Tomorrow is St Patrick's Day, when all good Irishmen and women should stay in bed, and hope that it passes quickly. All the trite pieties of our age -- a belief in the free market, in the power of adult responsibility and in a disavowal of racial stereotyping -- are rendered utterly valueless on this day. For upon March 17th each year, thousands of Irish people will live up to the caricature of the Thick Mick, the drunken halfwit who cannot be relied on to have one drink without having a dozen, and who feels it is his patriotic duty to finish the day by donning a Glasgow Celtic shirt, smashing windows, and stoning any police he can find.
Nobody makes the Irish do this; it's entirely a matter of free will. Nor is it a desperate cry of freedom by oppressed and unhappy helots: there is barely a more privileged and respected people in all of Europe than the Irish. We still enjoy remarkable prosperity. No Irish person in the UK or the US can reasonably said to be a victim of anti-Irish prejudice. There will be the usual Irish banquets in Washington, New York and London tomorrow: Irishness will be celebrated with the usual flapdoodle and folderol, as the native genius of the Irish people, their sense of fun and their wit are dutifully invoked. And proof of these enchanting qualities will be equally dutifully supplied by the volleys of bottles bouncing off the peelers' riot helmets in the Holy Land in Belfast, by the drunks lying unconscious surrounded by their own vomit in the gutters in Dublin, Cork and Galway, and by the incoherent, babbling idiots in Boston, New York and Chicago, as the abomination of St Patrick's Day slouches west, like a plague caravan from Samarkand.
Moreover, this annual humiliation is unfailingly accompanied by an aggressive triptych that proclaims a pathological insecurity: self-righteousness, self-pity and self-hatred. Even to imply the truth that the Irish are apparently unable to enjoy themselves without incurring hepatic collateral damage on a colossal scale is to invite hysterical letters of complaint from the professional scribes of Hibernian whingeology, with the embassy in London invariably weighing in if some imprudent English hack has the temerity to speak the truth. Yet the evidence will be everywhere: police cells full of bruised and battered inebriates, hospital casualty-areas stacked ceiling-high with broken skulls, and hello, come December 17th, a new generation of Irish or half-Irish children, father (of perhaps many possible) completely unknown.
A question. If you owned a small boarding house in Boston, and you advertised a room for rent in March, and a Chinese, a Japanese, an Indian, an Ethiopian and an Irishman applied, which would you give the room to first? Well, you'd certainly choose an Asian or an African before an Irish male, would you not? Common sense.
Stereotyping? Certainly! And proud to be of service! Stereotypes survive because they are based on observable truths. If I tried to promote an image of the fun-loving Swiss, or the zealously punctual Zulus, or the scatter-brained Germans, or the slovenly Italians, it would be like getting a canal to flow uphill. But the drunken Irishman still survives in popular mythology because compelling evidence about his existence is available throughout the year; but most especially, it is super-abundant on the feast day of the patron saint. This is the day we declare, with a whimsically leaden winsomeness, that you don't have to be Irish to be Irish. No, indeed not: comatose and stocious amidst your own oesophageal juices will do it every time.
NOW, as I've suggested, there are many reasons for disliking St Patrick's Day, but the most compelling is that it has proved me totally wrong. I used to argue that grown-ups should be allowed to drink whenever they wanted; they're adults, after all. That was when all pubs, bars and off-licences were shut on St Patrick's Day. Yes, gentle readers, no booze on Paddy's Day anywhere, not even for ready money. And I would cry: Why all this enforced sobriety? This is wrong! Let the people decide for themselves!
But in time, we libertarians got our way, and now the pubs are open, and apparently full from dawn, to judge from the condition of much of the citizenry on the streets by noon on an average St Patrick's Day. Which is why I have decided that by law on that day, no one should be served anything stronger than ewe milk diluted with the consecrated spittle of postulant nuns.
And since I'm getting all this bile out of my system, let me tell you what I also hate about Paddy's Day; 10 year-old she-dancers, with orange face-skin and manes of coiled, nylon ringlets, festooned in dresses apparently cut from The Book of Kells. Why the satsuma-suntan in wet and windy March? Why the huge curly wigs? Why, Jesus Christ Almighty, the mascara and lipstick on little girls? This is Paddy's Day, not Paedo's Day.
Thank you. I'll be fine by next week. But I am nonetheless most grateful for your concern. Now leave me, please: I would be alone.