No Limits

JMI is now half way through its third year. You would imagine that things should be getting easier. I have sat down to write this editorial several times over the last two months, each time grounding to a halt after a couple of paragraphs. It seems I have become a victim of the exact subject I wanted to discuss: limits. Generally, when I attempt to write an editorial, it is because I am trying to articulate the ins and outs of some force bearing down on our cultural environment. The world of ideas that surrounds Irish cultural life is a battleground of competing forces, all trying to set and define the boundaries by which we should live our lives.

The challenge is that these constraints do not always present themselves so obviously. Some of the limits that are put on our collective imagination have to do with our psychology as a country and are so ingrained that they are almost impermeable, while others emanate from the subtle workings of power, and are so apparently flawless and widely-accepted in their logic that it is hard to pick holes in them

I have a natural repulsion for talk that tries to limit the imagination. There is a small dial at the back of my mind. It is numbered from one to ten. Every now and then this little dial shoots into the red and alarm bells go off in my head. The tension shuts off all other thought processes and I am not always aware what has caused it. Then, on reflection, when it has passed, I realise that what I found so intolerable was the sound of people putting a limit on what the Irish can do – what I, as an Irish person, can do. It is subtly done – a slight snort, an air of authority – and as merrily as if they were mixing a cocktail, they express the confines by which we must live our lives: we cannot be proud, we cannot be brave, we cannot go first, we cannot say yes, we cannot say no, we cannot talk back, we cannot do it on our own – whatever that ‘it’ may be.

There are no limits; there is no reality but that which you yourself create or imagine. But there are plenty of people who will tell you how you can and can’t create that reality. They have the facts, the figures, the raised eyebrow, and probably the pull too, so that you can be in no doubt as to what your limits are. I have listened to these people and I am not impressed. They are akin to the gossip who needs everyone to believe their insidious take on an event before they can believe it themselves.

The only way to beat off those ideas that limit the imagination is to do so with with other ideas. So in JMI we are, in essence, trying to produce a magazine of music and ideas – good, bad and untried. For fresh ideas can make Ireland interesting, and when Ireland becomes interesting it then has a shimmer that makes you realise its potential. You begin to question those who want to tell you only of Ireland’s limits, who talk only in fatalistic terms, who evidently want this country all sewn up in some corporate executive’s golf bag.

I don’t want to live in a well-behaved country, and I don’t want to publish a well-behaved journal. The Irish power centre talks only of how we can limit ourselves, of the ‘economic reality’, of what the Irish are capable of, of who we have to thank forour democracy. It jars with our history and it will jar with our sense of self-respect just as long as we forced to listen to it.

March 2003

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