I’m a tad disappointed this week. I thought perhaps it was just the post-Paddy’s Day blues. When you have had such a good time, it’s hard to come back to reality. But what I’m suffering from isn’t just  case of the colours. And it’s more than disappointment – I’d go so far as to say that I’ve become disillusioned.

I’ve written a couple of posts on Firkin – that fab Hungarian band that plies its trade in Irish punk. Their stage energy and enthusiasm are hard to match and the passion they bring to their music would convince anyone that they’re Irish through and through.

IMG_1370 (800x600)IMG_1397 (800x600) (800x600)I saw them play in the basement of Instant on Sunday. My third time seeing them live. Even though the acoustics sucked, I was carried away by the foot-stompin’, head-bangin’ music – basking in the energy and the vibes emanating from the packed stage. With a lead singer (Marthy Barna) who could give Colin Farrell a run for his  money, and a flautist (János Péter) who tickles my fancy every time I see him in action, what wasn’t there to like.

IMG_1390 (800x600)And then Barna asked who in the audience was Irish. A couple of hands went up and a couple of souls shouted out. He dedicated the next song to them with the words ‘Because you’re Irish, this song’s for you’. My heart was melting (with the heat, most likely, but the emotion was there, too). Then came the song: F*&K the British Army.

Cmon lads, how long as it been and you’re still getting high on this stuff? The room, the majority of which was Hungarian, erupted. It’s obviously a popular song. Now I like some of the old rebel songs – it wasn’t long ago that I was on a bus back from Mohács urging the inimitable GO’R to give us a belt of the Men Behind the Wire, cautioning everyone present to remember the times in which it was written. For me, it’s more an account of how Belfast used to be that an incitement to hatred in 2014. That was then. This is now. And you might say I’m splitting hairs here,  being hypocritical even. Perhaps I am.

Yet this mindless appreciation for anti-British sentiment really bothered me. We’ve come so far. It’s not 1980s San Francisco or Boston, or even Dublin. We’re in 2014 for God’s sake – in Hungary. A country that has had its fair share of occupation, a country that wants to move forward. And there they were – my heros, Firkin – doing their bit to set us back. Not deliberately, I’m sure – which to my mind, makes it even worse.

Now, I thought I might have been overreacting. So I mentioned it to a few others – Irish – who had missed the gig. They weren’t impressed either. I’m all for patriotism. I’m all for the underdog standing up and being counted. I’m all for the power of music to band people together – but if there’s a cause, let it be mindful, and let it be current.

Maybe I need to lighten up…




11 replies
  1. Caroline Mercer
    Caroline Mercer says:

    No Mary, you don’t need to lighten up, that line between the strength and potential goodness of Patriotism, and the distructive irrational vileness of Nationalism, is a fine one that can be too easily crossed. It has been in Ireland, in Bosnia, is currently in the Crimea; one could fill this page with examples from near, distant and not so distant history, so no never “lighten up”.

  2. gingerpaque
    gingerpaque says:

    I think it’s an important point. I suspect it was well-meant enthusiasm, but without the understanding that we are very (even unconsciously, sub-consciously) affected by music especially, by jokes, and by thoughtless comments. What would have happened if that had happened in Ireland? I may be sensitized to this issue, because of the current political and emotional polarizations in Venezuela, but I agree with you. A second note: are lingering emotions and ideas more likely in expat populations that are remembering the country they left, not the country that has moved on?

    • Mary
      Mary says:

      I wondered that, too, Ginger – what would have happened if it had happened in Ireland. It would depend on the crowd. Obviously those stuck in the past and staunch IRA heads would have had no issue – but amongst the mainstream, I can well imagine a degree of discomfort that might border on exasperation. With regard to expat populations – I use the word to describe those temporarily abroad. To think of it in terms of Irish Americans who grew up on stories of British oppression and have romantic notion of a united Ireland, then yes, there’s a point – and it’s this that keeps song like this one alive.

  3. Zsolt Babocsai
    Zsolt Babocsai says:

    Mary, I’m in Buenos Aires and a couple of Irish friends happened to be here on Paddy’s day so we went out together. I was really surprised how big a deal it was here, even if for most people (myself included) it was nothing else than a good reason to get plastered and all they knew about it was green shirts and beer. My Irish friends were going on about the bastardization of the holiday: the Scottish bagpipes, the mixed up colours of the flag etc. I understood them completely, I don’t like seeing the Italian flag in place of the Hungarian and I’m not keen on kürtős kalács being called chimney cake. But I can’t realistically expect people all over the world to learn to say kürtős kalács and understand what it means. The parallel may be stupid as one is a cake, the other involves suffering and murder. But what I’m saying is once something national becomes international, it’s out of control and people who don’t have a clue will contribute in their own ways. Trying to educate them is always a good thing, but I wouldn’t have high hopes if I were you.

    • Mary
      Mary says:

      True – Paddy’s Day is a global institution Zsolt, but when you think of it, the man himself wasn’t even Irish. It’s a day for the diaspora – one to remember where they came from but one that’s difficult to take seriously. Now kürtős kalács … doesn’t that translate as chimney cake? Educate me here – am curious. Anyway, it’s not Paddy’s Day I’m objecting to…. it’s the repetition of a song that to some degree foments hatred, a blind mass appreciation for something that is not understood.

  4. Mary
    Mary says:

    There is a very fine line Caroline – you’re right. And one that’s practically impossible to define. I’m wondering now what I was reacting to – the fact that few if any in the room understood the context or that I don’t want to see the clock go back 30 years or….


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