I found this on the internet and liked it….Offence seems to be an obligation…a natural response to someone else. When we see things that we do not like, we feel we have no choice but to become upset and express it adamantly. Like most things, however, offence is really an issue of the self. It has nothing to do with the person who is offending you and everything to do with you.
So what is my crime that has offended some on Twitter? Two posts ago, I wrote this: ‘Have we become Irish? I ask because there is such a hilariously contradictory mood around that it could be St Patrick’s Day.’ (In reference to Yes movement joy and SNP re-birth after referendum defeat).
This is taken to be anti-Irish by some readers and a stereotype. Seriously.
They claim it is anti-Irish to describe the mood and behaviour on St Pat’s as hilariously contradictory. What? Grown men in leprechaun hats? Presenting to the world an image of a modern European state as a demented, raucous, day-long party? With drink. Dancing in the streets, wearing cartoon green outfits and having a bloody good laugh? How would you describe that?
In my personal experience the Irish people enjoy mixing their identity as a go-ahead country with the ironic pastiche of Ould Ireland – Guinness, the Green and all – and love the idea of being party people…and, yes, of being (once a year) drunks. Who tells most Irish jokes…the Irish. Who makes a point of parodying the stereotype of the cantankerous peasant who turns out not to be as daft as he lets on and who constantly points out how the rules of life are more liberally applied in Ireland? That’s right, the Irish. It’s why we love them, isn’t it?
Of course it’s a stereotype. You can’t have a conversation, let alone write, without versions of stereotype. There is a current controversy about (Irish-connected) Celtic Football Club not paying the living wage. This is mostly a Celtic story because it has branded itself as a charity-minded organization, proud of helping those in need. (Which is true). That view of the club – ‘charity is in our DNA’ – is a stereotype accepted by all, which is why their policy against the living wage is news.
Scottish opinion about uncaring (evil) Tories is a stereotype – I know Tory voters who aren’t arrogant self-seekers (but not many).
You can only be anti-Irish if that’s your intention. And mine isn’t. On the contrary, I have no ‘West of Scotland bias’, no anti-Catholic nonsense, no wish to demean. All my experience of Ireland both the country and its representatives in Europe, has been totally positive and my time in the North is the most deeply moving experience of my professional life.
In fact, I took offence at the offended. Who do these self-selecting thought police think they are? Who and what do they imagine they are sticking up for? And if you do take umbrage, as I do at stuff I read, isn’t the first obligation to explain what it is that gives offence, because I am truly puzzled what I could have written differently while conveying the point – that party-going, foot-stomping, burgeoning Yes is having a ball against all expectations and has thrown off its inhibitions in wild abandon. It feels liked St Patrick’s Day.
Perhaps the arbitors of Irish pride would rather we didn’t mention her at all and leave it to them as the font of all knowledge. What a bloody awful party that would be…
(My favourite St Pat’s Day story is true. It has two stereotypes, one Irish and one Scottish. I went into my local in East Lothian which was decked with shamrocks, harps and shillelaghs with accordion music blaring and some folk in green outfits dancing. Pints of Guinness were being carried head-high through the crowd and at the bar I spotted Jock. I pushed through the merry throng as they sang the Fields of Athenry. He looked downcast amidst the singing, laughing mob and I asked why. He had to shout in my ear above the din. ‘I’m a bit low. My old dad died this morning…’ He shook his head sadly. But the thing is – it was only a pound a pint. A deal not to be missed by any Scotsman.