Monday, May 02, 2022

Irish History

"I wish that the English remembered more of Irish history and the Irish remembered less of it." Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen, 1899-1973

That could apply to many places. I think, however, that there is a nuance that the academics and almost-powerful people of a place remember more than the population as a whole, and it is they who remember too much. They are held aloft by those in other centers of power who remember too little, which gives them a reason for not just getting a real life and moving on. The English remember very little about Cromwell and the Restoration, and what they know is not only oversimplified, but wrong. Yet it doesn't much matter anymore, does it? People have families and jobs and football teams to follow.

What is the cutoff? I wonder.  Living memory? When you have moved up enough in the world to be oppressing others yourself? As long as you are failing to thrive you will continue to remember, I suspect. One would think that in every generation a few would move up and forget all but the ethnic dishes (themselves often inauthentic, as with the Irish) and the colors of the flag, but in the Balkans 1381 is still alive in some memories.

It is true internally as well. Why on earth do the Flemish and Walloons have even a remote distinction in their minds, for example? How many centuries of being oppressed together and oppressive together does it take to see yourselves as one?


Zachriel said...

Assistant Village Idiot: Why on earth do the Flemish and Walloons have even a remote distinction in their minds, for example?

An Introduction To The Flemish-Walloon Divide

james said...

I'm waiting for the Long Confession at a UW event, in which they acknowledge that the UW is built on ancestral Ojibwe land, which the Ojibwe stole from the Dakota, who stole it from ...

In practice, if there are any differences in outcome between groups, even if the playing field is even, history will be forced to be significant.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Zachriel - oh I know. You hit it on the nailhead, but I know many of those nails. A cousin married a woman from Belgium when they were both UN interpreters in the early 70s and their children grew up speaking Flemish. My wife's mother was 100% Dutch, and my ancestry is similarly all from various parts of the lake that is the North Sea. Pick a spot. Even my Romanian son who moved to Norway feeds current information back to me. I get the Frisian/Plattdeutsch/Dutch divide as well, and the Nynorsk/Bokmal, Scots/Northern English (plus all the unrelated Gaelic versions), Gotaland/Svealand, and I even have some vague sense of the Finnish/Karelian split, which is affectionate mostly because the Russians divided them. If they were in the same country they would hate each other. Gentle pacifist Scandinavians and NW Europeans, my ass.

But that's my point. All these groups together total about 20M people (cf: Los Angeles 19M, with 200 languages) with like*, 20 languages. It's insane. It is one of the colonialism things that woke people don't think to complain about, but should. The crap they do complain about is just what everyone, everywhere has done for centuries. Notice the parallels, dammit. It's not that different from the village-to-village African languages (how primitive and ignorant!) or the country to country Arabic (cough) dialects. It's just that these were powerful groups with lots of money, so we find their dialects more important.

*I have a post including "quotative like" coming soon.


@ James - "Ojibwe" is the same name as "Chippewa." It looks completely different, but you can hear the similarity. Looking back, there were actually tribes the Europeans had attitudinal similarities with that we should have rode hard, had we only known. MiqMaqs and Abenakis, Cherokees, Mattaponi...

james said...

Yep, both names are in use, as well as the more generic Anishinaabe (actually a superset tribe).

WRT those African languages--one of my wife's ESL students had never been to school. She speaks seven languages. One day my wife introduced her to another student from a different area, in hopes that they'd have to speak English together (more practice). Nope, they quickly figured out there was another common language they spoke better than English.

David Foster said...

"Man loves, men hate. While individual men and women can sustain feelings of love over a lifetime toward a parent or through decades toward a spouse, no significant group in human history has sustained an emotion that could honestly be characerized as love. Groups hate. And they hate well...Love is an introspective emotion, while hate is easily extroverted...We refuse to believe that the "civilized peoples of the Balkans could slaughter each other over an event that occurred over six hundred years ago. But they do. Hatred does not need a reason, only an excuse."

--Ralph Peters

Zachriel said...

Assistant Village Idiot: You hit it on the nailhead, but I know many of those nails.

Heh. Just for the record, we often comment just to fill out some details of a discussion, as in this case.

It wasn't that long ago that Americans fought a vicious civil war, even though they all spoke the same language, were largely sprung from the same English ancestry, and shared the same founding myth of the American Revolution.

"Good fences make good neighbors."

Grim said...

"Irish history: What the British can never remember, and the Irish can never forget!"

-An old professor of mine.

Zachriel said...

"They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing." — Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-PĂ©rigord

SgtBob said...

AVI: Both protagonists of the 1861-65 war spoke English, but the divide was the founding fight between Virginia and Massachusetts. Westward movement patterns reflect that disagreement.

A friend said he had been told all his life that his ancestry was German. A DNA test determined Croatian. I said he now has a whole 'nother bundle of people who gate him.