Irish Examiner View: Win with either cheer or misery

Irish Examiner View: Win with either cheer or misery

It was GK Chesterton, the English writer and philosopher, who penned a jaunty salute to the great Gaels of Ireland, declaring them to be “the men that God made mad”. 

Why?

“For all their wars were merry and all their songs are sad.”

He had a point, a particularly apt one as we battle a hidden and insidious enemy. 

Our fight against the coronavirus is no less a war than the one we fought for independence a century ago.

It is essential, therefore, that we not only stay strong but also stay cheerful, to make this a merry war and one we can lament with sad songs when it is finally won.

We need not emulate the dour, sour resolve of our friends across the Irish Sea. 

Such grim determination may, in many ways, be admirable but it is not in our nature. 

Better to harmonise with the people of Italy who, despite suffering the worst in Europe from the raging virus, still find the time and strength to sing to one another across the streets of cities and towns and from the balconies of their apartments. 

In the city of Assisi, birthplace of St Francis, locals can be heard singing Puccini arias to their fellow residents from one side of the almost deserted piazzas to another.

We can also take inspiration from the thousands of people in Ireland who celebrated St Patrick’s Day with virtual parades and online gatherings, shared through social media.

Another example of spirited defiance can be found on the streets of Dublin 8, a sprawling suburb that includes The Liberties and stretches from the city centre to the edge of Phoenix Park. 

In an attempt to keep fit and maintain as much social interaction as possible — while adhering to safe distancing guidelines — neighbours on a street in the suburb have come out of their homes to meet for daily exercise sessions. 

The locals started the initiative on Monday morning and plan to do it every day for as long as necessary.

Other initiatives include second-level schools rising to the challenge of remote learning. 

Teachers from Drogheda’s Ballymakenny College are using Instagram to conduct live online classes in Higher Level Maths for fifth year students.

In a special ministerial television address on Tuesday night, the Taoiseach acknowledged the work being done by health service workers, reminding us that: “Not all superheroes wear capes; some wear scrubs and gowns.”

Even his sternest critics would acknowledge his speech as a masterclass in mass communication. 

He also spoke about the need for community solidarity, declaring: “Let it be said that when things were at their worst we were at our best.” 

There are examples of that nationwide already, from the decision by the GAA to open Croke Park as a virus test centre to youngsters delivering food to the elderly.

Through this ordeal, we must not forget the ancient adage, originating in Persia: “this too shall pass”.

We can also draw some comfort from another of Mr Chesterton’s pronouncements: 

“Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

We can kill this dragon, either with an abundance of misery or an abundance of cheerful determination. 

It is up to us.

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