Wednesday, May 25, 2011

mar ná beidh ár leithéidí arís ann

“Nationality is respectable only when it is on the defence, when it is waging wars of liberation it is sacred; when those of domination it is accursed.”

-Rabindranath Tagore

Growing up in Cork, as I did, tribal loyalties and nationality were as straightforward as it comes. I was from Cork and from Ireland and I loved Cork and Ireland and knew that they were the best places in the world, ever. This despite being of stock with roots in Dublin, Belfast, deepest rural Roscommon, and yeah, England.

Living briefly in Birmingham and then in Tanzania made my sense of nationality all the more entrenched. No-one sported more green than me on St. Patrick's Day, no-one thrilled to the exploits of the Irish team in Italia '90 more than me. I learned of them weeks after the fact, through cuttings from the Irish Times my grandfather posted us. Weeks later. That may seem antiquated beyond belief, but there it is, that's how it was.

Katrina, an older Australian girl, once took a handful of rough, small stones and scrubbed furiously at my neck with them as punishment for claiming that photographic evidence from our homelands proved that the Irish rugby players of the 1991 World Cup squad were clearly better-looking than the Aussie Rules players of the same vintage. An admittedly bold statement, born out of a blend of national pride and awkward nine year-old flirting, I guess.

Flash-forward, if you will, twenty years, and I am slinking away from my workplace on Dame Street, my efforts to teach having been hampered all morning by soundchecks for the Jedward/Obama extravaganza due to take place later on. Every other person is going in the opposite direction. An admirable man is going to take to the stage, and everyone will describe him as "inspirational", even if he merely makes farty noises with his armpits for five minutes. He is an intelligent man, vastly preferable to the idiotfuck who preceded him, but our desire to be loved by him means there does not appear to be so much as one voice of dissent at the visit of a man who presides over the most capitalist country in the world, a country of relentless cultural imperialism, a country still embroiled in two unnecessary wars whose only tangible upshots of any kind have been the violent deaths of two tyrants.

I forget about it for a while (and you should too, for this post is not about anti-Americanism or anti-Obamism) and listen to music and read back at home, before curiosity gets the better of me and I tune in for the last few minutes of his speech. I can't have been the only one cringing at the squalls of approval every time Barack Obama says the words 'Ireland' or 'Irish', can I? And the squeals of delight when he utters a few words in 'Gaelic', before rapidly translating them into English, because Barack Obama and his scriptwriters are savvy enough to know most of us, me included, are proud that we have a national language but not proud enough to learn to speak it? Our Taoiseach (who apparently now considers a tribute act to be an appropriate warm-up) will be making moves to lessen its usage, as soon as he thinks he can get away with it.

"Inspirational!" roared whatever chimp TV3* had anchoring their coverage. I was left feeling cold by his words, though impressed by his subsequent 15 minutes of handshakes and baby-cuddling. Perhaps missing the start of his speech meant I hadn't had the chance to get swept up in the whole thing, but what he said certainly reads an awful lot like candyfloss, designed to elicit cheers from an expectant crowds and play very, very well amongst Irish-American voters - a fairly key demographic in a country where around 20 percent of the population recently claimed they believe Obama to be a Muslim.

I'd love to feel all superior to a country with that level of fear and misinformation, but around the same percentage in Ireland are happy to proclaim in a survey that they would deny citizenship to members of the Travelling Community.

Never mind the 'death of Anglophobia' that the visit of Queen Elizabeth is purported to have brought about, we live in a country practising something akin to apartheid, and we don't talk about it. I'll say more on this another time, should cogent words come to me. We, all human beings, are born on bits of land from people most likely from some other bits of land and we put names on them, and ascribe to them characteristics and personalities that can't really exist on a geographical basis and tell ourselves that certain bits of land are better than others and draw lines in the sand and makes flags and laws and borders and piss all over each other in our haste to mark our territory. May there be no more flag-waving for me.

*I know. I hadn't realised what channel I was on for a few minutes. I suppose someone has to make them feel better about themselves.

8 comment(s):

football world cup said...

Your ideas are very typical from other human beings !

Christine Donovan said...

