I’m getting so bad at this blogging thing. Suddenly nothing I’ve been doing over the last few weeks seems important enough to write down and clog up the internet with. I’ve even been reluctant to make new FB status updates. Its very strange. At certain points last year, it was difficult to separate myself from my FB news feed, to the point where the thought of logging out of FB and switching off my computer was akin to telling me that all my friends and family were going to be sent to a Siberian gulag and I would never see them again. I’d get so panicked about logging out, that I used to have to just close my laptop, so that I couldn’t see the screen, but should I happen to wake up in the middle of the night and NEED to see FB, I could simply open the laptop and it would be there (I know, I know, terrible for the environment, but I was in some sort of emotional wasteland of my own creation, which was only satiated by FB). Is it a bit sad to admit that? Perhaps. But my excuse is that I was overseas and adjusting to new circumstances and am therefore exempt from the otherwise mandatory rolling of eyes and sarcastic comments associated with a FB addiction.
Anywho, the last few weeks has taken the fervour out of my internet addiction, which I feel is a very healthy thing. I certainly never felt that the virtual world could replace my real world, but for a little while there, it didn’t seem possible that I could keep going through the physical world without some sort of intravenous drip that kept me forever attached to the virtual one.
I’ve had too much wine.
The point is, there have been several subjects I have wanted to sit down and write about for a week or so now, and I just kept putting it off. But, as they say, writer’s block doesn’t exist, and your brain is a muscle that needs exercising just like your other muscles, and the only way to get through a reluctance to sit down and write is just to sit down and write, I’ve decided to do just that.
So, one of the things that I’ve done in the last week is go to an Easter Sunday commemoration. Now just to clarify, this was not a Catholic Easter service. Well, it was kind of religious, in that there was an army reverend there, but I mean it wasn’t anything to do with Jesus Christ coming back to life or anything like that. No, this was a commemoration of the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916.
Now, technically, as I have just checked on Wikipedia, the Easter Rising didn’t actually start until Easter Monday 1916, but apparently they commemorate it on Easter Sunday. Don’t ask me why. I assume its because…
Look, I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t know a hell of a lot about the Easter Rising. It was depicted in the movie ‘Michael Collins’ which I had to watch in Year 10 history, and I know that it was the precursor to Irish independence and saw the Irish declaration of independence and that Yeats wrote a poem about it (see it here… http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/poetry/soundings/easter.htm).
The Irish rebels took over a lot of symbolically important places, like the GPO and St. Stephen’s Green, but, as far as I’m aware, they weren’t actually expecting to win. They just wanted to make a lot of noise and get noticed. It was a really important day in the Irish independence movement and run by the Irish Republican Brotherhood (which was connected to, but not the same as the Irish Republican Army – thanks Wikipedia). Most of the leaders were executed afterwards, except for Countess Markievicz (the born in London, but married to a Polish count and who my gym and swimming pool are named after), because she was a woman, and Eamon de Valera (who later became Taoiseach/Prime Minister of Ireland), because he was a joint Irish/American citizen.
So, I know many random things, but not much about the actual, physical uprising. There were soldiers. There were rebels. They fought in the centre of Dublin in many places. It only lasted for a few days. And then it was over.
See, my problem with Irish history, and my problem with it when I had to study it in Year 10 is that it was so bloody confusing. There were the British who were very bad. But, then, there were the Anglo-Irish, who were originally Brits, but were sent out to be the landed gentry of Ireland many years ago, so some of them were actually not so crash hot on Britain, and then some others of them who desperately wanted to stay part of the Commonwealth. Then, of course, there were the Irish. Add on to that the religious disputes, which were related, but no necessarily overlapping. So the Protestants (who weren’t always Brit descendants, but sometimes were) wanted to stay part of the UK because they were worried about being the minority in a Catholic country. But, go back 300 years, and the Protestants wanted a republic, because they thought they would be able to more effectively and horribly dominate the Catholic majority if they were free of the Brits (who they felt were far too soft and lenient towards the Catholics – those easy Brits may have even approved Catholic emancipation!) Then there was the famine, which was, of course, horrendous, halving the Irish population through death and emigration in the space of about 10 years and adding a whole heap extremely emotional and irrational arguments on top of everything else.
And that’s only a brief rundown of the relevant things I can remember off the top of my head.
So, yes. Its terribly confounding, almost as confusing as the Arab-Israeli conflict, which I studied for a good two years in Senior History, whereas the Irish conflict we studied for about 8 weeks in Year 10. There was no way I was going to get a handle on it.
What I have managed to gather from films such as ‘Bloody Sunday’ and ‘Michael Collins’ and ‘The Wind the Shakes the Barley’ is that it is/was all very sad, with brothers and friends and families on all sides getting brutally hurt and into arguments and splitting into viciously opposed groups, each of whom believed that they were absolutely and completely in the right. The Irish-British relationship/rivalry is still extremely important, and permeates all aspects of society, from comedy to politics to folk music to theatre to arts to football. There are some people who are still passionately calling for a united Ireland (that is, break Northern Ireland away from the UK and create a complete republic), though they are now very much in the minority (and, to be honest, most of them are in Northern Ireland or who migrated away from Ireland many years ago – most Irish folk in the ROI I speak to are not particularly interested and haven’t been for a while).
