In his biography of St. Ignatius Loyola, Francis Thompson observed that while that great saint abhorred all forms of acquisitiveness, even forbidding the picking of flowers, he also thought there was no excuse for living in dirt. This found an echo in Fulton Sheen's remark that dirt was merely 'matter in the wrong place'.
There is no such thing as being 'dirt poor'. Where people live in dirt, it is only because they live in ignorance and want.
One of the great comic figures of modern times is Michael O' Leary, Chief Executive of the discount airline Ryanair. There is a very rude Irish word which precisely describes the impression that Mr. O' Leary's public pronouncements give of him - it's the one that rhymes with 'mob flight', itself a not inaccurate description of the discount airline industry. It is often said that where there's muck, there's brass; Mr. O' Leary seems to have one of those careers dedicated to proving that the inverse of that observation can also be true.
My friend Martin Meenagh has highlighted Mr. O' Leary's philosophising concerning the demographics most likely to be affected by swine flu. It will be, 'a tragedy only for people living ... in slums in Asia or Mexico'.
Mr. O' Leary might have cleaned up in the discount airline industry; yet perhaps he might not realise, or perhaps recall, that the loss of a single human life to swine flu as a result of ignorance and want is a greater loss to humanity than Ryanair's bankruptcy would and could ever be. That is the impression I got from reading his remarks.
Slum-dwellers. Some English and Scots would once have said the same of the Irish.
It is not known whether Mr. O' Leary has yet been the subject of a biography. If not, I would suggest that the task fall to his compatriot Roddy Doyle; and given that it would concern the doings of a man who helped turn what should be one of the most sophisticated and enjoyable forms of travelling into little more than swineherding, and who has rather odd and apparently uncompassionate views on swine flu, an apposite title might be 'The Rasher'.