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Observations On Our Crazy World: Why Do We Listen To The Negative Shit?
If you were to believe the politicians, the moralists and the commentators you’d think Ireland was a horrible place to live. But it isn’t...
The Hot Press Newsdesk, 04 Sep 2012
Of course, even in this positive image there’s a hint here of the bravado of the Irish football supporter chant “You’ll never beat the Irish.” Maybe you won’t, but that’s because they’re too busy beating themselves.
Maybe we can blame colonisation. Being both subjects and impoverished can’t have done anything for either individual or collective self-esteem. Mind you, the forelock-tugging peasant wasn’t half as humble as he pretended. But practice makes perfect and he learned well.
The growth of a small middle class in Ireland after the Act of Union brought a new pressure, to be as good as the so called ‘quality’. With it came prurience and temperance and a belief that you had a right and a duty to be concerned about other people’s behaviour… in case they let your side down in front of the others or hurt themselves or were a threat to sober and industrious citizens.
Early 19th century descriptions of the Irish come, in the main, from reforming Protestants, sometimes evangelical. In their eyes anything other than a virtuous, compliant, prudent and sober life was a bad life and they didn’t mind saying so. Also, they came with the same sense of superiority and entitlement that fuelled the expansion of the British Empire as the century progressed.
In parallel emerged the imperialist view that the people of these islands divided into the active, forthright, manly, business-like Anglo-Saxons and the soft, listless, poetic, feminine and generally lazy Celts.
As if that wasn’t enough to be contending with, the Catholic Church in Ireland was effectively colonised by clerics trained in Maynooth by Jansenists – that is, real hardliners, more fundamentalist than the evangelical Protestants, more ready to invoke fire and brimstone and delve into people’s behaviours… (other than that of their abusive peers, that is…)
You might say all this has changed and ask how we still cling to the negative stereotypes. Good question…
But how much has really changed? It’s reminiscent of the closing lines of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. It’s hard to tell which is which: the new quality are pretty much the same as the old quality. It’s got nothing to do with faith and everything to do with fortune.