Dec. 22, 2011, Posted by Submission


I sometimes wonder what Irish historians will ultimately make of my generation.

We were supposed to be the equivalent of the baby boomers:a star generation that cast off the religious shackles of Church and freed ourselves from the economic shackles of forced emigration. It looked so great for us for a while there. We gave birth to and propelled the Celtic tiger. We liberalised the laws of the land so that they no longer simply reflected the tenets of the dominant religion here. But in the end, it went pretty pear-shaped: we took our eyes off the ball and handed over control of our children's destiny to corrupt or incompetent politicians and bankers. We're almost back in the same mess we started in, watching the best and brightest of our children forced to seek their fortunes in other countries.

I spent the last week in a country in even worse shape. A country where things are so bad that most of the people I talked to reckon their best hope is to hand control over to a man who makes large fortunes from beating the daylights out of others better than just about anyone else in the world. I'm talking about the Philipines and professional boxer Manny Pacquiao.

Often times as a privileged westerner, you can go to places with crushing poverty but remain oblivious in a resort hotel. However, although the hotel where the tournament was taking place and the hotel where I was staying were a mere 200 metres apart, every time I walked it it felt a bit like obstacle course with the beggars, the hustlers, the street kids, the working girls, the street traders and the unreliable pavement. The kids were probably the saddest aspect: I read in the local paper that there are an estimated quarter of a million of them here. Kids as young as four trained to trot along beside you, one hand outstretched to beg, the other tapping you gently on the belly or side to get your attention. I find it very hard to see such visible desperate poverty, and not feel a bit guilty and worthless when I reflect that I make a small fortune from playing cards a little better than most people.

I once asked my oldest son Paddy if I should feel bad about what I do for a living these days. I asked him because he's the most ethically motivated person I know. He gave up years of his life to environmental activism, and pretty much everything he does is driven by "How do I make the world a better place?" He shrugged and said it probably wasn't any worse than what I used to do as a technology consultant.

His years of environmental activism taught him that often the most seemingly innocuous of office jobs are enablers to the destruction and depravity we do to others and the planet. He also offered the view that how you spend the money you earn is at least as important as how you earn it.

Basically, making money from poker to provide your family with a decent but not overly lavish lifestyle, fund your eldest's latest ethical business venture (an urban recycling enterprise) and decent donations to worthy charitable causes good: spending the money you make primarily on hookers, coke and fossil fuels bad. "The method you employ to support yourself and your family may not do any real good, but at least it doesn't do any major harm. That's probably better than most people can say. Hey, it's not like you're a banker, Dad".

Have Your Say

Tell us what you think...

(will not be posted)