George Bernard Shaw
I just love that quote from Shaw; it should provide a reality check to us all.
We have no say in where we are born and our birthplace confers on us no special powers or higher intellect. No matter what our nationality, creed or race, we all bleed red blood when our arms are cut.
Though extremely proud of my Irish pedigree, nevertheless I despise those of my countrymen who feel that today they are a step above all others & that being Irish gives them a special licence to misbehave especially when abroad. It is great that Ireland's new found wealth has given our people a growing sense of national self-confidence and that we now aspire to be world leaders in so many different fields. Yet our very successes have made quite a few of us, notably those of our young folk who have never experienced poverty, ooze almost a racial arrogance which is certainly new to the Irish character.
Yet an understanding of our nation's history should have instilled a deep sense of moral humility and respect to all those that are less privileged than ourselves. It is still in living memory that the Irish were despised in countries such as USA and Britain where they are now feted. So much of the positive elements of our society's traditional caring nature, its music and literature were shaped by centuries of struggle against oppression. These have oftentimes been our greatest gifts to the world at large; we have shown that anyone can overcome adversity and even do it with a glint in the eye and a lilt in one's step!
But though we relied largely on our own efforts to climb out of the gutter, nevertheless we were often given a helping hand by others even from those we claimed were our enemies. The 'Good Samaritans' came from distant shores spurred on by their own sense of injustice- I think of courageous individuals from modern England such as Gareth Pierce, Ken Livingstone, Clare Short, Tony Benn and Chris Mullen who took up Irish-related Human Rights causes such as the 'Birmingham Six' & 'Guildford Four' when our own political leaders were too afraid to do so.
"The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?' " Martin Luther King
It is worthwhile remembering that all nations and cultures have their brief moments of glory and a place in the Sun, but what follows can often be long periods of great loss and subjugation.