HOW’S life under the government of the English nationalist party going?
It seems increasingly odd to me that people have so much pride in the accident that is their place of birth. I don’t mean by that to dismiss a pride in your own identity.
I’m Birmingham Irish and very proud of it. Identity is important. It helps to knit together who we are and helps us to find our place amongst those who have come before us.
There is no harm in taking pride in it. In that way I’m still smiling at the horror one of my own daughter’s displayed when her mother tried to persuade her she was half English.
But a celebration of the simple event of being born in one place over another logically only leads to one thing. It leads to nationalism and nationalism is the scourge we should all be wary of.
I recall a while back walking through the centre of Cork city.
A young man passed beside me. On his forearm he had a tattoo. The tattoo was the Irish tricolor with a machine gun over the flag. It sent a shiver down my spine.
That is not for me. I am as far from that as I can be. The idea of building your identity beneath a national flag is always saying one thing very loudly. It is not saying this is us. It is saying, about others, this is not you.
Let us be honest about the times we live in. Nationalism hangs over us. To see how it manifests itself in other countries, how ugly it is, and think our own version can somehow be different is deluded. Nationalism is not benign. It can’t be. It is belligerent and ugly and stupid. It is Donald Trump and Boris Johnson.
Not that I think Boris Johnson is really a nationalist. He is more than ready to use and flirt with English nationalism but he would use anything. Racism, stereotypes, sexism.
I think I’m probably more genuinely attached to England than Johnson and I’m not even English and I don’t even live there. Yet when I did and when I worked there and studied there I lived a life more akin to those of most people in that country than Boris Johnson ever has.
I know more what it means to be English than Johnson and, again, I’m not even English. But that is often the way with nationalists, even fake ones like him. They are so inordinately proud of a country they know relatively little about.
The British Prime Minister, so ready to bathe in the poisonous waters of English nationalism, has led a life so unlike that of the vast, vast majority of his countrymen and women that he is little more than a rich tourist in his own land.
In some ways those who voted for him deserve the punishment he so obviously will be.
It is in Ireland too. Not in the simmering distortions of the North but in the online world of our own brave patriots, so in love with Ireland that they can’t accept it has changed.
They don’t love Ireland. They love an idea of it that they use to explore their own bigotries and hatred. Their own fears. Their own inadequacies.
They love the Ireland that was monocultural, white and Catholic, even though they never lived in it.
They love the postcard Ireland that was monocultural, white and Catholic and sent millions of its own people on to boats to live elsewhere.
Ah, those were the days. When we looked after our own by telling them they couldn’t live here. But we could.
Nationalism does have a place. Its place is on the pitch at major sporting events.
National pride then is ninety minutes, pints, songs and something that matters so much precisely because it doesn’t matter.
Outside of that, outside of that celebration, it is a mug’s game.
Like sport, pride in nation is a trivial thing, and should be treated as such.
By all means let us celebrate being Irish and celebrate those who came before us who were often defined by it, whether they wanted to be or not.
But being Irish doesn’t make us better than anyone else. It doesn’t make anyone else inferior.
It is not an achievement to be born in a certain place on earth. It is not something you’ve done with your life.
Don’t be stupid.
Don’t be Johnson.
Don’t be Trump.