In one of my early posts I listed “Institutionalized Disorganization & Shameless Lack of Accountability –The Irish Goat Rodeo“ as number one among the Five Tings I Hate About Dublin Ireland. Now, after 18 months, I can still say that that is my least favorite part of Ireland. But now I see that the root cause of said Goat Rodeo is the Irish willingness to settle for second best.
Less than a hundred years into self-governance, having barely shaken off a thousand years of occupation (by various countries and religious institutions), and now finding itself turning to the IMF, Germany, and other EU nations for pocket money, is it any wonder that the Irish national psyche is down on itself and uncertain?
The Irish don’t like to hear anybody else say it, but they are the first to criticize themselves. Sadly, that tendency, when paired with the Irish reflex to avoid making waves or cause ill feelings, leads to passive acceptance of whatever the world hands them. And the cheerful, upbeat Irish way of approaching life, which makes living here quite enjoyable, means that when the world hands them something suboptimal, they simply accept it and get on with the business of getting on with business.
Over time, this leads many to assume that they don’t deserve anything better. And, at that point you’re not far from “Oh, why bother”.
After just 18 months, this attitude frosts me to no end. I know it frustrates the Irish; I hear them complain. Yet they rarely take action or offer solutions. I can’t figure out why there isn’t more of an outcry about so many issues here. Ireland is no longer a country of activism in the name of self-interest. I’ve heard Irishmen say, “when the going gets tough, the Irish emigrate”, but I don’t think that’s quite on point either.
There was a great outcry when Savita Halappanavar died, and a concomitant anti-abortion outcry. Clearly they do get riled up over “issues”. But I don’t know what moves the Irish to stand up for themselves. I understand the circumstances that have led to Irish indifference and inaction on a range of issues. But I don’t think it excuses their inaction, or keeps Ireland from feeling like part of the Third World at times.
Perhaps coming from a country with a relatively distant history of armed conflict, I’m too cavalier about aggressive activism, while the Irish, with a much more recent history of uprisings, are more careful about what moves them to action. But, what it will take to get the Irish to stand up for themselves, and begin insisting on more than “it works well enough” at every level of society?
If you ask the Irish why they tolerate rampant corruption, fiscal ineptitude, uncovered cisterns that result in potable water in only one tap in the house, tram lines that don’t connect, and a host of other shoddy practices, you’ll hear a number of excuses that all boil down to “It works well enough.”
This begs the question: what could they have if they insisted on something better? I’m a big fan of Dublin. I love it here. And Ireland is growing on me, if for no other reason than its potential. If it’s this nice to live in Dublin now, imagine how great it would be if corruption were reduced, the economy got its act together, and potable water came from every tap.
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts: