Grateful 41

Malawi and Namibia

One of the best things about working in Diplomacy (however, tangentially) is that delegates get to wear their national dress for formal dinners. We had one such dinner (actually, a simulated dinner in honour of a departing ambassador) as part of the workshop on Modern Diplomacy for Small States this week in Malta and it was simply amazing to see how people turned out.

St Lucia and Montserra

It was a far cry from the usual Black Tie events that see slinkly spangled numbers and pant suits. This was a blaze of colour and feminity and made me truly envious of those who take such pride in their countries and their heritage. I couldn’t help but wonder what Irish diplomats turn up in when they have the opportunity to wear their national dress – or is this a phenomen restricting to the African, Caribbean and Pacific region? Surely not. But then, I did say I was only involved tangentially in Diplomacy, so I can’t say for sure. Is there a practicing diplomat out there who could answer the question for me?



This week, I am grateful for my work and for the fact  that it exposes me to people I would otherwise never meet; to cultures I would otherwise never experience; and to perspectives that I would otherwise never share. It was a pleasure to spend ten days at this workshop and to meet such fascinating, fun-loving, fine people, each of whom shares a pride in their country and a willingness to share this with the rest of the world. Who would have thought that good humour and smiles could be so infectious.

Brothers and sisters

I come from what is known in Ireland as a gentleman’s family – one boy, one girl. Read the implication in that for yourselves. Ours is a large extended family though – I have 71 first cousins. Lots of cousins, but only one brother. I might occasionally refer to him as ‘bro’ or ‘my brother in Dublin’ but I usually just call him by his name.

It sounds strange to me then when people who just met each other a couple of days ago refer to themselves as brother and sister. My brother from the Solomons; my sister from the Seychelles. It’s such a lovely, inclusive way of talking. This easy familiarity may well be characteristic of their countries, I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been to the Bahamas, the Gambia, Grenada, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritus, Malaysia, Monsterrat (unless you count the one outside Barcelona), Namibia (was to go but it has been postponed), Samoa, the Seychelles, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, St Kitts and Nevis, Jersey, Uganda or St Lucia. I don’t have that free and easy manner that would allow me to refer to someone as my brother or sister without a blood tie. I am too constrained by western propriety. And it saddens me a little.

I can’t help but wonder if we in Hungary or Ireland or Europe generally, if we were to view relative strangers as our brothers and sisters, would we have a need for rallies and demonstrations? Would we have a society where ingroups reign and that sense of belonging we crave as humans is ransomed for votes? Would we be more tolerant of each other and more forgiving of our weaknesses? Would we rid ourselves of this ‘them and us’ mentality that is so crippling? I wonder…