Archive for the ‘Ireland’ tag
A book that I’ve been meaning to read as well…
I finally read John Kelly’s troubling The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People (iBook) Our problems feel small. Ireland lost one in three people in the late 1840s. At least a million died in the famine and its related illnesses; another two million fled for England, Canada, the United States or other ports of refuge.
But I kept coming back to U.S. politics anyway. Hauntingly, Kelly repeats the phrase that drove British famine relief (or lack of it): they were so determined to end Irish “dependence on government” that they stalled or blocked provision of food, public works projects and other proposals that might have kept more Irish alive and fed. The phrase appears at least seven times, by my count, in the book. “Dependence on government:” Haven’t we heard that somewhere?
In fact, the day after finishing Kelly’s book, I found Salon’s Michael Lind writing about the Heritage Foundation brief, “The Index of Dependence on Government.” It could have been the title of a report by famine villain Charles Trevelyan, the British Treasury assistant secretary whose anti-Irish moralism thwarted relief, but of course it was written by well-paid conservative Beltway think tankers. The very same day PBS aired a Frontline documentary revealing that our fabulously wealthy country has the fourth highest child-poverty rate in the developed world, just behind Mexico, Chile and Turkey.
And I couldn’t help thinking: we haven’t come far at all.
(click here to continue reading When right-wing blather killed – Salon.com.)
and Joan Walsh’s thumbnail review:
A brief overview is necessary: Kelly fights the notion that the British famine response was “genocide,” or even, as I put it in my book, “ethnic cleansing.” It was more benign and commonplace, he argues, though still cruel and deadly: An effort to use a tragedy to advance a political agenda, and to imagine God’s hand at work advancing that agenda, in matters that are well within the realm of human action to prevent or correct.
Famine Ireland combined the worst of feudalism and capitalism. Anglo-Irish landlords, given their land in “plantations” after decades of war in the 16th and 17th centuries to displace conquered Irish Catholics, were a big part of the problem. At least a quarter were absentee and only wanted the highest rents they could gouge; resident landlords preferred “conspicuous consumption” – Ireland enjoyed a million acres of deer parks and gardens – to building the infrastructure of modern agriculture.
So British leaders wanted to use the famine “to modernize the Irish agricultural economy, which was widely viewed as the principal source of Ireland’s poverty and chronic violence, and to improve the Irish character, which exhibited an alarming ‘dependence on government’ and was utterly lacking in the virtues of the new industrial age, such as self-discipline and initiative,” Kelly writes. Trevelyan told a colleague: God “sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson…[and it] must not be too mitigated.”
Sometimes I felt like quibbling with Kelly over his effort to refute charges that the famine response was a deliberate form of ethnic cleansing, given the way it was driven by centuries of crippling prejudice against Irish Catholics. But he’s right: It isn’t genocide when we don’t act to stop the deaths of people we don’t care about in the first place. Certainly some Irish leaders veered into crazy anti-British conspiracy theories. The famine even had its version of Jeremiah Wright: Irish revolutionary John Mitchel, who claimed the British government created typhus in laboratories and deliberately infected the Irish, much as Wright accused the U.S. government of spreading AIDS in poor black communities. I guess centuries of oppression can lead to some crazy, intemperate ideas.
Laura Miller adds:
The Irish economy was backward and precarious, but for Trevelyan the failure of the potato crop presented not a life-or-death crisis but an opportunity to forcibly modernize it. He agreed to a limited public works program (in which out-of-work laborers were paid a pittance to build roads to nowhere) because he believed it would break the peasant class of its reliance on barter and subsistence farming. The idea was to sell them corn imported from overseas because the grain couldn’t be cultivated in Ireland, thereby accustoming them to using money. However, when Ireland’s mercantile men objected to the price-depressing effects of government-funded grain, Trevelyan vowed not to sell it too cheaply, claiming that high prices would promote foreign imports.
These strategies amount to the 19th-century version of what Naomi Klein has dubbed the “Shock Doctrine”: an attempt to force economic reforms on a population reeling in the aftermath of a disaster. Kelly intersperses the nitty gritty of the shifting Irish economic situation with horrific glimpses of its human toll: streets jammed with gaunt, half-naked wraiths who had sold their clothes for food, families gathered mutely in miserable cottages to die, unburied corpses by the roadside, entire hamlets razed by landlords seeking to evict “dead weight” tenants they’d otherwise have to help. If only these unfortunates could have sought comfort in “Thoughts and Details on Scarcity”!
Recognizing that the British handling of the famine was “parsimonious, short-sighted, grotesquely twisted by religion and ideology” rather than deliberately genocidal is important because while powerful, paranoid, racist madmen like Hitler are relatively rare, our own time is replete with men like Trevelyan. The Moralists saw the famine as a combination of divine judgement on the Irish people and the market working itself out in accordance with God’s plan, an equation of brutal capitalism with pseudo-Christian piety that can be just as destructive as outright malevolence. That version of the story may not be as satisfying dramatically and morally as the one with the evil, homicidal Englishman, but it does do what history does best, which is to show us how not to repeat it.
