There is a lot of patriotism out there at the moment. People waving tricolours – or the flag of St George or the Stars and Stripes – and declaring themselves protectors of what they believe their country should stand for.

They are, in most cases, very angry and their patriotism is usually self-declared rather than an award, a Légion d’honneur, say, for some stirring act of bravery.

In Ireland, they might have a tricolour in their Twitter bio and they should probably self-identify as nationalists rather than patriots.

This week, some of them felt the Ireland they believed in was being sacrificed because only the vaccinated would be allowed to drink in the pub or what is now known as indoor dining.

For some who have complained about the pandemic, it seems they want anything except for it to end, propelled as they are by that self-sustaining anger, which provides its own sustenance.

“Going to the pub is not a human right,” one commentator wisely observed last week, but he was probably ignored by those who will soon feel like taking a case to Strasbourg if they can’t find the remote.

In the Dáil, a Sinn Féin TD stood up and compared the vaccination requirement to the segregation experienced by Rosa Parks in the American South. She subsequently apologised but it was an insight into the hysteria that the comparison even popped into her head.

Before this pandemic began, many who have now naturally gravitated to this point of view could be found unfavourably comparing this generation of young people to previous generations that were sent off to war.

When the challenge came, however, it turned out the sacrifices were beyond them and even the idea of wearing a mask was treated as if they were being pushed off a landing craft at Omaha beach.

In this world of certainty and rage, there is a lot to be said for ambivalence, doubt and tolerance.

When Rory McIlroy stated this week that he was going to the Olympics because it felt like the right thing to do and added “I’m not a very patriotic guy”, there were those who felt the old outrages bristling.

Some may have felt that this was a disqualification in itself from competing, but it might be worth reflecting that some of the greatest outrages in the history of the Olympic Games have been committed in the name of national pride, so anything that tempers it might be welcome.

McIlroy has been here before. He is one of the most interesting voices on national identity, more interesting because of the nuance and ambiguity he is so open about.

As Fionn Davenport pointed out on The Currency recently, McIlroy has always engaged with ideas in a way that may have been contrary to what is expected from a single-minded sportsman. He is different to Tiger Woods in that respect and, if he is different to what we expect an Irish sportsperson to say before they go to the Olympics, then that’s okay as well.

Irony, Philip Roth writes in American Pastoral about the high school sports star, was a kink in the swing for an athlete. Reflection and self-awareness aren’t necessarily gifts that are prized, given that they can morph into self-doubt. But for McIlroy, they may be the things that sustain him.

“I don’t feel a connection to either flag.”

“If someone was to say, ‘You can have 14 majors and 70 wins but have to deal with (what Tiger deals with), or nine majors and 40 wins and stay somewhat the same as you are. I’d take the second option all day,” he said a few years ago.

So he goes to the Olympics as who he is, refusing to engage with the demands of those who think attendance means you must feel certain things.

In an interview with Paul Kimmage a few years ago, McIlroy covered similar ground in relation to not going to the Olympics in 2016.

Yeah, I mean when it was announced (that golf was to be an Olympic sport) in 2009 or whatever, all of a sudden it put me in a position where I had to question who I am. Who am I? Where am I from? Where do my loyalties lie? Who am I going to play for? Who do I not want to piss off the most? I started to resent it. And I do. I resent the Olympic Games because of the position it put me in – that’s my feeling towards it – and whether that’s right or wrong, it’s how I feel.

Not everyone is (driven by) nationalism and patriotism and that’s never been me, because I felt like I grew up in a place where I wasn’t allowed to be. It was suppressed.

If somebody grows up in Northern Ireland and decides that, on the whole, they would rather not be driven by nationalism or patriotism (although let’s call it nationalism), then this should probably be applauded. It could even be declared a patriotic act in itself.

Although, for McIlroy, that would only add to the complications. As he told Kimmage when recalling that he’d sent Justin Rose a congratulatory text when he took gold four years ago:

I sent Justin Rose a text after he won, I think I still have the message: ‘I’m happy for you, mate. I saw how much it means to you. Congratulations.’ He said: ‘Thanks very much. All the boys here want to know do you feel like you missed out?’ I said: ‘Justin, if I had been on the podium (listening) to the Irish national anthem as that flag went up, or the British national anthem as that flag went up, I would have felt uncomfortable either way.’ I don’t know the words to either anthem; I don’t feel a connection to either flag; I don’t want it to be about flags; I’ve tried to stay away from that.

Again, this would seem at times like a brave and noble act. In an attempt to avoid wrapping any flag around Rory McIlroy, we might just call it a necessary and healthy ambivalence.

But in a world where everyone is angry, those values might be the most patriotic of all.