Friday, April 15, 2011

The Book club

Welcome to the book club: now, for one of my favourite books. This particular work has, to the best of my memory, inspired and enlightening me more than any other.

It is not a self-help book.
It is not a book of philosophy.
It is not a book that I have written myself [as if!].

Tony Crowley has written an exceptionally cohesive piece that has retained its pedestal position on my book shelf ever since I first read it in 2007. Nothing else I have ever seen, read or heard has given me, as an Irishman, a more fuller explanation and understanding of Irish society over the last few centuries.

I’ve probably built it up enough by now. The suspense is probably killing you...

The book is called ‘War of Worlds: The Politics of Language in Ireland 1537-2004’. I want to share with you some interesting facts I’ve learned from this book:

1.     Even today, Irish people still harbour a sub-conscious inferiority complex of their own language and, by extension, their culture – the result of the English inculcating, over centuries, such sentiments and ideas into their everyday lives.
a.    Hence, the reason the Irish look abroad for the lead, be it in culture, trends, technology, speech, customs etc. instead of looking at themselves and their own culture.
b.    Hence, most times when you attempt to speak in Irish with an Irish person, even those who are fluent in the language, you are met with awkwardness and most likely an answer in English.
2.    It was the Catholic Church and not the opposing Church of Ireland that was the main proponent in teaching English, over Irish, to the Irish.
3.    That the Irish language is more important than any other aspect of Irish culture and that without it, the Irish culture will perish. And our forefathers knew it.

Some quotes:
·       ... A basic theme of modern Irish history had emerged: robbed of their native leaders and identity an increasingly degenerate people were united only in their hatred of England.
·       [DeValera once] told the Gaelic League that ‘it is my opinion that Ireland, with its language and without freedom is preferable to Ireland with freedom and without its language’.
·       ‘If you urge Irish speaking, the response is: “What good is Irish in America?”’... ‘it would be the veriest mockery to say to those people – “Don’t speak English, or emigrate: speak Irish, stay at home and starve, cry out yearly for doles, and send your children picking winkles instead of being at school, and earn the contemptuous pity of the world.’
·       Michael Collins noted on the central role which Gaelic had played in the period which ended with the War of Independence:
We only succeeded after we had begun to get back our Gaelic ways, after we had made a serious effort to speak our own language, after we had striven again to govern ourselves. How can we express our most subtle thoughts and finest feelings in a foreign tongue? Irish will scarcely be our language in this generation, nor even perhaps in the next. But until we have it again on our tongues and in our minds, we are not free.

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