". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Irish Writers Reflect on the 1916 Easter Uprising

My copy of Yeats' Collected Poems
     As Yeats is so impressed upon my literary bones this was of interest.  His great commemorative poem, Easter 1916, is cited by most of the writers, Irish literary lights as they all are.

As  example,  from Colm Tóibín, who connects dying in a military - political condition that made success impossible with that of the suffering of Irish women:
] "The men of 1916 had no chance of success. They went out to die, a few hundred of them – while thousands were being slaughtered each day in the trenches of Belgium and France. The scale was important. Big wars are terrible and killing civilians is just cowardly, but pitching a few hundred men against the might of the British army is a revolution. It was a transcendental moment of sacrifice and of suffering. Perhaps it was a result of colonisation, with its enforced poverty and shame, but Ireland was for a long time interested in the idea of suffering well, or of suffering better than the oppressor; none was expected to suffer more, or more quietly, than the women of Ireland, into whose bodies and biology suffering was hard-wired. So the idea of blood sacrifice is not removed, in my mind, from a modern state that cannot legislate for the proper medical treatment of pregnant women, because suffering is something we are supposed to do well. Also dying, if it comes to that. 
All nations have founding myths. I suppose I would prefer to have a revolution in my country’s past than a monarchy. I would prefer to move on from Catholic nationalism than from fascist dictatorship. But the truth is that local history has given way, in my lifetime, to global economics, and we have no good stories for this: no parades, no revolutions. The stories we tell ourselves about the past are not about politics. I mean they are not about fairness, about who has power and where the money goes. They contain a deeper madness. The stories we tell are about killing and being killed, and why that was all a terrific thing to do." ]
In contrast to the gravity of Tóibín's and  the others' pieces which generally were serious meditations upon death and politics, was Roddy Doyle's bit. He is the only member of this group who has a comic sense of the universe, and did it ever show.

I've always liked Irish humor. As well, culturally religious as the Irish are, either because of that, or in spite of it, they are the group I know of in which there are many folktales of an Irishman getting the best of the devil -- outwitting even the greatest Trickster of them all.  This deeply impressed me from the first time I ever encountered such stories in some of the tales included in a book in my small school's meager library. I thought, "No such story of the devil would ever have been told in my religion!"  This provoked further thoughts such as, "Do Catholics have more fun than Lutherans?" since the relationship my Catholic friends had with their parents seemed so much warmer and relaxed than those we Lutheran kids had with ours.

Of course that was long before I ever learned anything about Ireland colonization by England or just about anything else.  I hadn't yet read a single poem of Yeats -- or even heard of the man with whose words and life I would spend so much of my 20's.


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