OUR young people are the cut-out of us. Isn’t that nice? They drink like fish and are completely hypocritical and in denial about it.
According to a survey in the Irish Times 60% of 15 to 17-year-olds drink. Yet only 8% think the legal drinking age of 18 should be reduced.
How do you explain that?
How is it that the majority of Irish people can support laws which they have no intention of obeying?
I started drinking when I was around 14. I don’t think it did me any harm. So when I think about it, I wouldn’t have a problem with buying a 14-year-old a drink.
This line of thinking is obviously anathema to the great majority of Irish people. The recent survey shows that as youngsters move from their teens into their 20’s they become more in favour of the 18 age limit and some actually want it raised.
What they want is laws for everyone else, safe in the knowledge that their drinking won’t be affected by it.
It reminded me of a mate of mine in college who was boasting to me that he had spent a year in the US, that American women were dead easy and that he had slept with a different girl every weekend. He was delighted with himself.
Around this time there was a move to liberalise the laws on condoms here. He was completely opposed to it. Sure if you legalised condoms everyone would be having sex, was his logic.
It was all right for him, but nobody else could be trusted with the liberty. This is actually how the minds of most Irish people work, it seems to me.
I’ve been thinking long and hard about this and I believe that there is two deep-seated reasons for this mindset. First, the catholic guilt complex; second, the colonial hangover.
The guilt complex works like this. I have a moped. My nephew said he wanted one. I told him no, they’re too dangerous. On reflection, what I was saying was that I didn’t want the responsibility and guilt of him getting killed on the moped. Had he gone on and bought one anyway at least I’d be in the clear.
Protestants are better about this. They put more emphasis on personal responsibility. You make your bed – you lie on it, sort of thing. Its a bit more heartless but it allows more personal freedom.
The colonial hangover works by the individual distancing themselves from the Government and the law. Even after all these years of independence, part of the Irish psyche sees the Government as a distant body whose main function is to put manners on us.
These two facets of the Irish mindset are clearly to be seen in the proposed smoking ban. Miceal Martin doesn’t want the deaths of smokers on his conscience and the law is universal with no room for personal or social choice.
And, of course, the reason there is no uproar is because a large proportion of the Irish population have no intention of obeying the new law.
Even if they support it.