I’m sitting here trying to list all of the stereotypes I can think of, and to be honest, there isn’t much (though they aren’t particularly flattering). With the obvious caveat that I don’t believe these things to be true here’s a list of things I’ve heard said about ‘the Irish’ as a collective: stupid, good at giving head, big families, potatoes (mostly for eating), excellent poets, beautiful singing voices, ate a lot of Welsh people in a cauldron (or vice versa, and technically that’s a myth), deeply religious (often violently so), fans of Joyce (almost as violently so), drunkards (that took a long time to come out, oddly), jolly, green, fey, lucky, redheads, insane, playful, fun, permanently dancing, the only fun people on the Titanic, Guinness and whiskey, colcannon, bicycles on walls, Ballykissangel, Father Ted, eyebrows.
There’s probably a few more, but that’s the best I can come up with.
It’s all bullshit. By which I mean each one of those things is probably true of at least one Irish person (apart from the Welsh people in the cauldron, I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting that). I’d be impressed if I ever met one person who ticked all the boxes (my favourite poets are excellent, stupid, insane and good at giving head #FACT) I’d probably be pretty excited.
I find the idea of nationality somewhat abhorrent. I have no problem with regional culture, and preserving traditions and ideas, but I don’t think that the world should be cut up into groups that are told they are the best and everyone else is different. The truth is that nobody is best, and everyone is different, but also the same.
Now I love the notion of a dim country pub full of drunk fairies reading Joyce to each other. In fact, that’s a fairly accurate description of my ideal night out.
But the truth is I’m probably not going to find that pub, no matter how much time I spend looking around Ireland.
Stereotypes serve no function other than to isolate, establish some kind of notion of superiority, and make it easier for one person to ignore another. It’s horrible. The thing that really bothers me is that I remember hearing enough jokes about the Irish as a child, that even though I went to a Catholic school full of Irish people, I thought Irish people were stupid and it was okay to think that. There was enough jokes around that their had to be some logic behind it. Right?
I forgot about the logic of hate and superiority. Which seems to have a trump card in most parts of the world. Particularly schools.
I grew out of that attitude, and started seeing people as who they were. But I doubt if everyone did.
There’s a problem in jokes, in that they create an atmosphere where it’s okay to believe something violent.
Don’t fall into that. Just talk to people.
To be sure.
Illustrated by Adam.