‘Heads up and chests out – we’re a free country!’ With those words, Master Lawlor, used sometimes try to smarten us up as we ‘slouched’ against the classroom wall during Irish reading. That fact might have been one of the few positives of the day, but our teacher often considered it worth a mention!
My mother had a message in a similar vein: ‘Ireland is the best little country in the world’, was a life-long peroration of hers. In adulthood, her sons would good-naturedly tease her about this dogma. ‘Why then did four of your six sons have to leave it?’ one of us would ask. It made no difference; the final word from Mam was always the same; ‘we still live in the best little country in the world!’
I was reminded of the wonderful spot where we took root on this planet in a conversation I had in my yard with a good friend this morning. Jerry is not a sentimental sort of guy who dishes out praise willy nilly. For this reason I was a tad surprised when he uttered a sentence loaded with conviction; “I’ll never give out about this country again,” proclaimed my friend.
We had talked about what the Ukrainian civilian population are being forced to endure, through no fault of their own. We spoke of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’; of how bad things happen to good people and how it does appear that the evil of the few can triumph over the good of many.
While we were at it, we got around to all the natural disasters afflicting the world. Devastating weather damage in Florida, South Carolina and eastern Canada. Drought, famine and wildfires across sections of the Globe and more flooding in Pakistan.
How blessed we are in where we live. I know we have a housing crisis – and it is easy for those of us with a house, to sometimes gloss over this stain on our country; but nobody is bombing or shooting at us. There is nobody starving in Ireland (as in not being able to source food to sustain life). Where there is hunger, there is an underlying cause and help is always available.
We have a benign climate, where weather conditions should not kill anyone. People care about people and ‘giving a hand’ is a national pastime.
It may sound like a cheesy old cliché, but you should count your blessings. For a hundred years, since the foundation of our State, democracy and all of our political parties have served the country well. This, despite the fact that our system of government was born out of the bitterness of civil war. Democracy and the peaceful handing over of power after elections is the greatest system of rule in the world – and it is now something we cannot take for granted.
Fascism is rearing its ugly head once more. It’s as if history is determined to repeat itself. In the late 1920s and early 1930s it was truly remarkable how fascism sprung up in several different countries at the same time. Hatred and aggression seemed to be ‘in the air.’ Fascist bullies like Hitler and Mussolini were connected like blood brothers – no pun intended.
Well, my friends, it’s back. The nice name for it is ‘a move to the far right.’ Italy has just returned a chip off the old block in Giorgia Maloni
Donald Trump and his wing of the Republican Party are fascists. Trump regularly praises Vladimir Putin – calling him ‘savvy’ and a ’genius.’ In Brazil you have Berlusconi – ‘The Trump of the Tropics.’ With huge rallies and Nazi style flag-waving, these three men are the pied pipers of evil that they have managed to wrap in the cloak of nationalism.
There is loads of evidence that Putin has had a part to play in his ‘blood-brothers’ rise to prominence. Russian interference helped fuel the January 6th rebellion in America and really it was Vladimir, and not Boris (“Trump Light” – especially when it came to telling the truth) who ‘got Brexit done.
A lovely young woman in Iran, Masha Amini, was tortured and beaten to death by male policemen because the rulers didn’t like her showing a bit of her face and hair. The bravery of the women who have gone on the streets to protest her death says everything about the strength of feeling and anger at her death. That numbers of men (mostly young) have gone onto the streets in support of women’s rights shows the whiff of change in these barbaric States.
There you have a few facts to dwell on, dear readers; but principally, I want you to agree with my mammy when she said that, ’we live in the best little country in the world!
If you don’t enjoy what you have, how could you be happier with more?