(click here to continue reading “The Graves Are Walking”: Was the Great Potato Famine a genocide? – Salon.com.)
Slightly more on fellow Irishman, Barack O’Bama of Moneygall, Ireland…
It was the story of the downtown parade in March 2003, a tale that staffers of the time have heard many times.
“A few volunteers and I did make it into the parade, but we were literally the last marchers,” Obama recalled. “After two hours, finally it was our turn.”
As they rode the route, smiling and waving, the city workers were right behind them, cleaning up the garbage.
“It was a little depressing,” he said. “But I’ll bet those parade organizers are watching TV today and feeling kind of bad, because this is a pretty good parade right here.”
The newly discovered family records are welcome, said Obama, even if they come a little after the fact.
“I do wish somebody had provided me all this genealogical evidence earlier because it would have come in handy back when I was first running in my hometown of Chicago,” he said, “because Chicago is the Irish capital of the Midwest.”
(click here to continue reading President Barack Obama hasn’t forgotten that 2003 Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade – chicagotribune.com.)
Too funny. Who knows, maybe my mom will discover a relationship to the Monegall area in some of her ancestral researching, or Falmouth Kearney, President Obama’s great, great, great grandfather. Looks to be about 130 km away from where some of my ancestors came from, lo so many years ago…
DUBLIN — Beaming before an exultant sea of people, President Barack Obama on Monday reveled in his distant Irish ancestry, offering spirited thanks from tens of millions of Americans who trace their own connections to Ireland. With his wife, Michelle, at his side, the president said: “We feel very much at home.”
In a speech devoted as much to personal pride than overt politics, Obama told many thousands gathered in central Dublin that he had come to reaffirm the bonds of affection between the United States and Ireland. “There’s always been a little green behind the red, white and blue,” he said to cheers.
Obama spoke shortly after he had downed a pint of Guinness in tiny Moneygall, the small Irish village where his great-great-great grandfather once lived and worked as a shoemaker. It was an improbable and memorable pilgrimage for America’s first black president into his Irish past, and Obama soaked it in.
“My name is Barack Obama, of the Moneygall Obamas,” the president said. Then, playing off the popular Irish spelling of surnames — O’Bama — the president said, “I’ve come home to find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way.”
(click here to continue reading Obama visits Dublin, revels in his distant Irish ancestry – Chicago Sun-Times.)
That Guinness the Obamas are drinking looks good too, btw, but doesn’t appear as if Michelle Obama is enjoying it as much as the President.
First heard of this book when reading that St. Patrick invented lowercase letters
Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone
Lens: John S
Film: Kodot Verichrome
out of print – this is the 1971 revised edition (not the original 1948 edition which is rarer).
purchased used for about $4, via the internet tubes.
For your daily dose of font nerdery1
A few years back, Jasper Bear, one of The Globe’s founders (I designed their logo), gave me a wonderful book called “The 26 Letters” by Oscar Ogg, which was all about the development of the 26 letters of today’s alphabet. Jasper knows I’m a font geek (ahem, “letterforms enthusiast”) from way back.
Anyway, the book’s retelling of St. Patrick’s story was interesting, not only because of his escape from his Roman captors, but because of his invention:
St. Patrick invented lower case letters.
In Ireland, a Celtic land, people used an uncial alphabet. It kind of looks like the writing on the Lord of the Rings cover. When the Christians came with the Bible, it was written in a Roman alphabet, which at the time was all upper-case, like the writing you see on buildings.
St. Patrick devised a transitional alphabet designed to serve between the Roman and Uncial alphabets. Today we call it lower case.
[Click to continue reading why saint patrick’s day should be celebrated with lowercase letters « arellanes.com]
Much better reason to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than watery, domestic that’s been tinted green with Monsanto-created food dyes…
- is that a word? Whatever [↩]
Is corned beef and cabbage Irish? Probably not, but maybe they ate something similar in previous centuries.
Francis Lam reports:
It was my first inkling of how strange Americans are about traditions on St. Patrick’s Day, a feeling reinforced years later by watching people of all races and ethnicities pretend at Irishness by getting plowed on green beer and painting themselves like leprechauns. But despite all this, maybe the most straightforward of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, eating the corned beef and cabbage, is secretly one of the strangest.
“My Irish family never ate corned beef,” the letter began. I’d just written a story about new immigrants in Queens, called “Where Curry Replaced Corned Beef and Cabbage,” and a reader was gently protesting my mention of that stereotypical dish.
“My grandmother was perplexed that Americans associate corned beef with being Irish. In Ireland, most people ate pig. Lots of bacon, lots of sausage (lots of trichinosis).
