Don't be misled by our nation's pervasive disappointment
There used to be a near-fatal game called drink-along-a-Dallas, where you had to knock back a glass of something strong every time a character in the wonderfully lurid TV soap did the same. But there’s a variation guaranteed to induce cirrhosis even faster: drink-along-a-disappointing.
Whenever a controversy blows up, take a drink every time any participant or commentator declares their disappointment. You’ll be ossified in no time.
To take just one recent example, the scandal of horse meat in Irish burgers was the biggest let-down since Rapunzel. The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney declared “I am disappointed with this development”. The chief executive of Bord Bia was “deeply disappointed”.
The chief executive of ABP Food Group, which produced the most chimerical burger, was “extremely disappointed”. The former chairman of the British Meat and Livestock Commission found the whole thing “very disappointing”. I would be disappointed if there were no further statements along the same lines.
Disappointment is now the default response to every failure or scandal, every nefarious act or culpable inaction – not just from governments and corporations but from pressure groups and campaigners as well. No one is angry or ashamed or disgusted. If you want to show very strong emotion, you don’t vary the expression, you just put a big adjective before it – very, extremely, deeply.
It covers all occasions. So far as I can see, the most disappointed man in Irish politics is Ruairí Quinn. In the recent past, he found the failure of his ill-conceived surveys of parental opinion of school ownership “disappointing”. He found the lack of progress in reducing the level of unemployment “disappointing”. He found the response from religious congregations to demands that they stump up more cash for the compensation of survivors of child abuse “disappointing”.
Dealing with the appalling failure of the Susi system for paying student grants, which he himself established, he said “I am disappointed that the system hasn’t worked as well as it was designed to work.” He must go around all day like a child who was expecting an Xbox from Santa Claus but got a box of crayons.
But it’s not just politicians who take refuge in this permanent state of sadly frustrated expectations. One of the reasons why disappointment is so universally popular is that it is a one-size-fits-all response to any kind of calamity, from missing a train to wrecking an economy.
The mining conglomerate Rio Tinto is “deeply disappointed” to have lost a breathtaking $14 billion on two bad deals. The Consumers’ Association of Ireland says HMV’s decision not to honour gift vouchers was “disappointing”. A reader writes to The Irish Times “to express disappointment in the service experienced on the Dart recently”.