Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Bully for Ireland

Shaw's writing is illuminating in a useful way. Far back in history enough now to be quite alien in terms of affiliation and concern, but filled with suffice parrallels to be instructive.

On nationalism, Shaw isn't an ardent nationalist. His metaphor is organic - a man with an arm will be quite content that it is there, but remove his arm and he'll miss it bitterly, and long for it's return. i.e. nationalism is an ailment, a sickness of loss - but a natural one. It is, also, an impediment, people cannot get on with proper politics as long as they are wound up by nationalism. To put it in post-modernist terms, you have to go through nationalism to get beyond it. To be post-nationalist.

There can be no doubt of his anti-Imperialism - the passages describing what can best be called the Deshawai massacre by the British in Egypt are particularly moving, and a stinging indictment of colonial brutality. But as the play John Bull's Other Ireland shows, he was far from a sentimental third worldist of the sort that finds the oppressed people's inherently noble. In common with the left of his day, his solution to the colonial problem was to propose a free federation of the former Empire (a dream that lasted until the Wilson government tried it with the Commonwealth - which failed).

As the end of the play indicates, Shaw was aware that the economic backwardness of Ireland would be it's undoing. Despite his many failed predictions on the future of Ireland, he was right on that - in the end Irish prosperity has come because a rich neighbour (America, rather than britain) has poured money into developing it. National boundaries give way to economic realities.

I'll return to this subject again, but I think this passage is worth quoting:
Thus by fire and bullet, murder and torture and devastation, a situation was produced in which the British Government either had to capitulate at the cost of of a far more complete concession of self-govenment to Ireland than that decreed by the repudiated Home Rule Act, or to let loose military strength of England in a Cromwellian reconquest, massacre and replantation which it knew that public opinion in England and America would not tolerate; for some of the most conspicuous English champions of Ulster warned the Government they would stand no more of Black and Tan terrorism. [My emphasis - BM] And so we settled the Irish question, not as civilized and reasonable men should have settled it, but as dog settle a dispute over a bone.

Future historians will probably see in these catastrophes a ritual of human sacrifice without which the savages of the twentieth entury could not effect any redistribution of power or wealth.
Shades of Iraq? to many shades, too many by far, and all too true.

Next, a quote on militarism.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Stuart here. Please email me. Address at my blog.

1:13 PM  

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