Kevin Myers: What great talent would the world lose today if Ireland were washed away without trace?
One of the central problems of 'Irishness' is the disorder created by the bipolarity of overweening conceit and pathological self-loathing. The result is not some happy medium, but violent mood swings of the emotional compass that make plotting a prudent national course virtually impossible.
Of course, the two extremes are different expressions of the same condition. The T-shirt boast -- "There's two sorts of people in this world: the Irish, and those who want to be Irish" -- reveals not merely poor grammar, but a desperate insecurity. You see the same phenomenon in vox pops on television, when people begin their replies with: "I'm Irish, and as an Irishman/woman . . ."
When the ego becomes subordinate to the greater tribe, and when a person thinks of themselves primarily as part of an aggregate rather than as an individual, then the first blow has been struck against their own self-confidence. For then, their self-esteem is always dependent on the conduct of others -- and one thing is certain when this is the case. You will always be disappointed, for your own self-esteem cannot escape undamaged from the misconduct of others, especially if they suffer from the same bipolar disorder that causes you to depend upon them in the first place.