Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Quitting the habit

“No smoking in this area” – that’s what the sign says. And yet, these two people are smoking ‘in this area’. Breaking the rules. Perhaps, as is likely, they do not actually see the sign – it is just a sheltered doorway, a good place to stand [on this note, why do smokers stand in doorways? Is this a way of compensating for the fact that they can’t pollute the air for everyone inside anymore so that now, they think, “at least we can ‘get’ them on their way inside”?]

Or perhaps they do see it, and intentionally invoke the anger of the sign’s maker or patron. Or maybe, probably worst of all, they have seen it, and have, without consciously reading and noticing the sign, made the subconscious decision that that very spot is the place to smoke.

Of course, when I witnessed this, I laughed to myself – the utter lack of...

Respect. Respect for authority. We Irish have a strange relationship with respect:
We have nicknames for monuments, nicknames which seem, oddly, to denote both a lack of respect and a curious affection.
A lot of us could curse the devil blue.
We rarely wait for the ‘green man’ to cross the road.
Drinking on the street is illegal, as is smoking on buses, and littering, yet why do so many Irish people continually disrespect the law in committing these minor yet prevalent crimes?

Well, for several hundred years there – ya know a while ago – we had these ‘minders’ called the British. We weren’t too happy with them. Didn’t like their oppression (who would?), didn’t like their language, and generally just didn’t appreciate their presence. We eventually had to put up with all these though. In order to get us through, and to annoy the British at the same time, we simply disobeyed their laws:

“You’re not going to Catholic mass!” “We’ll go to Catholic mass even more than we used to!”

“Don’t rebel, you wouldn’t like the consequences.” “You just gave me an idea for a lifelong goal!”

“English is a splendid language. Read great works by English authors in order to learn how to use the language properly.” “Your thoughts lack originality and your expression lacks personality. Read fantastic works by Irish authors in order to learn how to use the language properly.”

Disrespecting authority is a long-surviving Irish tradition. Naturally, when the British government in Ireland was replaced by an Irish government, we couldn’t wilfully change a national, and now natural, habit.

Even those who enforce and establish authority have a surprisingly hard time quitting the habit.

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