Oddly enough, my letter in The Irish Times this morning was pretty much on the same theme as my blog post yesterday. Here it is:
Sir, – Conor Farrell (July 8th) writes, “Surely those who wish to mark [Good Friday] in the Christian calendar can refrain from alcohol themselves without needing to impose a law banning it for both themselves and everyone else?”
Of course they can, and I don’t think the law should impose any religious duty or prohibition upon any one.
However, I suggest that the ban of alcohol on Good Friday is well worth keeping for cultural reasons.
In a globalised world where so many societies seem like replicas of each other, shouldn’t we cherish such little differences? And isn’t there something uninspiring about a society where everything is available all of the time?
The human spirit cries out for seasons and limits – and, yes, even for taboos.
I am all in favour of the Good Friday alcohol ban precisely because it makes no sense – that is, no utilitarian, rationalistic, obvious sense.
This trivial hardship is well worth holding on to, because it reminds us that we are a nation and not simply an aggregation of individuals. – Yours, etc,
The problem with this argument is that it appeals almost entirely to intuition. If someone doesn't feel this, then it's impossible to convince them. Nonetheless, I think most people do feel it. They just don't realise it. I think most people do feel it because people dwell so lovingly on little restrictions or frustrations, at least in retrospect. "Do you remember how we used to have to...." Witness also the fascinated way people discuss local restrictions, such as the chewing gum ban in Singapore. To me, almost anything that creates local character or seasonal character is good. (Within limits. Human sacrifice should not be encouraged as a picturesque idiosyncrasy, etc.)