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Wednesday, 6 March 2019


A longer article based on this post is available for commission

I have an aversion to generalisations. All men are this, all women are that start a never-ending list encompassing religion, politics, gender, celebrity, mischief-making, et al. It's the word 'all' that annoys me. In this age of opinion and insult-blether, general comments, which people are entitled to make (I suppose), can't always be backed up by coherent and intelligent explanations.

I grew up in Belfast, spending my first twenty-two years there from the 1950s to the 1970s. The most common generalisations were all Catholics are this, all Protestants are that, all police are.... , all politicians are.... , and more, each tribe lumped together as one 'community' versus the other.

But before these generalisations, the ones that struck me were these nuggets: all Irish are thick, all Irish are lazy, all Irish are drunks. All! All?

I moved from Belfast to Manchester in 1976, a year in a bloody and vicious decade of Northern Irish troubles. As a stranger in a strange land, my accent branded me and I had to endure jibes (mild, for the most part) and jokes at my expense. Paddy jokes were comedic fodder in daily life and on the variety circuits. A TV show called The Comedians would have been half as long without Irish jokes.

One particular work colleague couldn't wait to find me and share the latest Paddy Irishman joke. He laughed to underline his brilliant delivery, and, perhaps, his superiority, as he was a 'mainlander'. I laughed to be polite. It was easier to get by that way.

After atrocities occurred in England, I tried to keep my head down because unenlightened people were convinced that all Irish were terrorists. It was a scary time and, to my embarrassment, I refrained from saying much in certain situations, and I even tried to disguise my accent.

Of course, nowadays, generalisations are the stuff of social media, the scariest newspapers, TV documentaries and radio phone-ins amongst other outlets encouraging variations of 'freedom of speech'. Many of the phone-in callers end up being tedious because they can't back up what they are saying. Adept phone-in presenters who dig down even a little can expose the shallowness of callers who have picked up a headline or a tweet and assumed a few words or a phrase as their solid belief. In half a dozen headline words, they have discovered the meaning of life, a handy one-liner to demonstrate their grasp of the issues when at a party or stuck in a lift.

Instead of all, I am more content to start discussions with some, and see how it goes from there.

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