Monday, January 21, 2013

Anniversaries - reasons to celebrate.

Or to commemorate. 

Or… not.

In Ireland we have important anniversaries every week of the year. Things like the birth or death of Irish martyrs or battles or the first time an abortion will be legally rendered in this country. But, generally, it seems, Irish people don’t like anniversaries. We have far too many – a result of having too much history.

Furthermore, as a whole, the Irish nation does not celebrate its history or identity. (St. Patrick’s Day is the exception, of course, but even on that one day of the year when we openly celebrate our Irishness, I’m sure many Irish people celebrate our thirst instead.)


So, why is this? 

The Irish have an inferiority complex: having been told by the English for so long that our language, customs, dress, law, society, manners were second to theirs, we believed them. And though it seems like the oppression of the English has been gone 81 years, we still have that sense of inferiority, that lack of pride in our nation. It had been inculcated for so long that it still remains for the next generation. Albeit, this sense of inferiority is subconscious, hidden, but, to an outsider, puzzlingly evident in an apathetic form – Irish people don’t know why, but they don’t seem to want to celebrate their Irishness as much as they should.

The Irish language is the best example. Terrible primary school teachers aside, the Irish language should be thriving in Ireland. People don’t want to speak it, not because they can’t or are afraid of making mistakes, but because, deep inside, they’re ashamed of it.

Like the generations before us, speaking Irish was a symptom of your poverty. Those who held onto the language could not represent themselves at court, could not be employed by the landlord, and would die in destitution and starvation. And, in order for the Irish to survive in this English-engineered world, they had to regard their language and culture negatively. It was necessary. We were able to survive, to raise ourselves up by pulling the Irish language down, under us.

Then there’s the whole ‘if you celebrate the Easter Rising with anything more than a nod, I’ll consider you a radical and a Sinn FĂ©iner’ – another consequence of The Troubles. But hopefully this will dissolve when the 100-year anniversary of the 1916 Rising in celebrated.

As for the other anniversaries that should be celebrated, time will tell.

Happy Irish Independence Day, by the way.