Sunday, 2 March 2008

The Wind That Shakes the Barley: a sorry tale.

The Wind That Shakes The Barley is, I think, a very good film.

Readers of Roman Christendom may find this a surprising comment.

I saw it recently for the first time.

The reason I think it good is because I think it is probably highly accurate historically - an unusual thing for many a modern film (although, be warned, there is an unnecessary amount of unpleasant bad language).

I put off seeing it because I thought it would just be Fenian propaganda, especially as the producer is, apparently, an Irish Communist.

However, the real horror of the war comes out in the film in all its brutality and terror.

It ought to be enough to persuade anyone that both sides in the war were utterly reprehensible and a disgrace to humanity.

The IRA are shown to be a mixture of Marxian Socialists and non-Marxist Nationalists which is exactly what they largely were.

The Black and Tans are shown as a pack of brutal scoundrels and portrayed exactly as I suspect they were - brutalised thugs with no sense of morality or decency, every bit as blameworthy as their IRA antagonists.

Both sides in that tragic war readily betray common morality, commit murders and kill the innocent with no regard, seemingly, for common humanity or their own souls.

Hero/anti-hero Damien O'Donovan asks "I hope the Ireland we are fighting for is worth it" as he murders Anglo-Irish landlord, Sir John Hamilton, and, even more horribly, his own childhood friend, Chris Riley, an innocent simpleton caught up in a drama beyond his control.

Damien quite rightly finds his conscience troubled, especially when the boy's mother - entirely rightly - says "Take me to my child" and then later says to Damien: "I never want to see your face again".

For what sort of Ireland were they committing these grotesque sins, crying to Heaven for vengeance? For an Ireland that ended up being ruled by the usual parcel of corrupt politicians who are now busily abandoning their Faith as fast as they can. In other words, all that horrible bloodshed and murder was not even worth it, even if it had not already been horribly sinful.

This is the grave evil of revolution: it is willing to sin and sin horribly, to murder brutally and send any number of innocents to the next world for purely worldly gains which turn out to be no lasting gains at all since they are purely worldly.

Next, of course, the Revolution devours its own. Soon an end must come to the senseless and brutal murders. Both sides agree to sit at table and cut a deal. The deal is never quite what either side wants but then that is the nature of a deal, isn't it? And the extremists will not agree to the deal and so start a war against the dealers. So it happened.

Indeed, in Ireland it was even worse: the deal was brokered by accredited representatives of Dail Eireann and the Dail approved it by a majority. But still the Republican extremists would not accept it.

The Free Staters knew that they had only to wait for an opportune moment and they could declare independence. And they were right. The Free Staters won the Civil War. Then, sure enough, independence eventually came without any help from Sinn Fein/IRA bombs.

As always happens, the bombers and assassins were of no use whatsoever. The constitutional way was the only right way but the revolutionaries wanted to be in charge and no amount of innocent bloodshed would stop them. The Sinn Fein/IRA murderers weren't going to be happy with any deal but their own, were they? Thus the cold-hearted, bloody murders of innocents like Chris Riley were continued.

Worst of all, these sinners are now regarded by many Irish Republicans as heroes. It is pathological. It is nothing less than re-crucifying Christ.

A telling moment is when the Catholic Parish Priest quite rightly pleads for peace, in a Sunday sermon, and excoriates the Free State military courts, on the one hand, and the IRA anti-Treatyites, pillaging and murdering, on the other hand. How right he is to do so!

Anti-hero Damien then stands up and makes a typically unjust outburst against the Catholic Church accusing it - and he lies horribly in so doing - of siding with the rich against the poor, a grotesque falsehood if ever there were one. How many schools, clinics, welfare agencies, and churches did Damien and his like ever build for the poor? Yet everyone knows that the Catholic Church is second to none in such provision. Nevertheless, Damien does not hesitate to frame his lie.

His own brother, Teddy, who had fought in the IRA with him and is now a Free State Officer, tries to reason with him and quite rightly tells him that if he will only wait then they will secure an independent Ireland by constitutional means in time. Damien won't wait. He's a hot-head who wants it all now, whatever the cost in human misery, blood and tragedy. His ideological hatred is remarkably well portrayed in the film.

He scorns his brother's sensible warnings and is determined to spill more innocent blood. But he is captured whilst attacking a Free State police station and taken to his brother for questioning. He is obdurate. He will tell nothing.

He is condemned to die as a terrorist and - terribly and tragically - his own brother, Teddy, commands the firing squad with tears in his eyes.

This is the true picture: the ultimate horror of revolution and rebellion. Brother kills brother, who, in turn, has killed an innocent child like Chris Riley.

Truly, it is a vision of Hell. It is blood-curdling and made all the more so by these same people claiming to be Catholics of a sort. It shows all too well how even the Devil can pretend to be a Catholic.

