It’s the potatoes, and you can see it when there’s a public demo in favour of a nominally disgraced public figure. Many of the people who march in favour of disgraced TDs or businesspeople are decent, good and honest people. Moreover, they believe in that great social glue that has made this country not the worst place in the world to live: loyalty. They do not see the cold hard facts of someone else’s money, in amounts incalculable to the ordinary individual, being misappropriated, but instead the very human story of a person who has shown them kindness or assisted them in a time of need being persecuted by faceless powerful figures who aren’t from the area. It is the classic Irish story, and it draws from the deepest well of our culture, the one with the sign labelled “dem fellas who are out to get us”.
From the Vikings to the cursed Brits to our own potato betraying us, ours is a story of forces beyond our control putting the boot in. Michael McDowell commented recently about a country that is very big on demanding rights from our institutions, yet also believes it is perfectly acceptable to decide which taxes and laws one will choose to honour. Many of the same people, without any malice, who defend those businesspeople and politicians from globally-accepted standards of law enforcement also demand that the banking system which holds their savings be protected to globally-accepted standards, and see no contradiction.
Why is this? The answer is straightforward enough. From British Rule to today, the Irish people have conspired with their elected leaders to create a society where we are all victims and thus not responsible for our actions. We elect nearly 2000 public officials paid from money taken from our wages, and yet have no problem with nearly all those same elected officials all blaming other publicly funded (but non-elected) officials for decisions that affect our daily lives. Other more logic-centred societies would ask what do we need 2000 powerless public officials for, but not us. We are quite happy with the publicly funded wailer, the Whinger-In-Office, to confirm our hard-wired DNA level paranoia that “You’re damn right! It IS those fellas in Dublin or the EU or the Financial Regulator who is screwing you over!” rather than distill measured options about the choices facing our country into options for debate.
Bitterness and betrayal is much easier to savour than the examining of sacrifice. What do you expect from a country that holds a grudge against a vegetable.