It seems near impossible to find something that quintessentially defines a nation. Finding some unifying commonality between an increasingly multi-cultural, multi-ethnic community of peoples banded together by little more than lines drawn up, often arbitrarily many years ago, seems a fool's dream. It is in the interests of fabricating and maintaining this sense of national community that we turn to myths, and indeed often to self-stereotyping, so as to provide us with labels; with attributes we can feel comfortable ascribing some sense of communal identity to. Very often they only exist because of our collective belief in them, having little to no intrinsic value or truth in and of themselves, their worth and veracity stretches only as far as our continued belief and commitment to them does.
However, while there are many strands to this constructed sense of national identity, pinpointing one particular object or event as typifying 'Irishness' would be a next to impossible task - or at least this was the case until The National Ploughing Championships had to be cancelled today due to it being too windy.
If we are to think about it, this - The National Ploughing Championships being cancelled due to strong winds - is perhaps the most endearingly representative summation of twee 'Irishness' that it would be possible to imagine. It combines three of the most treasured facets of our identity; a reverence for abnormally shite weather; a competitively framed celebration of agricultural practices, and, a reason to vociferously and unfairly complain about perceived oversights in planning and organisation that have led to the event being cancelled.
There will be no sheep-dipping for the winds are too great.
Pack away the cattle, for the gusts are too strong.
Disassemble the hens, for there blows a mighty gale.
The harp is obsolete as a symbol for this land. It ought be replaced as - sentimentally attached though we may b -, it has been usurped as a symbol. In its stead, on our stamps; on our passports; on our government documents there ought be a cartoon of a farmer, clutching his cap against the wind as leaves swirl around him, a crumpled gazebo in the background, toppled by the breeze and now cordoned off with red and white safety-tape. This farmer is standing at the base of a tree, staring bemusedly up into its branches, at one of his sheep that was blown into it during a particularly strong guest. This should be the watermark of our nation.
Imagine it, there is no greater image, no greater motif to represent Ireland. I know this because I have tried to come up with something more pure, and nothing comes close:
- The still performing members of Boyzone, sitting in a pub carpark, shirtless, sharing a stew from a large pot.
- Daniel O'Donnell nursing an injured ewe, that he'd discovered trapped in a bog, back to health.
- Michael Flatley wearing a green, sequined waist-coat, lying face-down on the table of a rural pub, thirteen emptied pints of Guinness around him, motionless from the waist up, yet with his feet tapping out a frenzied beat under the table as he slurs, 'Is this what you want? Is this Irish enough for you?'.
- Fourteen Michael D Higginses trapped in a dilapidated mini-bus being taken on a driving tour of Glendalough.
- A screenshot of all the antiquated and gender-discriminatory clauses that remain in the Constitution.
None of these, none of these come close to the purest of expression of Irishness there is: The National Ploughing Championships being cancelled due to some strong wind.