I wonder where the Fighting Irish live, because they certainly don’t live in Ireland.
No matter how corrupt our politicians’ behaviour, we don’t protest in the streets like the Greeks. Instead, we re-elect them.
When bankers, crooked property developers and cosy deals with political parties destroy our economy, we don’t set up barricades and burn government offices like the French. Instead, we pay the extra taxes required to bail them out.
When priests rape our children we don’t burn their churches. Instead we pay their legal bills.
When petty officials close our food shops and craft butchers due to over-zealous enforcement of regulations, we don’t ignore their interference like everyone else in Europe. Instead, we quietly close our doors and shuffle away.
We don’t even complain in restaurants.
We are the meekest people in Europe, and the closest we ever get to fighting back is when we indulge in immature, passive-aggressive sulking.
The last couple of weeks have revealed profound things about our nature, all interconnected.
The Tallaght hospital debacle, the Seán Brady outcry and the farce of the health inspector trying to close down a garage for having a topless calendar on the wall are all part of a uniquely Irish phenomenon.
It seems to me that since the foundation of the State, and perhaps as far back as the Famine, there has been a determined effort to infantilise the entire population, to suppress people’s ability to think critically and to replace that ability with facile, childish certainties.
Expertise is not valued in this country. Knowledge and craft are not held in high esteem. For generations, our schools have operated an apartheid system, guiding the more academically gifted children towards theoretical subjects, and the less gifted towards hard, practical pursuits like woodwork, metalwork.
We don’t value practical skills. We prefer prefer flashy, superficial spin-merchants, and we promote them to positions of power, which is why the health service is now run by people with no knowledge of anything at all except passing interviews.
People with deep knowledge of practical matters make us uncomfortable and that’s why we don’t like to have such people in management positions. They might expose our own shortcomings. It’s far safer to surround ourselves with people who know nothing but who do a great interview, who speak the jargon and know how to spin out a meeting till lunch-time.
And when we send out inspectors, we fill them with cook-book certainties to be imposed without deviation, closing good restaurants for having small kitchens, threatening to put a mechanic on the dole for having a nudie calendar on his wall, or prosecuting an islander for harvesting seaweed as his people have done for thousands of years.
In the HSE, just as in every other aspect of Irish society, there are no real managers. There are only administrators, the Dog-Licence people, and eventually such people come to believe their own fantasies. They come to believe that can do the job, and then they start to make decisions that ought to be made by people with genuine skills and knowledge.
Thus we had the appalling spectacle of 97 terrified women herded together to be informed whether or not they had breast cancer. This decision was made not by a clinician but by an idiot administrator, for administrative convenience.
Thus we had the thousands of unopened referral letters. This decision was made by an unqualified, idiot administrator in order to keep the waiting lists artificially short.
Thus we had the thousands of unread X-rays. This was because an idiot administrator decided to save money by not employing enough radiologists.
You see, the obverse of infantilism is bullying. Where you create an infantile, uncritical population, you also create a breeding ground for the overbearing, domineering, cleric, lawyer, official and medical consultant.
The attitude of our senior doctors to their patients is one of condescension and a sense of entitlement. Any consultant in Britain would be appalled at the arrogance and greed of his counterpart in Ireland. The attitudes displayed by this elite have been stamped out in Britain and the rest of Europe generations ago, and in any case were never as extreme as they are here.
Britain closed its industrial schools in the 20s, while, thanks to the war of independence, ours remained in operation for another four decades, as this country became a closed, introverted Catholic Albania. Independence was no blessing for the children incarcerated in these institutions as they endured the trademark Irish authoritarian heartlessness bred by infantilism.
I say infantilism in relation to the abusers as much as the abused but not because I think it absolves them of anything. It’s simply that these abusers have been subjected to the same facile certainties as the rest of society and have all their lives been discouraged from critical, mature, adult thinking.
Seán Brady, a man of influence within his sphere, and also outside it due the infantile deference of successive Irish administrations, was yet unable to exercise normal human discretion when presented with the details of a priest raping children. Instead of acting like a man, he reverted to the passive, obedient seminarian ingrained with the need to protect his church at all costs.
And here we have the paradox, because the bully, the cynic and the manipulator is also the product of the infantilising process.
Our appalling government is packed with people who have no skills at anything at all, and yet who have facilitated the worst abuses in living memory. They’re arrogant, overbearing and aggressive. Their leader is well known for his combative character. And yet, this same leader cowered and mumbled and sought to justify, when questioned on the refusal of the Papal Nuncio to meet a Dáil committee about the Murphy abuse report.
That’s because these people are us. They’ve been subjected to the same brainwashing as everyone else, so that in the end we’re all children.
Don’t forget, it’s only a few short years since divorce, contraception and homosexuality were legalised. Can you imagine any other country obsessing about such things the way we did? We still haven’t had the guts to codify our constitutional provisions on abortion. Only recently we passed a law making it a crime to offend somebody’s beliefs.
We bowed down to a multinational energy company and gave them our gas for nothing.
We still haven’t been paid back by the religious institutions for the compensation we paid out on their behalf.
Not one of our bankers is facing jail.
We run an iniquitous two-tier health system where the wealthy have nothing to fear, the poor have everything to dread and the medical elite have it all to gain.
What is the way forward?
Here’s a suggestion. Let’s promote independent thinking. Let’s teach our children to think for themselves, dispassionately and logically. Let’s kick the churches out of our schools, with their sexual obsessions and their power-lust, and let’s provide our children with proper formation — a grounding that doesn’t equate morality with sex, but becomes outraged at injustice and inequity.
Let’s kick the medical cliques out of our public hospitals and let them earn their crust the honest way.
Let’s replace all the dreadful non-managing administrators in the public sector with practical people who actually know something about something.
Let’s abolish the dreadful single transferable vote system that elects so many self-serving half-wits to our parliament.
Let’s teach our children that no man in a gown or a white coat or a cassock is better than them.
Let’s teach not only our children, but also ourselves, that we’re capable of better than the side-of-the-mouth stroke-pulling we’ve become so used to.
Let’s show a bit of pride for a change, let’s grow up and let’s get angry.
Also on Bock
The dog-licence people
Breast cancer scandal
Bishops can sack a teacher
Over-Zealous Enforcement of Regulations in Ireland
What has independence given us?
Why do clergy control schools?
The heart of darkness
Remove Topless Calendars Or We’ll Close Your Business, Says Health and Safety Authority
The Sisters of Mercy