Monday 19 March 2018

Kevin Myers: Falsehoods from our past point to bleak future

Dignity. That is what is most striking about the response of both the Japanese and the Norwegian peoples to the recent catastrophes that have befallen them. Stoicism, self-respect, emotional continence, personal discipline in public; and, most of all, no self-pity. These are noble qualities. They are the characteristics of a people with a clear sense of how to make a future. Look at the Japanese, and their astounding recovery from war, and their repeated recoveries from natural disaster. Look at the Norwegians, husbanding their vast oil-earnings from the North Sea, to ensure their pension funds are sound: not a krona squandered on the Ponzi schemes that marked the death of the Celtic Tiger.

One of our problems in Ireland is that we repeatedly tell ourselves the wrong tale. Fiction is now intrinsically bound in the national narrative. And if you can't get what has already happened right, is it surprising that you are unlikely to be right about what hasn't yet happened?

Go to the National Museum at Collins Barracks to the section on the 1916 Rising and the Great War (at least there is now a section on Ireland and 1914-18, which wasn't always the case). There's a caption that illustrates perfectly the national narrative of choice. It runs (and I go from memory) "Many men chose to fight German militarism; others chose to fight oppression at home."

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