My surprise got me thinking, firstly about my reaction to the gender blindness I discovered but mostly about the past and how (for me) time appears to wash away memory. Maybe I am just forgetful or very forward-looking, maybe I’m blinkered or maybe I’ve been taking where I’m at today for granted. As a result of my discovery, I have been trying to be a little more reflective, which is a difficult and uncomfortable undertaking at times. The past is a strange place, one that is filled with equal joy and sadness. But what I have been really trying to grapple with is how Irish society has changed (or hasn’t) in recent decades. Its only when you reflect back you become aware of how different (in some respects) Ireland has become.
My reflection has been helped along, by a book I have been reading entitled ‘Truth, Power and Lies: Irish Society and the Case of the Kerry Babies’ by Tom Inglis (2003). The book focuses on the sad story of two newborn babies, found dead less than a fortnight apart in April of 1984 in Co. Kerry. One infant was discovered on beach rocks at Cahirciveen and the other hid on a farm in Tralee a couple of days later. Using sociological methods, Inglis investigates this case and uses it as a backdrop for a discussion on Irish society. It’s an excellent read that astutely paints a picture of Irish society, specifically in the early 1980’s. What’s significant for me about this this book is that focuses on an event that took place when I was just a little over 3 years of age.
How different Ireland was back in the early 1980’s. It seems such a hard and unfair place: restrictive, oppressive and dark. This was the time in which I grew up, and yet now it seems alien and unfamiliar. Time is the strangest of creatures. It silently engulfs you and carries you. It pushes you forward, all the while fogging some memories and gilding others. Despite progression in many aspects of Irish society, some things sadly have not changed. Inequality, racism, deprivation, bigotry and ignorance still abound. Ireland’s progression has been a-la-carte. The recent case of Ireland’s national broadcaster settling a legal action, as a result of an individual expressing an opinion on a talk show, highlights how progression has been minimal especially in relation to attitudes towards homosexuality. The moral abjection of those opposed to same sex relationships / marriage in contemporary Ireland is reminiscent of the normative attitudes prevalent in Ireland at the time of the ‘Kerry Babies’ case.
I feel a kind of disconnection to my past, or maybe more accurately parts of my past. There is much I am happy to leave in its fog. None-the-less what my discovery and surprise has imparted upon me is the importance of remembering. Without remembering the past arrogance and complacency can take hold. Many of the changes in Irish society that we appreciate today have come at a heavy price for other individuals, families and communities. The tragic suffering of others have helped change how we live today. But time can make us forgetful of the cost of such change. I guess that’s why we erect memorials. However sometimes we are blind to these reminders of the past.
I suppose my surprise has served as a memorial for me.
© Clay Darcy, February 2014.