Let’s face it. We needed a good old-fashioned Irish barney. Things had all been too nice. We were all on the same page, in it together, behind the Government, even though they got a hiding in the election. Life was monotonous. There was only a collective destiny.
Of course it was nice that everything was happy-clappy, and all about people doing nice things for each other. Even social media had become a largely pleasant place. A certain amount of resentment simmered around social distancing etiquette, but it was a resentment that dare not speak its name, that we shared quietly with our nearest and dearest. There were sporadic bouts of shaming particular groups: teenagers at one point, over-70s refusing to cocoon at one point. But we really didn’t have the heart for it.
So by the time a properly divisive issue came along, we were more than ready to kick off. We had a lot of pent-up outrage in the tank. And when it came, it ticked all the boxes — not just outrage, but envy, class war, our simmering low-level hatred of D4 types, and bank holiday nostalgia.
Many people had always vaguely resented those people who land in on the coast, braying around the towns and trying to outdo each other about how accepted they are by the locals. The barman knows my order, the butcher always keeps me some special chops, my Ralph Lauren polo tops that I wear down here have a bit of wear and tear on them, people think I’m a local. Their fellow city folk always resented them a bit, and some of the country people on whom they descend each year may resent them slightly too, but keep quiet about it.
But suddenly everyone had an excuse to let out all these repressed feelings they had about this alleged privileged elite. They were irresponsible killers in 4x4s who thought the rules didn’t apply to them. They were, literally, a plague on the countryside. And everybody was allowed, for the first time, to say out loud: “Who the eff do these people think they are?”
Worn out from indulging the better part of our nature, clapping for heroes and looking after elderly neighbours, it was a huge relief to unleash our shadow side. And better again, we had the law on our side. It was suddenly illegal for these people to have better lives than us. The gardai were literally sending them home to be the same as the rest of us.
The locals tried to be polite about it, stressing all the time that they would be delighted to see their annual visitors once they weren’t bringing that Dublin disease down to largely disease-free rural locations. But like all of us, they must have enjoyed for a brief day or two having a visible villain to blame everything on, rather than a virus that we can’t shame, that doesn’t care what we think of it.