Y’know, when you think of Ireland- particularly if you’re an outsider- you’ll picture the typical Irish stereotypes; Pubs, Gingers, really really white people, weird dancing, funny accents, excessive alcoholism, street fights, leprechauns, Guinness- the whole shebang.
A lot of the island’s inhabitants kind of resent their reputation for being silly drunkards who sing and dance like mad men. I on the other hand am perfectly content with such a reputation. I’d rather my nation be known for alcoholism and silly dancing than for Sectarianism and Car Bombs.
One of the main benefits of being Irish is that we’re blissfully irrelevant from the world stage. What we say and what we do usually has little to no impact on the outer world. You’ll never see Al-Qaeda or ISIS cry out “Death to America! Oh, and Ireland as well!” no, nobody gives a shit about us- we’re irrelevant. There’s a peace in irrelevancy.
But such irrelevancy has given prone to what some people refer to as Smugness. I’m starting to notice a series of condemnations on the Irish people’s view of both themselves and the outer world, most recently from a journalist named Fintan O’Toole, who wrote an editorial in the Irish Times condemning said smugness. Arguing that the Irish people are more concerned over Trump leaving the Paris Accords than the fact that the Irish state has barely met 1% of it’s reduced emissions goal for 2020.
It’s this kind of attitude, the smug belief that we’re better than all the other western nations because we’ve never invaded, colonised or enacted a state sanctioned genocide upon anyone. Which is a strange thing to take pride in, when you think about it.
There’s also the fact that the Irish public tend to be more lenient towards immigrants, since a good portion of our population faced quite a lot of difficulty in the emigration process towards other nations, mostly the US and Britain. So whenever an Irish person complains about immigration, you get the fact that we were treated badly thrown back in your face and thus we ought to be more nuanced and accepting.
My opinion on immigration and refugees is that we ought to accept as many as we can, so long as they obey the law and we have enough resources to accept them. I want to put a lot of stress on that last part because it’s important to recognise that you cannot be any good to anyone if you cannot help yourself. But of course I’ve already discussed immigration on the blog, most immigrants themselves are decent people that add net value to the country they currently abide in.
I’ve already talked about some conflicting concerns of the Irish people, like in this article where I talked about the Taoiseach being more concerned with the illegal Irish immigrants in America than the thousands of illegal immigrants in his own nation who either need steps to become full citizens so they can contribute fully to society, or need to be deported.
So the critique about the Irish being particularly smug in the fact that they believe to be more tolerant, more empathetic, more knowledgeable about the world than most nations in the West is an interesting one. But again, it’s important to recognise we’re a small rock in the middle of the Atlantic that nobody gives a shit about- so obviously the proponents of such an argument are almost exclusively Irish.
You’ll never see a Brit or a Welshman crying about the Smugness of the Irish.
Now whether or not there’s any merit to the idea that the Irish seem to be overtly smug in their superior world view remains unseen. What is notable though is that a good chunk of the Irish identity and world view lies in one place; the past.
Yes, it’s safe to say that the Irish have yet to get over the 700 years of British occupation and the abuse from the Catholic Church. At one point the island housed over eight million people, but after a famine and mass emigration the population has barely risen over four million.
Add to the fact that the nation as a whole is quite rural and possesses a small town-like mentality, mix in a complicated history up north and you have yourself an interesting group of people.
While one of the issues with America is that it seems to focused on the present and the future that it never seems to focus and learn from the past, Ireland seems to suffer from the exact opposite. Ireland seems to focus exclusively on the past and it’s glories while being oblivious to both the present and the future.
It’s a larger problem up North, where the political discourse always seems to collapse into a heated argument over the Troubles and the legacies of paramilitaries. Honestly I think there’s very few places in the world that could make such a big deal about a bus stop that it borders onto outright Sectarianism.
The older generations have been traumatised by the violence they grew up in, politics to them is an extension of a war that was called off in a draw. It leaves the younger generations to either pick a side for an old man’s war or grow apathetic in the fact that nobody seems concerned about any real substantive issues. Nobody votes on policies, it’s entirely based on religion and “what side you’re on.”
I feel like as a nation we’re currently in purgatory, or like that phase of extreme binge drinking and fucking around that you go through in your twenties. Ireland has left the home of their abusive stepfather, moved past the creepy old man that groomed them and is now on the precipice of the future. One question on their mind; what do we do next?
One of the issues with Irish Nationalism at the moment is that, from what I’ve seen , there seems to be no plan on what to do after we achieve full independence. Do we get a better healthcare system? Rewrite the constitution? Drop Derry city into the sea? What do we do?
For all our decrees on being a neutral nation, that neutrality has not benefited anyone but us. We have never used that neutrality to provide a platform for peaceful negotiations between anyone currently killing each other around the world. Whether it be Palestinians or Israelis, the Saudis or Yemeni’s, the American’s and Iran- we do nothing but watch as the world goes to hell.
And while one of us will occasionally become a decent politician or a celebrity that makes the island seem quaint to foreigners, the vast majority of us will become emigrants or wasters. Fixated on the past.
And while I, like any decent Irishman, love a good Rebel song- there comes a time when you need to put these lyrics to a rest and make something new- your own song.