Kevin Myers: What great talent would the world lose today if Ireland were washed away without trace?
Published 13/01/2011 | 05:00
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.