Before I came here, I felt like some of the boys I knew in Australia with Irish heritage who still toasted to a ‘free and united Ireland’ were hopelessly and strangely outdated. I feel I understand the feeling a little bit more now that I’m here. Easter Sunday and the ongoing violent relationship with Britain is almost what defined the Irish. Its kind of like our Eureka or our Gallipoli. These conflicts were by no means crucial to the actual formation of Australia, but they are the stories we tell ourselves over and over that construct our national identity. (I personally feel uncomfortable pointing to those conflicts as indicative of an Australian nationalism, simply because they project a particularly white, masculine identity, concerned only with breaking away from one elitist nation state and forming another, but, I still think that a lot of Australians would identify with these conflicts and feel that it said something about themselves as an Australian citizen)
Anyway, feeling like the Easter Sunday commemoration was a very important thing to witness if I was to understand the Irish psyche, I headed to O’Connell St, which is the main Dublin thoroughfare, a wide boulevard, split down the middle to allow for statues and memorials. I needed to be past security and in place by 11:30am for the ceremony that started at 12pm. I found a spot behind the army band, underneath the statue of Jim Larkin, an Irish trade union leader, whose statue I had never fully appreciated until that weekend. Its rather inspiring, really, especially with the GPO and a giant Irish flag behind it. Here’s an image:
|Found at: http://www.irishtimes.com/blogs/politics/2009/06/30/have-they-all-had-charismadectomies/|
Standing around, I felt very serious and important and inspiring, I looked up at the statue with a thoughtful expression on my face, and clasped my hands together in a modest way, hoping to seem impressively republican. I remember getting similar feelings at ANZAC day services at high school – putting on a performance about how reverential I could be. As if somebody would see me and think, “Ah, now there is a girl who is fully aware of the serious impact this historical event had on this country.”
I’m not entirely sure why I thought this would be a good thing for people to think about me, but I assume it was something I saw in a film once and thought it would be good to adopt. Look, in all honesty, I was all for people admiring me as a child and I tried all sorts of poses and performances in a constant attempt at getting people’s attention. The only thing I couldn’t stand was actually looking like I was working to get anyone’s attention. Oh, it was such a delicate balance.
Despite my ‘very serious performance,’ the world wasn’t buying it this particular Easter Sunday, and as I as adjusted very best Irish nationalist face, the ‘security’ fence set up behind us to, one presumes, keep out all the dangerous IRA bombers, started moving towards us. No, it wasn’t an act of terrorism, it was simply a particularly strong gust of wind against a very poorly set-up fence. The crowd all turned as one to see a 100m fence moving towards us surprisingly quickly, with absolutely nowhere for us to go. I thought, ‘I wonder if this is what its like to be in a crowd of British football hooligans’. Luckily, though, the fence personnel stopped it blowing us right over, or knocking us out and re-adjusted it. The crowd, including myself, was in hysterics, which kind of ruined my incredibly sombre and memorious mood for the rest of the ceremony. Particularly because nothing the fence personnel did could keep the fence in place, and they eventually all had to stand in front of it and hold it down to prevent it from flattening us. It made the security check to get into see the parade seem even more ridiculous, because anyone who had wanted to do something terrible wasn’t actually that far away from us. I don’t know if I should be saying that on my blog, actually, isn’t that the sort of thing spy agencies pick up on in highly powerful internet searches and then the person disappears under mysterious circumstances? Or is that just Hollywood films? Eep.
Anyway, the ceremony itself was reasonably interesting. A soldier read the Declaration of Independence, and with all the traffic stopped down O’Connell St, standing underneath the GPO, you could almost pretend you were there on Easter Monday 1916 when Pearse read it out for the very first time. It was also the closest I have every gotten to Michael D. Higgins, the current President of Ireland and probably my most favourite politician ever. I was around for his election last year, and if I had been allowed to vote, I would have voted for him. He’s just so cute! And nice looking! And, look, let’s face it, he kind of reminds me of a leprechaun, which I know the Irish hate to be brought up in relation to themselves, but I don’t care! Just look at his election poster:
|Found at: https://www.facebook.com/HigginsMichaelD|
Come on! Doesn’t he look magic? He’s going to ‘do us proud’. How is he going to do it? With magic? I mean, what exactly is he doing with those hands? Casting a spell? Seriously. And I’m not the only one who thinks so:
|Found at: http://tinman18.wordpress.com/tag/michael-d-higgins/|
THAT’S RIGHT, THE IRISH HAVE A LEPRECHAUN WIZARD FOR A PRESIDENT.
I’ve never wanted to be Irish more in my entire life.
Anyway, I watched the whole ceremony and felt very ‘Irish’ until I realised most of the people around me were actually tourists. I’ll never understand the appeal of taking photos of a gigantic video screen, but that’s what these Germans and Spanish were doing.
‘Look, here is a picture of something happening very close to me but that I actually couldn’t see!’