Firstly, I would like to state that this is not a hyper-nationalistic rant, but rather merely an observation that could indeed indicate why we are in such the mess we are in.
I was recently unfortunate enough to be observing the final of the All Ireland Talent show contest (for future reference, another cheap knock off of an import), in which a group of Irish speaking boys (8-14 probably) were competing against a five year old from Waterford for the title. The young boys had one the eldest playing traditional music on a box, while the middle lad performed step-dancing and the younger lad managed rather a delightful and creative bit of sean-nós in which he was very much accomplished. Against that, the younger child from Waterford performed rather a feat in regards to break-dancing, although it was clear he wasn't a yet a master of the art or as accomplished in it as the sean-nós lad was in his, for his age he was quite impressive. As the votes were called in, I was thus unsurprised to see that the lads doing the traditional routine won, while the child doing the break-dancing came in second.
However, the reaction from the internet seemed almost typical. The recognisably Irish act, by which I mean the forms employed being almost completely indigenous to Ireland, were dismissed as inbred, backwater, mountain boys, engaged in paddy-whackery, undeserved of a win because what they did is a national embarrassment. Admittedly, sean nós dancing is an acquired taste, and the skill involved is not immediately obvious, but the dismissive hate-filled terms in which it was described was rather disturbing. Pulling odd movements while pretending to dance was deemed to be ridiculous and embarrassing, clearly ignorant of the fact that that is exactly what is involved in break-dancing, with the exception that that was is a more globally established cultural meme. Fair enough, if one honestly thought it was a better product than the sean nós, I'd disagree but I'd understand, but the criticisms were couched in rather uncomfortable terms. 'Shameful', 'National embarrassment', 'Paddy-whackery' clearly emphasised that it was the supposed Oirishness of the performance that caused difficulty to many observers, almost as if it was a 'stage Irish routine', ironic given it's one of the more authentic forms of Irish dance. I couldn't imagine someone in Spain dismissing flamenco in such a childish fashion, they may not like the routine, but I certainly would doubt they spit at it with such venom.
Of course, this is not an isolated case, the automatic dismissal of 'indigenous' Irish cultural pursuits is endemic. Not trad, but diddley idley, not Gaelic football, but 'bogball', not Irish but 'Peasants’ language'. I am in no way implying that this is a universal attitude, indeed not since the individuals above won the competition, but it does seem to be rather a pervasive one. The Irish home-grown product is automatically considered inferior, whereas the imported globalised variety is given substance and worth almost automatically.
Consider the Irish language for a second. Reports from the early 1800s show that 80% of the population were functionally bilingual in Irish and English. This gives lie to the presumption that it was out of economic necessity that Irish people turned to English in the 1850s. As diy01 once commented, most of them had enough commercial English to be viable as it was already. The switch from Irish to English was something deeper, it was a psychological identification of Irish as being inferior, associated with poverty and backwardness (i.e. the lives they wished to abandon), whereas English was the language of wealth and social advancement. In a society that still operating very much on medieval group identities, it was a case of casting off the badge and economic poverty of one group, so one could earn the social advancement and wealth through the acceptance of another. One is reminded of An Druma Mór by Seosamh Mac Grianna, in which the cultural lives of an early 20th century Donegal Gaeltacht is related. The dichotomy in attitudes between the two cultures is artfully exposed. Cultural affectations in English are cherished (to the detriment of the community), no matter how base. The long-winded, turgid, politically and semantically, meaningless, malapropist speeches of Proinsias Bagaide in English, are favoured about the recitations of the seanchai who can recite Ossianic poetry. The crowd cheer whenever Proinsias Bagaide uses words they don't understand, 'monuments[sic] of the jury', yet the seanchai only has children to listen to his stories. Those who march with the drum are lauded, whereas Bagaide's singing talent is dismissed as ridiculous. The perceived inferiority of Irish cultural memes is relentless.
It is clear, that to some extent that a post-colonial inferiority complex has developed through certain sections of Irish society. It is almost identical to that described by Albert Memmi in the The Colonizer and the Colonized. It begins with the observation by the colonized that the colonizer is in a superior position to his own. Therefore, in an attempt to acquire a similar position, the Colonized, with actions and results reminiscent of a Cargo Cult, begins to ape the manners, practices and culture of the Colonizer at the expense of his own. The colonized culture is then dismissed as something inferior, whereas that of the Colonizer's is deemed essential to success. In Ireland, the negative perception of the native home-grown culture seems to have outlived the colonisation process by certain elements of the country. Not just displayed a dislike in indigenous Irish cultural memes, but an immediate irrational distaste for them.
Is this important to where we are today? Perhaps, I cannot think how this is both reflective and detrimental to our cultural/national self-confidence. If we seem to dismiss automatically, things we produce ourselves, then how can we ever establish an innovative economy which isn't completely dependent on external factors? It is a given, that many FDI companies would have had international networks and contacts unavailable to ordinary Irish businessmen, but they have proven that we do have both the administrative and manufacturing skills available to produce high-quality products on an international level. Yet where were these companies? Why did it require companies from abroad to seize on the potential that was clearly available within the Irish job market? Why does it still require low levels of corporation tax to keep Irish industry alive, why couldn't we have brought ourselves into such markets on our own steam rather than suckling on the tit of a self-absorbed foster mother?
Likewise, it limits our independent thinking. In 1922, as all leaving Cert history books will tell you, Cumann na nGaedhel didn't begin a campaign to revolutionise the mode of governance that had been in operation under the British. They didn't seem to wish to use the innovation of the Sinn Féin organisation which set up courts and cumainn throughout the country. They didn't seem to wish to draw on Irish circumstances, Irish Law, Irish cultural history in order to formulate and implement a new mode of governance. Rather, like our colonised friend above, they aped bit by bit the 'coloniser', because, once again in rather a cargo cult fashion, they wished to ape his success. The British administration in Ireland, was given a green coat of paint, and carried on very much regardless. This is not merely a relic of the twenties, it survives to this day. Much of the massive legislative changes to the country, have not been homegrown. It seems in order to implement innovative policies of any brand what so ever, they need to have been implemented successfully elsewhere. I agree it's ok to be cautious, but if such caution was global, there would be no progression whatsoever. And not merely on government level either, one merely needs to look at the RTE schedule to see how much we rely on external ideas? Have we no creativity or innovation of our own? Unlikely. It is clearly there and available, there is just an unreasonable unwillingness to employ it.
As a country/state/nation whatever, it is essential we remove ourselves from this cult of inferiority. This presumption that anything we do or achieve by ourselves is always going to be inferior to a foreign counterpart be it in a cultural, economic, or political sphere. We will become culturally stagnant, bland, and uniform. In a global economy as we now have become, we are already overly relied on essential external factors, there is no need for this dependence to be allowed into the marrow of governance. It was after all, a blind adherence to an international trend of banking deregulation that landed us in this mess in the first place. Yet, it seems for many to be an adequate excuse, when the government say deregulation was fine at the time, because everyone else was doing it. Surely a bit of independent thinking would have been a great thing at the time. Surely a bit of risky innovation, lateral thinking, consideration of any Irish circumstances which are peculiar to use alone would have been essential then, and right now, rather than sitting on one's hands waiting for the result to come from elsewhere. Could we chance it, would we be even capable of overcoming our own perceived inferiority and presumed automatic failure, and actually do something, try something, that has never been tried before, and not depend on external sources for the solution?