The whole war was a major tragedy for Ireland given the native charm and decency of most Irishmen and women.

Home Rule could have come to Ireland as far back as the 1860s or even earlier but for the bombers. Gladstone was ready to give it but the Fenian bombers assassinated policemen in Manchester and set back the cause of Home Rule for another 50 years.

Eventually, thanks to peaceful constitutionalists like John Redmond and John Dillon, the Home Rule Act was passed in 1914 but the First World War intervened. After the war the bombers took over and the blood-letting began.

Yes, this is a film that tells it like it was. And, sadly, it is not a pretty picture.



On the side of the angels said...

Ok , you've asked me to debate with you on the historical issues so here goes :
I concur with most of your post
what you've been remiss to say in this posting is that the anti-treaty-ites may have lost the war but they gained power during 'the peace' - this wasn't a 'just' outcome - de Valera wasn't executed for the uprising [being an american citizen] and because he was far enough away from the IRA leadership [even though the ostensible leader of the whole movement [remember too he had the opportunity and power to cease hostilities early into the civil war - but he refused amidst the adulation and populism and cries for revenge for the executions -not only had he blood on his hands, he prolonged the violence] yet it was his fianna fail that shaped the constitution and republic and it has practically ruled ever since [even Fine Gael is now merely a pale shadow of its alleged opponents and when it power it invariably emulated its opposition ]. It's a sad aspect of history that the villains of the peace do on occasion rise to the top and shape things according to a [albeit compromised] model of their original designs.

As for terrorism not working ? It's a wonderful thought isn't it ?
It was the main argument of the post 9-11 'Isaac and Ishmael' episode of the West Wing - that terrorism has a 100% failure rate.

Sadly it isn't the case - we need only look at how many terrorists in Africa and south-east asia became heads of state , and how many revolutionary junta overthrew democratically elected governments in latin america.

As for recent times - remember [amidst all the obfuscation and deceit ]that the Good Friday agreement was ultimately formulated in the wake of systemic assault upon the catholic communities [not just IRA/INLA personnel] by loyalist terrorists and gangsters while the RUC and the army turned a blind eye - Sinn Fein was compelled to give in...

Remember too that terrorists in Ulster were mainly protectionist gangsters [the loyalists also had a nasty line in drugs and prostitution and back-street abortions but that's by the by]- the neo-marxist agenda was not an intrinsic ideology - it was merely the easiest form to inspire the dispossessed and disenfranchised and promote the 'romantic nature' of the cause and pressurise the belief in the lie that 'protection' money was 'for the cause' and therefore for everyone [of course it never was].

Sad beyond belief, but it would be deceitful to persist in any notion that bullies never win, that violence and terror never succeed. Regrettably they do.

Tribunus said...

Dear Paul

Thank you.

I had in mind our debating the relative merits of the Stuarts and Habsburgs but Sinn Fein/IRA is an equally interesting subject.

I think we basically agree.

However, I have not at all said that terrorism has a 100% failure rate. On the contrary, the gist of my post is that the terrorists are now accepted as heroes and largely got their way.

On the other hand, De Valera parted company with Sinn Fein and that is why he started Fianna Fail. Sinn Fein/IRA were too crazy even for him.

Once elected he conspired to take Ireland out of the Commonwealth without ever consulting the Irish people.

In the end, it was Costello of Fine Gael who declared the Republic in 1948, not De Valera. And Costello did this virtually without consulting anyone, piqued as he was by Canadian Empire loyalists.

Your latter paragraphs are in danger of under-estimating Sinn Fein/IRA today and make unfair accusations against the Army and even the RUC. I know that the Army were very strict about following the law meticulously. I was there.

Sinn Fein/IRA are avowedly Marxist (read An Phoblacht and you will see it) and have been every bit as bad as any "loyalist" terrorists. They have also run protection rackets on a grand scale.

The Good Friday Agreement arose as much from the IRA bombing their way to the negotiation table as any so-called "loyalists".

However, I think we both agree that both sides have been thoroughly bad.

Thanks for your email.

Tribunus said...

On the original issue, if you wish to be "on the side of the angels" you will need to examine the history of the Stuarts and the Habsburgs more closely.

With some notable exceptions, the Habsburgs have been the most consistently loyal to the Church of virtually all Catholic dynasties and, therefore, vastly more loyal than any later republican governments.

Popes repeatedly praised and supported the Habsburgs because of their faithful loyalty to the Church and the See of St Peter.

By way of but one example of their benevolence as rulers, consider the Laws of Burgos, passed in 1512under King Ferdinand the Catholic but greatly augmented by the Habsburgs, which forbad the enslavement of the Indians only a few years after the discovery of the New World in 1492.

