From Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics: Mental Illness in Rural Ireland by Nancy Scheper-Hughes. The following is a transcription of an interview with a village tailor, describing the unspoken rules governing the behavior of men in the village.

    We like an honest man, a good living man. One who doesn't interfere in others' business. A man who mingles with all, enjoys life, and shares a pint with any decent fellow. We like a man who is calm, not excessive; a man neither idle nor a slave to his work. A reasonable man should have a rational approach to life. He must be a regular sort of person, eating his meals at the appointed hour, and sleeping at night and not during the day. We prefer a man who is dependable- on time for Mass, and not clattering in at the back of the church like a foreigner. A regular sort of man should dress warm for the rain, and not walk about hatless. For that would be strange. He should be generous to a point, not mean and stingy, but neither should he be a fool, and fling his goods and money away so that his family will suffer. He should be a reasonable man in conversation, having things of interest to discuss, but not given to idle or meaningless words. For, it is written: 'For every idle word a man shall speak, he will render an account on the day of judgement.' We like a man who is at ease with other people, not an awkward kind of man who says nothing or who talks in a loud and gruff manner. We don't like nervous, excitable kind of men who rub and wave their arms about, not knowing the proper place to put them. We like a calm, placid, common sense kind of man.

    -March 1975

I like this quote because large sections of this book detail how so much of the expectations of rural Irish behavior/manners is conveyed from person to person in vague, roundabout terms. In fact, there is an extensive section that details the value placed almost universally on 'Irish Wit' or the ability to say one thing and mean completely another by poetic virtue. This statement is the most outright and direct summary of the expectations placed on Irish men, and it leaves little room for acceptable divergence.

The book in general is incredibly interesting, detailing the 'Saints' of various kinds, from harmless eccentric old bachelor farmers who spend long hours 'standing the night' with their cows, reciting rosaries until dawn, to differentiation between 'fools' and 'lunatics.' A 'fool' being a mentally ill person whose behaviors do not directly oppose strong social norms, and treated with fond excuses for their abnormality. A 'lunatic' being a mentally divergent person who has directly violated a strong social norm (Sexual and religious mores composing the most egregious of errors) and who is socially punished as a result, usually with exclusion.

flagamuffin, lil


    The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.

- Marcus Aurelius, "Meditations"

posted by OftenBen: 1437 days ago