Saturday, June 10, 2006

Window Dressing for people.

Barcelona is one of the most popular destination for people today. The street side cafes, the buzz of La Rambles, the beauty of the dancing fountains, the view from Montjuic, the architecture, the food. People walk around there and think they are absorbing the true Barcelona the real Catalonia but they are not look around you and it is not Barcelona you see it is a fa├žade window dressing the buzz is of tourists who like you have no connection to the place. The real Catalonia is in places like the La Maquinista just off Sant Andrea metro station. So what is there that is so indicative of Catalonian culture. A church, a Guadi building are maybe an art gallery? No La Maquinista is the largest shopping centre in Barcelona. Always buzzing with what makes Barcelona the place that it is. Locals.

Recently there was a lot of talk about how it was disgraceful about how Grafton Street was turning into a non-descript high street with zero characteristics of Ireland. That it was terrible that shops with wonderfully Irish names with O’s in front of them selling all sorts of traditional Irish stuff were being replaced by such bland entities like Foot Locker, Boots and McDonalds. It was seen as an abandonment of Irishness as these shops have nothing to do with being Irish.

But what is Irishness. To me Irishness is everything and nothing. It is not a commodity that can be bought or sold or indeed reproduced. It is not Aran sweaters it is not pony and traps and indeed it is not even the great Martin Hayes. If it was merely those things then it would be a commodity something we can sell nothing else. Something that could be reproduced anywhere in the world on an assembly line. And indeed we do sell these things we sell Aran Sweaters to the yanks who send post cards with Rush Hour Ireland on them back stateside. This just like La Rambles in Barcelona is a commodity, a commodity used to trick the tourist and sometimes ourselves into believing that Irishness is something that it is not. Aran Sweaters are merely wool, traditional music is merely sound waves. The sum total of their parts do not add up to Irishness it is something else that makes them Irish and it is the same thing that makes any place special. People.

The reason that all these Boots etc move into Grafton street is because that is what people want. These shops are paying some of the highest rates in the World. The only reason that they are is because people will shop there. These people are Irish.

In some ways trying to maintain Ireland like it was is in many ways trying to impose a vision of what people want Ireland to be not what it is. To create a stereotypical streetscape. Because think about it what really is in the name of a shop what tangible thing is it really, like a career it is a phantom an apparition a nonsensical entity created to remove people from the reality of the situation that the only thing that is real in this world is people. Everything else streets, culture, food, clothes is merely window dressing.

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