…Corned beef was made popular in New York bars at lunchtime. The bars offered a ‘free lunch’ to the Irish construction workers who were building NYC in the early part of the 20th century. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch. You had to buy a couple of beers or shots of whiskey to get that free lunch. And that’s how corned beef became known as an ‘Irish’ food. My grandmother hated the stuff and wouldn’t allow it in her home. I myself first tasted corned beef when I was in my thirties at some non-Irish-American person’s ‘St. Paddy’s Day’ party.”
Dismayed, I sent that letter to a friend from Dublin. “Every word of that post is pure gospel,” she wrote back. “We NEVER eat corned beef and cabbage. We mock Americans and their bizarre love of that ‘meat’.”
[Click to continue reading St. Patrick's Day controversy: Is corned beef and cabbage Irish? - Francis Lam - Salon.com]
According to Irish food experts Colman Andrews and Darina Allen, corned beef was, in fact, a major export of Cork from the 17th century, shipping it all over Europe and as far as the sunny British West Indies, where they still love their corned beef in cans.
Most of the Irish who came in massive waves to America during the Potato Famine in the late 1840s were from around Cork, so they probably knew corned beef well enough. But, as the historian Hasia Diner argues in “Hungering for America,” they may have been trying to forget altogether what they were and weren’t eating back in Ireland
The Irish are/were great lovers of all things porcine, but corned beef had less of a stigma:
Many farmers in Ireland raised pigs for sale to help pay the rent, but somewhere along the line in America, that tradition mixed with the bitter cocktail of prejudice and xenophobia to turn it into a slur: “Paddy with his pig in the parlor.” The phrase may have had rhythm, but it wasn’t pretty.…
By the 1910s, pigs were all over St. Patrick’s Day cards and novelties, including a game called “Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Pig” for kids. “Irish Americans,” Casey wrote me in an e-mail, “vigorously protested an alignment of their ethnicity with an animal that carried all sorts of connotations about dirt and disease.”
But “by this time,” she continued, “much of Irish America had moved beyond mere survival. They ate pork and beef, salted or not. It was just as easy to claim corned beef as their choice for holiday meals as it was to claim pork. When the latter became stigmatized, one became preferable to the other.” Of course, by this time, old memories of the corned beef back in Cork may have bubbled back to the surface. In 1960, we had the first St. Patrick’s Day card reference to corned beef and cabbage, and before we knew it, little Chinese boys in the suburbs would be pretending to be Irish in the middle of March.
You should click through, and read the rest
My favorite drinking game.
Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone
Lens: John S
If I’m motivated, can drink three drinks with the same ice cubes (i.e., before they melt). Personally, love good whiskey-with-an-E best when the ice has melted maybe 10%. Enough cold water to blend, but not too much to dilute it.
Anyway, I think it’s time for me to pour today’s cocktail, as I’m too tired to work on anything important today.
There’s a bit of a dust-up in my mother country:
Atheist Ireland says it will fight any action taken against it in court. The quotations include the words of writers such as Mark Twain and Salman Rushdie, but also Jesus Christ, the Prophet Muhammad and Pope Benedict XVI.
The new law makes blasphemy a crime punishable by a fine of up to 25,000 euros (£22,000; $35,000). The government says it is needed because the republic’s 1937 constitution only gives Christians legal protection of their beliefs.
The new law was passed in July 2009 but came into force on 1 January.
[Click to continue reading BBC News - Irish atheists challenge blasphemy law]
What kind of nonsense is this? Are there not more pressing items on the agenda than governments sticking finger in their ears to block out words they don’t want to hear? Anyway, the BBC, staid journalistic organization that it is, did not provide any samples of these quotations, so I had to find the site on my own.
Just a few excerpts, because I laughed at most, but you should read them yourself.
13. Bjork, 1995: “I do not believe in religion, but if I had to choose one it would be Buddhism. It seems more livable, closer to men… I’ve been reading about reincarnation, and the Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists.”
14. Amanda Donohoe on her role in the Ken Russell movie Lair of the White Worm, 1995: “Spitting on Christ was a great deal of fun. I can’t embrace a male god who has persecuted female sexuality throughout the ages, and that persecution still goes on today all over the world.”
15. George Carlin, 1999: “Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!”
16. Paul Woodfull as Ding Dong Denny O’Reilly, The Ballad of Jaysus Christ, 2000: “He said me ma’s a virgin and sure no one disagreed, Cause they knew a lad who walks on water’s handy with his feet… Jaysus oh Jaysus, as cool as bleedin’ ice, With all the scrubbers in Israel he could not be enticed, Jaysus oh Jaysus, it’s funny you never rode, Cause it’s you I do be shoutin’ for each time I shoot me load.”
[Click to continue reading 25 Blasphemous Quotations « blog.atheist.ie]
Religion and its zealots, hissing with hysteria, are so damned ridiculous.Footnotes: