Mad Dogs and Irishmen

Loyalism is finally getting some recognition, as evidenced by this goatee strokin’, Gitanes-smoking article from the Guardian. It identifies Loyalism as a symptom of a post-industrial crisis of masculinity:

It has been a profoundly masculinist culture, in ways that decades of violence could only reinforce. Both the partial ending of paramilitary violence (which threatens to deprive “hard men” of their raison d’etre and aggressive youths of their role models) and the precipitous decline in industrial employment must intensify the crisis of masculinity that commentators identify as a more general post-industrial phenomenon.

This seems accurate. Cultural loyalism explores the extremes of popular representations of masculinity. You can celebrate your masculinity by taking it to simian, even animalistic levels (see ‘Mad Dog’), or you can show that you have overcome its constraints by disdaining it utterly. In that sense, there can be few things more masculine than dressing up as a member of Buck’s Fizz circa 1985.

The author also locates loyalism as a peculiarly Irish culture:

Loyalism is a culture ambivalent about Irishness. Yet, whatever else loyalism is, it is distinctively an Irish culture, one that grew only on the island of Ireland, with off-shoots in Scotland and Canada. The essential cultural difference between loyalism and its foes is indeed that while Republicans conceive of themselves as having an inherited, densely woven tradition, loyalists have to make it up as they go along. These are the fragments they shore up against their ruins.

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October 2005

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