IF you watched Vincent Browne’s interview with Sean Quinn last week, you’ll know that he is not a delusional capitalist gambler, but a victim: a victim of the Anglo collapse, of a government searching for baddies, and of the smug Dublin 4 media, which enjoys stamping on the pain of others.
Those who turned out to support Quinn at the Ballyconnell rally are also victims: the victims of decades of government neglect of the border counties. In this country we try, sometimes unconvincingly, to declare that we’re great and everyone loves us and that there are so many areas of human endeavour in which we lead the world. But if you study the evidence, playing the victim is one area in which we truly excel.
Over the past couple of decades, we’ve witnessed a sorry slide-show of dodgy politicians and grasping business people and poisonously corrupt institutions. None of them have admitted culpability, and all have claimed they are the victims of powerful forces. Like a three-year-old smeared in Nutella, they say other kids forced them to stick their fingers in the jar; and that those kids gobbled more than they did.
Our economy has collapsed. Can you think of one person in this country who has admitted to playing a part in that collapse? Even bankers feel sorry for themselves.
In most of our public dialogue, playing the victim seems to be the default position. The debates over gay marriage and abortion have hardly got to the Defcon One stage, yet, already, we hear people on both sides claiming that they are being ‘shouted down’ by the bigger, noisier, bullying opposition.
So why is playing the victim so popular in this country? One obvious reason is that it works. How many discredited politicians have topped the poll come the next election by playing the they’re-all-out-to-get-me card?
Yet, beyond that, there’s something in the Irish psyche that finds victimhood irresistibly enticing. Perhaps it’s our history. Rather than wanting to build a brave new Ireland, perhaps we miss the famine and the coffin ships and the Black and Tans: periods of our past when we could really get our teeth into mournful self-pity. Back then, you could sing a few sad songs and probably get a free drink or two out of it. You could use pity as currency and never be expected to take responsibility for anything.
But take heart: if the competing, doom-laden predictions of various economists are to believed, the European project is on the edge of collapse, and it won’t be long before we’re serving our children tree bark for dinner. We’ll experience the collective satisfaction of profound unhappiness, coupled with the knowledge that we are not to blame for any of it.
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