Lockdown 3.0, Ireland is setting a world record: strictest rules in the whole world in this winter of 2021, (with the exception of perhaps Wales): all non-essential businesses are closed, schools closed, stay at home exercise 5 km/3 miles from home max .. and above all, absolute longevity (and by far) of travel restrictions on the national territory: no trespassing of the county boundaries since mid-September, except for 8 days at Christmas… we have mid-February… Who can top that?
Above this the most surprising fact, astonishing even for the Frenchwoman that I am, is that nobody says anything. Moreover, and this is an interesting phenomenon, public opinion is not a parameter, does not enter in any way into the decisions taken by the government, it is not even a variable regularly mentioned by the very serious Irish Times that I’ve been reading with devotion since the start of the pandemic. The psychological state of the population is known, surveys are carried out regularly, but public opinion is not taken into account for the decisions regarding the restrictions. And for good reason: absolutely nobody moans, grumbles, swears or protests French-style against official decisions. Criticizing the government is not a national sport here. This too is amazing for the Frenchwoman that I am.
No one knows when we’ll be able to cross county boundaries, no one knows when the schools will finally reopen, so what? The Irish have this capacity for adaptation and resignation which is both their greatest strength and their worst weakness.
The way the Irish leaders speak to us at the moment in the media, as if they were school teachers and the people 6 years old pupils,or “unmündig” (under trusteeship) as Kant would say: we’ll tell you soon if and when schools reopen, but we warn you right away, the restrictions will not be lifted for a long time, etc..
Since the beginning of January, semi-information has been distilled to us on a regular basis through semi-unofficial interviews in the newspapers: “schools will reopen on January 11”, “schools must reopen in February”, “special schools will reopen soon”, “exam classes must reopen”, “schools may reopen after March 5th”, “schools will not reopen until ST Patrick”, then « we will take a cautious approach to reopening schools but we will not give you a date », and more recently « schools may reopen in march ”all these are proven statements by members of the government but no official announcement. Do they only realize that this waltz, apart from showing an appalling amateurism, has the sole effect of drowning slowly the pupils/students and their families?
This way of communicating without doing it at the turn of a semi-unofficial interview, for weeks and weeks.. No Jupiterian president in Ireland.
The French would already be demonstrating on the streets.
And the level and the duration of the restrictions: in Germany, some people would have already rushed to the Supreme Court and shouted at these freedom-destroying decisions! The German past makes individual freedom come first, surely.
But still, Ireland has been subdued for 900 years to use the very own Irish words … and it lingers somewhere as indeed, people just don’t say anything. Nothing. This is only a theory, but I think there is still some feudalism to their mode of operation, which dates from the days of English occupation. The Irish let their lords decide, they listen to them, take note, lay low and go their own way. When the French spend a lot of unnecessary energy bitching, the Irish use theirs to adapt.
We’re not allowed to invite anybody home? Never mind, we’ll meet at the park! That’s good, because sun, rain or wind, the Irish are outfitted for all weather conditions. The Irish rain doesn’t stop the Irish, you just have to get out as soon as it stops. We saw a number of small groups sprouting up in the parks, takeaway coffee in hand, impressive. The queue in front of small coffee houses sometimes even goes around the block.
We’re not allowed to go further than 5 KM/3 Miles? No problem, just go on foot or by bike and push the limits. In the event of a garda check, all you need is a credible story to tell them, no documents, Grice’s maxims* are taken to the extreme here: it is assumed that the person you are talking to is telling you the truth.
We’re not allowed to go to the pub anymore? No problem, we drink at home! Hence the impressive filling level of glass containers. You should know that the pub is generally the extension of the living room for the Irish. Unlike the French they do not normally have large reserves of beer or other spirits at home.
Why worry? H Böll underlined it very well in his Irisches Tagebuch: the importance of « It could be worse » and « I shouldn’t worry »
As for me, I have for the first time in my existence a glimpse of the life that I would have by contemplating the free countries from the perspective of a totalitarian country, when I see my French, German and American friends who move freely, who go at the hotel, some of them skiing even … with the consolation of having a privileged vantage point in Dublin, almost anthropological!