Sunday 4 December 2016

Andrew Kealy: When we sing at misfortune, the laugh's on us

Published 13/11/2012 | 17:00

THE Ireland fans who travelled to Poland to watch their team in the European Championships sang a five-minute chorus of 'The Fields of Athenry' as the players were humiliated by a Spanish side that beat them 4-0. A generous interpretation could cast this reaction as defiance by the Ireland fans; a refusal to allow the excruciating evidence of their team's inferiority to impact on their good time.

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But this would be too generous. It was a public display of lack of character and symptomatic of a national trait that confuses a humorous or good-natured response to calamity with resistance.

Michel Houellebecq, in a letter to fellow author Bernard-Henri Levy, wrote: "What is humour, after all, but shame at having felt a genuine emotion? It is a sort of tour de force, a slave's elegant pirouette when faced with a situation that under normal circumstances would evoke despair or rage."

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