Tuesday, 29 March 2016

My national past

I've been very lucky that the 1916 centenary has fallen during my resolution to Embrace Your Past. And with so many commemorative events taking place in Dublin, I've been embracing them.
I am a former History student after all!

On Easter Monday I attended a number of events, talks and exhibitions to mark the occasion. The city had really come alive. Efforts were made to embody the values of the 1916 proclamation and measure our progress against it.

I began to think about how the rebels had impacted me - how my national past could have shaped who I am. It's an entirely different type of past than that which I had planned to examine this month, but for the week that's in it, I couldn't help myself.

The 1916 Rising has been viewed during the commemorations as a shared history, despite the fact that the majority of us have no personal connection to the rebels involved. But we live in their legacy, and often, we claim their 'heroics' as our own.

“A self-mythologizing takes place when we assimilate the stories of our ancestors into our own—it’s automatic. We tell ourselves that their triumphs have somehow entered our bloodstream. We’re not descendants, we think; we’re heirs—heirs to intangible qualities (ambition, brilliance, endurance) through the fact of a thoroughly diluted blood tie. We allow ourselves to revise and cull from a shared history we lay claim to, every dead relation a past life lived vicariously.” - Alex Mar (Source)
We look to our past to create ourselves. We build ourselves based on our past experiences. In many ways, we look to our national past in similar ways - to help us decide what legacy we want to live with.
“To rise above death: this is how we use our “ancestry,” supporting the fantasy of a continuum of which we are a part. To soften the knowledge that each of us is built from one strip of time, finite. To soften that hard fact through the use of memory—through the construction and the echoing and the exaggeration of memories that are often, at best, half-true.” Alex Mar (Source)
Wishing Tree
And while thoughts were focused predominantly in the past century during Easter Monday's commemorations, there was also a lot of forward thinking on how Ireland can build upon the ideals of the signatories of the proclamation over the next 100 years. In many ways, that is how we should view our past - as a learning curve, and a way to better plan for a better future.

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