Thursday, 13 November 2008

On being Gombeen Man

Running a blog can be interesting. Despite its pervading anoraky image as being a rather solitary endeavour, it can be quite an eye-opening experience.

Regular readers of this blog will know that it has no truck with the concept of patriotism, or blind devotion to one’s nation-state. This can sometimes be a tough job, in a country where even the anarchists are patriotic.

Because Gombeen Man has had the life experiences to question accepted establishment orthodoxies, he is sometimes vilified. You can see it on some of the comments on this blog – though thankfully there are supportive ones too. There are also negative references elsewhere on the web, and a steady number of abusive emails.

But hey, it comes with the job! And while it is comforting to know there are other progressive people out there who can question bogus aspects of Irishness – even the abusive feedback from the Little Irelanders confirms that the blog is doing its job. Namely, exposing these Lilliputians for the small-minded, parochial jingoists they are.

In fact some of the abuse can be funny. Let’s give you a selection (from comments and emails and elsewhere on the web). I have been accused of “finishing off the work of Cromwell” . Of being a “Gombeen Jackeen”, guilty of “royalist Pale logic” and “treasonous west-Britishness" (one of my favourites).

I’m a “pseudo-liberal attacking Gaelic culture”. I’m an anti-Irish language ‘racist’ ” because I dare question the State-funded Irish Language Industry, with its attendant bureaucracy and elites.

I’m someone who “hates the Irish” (despite being Irish… I assume this is where “self-loathing” comes in?). This accusation I can counter by stating that I hate only the narrow, bullshit definition of Irishness that my detractors espouse.

Some of it has been less funny. I am a “nigger-lover” (Deep South drawl here) who should emigrate. Been there, done that, actually. But maybe it would be the ultimate act of patriotism if that particular poster took his/her own advice? Permanently.

Nearly as bad, I have been accused of being a student! Typing away on my “UCD” computer, no less. Wrong again. Like many working-class people of my time, I left our questionable educational system after my Leaving Cert, before leaving for the Holyhead boat a few years later. 1986 it was, in fact.

There were even fewer attractions in Ireland back then. Unemployment was high, and those working in the PAYE system were handing over their pay packets to fund the lifestyle of Charlie Haughey and the Golden Circle. The Civil Service was reserved for Irish speakers, you couldn’t get a rubber johnny unless you knew where to look, divorce was banned, and the streets were full of “police and priests”, as Bob Geldof memorably put it.

But emigration can be an enriching experience. It can open up your eyes, show you there’s a world out there. It introduces you to lots of good people, and some bad ones – such as the National Front and the British National Party. But that’s another story, and a small part of Gombeen Man’s anti-fascist and anti-racist past.

Did I say past? The story continues - just the location has changed. Home sweet home, eh?

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Sven said...

It is always a pleasure to read your blog, Gombeen Man ! Most of the time You are hitting the nail right on the (Irish) head. Don't give up - there are a few more out there thinking about the future of this little green island too. Keep going, you have a growing audience - and even a couple of (thick) Germans in it *g* !

The Gombeen Man said...

Hi Sven.

Ha ha. Good to know that there are enlightened people like you are out there!

Thanks for your support, and I'm glad you like the blog.


C'est La Craic said...

I hate the type of people who define patriotism by their own narrow world view, Bill O'Reilly style.

Your spot on about the immigration. Looking in on Ireland from the outside (especially from a country that has the best health care system in the industrialised world) gives one quite a different view of the country. Still, I left because I wanted to, not because I had to (though I may have have just got the jump on everone else this time round) so I suppose it's not the same

Fritz said...

Supporting what Sven already said, it always puts a smile on ym face to read your blog everyday when I come to the office, and it has made me look at Ireland in a different way, but without making me loose the fascination of it ! Go on just the way you are doing, and don´t let anybody keep you from it !

Greetings from Vienna, Fritz (The thick Austrian)

P.S.: I know many Irish over here read your blog frequently as well, and most of them LOVE it even more then I !

The Gombeen Man said...


Bernd said...

Gombeen Man ... your doing a good job! Period!

Being on the receiving end of "funny" comments myself for not painting Hibernia in the greenest of luscious greens for my German compassportholders who absolutely do not like to read my musings (and still do) I can only feel with you.

The Gombeen Man said...

Thanks Bernd! I think there are too many people here who just don't question things. That's why the place is in the state it is, I'm afraid.

BTW, you're doing a great job yourself. Love the blog - even if my very poor German is tested to its limits while reading it!!!

jim said...

Always a good idea to question this idea of identity and nationalism - with 'irishness' being no exception.

What does it mean? Different things for different people in different places? Some years back it seemed easy to see yourself as 'irish' in Britain and to be recognized as different [and suspicious]... but now?

Now the BNP are actively trying to recruit Irish migrants to their hideous cause because they think that they can claim them as part of that homogenous white mass of reactionary fear.

Changed times, eh.

Jim at

The Gombeen Man said...

Hi Jim. Thanks for your comments.

Yes, changed times indeed. When I lived in Britain the Irish were as much a target of the fascists as the black and Asian population. Indeed that's what inspired me to get involved in anti-fascist activity.

What you relate is very saddening indeed.


Anonymous said...

When I first moved south of the Pecos over a decade ago I was racist, ignorant and set in my ways having grown up in a northern town and all that entails.

At this point a decade later I have learned a lot, been enlightened by the enlightened and used the internet for my education and benefit.

I learned after a while here that I had left one f***ed up society for another with I consider religion and politics the root cause of both societies problems.

I am still ignorant in respect of some things and occassionally have to check my immediate reactions to posts on a thread as some of the ingrained northern attitudes are hard to shift, but one by one they do and its with the help of real free speech and a little bit of open mindedness that I and all can move forward. So thanks gombeenman for being part of that process of enlightenment and keep up the good work.

The Gombeen Man said...

Cheers Anon.

Well, speaking for myself, I don't think there are too many good things about getting older - so the best we can all get from it is to become a bit wiser from our life experiences. Not that I'm THAT old, but you know what I mean!

Glad you like the blog, mate, and keep up the good work yourself.