Tuesday, December 02, 2003

"Playing the man"

When I first moved to Ireland, I was struck by how often I'd hear the expression "playing the man" when watching a sporting event. It took me a while to understand what this meant as "playing the man" is not only legal, but recommended in hockey (that's the variety played on ice, for you field hockey fans).
If it's a one on one, (the puck carrier against you) you play the man, don't even look at the puck, just play the man by staying in front of him and prevent him from getting around you or getting to the net for a shot. If you create a loose puck your backcheckers or you can go for it.
But, now after a dozen (plus) years here, I think I've finally grasped the meaning of the phrase as it's used in Ireland. In soccer (and other sports over here), "playing the man" is forbidden.

The phrase is often used in a non-sporting context to indicate the use of a personal attack when debating. Unless I'm misreading him, I think Paul has "played the man" in his piece on the famine when he writes of Frank:
Why do we have so many of these wretches in Ireland? The answer to that question is simple. The key to succesful conquest was expressed long ago by Julius Caesar: divide et impera, divide and rule. It is essential for a foreign conquerer to enlist the help of collaborators. The land of France provides instances of this from the days of de Bello Gallico right up to the German occupation in World War II. Likewise, in Ireland, the strangers who would rule over us, exploit our land and labour, and determine our future, enlist collaborators to do the dirty work. The Anglo-Saxons, like the Romans, are past masters at exploiting divisions in a subject land to further their own interests, and there has never been any shortage among the subjected peoples of miserable wretches willing to betray their nation -- usually for a "consideration": not so much loyal to the crown as loyal to the half-crown, as people used to say.

It's pointless simply bemoaning this situation. These cancerous cells within the body politic are a danger to the life and health of the nation, and, just as a man riddled with cancer must destroy the alien cells or be destroyed himself, so we must rid ourselves of the enemy within if we wish to restore our national well-being. In that sense, the West British are unwittingly right in their belittling of the struggle against England: the enemy is also at home, and dealing with them may well now be the more important fight.
It sounds to me as if Paul is saying that Frank must be destroyed, which, if accurate, is outside the normal etiquette of the blogosphere. I hope we can remain within the boundaries of civil discourse.