Get a room.
In his novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being Czech author Milan Kundera explains that kitsch is an aesthetic ideal ‘in which shit is denied and everyone acts as though it did not exist’. This he argues, ‘is the aesthetic ideal of all politicians and all political parties and movements.’ The Montrose cultural bubble has long served a crucial political purpose: denying shit while everyone acts as though it does not exist.
…Through no fault of his own, the feel good factor of Dermot Bannon’s show obscures the suffering associated with an enduring and arguably preventable housing crisis, and also, more broadly, provides an insight into how the Irish overreaction to Covid-19 occurred; which has done incalculable damage to the lives of children especially.
It seems that our best, and perhaps only, response in Ireland to these traumas is comedy, but this has clear pitfalls.
…..Room To Improve is devoted to the improvement of private dwellings in the possession of a shrinking middle class still transfixed by the ups and downs of the Irish property market. It is instructive that according to Daft at the start of May, 2022 there are just over one thousand properties available to rent in all of Ireland at a point when the Irish government has just committed to welcoming tens of thousands of refugees from Ukraine. Is it any wonder so many people are disinclined to have children.
…In essence Room to Improve translates into: how can someone increase the market value of their property. The lurking presence of the celebrity quantity surveyor ensures that any project is seen in terms of adding financial value to the holding.
It is particularly tone deaf as we reach another high-water mark in an ongoing housing crisis. Missing on RTÉ is serious engagement with the corruption of a planning process, which lies behind enduring inequalities and sprawl, or the financial structures that embed generational inequalities, and permit a creeping dominance of transnational capitalism.
It is not that housing dysfunction is denied on RTÉ – that we are lied to as such – it is that the issues are almost completely ignored amidst the day-to-day mixture of light entertainment and vox pop nonsense that are their mainstays. Room to Improve is a form of kitsch because it denies the shitstorm going on in the society around it.
…It also appears that RTÉ’s longstanding tendency to bury shitness – which is also evident in legacy print media – led to the catastrophic handling of Covid-19 in Ireland…
…It will be many years before we come to terms with what happened during Covid-19 around the world, and confront the traumas, especially to children, of living through lockdowns. It is instructive that despite having the youngest population in the EU, Irish children were subjected to the longest school closures. Simply blaming teaching unions ignores how teachers were subjected to relentless fear messaging that made them reluctant to do their jobs, despite international data from early on showing that their concerns were generally misguided.
Yet for RTÉ ‘The deadly virus’ of COVID-19 seemed to arrive as a godsend – and an advertising windfall, or so-called Covid bounce. A slavish devotion allowed the channel to almost completely ignore all other difficult news for the best part of a year-and-a-half. The daily totals of cases and deaths, uncritically conveyed, became the staple of every radio and television news bulletin and headline on their website.
Then, almost overnight, the issue vanished from sight, without any kind of meaningful post-mortem or reflection on the damage inflicted on the patchwork of communities that make up our society.
It gives way to relentless coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – thick on spectacle and almost devoid of critical analysis. Images of wasted buildings now bury discussion of other stories [more at link below]