Infantilism is a theme I’ve been returning to over the years, and to be specific, the infantile thinking of the Irish nation. If we were looking for a living example, we should be grateful to Enda Kenny, though of course, he’s far from the only example, even if he might be the most embarrassing.
Recently, the Psychological Society of Ireland held a conference during which various speakers discussed the Irish psyche as an example of postcolonial society, with speakers pointing out our delusional approach to life and our warped sense of nationhood.
I can understand this, just as you can if you happen to be Irish.
Who hasn’t experienced the strange and pathetic Irish need to be liked? Not the Dutch. Not the Finns. Not the French. Not the Germans. Not the British. Not the Greeks.
Nobody in Europe, apart from the Irish, suffers from that sad need, and yet such neediness is what has landed us in our present predicament. The need to be liked transcends the need to be respected, as our Prime Minister recently demonstrated when he collected a little bauble as European of the Year.
Can anyone imagine the Greek prime minister travelling to Berlin in order to receive a toy from the German magazine publishers? What would the Portuguese think if their leader jumped in the air when somebody threw him a shiny plastic bone?
It was the need to be liked that led Lenihan and Cowen to submit when their masters instructed them to guarantee every bank in Europe. They might not have realised that, but ultimately, Brian and Brian were serfs in a way they might not have understood themselves.
Unlike many countries who underwent revolution, we didn’t achieve any real independence. All we did was transfer power from one privileged group to another, which was always the plan. We ended up with men in the shadows continuing to exert control as they do to this day, but we still needed politicians in order to maintain the illusion of democracy, and here’s where the crunch comes.
We’re serfs. Our mindset is that of the serf. We never crawled out from beneath the power of those who determined our future in colonial days, and in the world’s most extended example of Stockholm Syndrome, we still cling to such notions today.
In apeing our betters, we Irish have failed to stand on our own two feet and face the world as adults. Instead of doing that, we promoted a class of people who copied the accents and manners of of the former ruling classes. We gave these people highly-paid jobs in the national broadcasting company where nationwide attitudes are formed, and we set about creating a country with an inferiority complex.
The effort succeeded. We consolidated our national inferiority and eliminated all efforts to become a distinct society. We didn’t want to be Irish. We rejected it. Just as in previous decades we eschewed our language, now we turned our backs on local accents, because at our heart we are ashamed to be Irish.
We are ashamed of what we are. Let’s face up to it.
We are ashamed to be Irish. Listen to the mid-Atlantic accents our young people use today. Why are they ashamed of the way their parents speak? Why do they try to speak like Americans? I doubt they’re aware of this. If you confronted the average 20-year-old, they’d probably be completely baffled, but that’s because the process has happened over such a long time that they think it was always like this.
Leaving all that aside, we need to ask ourselves why we have, as a nation, such a desperate need to please.
Is it the shit-eating desire to placate an oppressor? Perhaps.
Nobody talks like Enda Kenny in real life, do they? Realistically, do you know anyone who talks like Enda Kenny? I’m willing to bet that Enda Kenna doesn’t talk like Enda Kenny when he gets home and just wants to relax with a coffee. But this is something we Irish have internalised: the belief that there’s something wrong with how we talk.
Watch Enda giving a speech and you can see a man doing battle with his inner self. His elocutionised persona is fighting his inner Endaness to the death in an embarrassing embodiment of the fundamental Irish conflict. How to be yourself while at the same time satisfying your outer snob.
Snobbery is the ultimate expression of insecurity and I’m afraid Irish society is riddled with it, in a deeply pathetic way. When I was a kid, our teachers imposed a ridiculous old snob on us in a futile attempt to modify our accents, even though there was nothing wrong with our pronunciation. Why? Because our vowels were not the ones formally ordained as socially acceptable.
And who made this judgement? More fools, desperately trying to hide their own personal insecurity.
Ireland doesn’t work and it never has worked since independence for three reasons. The first is because the country has always been in the grip of a privileged elite who never cared whether the government was British or local. The second is that Irish people have been deliberately infantilised in order to make them accept whatever insane proposition they’re presented with. The third is that we have been deliberately conditioned to think of ourselves as inferior, which is why neither we nor our politicians have the balls to say NO to Europe when asked to commit national suicide.
We are serfs.