Archive for June 17th, 2009

Let me spell it out for you

17 June 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Iran Protests Irish TimesOk, so this isn’t really history, but it’s in the news and might be some sort of history in the making. Looking at the photograph from Iran (left) that adorned the Irish Times website this morning, it struck me that for every recent large-scale protest that has drawn worldwide media attention, whether it be in Thailand, Iran or elsewhere, more and more protesters (preferably, as is the case here, an attractive young woman) are wearing t-shirts and brandishing signs with slogans in English.

Now, we know all about English becoming the language of commerce, notably for the central European states, and the concerns of a variety of governments – not least in France – about its growing influence in Europe, but is this widespread use of English as a medium of protest a new phenomenon in the age of globalised news? Are we witnessing the birth of a new form of democracy in which protesters have happened on a very clever way of transforming the concerns of the world (not simply governments) – in this case the obvious difficulties with the outgoing administration – into pressure on local administrators for change? Or, perish the thought, perhaps protesters believe that we in the West are incapable of digesting the issues without them being presented in the plainest black and white, in a language we cannot misunderstand.

How Macroom Remembers

17 June 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

‘Two men from Macroom died and went up to heaven and met Peter and they said to Peter, “Who’s in charge here? Because we’ll be agin’ him.”‘

MacroomIRABecause it’s too long to wait until our July recommendations and because it’s still fresh in my ears from the commute, I have to point you in the direction of the Peter Woods-produced ‘How Macroom Remembers’, part of RTÉ Radio 1’s ‘Documentary on One’ series. Woods’s piece tells a fascinating tale of how a Cork town has dealt with, assimilated and adapted its memory of the Kilmichael ambush and everything that has passed under its bridges since. When you hear radio like this, it’s a reminder that the written word sometimes just isn’t enough in expressing and exploring the subtleties and, more importantly, the human voice, of our history. In these days of media exaggeration, it’s all too easy to bandy about the superlatives ‘moving’ and ‘evocative’, but the subtle way this documentary is put together – juxtaposing the crisis about Irish pork, current when the show was recorded in 2008, with the still extant bitterness of the Civil War and reveling in the human simplicity of conversation, including at one stage being interrupted with the words ‘Sorry to interrupt now. Would ye adjourn for a cup of tea?’ – makes it a joy to the ears.

Hat tip by the way to the excellent Speechification site for pointing me in the direction of ‘How Macroom Remembers’. Listen to the documentary below and to find other episodes in the series, check the iTunes store (search for ‘documentary on one’) or the programme’s RSS feed.