Archive | April, 2012

Class discrimination goes both ways

17 Apr


Trenton Oldfield: Tarred all at the race with the same brush

Class. It’s a theme that while having a large degree of resonance here in Ireland, dominates British society like no other. Its boundaries are clearer there, with style, accent and address providing key markers as to someone’s position in society. While the archaic indicator of class was formerly one of financial means, the advent of the nouveau riche, best exemplified in docudramas like The Only Way is Essex, means that class now tends to be delineated by education, occupation and cultural preference, rather than wealth.

In the wake of Trenton Oldfield’s disturbance at last week’s University Boat Race, there have been a slew of comments made by members of the British public lending tacit support to the self-professed ‘anti-elitist’. Most are churlish and tend to follow a similar trend, lambasting the participants and viewers of the boat race as ‘toffs’, ‘snobs’ and ‘hooray Henry’s’, terms which, while not highly offensive, do betray a kernel of bigotry on the part of those who post them.

There seems to be a blithe acceptance that it’s okay to chastise someone for attending a world-class university, for playing cricket, or for preferring a glass of Port to a Vodka and Coke. It’s an acceptance that exists here, albeit on a smaller scale. Such casual disdain seems based on the inference that anyone that would enjoy such things is almost definitely a snob, with an assumed disdain for the majority, who have never graced the hallowed halls of a private school, or shown an interest in the comic styling’s of P.G. Wodehouse.

Assuming that everyone that enjoys a regatta, or maybe a varsity rugby game, belongs to some elite bourgeois set, typified by an inherent snobbish revulsion for the other classes, is to assume a logic that would portray everyone in attendance at a Premier League game, or indeed a GAA game, as a clamour of foul-mouthed benefits cheats, with garb inspired by Vicky Pollard and the bargain bin at JD sports. Both follow assumptions based on outmoded stereotypes, both belie the truth, both belong to the bin.

While there’s no doubt that a detestable element exists within the upper classes, one that is forever bound to breed resentment from others, to tar everyone with the same brush is just  as ignorant as to assume laziness on the part of every member of the working class. Many, if not most, members of the upper class were born into a state of privilege. Wanting the best for them, their parents, often without their child’s consent, sent them to private schools, from which they had a spring board to the top tier of third level institutions. Yes, the opportunity afforded to them was greater than most, but that is no way justification to assume a bad character on their part.

Their chances in life, afforded by the accident of birth, may be greater than yours and hence somewhat unfair, but as the great comedian Chris Rock once said, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”


Cavan Steps out of the Past

9 Apr


Cavan Town circa 2007

Dublin, Ireland- In a historic move, the Department of Education announced today that Cavanese, the first language of County Cavan, will be taught as a Leaving Certificate subject from September.

The decision means that thousands of students could sit a leaving certificate exam in the ancient language by June of next year. The coalition government believes it could aid the people of Cavan culturally, socially and economically.

The news has been welcomed in the county, with many viewing it as a momentous step in relations between Cavan and the greater Irish population.

“It’s brilliant”, said Michael Gregory, an English teacher from Virginia. “For so long the language barrier has kept Cavan isolated from the rest of the country. Outsiders (non-natives) thought, and still do, that we’re some kind of ancient mud  people living in wattle and daub houses. This decision will hopefully go some way to dispelling these notions”.

The language barrier has historically been a point of contention. With most of the Irish population unable to speak Cavanese, locals often complain of feeling  isolated in their own country.

“It’s pretty difficult alright. You try to get your point across to outsiders the best way you can but they just stare at you as if you’ve got two heads”, said Jimmy Quinn, a local councillor and activist.

Although many Cavan natives like Quinn are fluent in English, they still find it difficult to converse with ‘outsiders’. This is largely due to the Cavan tendency to insert an accentuated ‘Y’ sound into almost every word of English, a pronunciation trait common to the Cavanese language.

Jane McDonald, a Professor of linguistics at Trinity College, hopes the move will educate a new audience on the Cavan people, their language and their culture.

“The misconception is that people in Cavan speak a form of poorly pronounced English. This simply isn’t true. In fact, most people in Cavan speak a dialect, while influenced by English, largely based on a language spoken thousands of years ago by the ancient mud-people that inhabited the region.”

“With it now part of the national curriculum, hopefully more people, both here and abroad, will gain a greater understanding of the Cavan people and their unique culture.”

Often perceived as an archaic region, some Cavan natives hope that if more people learn Cavanese, trade with the rest of the country will increase, helping the county to finally step out of the 19th Century and into the 20th.

“I can’t wait for the future”, said Maggie Molloy, a retailer from Belturbet. “We’ve been stuck with the old horse and cart for years, while the rest of the country get to drive around in their motor cars, listening to their wireless radios and drinking their tea’s from Ceylon and the Dutch East Indies. It’s about time the people of Cavan got some home-comforts too”

There has been some dissent however. George Ui Neill, an independent councillor from Wexford, criticized the decision, claiming that it could irreparably damage the culture of the majority.

“This is multiculturalism gone mad. England has been swept by Islamization to the point that there’s no real English culture left. The same will happen here. If we force our children to speak Cavanese, it won’t be long before we’re all speaking gibberish and looking weird. The ‘Cavanisation’ of Ireland can’t be allowed to happen.”

Ui Neill has found little support politically and it’s widely expected that there will be a large uptake of the language by leaving certificate students in the coming year.