Copyright Des Kirby 2015