If so, Ireland was Eastern until a few decades ago, because godless gratification and self-worship was as unknown here as it is in the repressed religious states of modern Asia. The Ireland of old was a different country to the Ireland of today.
The playwright Brian Friel often looked back at this alien Ireland, not least in his Dancing at Lughnasa, about a family of spinster sisters aging together in 1930s Donegal. This play depicts a world of tight interpersonal connections, where every individual is tied into their place in society by their relationships with others.
There was no freedom there. Individuals monitored one another for lapses of honour, as determined by the conservative Catholic consensus. Duty to family was paramount and individual freedom was depicted as something foreign - literally, in the form of the Welsh man who fathered a child to one of the sisters outside marriage and then returned carelessly to his life of freedom in the city.
Work is depicted as back-breaking and manual. The sisters' lives were governed by ritual. The radio, beloved by several of the sisters, is feared occasionally by the eldest and most conservative sister. She is a constant negative force, reassuring her family of all the things they can't do. The local dance festival is for her a threat to Christian morality and the family's good name.
So much for Western freedom. The world Friel depicts is more familiar to us today from media descriptions of conservative South Asian villages than Ireland. Friel does not pluck this setting from fantasy; in 1943, while Ireland's European neighbours were slaughtering one another over unreligious dreams of nationalism and socialism, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Eamonn de Valera told the Irish to dream of godliness:
The Ireland that we dreamed of would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as a basis for right living, of a people who, satisfied with frugal comfort, devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit – a land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contest of athletic youths and the laughter of happy maidens, whose firesides would be forums for the wisdom of serene old age. The home, in short, of a people living the life that God desires that men should live...