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Column: Everybody seems to be leaving, but what about those of us left?

In these days of mass emigration, writes Stefanie Preissner, should we feel a responsibility to the country that raised us?

Stefanie Preissner

Stefanie Preissner is the writer and performer of Solpadeine is My Boyfriend at ABSOLUT Fringe 2012. The show deals with emigration, and here she asks: what do we owe to the ones who stay?

WHEN LIFE GIVES you lemons, make lemonade… in Australia.

I was at an extremely depressing house party last Friday night. Aside from the fact that the music was aggressively bad and the Dutch Gold was flowing, the mood of the party was one to which I have become accustomed: sombre, delicate and with tangible, repressed emotion. Another one of my friends had decided to take their free degree and check in online to Australia.

Growing up with a second level education in Ireland in the noughties meant that you were repeatedly told that the world was your oyster, that you could do whatever degree you wanted because obviously you would get a degree – it was free, like, why wouldn’t you?
And you would skip out into the world then and get whatever job you liked. Skip forward a few years and we, who are now twenty-somethings, cannot afford to live in the world we were brought into.

€188 a week on the dole doesn’t quite appeal to a person who made over £850 for their First Holy Communion.

We feel an ill-placed sense of entitlement to work in the field that we trained. But are we so entitled?

I am trying to stick it out here. My feeling is that, as an artist, even during the Celtic Tiger, I probably wouldn’t have been earning that much more than I am today. But what is more difficult than not having money and only sporadically having work is finding yourself
with less and less support as your circle of friends is now a circle with the circumference of the globe.

A country that needs us

It seems like we now feel absolutely no sense of responsibility to stay in a country that needs us, a country that gave us free education while it could. The saying in the 80s was “the best left” and I don’t like feeling that people think they are better for leaving. I’m sure there are many people who would rather stay here if given the choice, and also people who would be leaving anyway no matter the state of the economy.

My issue is that – like young people who put their parents straight into homes when they become dependent – there is no sense of patriotism or loyalty to a country suffering depression.

I am trying to find solutions and examine what has happened through theatre, but I’m finding it hard when preaching to an audience who clearly have not emigrated.

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I say in the play, “If people would stop leaving and moving away it would be easier for the ones who have to stay. If we were all still here we could carry the weight but a few people can’t support an entire state.”

It’s a hard time for young people in Ireland, and I guess I believe that if we were all still here at least we’d have each other. But people have to live and people have to eat. And perhaps there are bigger problems.

“The polar bears are starving, the whales need saving, the bees are becoming extinct, pandas won’t mate, people are flying planes into buildings, oil is running out, there’s a hole in the sky above the Antarctic that’s killing us all, there’s not enough money, there are
too many people, iPhone batteries die too quickly. Tigers are endangered, rhinoes are endangered, two types of turtle, a parrot and a shark. But I never saw a dinosaur! Things become extinct.”

Stefanie Preissner’s Solpadeine Is My Boyfriend runs from September 6-15 in the Project Arts Centre at 1pm daily. For more info or to book go to fringefest.com or call 1850 374 643.

About the author:

Stefanie Preissner

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