The most recent news on the holiday was about gays in the New York parade. Still no gays, in this case apparently “freedom of speech” trumps “gay rights”. But it got me thinking-what does it all mean? The parades, the parties, the celebrations, the raucous assertion of identity?
The Irish like to think of themselves as rebels, but the truth is like the Scots and Welsh they have mostly been pretty loyal and reliable servants of the English. The Scots are Protestants and though of a different kind, able to accommodate themselves to the English. The Welsh are just too few in number to be significant. In reality none of these peoples had any real choice.
The Irish however still feel the need to push back a little bit. We are your servants, and we know it, the celebration says, but don’t take our obedience and loyalty too much for granted, because we still have a little independent spirit. And indeed the celebration represents no threat to the elite. The Puritan component is revolted by the revolting peasants- which is why they not only don’t care if gays march in the parade, they don’t really want them to, they don’t want their pets slumming- but the more moderate element understands the benefit of letting the help get drunk and blow off steam once a year.
Certain expressions of ethnicity- by loyal non-elite groups, mostly the Irish and Scandinavians- are not minded by the elite. So put on the green, have a cold one, or a few, and celebrate that strange condition we know as Irishness. And do so in the comfortable knowledge the masters don’t mind at all.