Why country people need to stop pandering to hokey stereotypes
This week the eyes of the country were on Tullamore and the Ploughing, and why not? It is the biggest open-air event in Europe and the major rural event of the year. It attracts national and international notice.
The attention it gets and the way it is attended to is instructive. If we listen to and watch carefully the way the event is covered, particularly on national media, it might give us some clues as to why rural Ireland is always on the back foot when it comes to resources, infrastructure and services.
Our national television and radio stations, along with our national papers, decamp to Tullamore or wherever else the Ploughing is held. For the three days of the championships they go around goggle-eyed as they gaze bemusedly at these hundreds of thousands of people in wellies and strong boots who are so outside the norm for them.
Everything about these people is unusual to them, from their choice of footwear to their accents to the music they listen to. Stereotyping abounds and the coverage oscillates between a search for the quirky and charming to downright ridicule. You get the feeling that many in the commentariat can't wait to get back behind the safety of the M50.
I remember the first time I understood of what it feels to be stereotyped. I was a quite a young boy, and at that time comics and cartoon strips were our YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook.
One of my favourite comic strips was Blondie, featuring the hapless Dagwood. An episode in which Dagwood had occasion to call a policeman gave me what child psychologists might now call a 'No' feeling. On knocking at Dagwood's door, a big bursting policeman announced his presence with the words "Faith and begorrah, I'm Patrick O'Toole."
I found myself embarrassed and uncomfortable at how we as Irish people were portrayed and perceived.
The coverage of the Ploughing causes me to have many 'faith and begorrah' moments.