herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

We're not perfect, but we're is still the best country in the world - so let's say it

Saint Patrick's Day was relatively trouble free in Dublin.

In fact, it was a lot of fun.

We had the odd scuffle here and there, one or two public urinations and a handful of ossified punters getting scooped off pavements.

But nothing major. Nothing that you wouldn't expect at any festival anywhere else in the world.

Oddly, the most embarrassing moments in the whole day were provided not by the Irish, but by the Americans, with Joe Biden making a ill-judged quip about the colour orange.

He also managed to bet both Fionnuala Kenny's name and the title of a Yeats' poem wrong.

afterglow

That was followed by the President (accidentally) blanking the Taoiseach's attempt to shake hands.

But back home, everything was happy out.

In the afterglow of such an uneventful St Patrick's day it's easy to allow ourselves to set too low a bar for our national holiday - it should be way more than a well-behaved parade and a day off.

We're traditionally not an overtly patriotic nation: we don't festoon our houses with flags, we don't put 'Eire 4ever' bumper-stickers on our cars and we almost never wear 'Ireland' clothes.

In fact, the only sure thing in life is that anyone wearing a t-shirt with 'Ireland' on it, is a tourist.

There's a good reason for this: patriotism in Ireland comes with very different flavours.

It's pro-treaty, or anti. It's republican or not. It's militant or pacifist.

It's hard to do 'vanilla' patriotism like they do in other countries.

But it's time we tried it. We fail to reinforce our own best attributes to ourselves. Look at the Americans; they constantly tell themselves they are the land of the free (often to an annoying degree to the rest of us, who could justifiably shout 'oi, yis are relatively new to this 'democracy' stuff'.)

Even if it can get irksome to the world, it provides a very useful function - it binds a broad and diverse country around an idea and a common pride.

pride

We are nowhere near as diverse, geographically or culturally, but we could still benefit from the same approach. We could reinforce to ourselves that which we give to others.

That we look after each other well, that we attract investment, that we have beautiful cities, towns and villages.

That we have great food, educated people, a welcoming society and a country that punches socially and economically above our weight.

That sentiment will undoubtedly cause some to say 'look at the chaos of our health service!' or 'Gaze at the horror that is Irish Water'. Fine. We have problems. But we do our best, and our best, by international standards, is pretty damn good.

We need to learn to say that to ourselves, constantly, with the same pride the Americans have.

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