March 16, 2015

The vanity and narcissism of the small difference in Ireland

Thomas Nast, ‘St. Patrick's Day, 1867--'The day we celebrate.'’ Harper's Weekly, April 6, 1867.
[UPDATE - Interesting and relevant comments from David Trimble and Daniel Hannan here and here.]

Tomorrow the world will celebrate Saint Patrick's day. Tomorrow the Irish in the troubled Northern region will continue to celebrate and cherish the minutiae that divides them. John Hewitt, Ulster protestant and Irishman, wrote:
‘St Patrick’s Eve,The country came to wake him, men and boysSmoking round the hearth’
There'll only be Orange and Green hearths, clearly separate and delineated, tonight and tomorrow. Twenty-eight year old Lancashire native Vicky Murray said in 1993:
"I’m not Irish, I’m not Northern Irish, I’m not Belfast: I’m Lancashire, and nobody’s ever been able to explain it to me. Protestants, Catholics, Ulster, the Republic, nationalism or whatever they call it - I don’t understand any of it.
People say to me, ‘What are you?’ and I say to them, ‘What do you mean, ‘What are you?’ ’ They say, ‘Well are you Protestant or Catholic or what?’ When I say I’m not anything they always say, ‘Well you must be something. Even if you’re not, your mother and father must have been something, what were they?’ When I say I’ve no idea, you see the look on their faces: they’re saying to themselves, ‘She must be something, but she’s not letting on.’ It’s a nightmare, that’s the only way I can describe it."
Christopher Hitchens said in conversation with Andrew Sullivan about the false-exaggeration of differences in Northern Ireland:
"There’s a wonderful essay by Sigmund Freud called, “The Narcissism of the Small Difference,” and it has to do with the way in which divisions that are invisible to the outsider—as between, say Sinhala and Tamil in Sri Lanka, or Protestant and Catholic in Northern Ireland—are everything to the people who live there. The least thing is the one that divides them. If you were a Zulu, say, or Han Chinese and you go to Belfast… “What are they fighting about? This seems preposterous!” But to them it’s everything, in many ways it’s all they know, it’s what gives them identity."
Eugene Robinson wrote an article in the Seattle Times in 2007, ‘Turning Baghdad into Belfast’:
"When I was the Post’s London correspondent in the early 1990s, I covered the Northern Ireland conflict. The first thing I went to see in Belfast was the notorious “peace line” between the Falls Road, a Catholic stronghold, and Shankill Road, a Protestant redoubt. Everything looked the same on both sides — the houses, the shops, the people — yet it was as if they were two different countries. Animosities had been passed down through generations. Even now, 15 years later, a civil exchange between two of the leading antagonists — Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams — is big news."
My previous blog post on the vanity and narcissism of the small difference can be read here.

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