Why I Am Not A (Irish) Nationalist

During my teenage years, I was a passionate nationalist (because nationalism varies so much by country, this will be mainly in reference to Irish nationalism, but applicable to nationalism generally). I’ve always had a great interest in history and I loved to read about heroes from the glorious past. I especially loved the stories about the heroes who fought the British during 800 years of foreign occupation. While my classmates were interested in football and television, I read everything I could about Gaelic chieftains during ancient times, glorious rebels who fought for liberty, the United Irishmen who battled for a Republic where Catholics and Protestants would be equal, the brave war of independence and the modern war to throw the British out of Northern Ireland. Continue reading “Why I Am Not A (Irish) Nationalist”

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A Novel About Esperanto

A while ago I was reading about the Ido-schism when I noticed several Wikipedia pages referenced a book named A Curable Romantic by Joseph Skibell, in which the schism was portrayed. As it’s rare to see reference to Esperanto in English, let alone a book about it, I bought the book straight away. It’s not the only English language novel that has Esperanto in it, for example in the Yiddish Policeman’s Union, the main character lives in Hotel Zamenhof which includes a few Esperanto signs like lifto (lift) and one character exclaims “What’s Esperanto for a pile of shit?” (I would suggest fekaĵaro). However, unlike others in books, Esperanto isn’t just mentioned in a throwaway line, it forms a core part of the story.

The book is essentially about three Jewish men and three cities at the turn of the century. Sigmund Freud, L.L. Zamenhof and Kalonymos Kalmish Szapira, in Vienna, Paris and London from 1894-1940. Following this structure the book is divided into three parts, with the middle one heavily focusing on Esperanto. The main character becomes a passionate Esperantist and there are many conversations in and about Esperanto. So is the book any good? Continue reading “A Novel About Esperanto”

The Invention of Nationalism

Not many people realise that Nationalism is a relatively new phenomenon. Most think that it has a long history dating back centuries if not millennia. It’s common to hear modern people draw a connection between themselves and ancient people and nationalists often consider themselves following the footsteps of historic heroes. How many times have the Irish been called a proud and ancient race, with traditions dating back thousands of years? Historic battles and leaders are painted in national lines, even though people at the time wouldn’t have recognised the terms or given them much notice. Most believe that nations have always existed, after all didn’t the Irish always know they were Irish? What else could they consider themselves?

Yet not many realise that nationalism is a 19th century invention and that before that, there was no shared national identity linking people together. Before the Industrial Revolution, people only had loyalty to their family, their village and their lord, there was little concept of a nation. There wasn’t a common national culture, history or even language. But if people weren’t French, Irish, German etc, then what were they? Continue reading “The Invention of Nationalism”

Four Years of Blogging

Four years ago, I sat at the desk in my bedroom and wrote my very first blog. Little did I know that over the next four years I would write another 324 posts and that my blog would be viewed almost 900,000 times and now average around 1,000 views per day. So I would like to take a moment of reflection of the journey so far. Continue reading “Four Years of Blogging”

Muslims Are The New Irish

Sometimes it feels that history repeats itself and only the names change. This is certainly the case with the current refugee crisis which parallels many previous refugee crises and migrant waves. People fleeing war and poverty in the search of a better life is not a new occurrence, in fact you could say it’s an eternal issue. Other writers have drawn attention to how current attitudes to Muslims resemble that towards Jews in the 30s and 40s (the family of Anne Frank applied for refugee status but were rejected). I can also see a strong resemblance between Muslims and my own people, the Irish. Continue reading “Muslims Are The New Irish”

Why Don’t The Irish Speak Irish?

The Danes have Danish, the French speak French, the Slovakians talk in Slovak yet the Irish don’t speak Irish, but rather English. Almost all nations and people have their own language yet the Irish are one of the few nations who have a language that very few of its people can speak. Ireland is one of the only countries in Europe whose primary language is that of a foreign country. In fact, more people in Ireland speak Polish on a daily basis than Irish (and French is close behind). When I’m abroad I’m often asked if there even is an Irish language or if anyone still speaks it. Someone who only spoke Irish would have a very difficult time getting around in Ireland. But why is this the case? Continue reading “Why Don’t The Irish Speak Irish?”

Ido Not

As readers of this blog may know, I’m a big fan of Esperanto and how it simplifies language to make it more logical and easier to learn. However, some people thought this could be taken a step further and Esperanto itself could be reformed and improved. This reformed language is called Ido (which means offspring in Esperanto) and aimed to replace Esperanto as the main international language. This became known as “The Schism” and like all splits it was incredibly divisive and bitter, leading to a lot of vitriol being thrown around. Continue reading “Ido Not”