The sins of our fathers

That some Irish people I met in Dublin last weekend, were openly hostile to me as an Englishman, is hardly surprising. Symbols of past conflict are everywhere.

The stag do happened to fall on the 100 year anniversary of the 1916 uprising against the English oppressor. The wound is being politically and culturally reopened.

I understand how dislike for England is woven into the Irish national identity. But I also fundamentally oppose prejudice and to be honest, I don’t see how any of it is my fault.

It begs the question; are we to be held accountable for the sins of our fathers? Should we be?

The obvious answer seems to be “no”, given there is nothing that I could have done to stop the British Army in 1916, not being alive.

But conversely there are many examples of where people delight in their heritage, again having contributed nothing to it. When it comes to history we want our cake, and to eat it too.

English culture has plenty of apologising to do. And we seem to be very well positioned to do it, given every other word is “sorry”.

It’s the same plight faced by our German cousins who we never stop reminding of the atrocities in WW2. Or our French neighbours, dubbed “surrender monkeys” for their early exit in the same war.

My conclusion is that who we are is should be nothing to do with where we are born. Making nationalism a relic that should be confined to the same category as racism and bigotry.

Why it’s okay to be openly nationalist given this rationale is beyond me. The SNP who openly work for the interests of Scottish people is okay, when the BNP who are blatantly, dangerously right-wing, are not. But are these political organisations, shades of the same black?

Symbols of nationalism are symbols of division. They create large in-groups and out-groups, nurturing the possibility of mass, organised activity (war included).

Perhaps as a race we are simply experiencing a hangover from our hunter gatherer times, just on a massive scale.

It appears human-beings are unable to judge people on the content of their characters, not the sound of their accent, or the colour of their skin.

Although we suffer for the mistakes of our parents and their parents, all we can do is hold individuals to account for their actions. Once they are gone, punishment is escaped.

Nationalism has become racism lite. It’s a seemingly acceptable form of prejudice that needs to be recognised as such.

Pictures of Nelson’s statue, like the one displayed on the wall of our Dublin hostel, insight hatred. I don’t know that people are able to separate the past from their present.

Is it important to remember the past so we don’t repeat the same mistakes? Do we ever learn from them? Or are we doomed to walk the same road of those who have stepped before us?

There’s little evidence to suggest, that we learn we are not special, but just another in a line of egotistical, competitive, dreamers.

It’s time to remember which boundaries are real, and which are just for fun.

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