Hi Andrew, in England the Queen's visit was shown as being a huge success, as is Obama's. No one mentioned that the use of squillions of euros involved in both visits might be more detrimental to Ireland than any perceived benefits. Personally I'm still trying to work out what benefits they might be, but I'm an anarchist anyway.
A while ago I read a TD wanted all travellers to be electronically tagged, so that 1 in 5 figure doesn't surprise me - well yeah, it does, but in a way I won't be too surprised when they build a concentration camp.
My da travelled round Ireland - north & south - in a bow topped wagon in the 30s & 40s & said overall they were welcomed. I'm not really sure what went wrong. I really love reading your blogs.

Andrew said...

Football world cup - You spammers have an uncanny ability to sound both complimentary and threatening at the same time. Fair play.

Christine - The only possible benefit of the Queen's visit was an increase in tourism. But it's not like English people don't know we're here, and I can't imagine the sight of an empty city centre ringed with gardaí and steel barriers will have them jamming the Discover Ireland website.
I couldn't help but feeling that leaving the citizens of an entire capital city unsure of which streets they could walk and drive on, and which buses would be running for four whole days, is a bit fucking much.

Obama's visit does little for Ireland aside from a stroking of the national ego, but it does a lot for Obama.

I've wanted to write something about Travellers here for a while, but it's hard to do without just coming across as an annoying middle-class liberal. I don't really know any Travellers, but I know atrocious treatment when I see it. Thanks for your comment, I'm glad you enjoy the blog.

Christine Donovan said...

"annoying middle class liberal"- you don't really sound like one,but I do live in the south of England, so I've got very high standards about what one of those is like. Whenever I moan about bad treatment of travellers people think well she would say that, but if people who are settled say it then it's different, unless you're the idiot from the Guardian who said traveller women needed to be rescued from their stultifyingly boring life as housewives so they could go to work as secretaries or work in Tesco. keep saying these things please.

sniffle said...

Andrew – good piece . It’s arguable what the purpose was for either visit. Lizzie’s was drenched in sentiment, maudlin and nothing substantial. She didn’t endear me to thinking differently about monarchy and to be honest, I got a sick in my mouth when Mary Mc, went wow and wow again after her cupla focal. Sean Brady’s presence told me that nothing much had changed. However, my pals told me I was a stick in the mud fool.

Obama makes me cry – being a sucker for his sweet rhetoric. I want to be adopted by him and Michelle and wished I could have been one of those babies he lifted out from the crowd or maybe that person on the other end of the mobile phone.

When bush arrived last time, one of the afore mentioned pals announced that “ the death machine had rolled into town”. The same machine arrived with gorgeous Barack, and yes, American imperialism never sleeps. Obama will at least be a moderating voice within the madness of modern America. Think that is all we can hope for. But, make me cry again please, Barack “ know this America “

As for Enda – I can forgive his plagiarism which I don’t think he intended – what is unforgiveable however is that he never knew about the €30 billions (Goldman sach’s unsecured €30 billions worth of anglo bonds) which Tim Geitner said that Ireland Inc. has to stand over . This after the ECB said that it was a private matter and could be reneged on.

When Richard Dobson asked Enda, did he know about this, he said NO. Now there’s a substantial thing which Enda could have worked on at his ¾ hour private meeting with Barack.

I would have asked – and then asked for them to adopt me and make me part of their Camelot.

Jo said...

Great post. I feel like Sniffle, too, about the Obamas, and I loved his friendly crowd embracing, but I thought the speech was no more than a crowd pleasing 'Yay Ireland', repeated quite a lot. I don't know what I hoped for to be honest. Some sort of world saving truth? That we might touch the hem of his garment and our finances be healed? I mean, America, heal thy self.

People keep going on about how it's all for the Irish American vote - well, of course it is. I mean, why else would he? He wasn't on holiday. It's not like we have anything more than Guinness and good will to offer the man. Oh, and our complicity in war and torture, I suppose. I hope he manages to close Guantanamo, and make a real stand, but.. well... we'll see.

Andrew said...

Christine - Compared to the kind of fuckers you're describing I'm as rough as they come, right enough.

Sniffle - If Obama adopted me, do you reckon Michelle would do a Woody Allen?

Jo - Probably not unreasonable to hope he might do a little more if he gets a second term and has less to lose, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

sniffle said...

Heh - you’d have to hope - although when she held you tight, it might be a little “gotta let me breath baby”, classy broad though , Michelle.