The Austrian Habsburgs acquired their territories by marriage rather than conquest and were at the heart of Catholic government in Europe for centuries, providing a long line of Catholic Emperors. Their record of government is remarkably good by comparison with others and was distinguished by a subsidiarist distribution of power in accord with Catholic Social teaching.

Those who attack the Habsburgs usually do so from a position of ignorance of their real history.

The Stuarts are a much more mixed bag. Some were, as is well known, Protestants. However, their claim to the throne of the 3 Kingdoms was clear and unimpeachable and the reason that King James II was ousted from his throne was not because he was unjust but almost exclusively because he was a Catholic and sought to restore some religious liberty to Catholics.

In fact, he was well ahead of his time and sought to proclaim and establish reasonable religious liberty through his Declaration of Indulgence.

It was this that caused the Anglican Whigs to oust him. They feared that freedom for Catholics might mean they might face enquiries into how they had acquired their wealth (largely from the rape of the monasteries in the previous century and by illegal enclosure of land in the present).

18th century Protestant author, William Cobbett, sets this out brilliantly and in meticulous detail in his book "The Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland".

The Whigs staged a refusal to the Declaration and got 7 Anglican bishops to refuse to read out the Declaration, in defiance of the King. The King arrested them and tried them but this was used as a pretext for rebellion.

The Whigs invited William of Orange to invade and then, at the crucial moment, their hidden allies in the Army High Command (like John Churchill) treacherously deserted to William. They even plotted to seize and assassinate King James but that plot miscarried.

After the victory of William and the so-called "Glorious Revolution", one of the most savagely oppressive Penal Codes ever devised by Western man was introduced to persecute, subdue and oppress Catholics and Dissenters - but the anti-Catholic parts were far and away much worse.

This was particularly savage in Ireland.

Anglicanism was savagely imposed and Catholics could not hold office, swear oaths against Protestants, give evidence against Protestants, bequeath or inherit property (save in a limited way), own a horse worth above £5 in value if a Protestant wished to take it, live within 5 miles of London, own much land or own very much wealth and there were a whole range of other disabilities. It remained an offence to be a priest, a Catholic teacher or church usher or to proselytise. It was a crassly intolerant settlement designed to protect the ill-gotten gains of the rich Protestants.

The Stuart or Jacobite cause sought to restore the Stuarts and overthrow this savage Penal Code. It was undoubtedly a just cause.

Several attempts were made, the most notable of which were those of 1715 and 1745.

After they failed, there were savage reprisals by the Whigs who sought to secure their wealth and position by crushing Catholicism and Jacobitism.

Thereafter, whenever their vested interests were threatened, they staged or promoted "No Popery" riots, as Cobbett so well illustrates, to distract the people from the real causes of injustice.

This is why the cause of the Stuarts is not only a romantic one but also a right and just one. If they had won then the horrible persecution of Catholics, especially in Ireland, would have been prevented and religious liberty restored.

Take care, therefore, that in attacking the Stuarts and Habsburgs you do not lend support to their enemies who were anti-Catholic persecutors of the Church and of innocent Catholics.

On the side of the angels said...

Thankyou ,
I apologise if I implied that the army deliberately conspired-by-ommission; in loyalist assaults - that was not my intent ; but I will afford that accusation upon the RUC , as subsequent documentation has proven ; the actions of the army as a whole was exemplary amidst so much vehement hostility and venomous hatred - I only meant to imply that there were occasions where had the military not been so willing to suppress suspicions and, for a more peaceful life , allow the RUC 'free-rein' to investigate certain atrocities where certain renegade 'fifth columnists' within the rank and file had conspired with terrorists - these violations might have been uncovered and lives saved - think the whitewash of the Stevens inquiry. I think I'm trying to say the army had a modicum of scruples ; whereas certain elements within the police force had barely any.

I may not have been exactly clear, but my intention was to stress that the majority of the IRA were little more than gangsters - being there you must have been aware of the massive protection rackets around the bars/clubs local businesses , taxi companies etc ; their bloodthirsty control over potentially criminal youths and whom they perceived as undesirables [knee-capping petty burglars and joyriders etc ; paedophiles, rapists and wife-beaters having fatal 'accidents'or being expelled from the province with death-threats should they ever return ]
....and yes the whole thing was unavowably marxist for those among the militantly obsesssed , as it is the perfect distorted hegelian geist to distort reality into some romantic 'kampf' for liberty ; an historicism which denied the civil war actually occurred and formulated an ideology where every bigotted bloodthirsty thug was a hero; one perniciously fed with support and finances by the delusions of those in the US and in the republic's 'forever green heartlands' like Kerry and Cavan/Fermanagh. A significant amount of those within the IRA hierarchy were exceedingly less loyal to that cause in anything but name only , yet always raising the drunken glass to it, or using it in justifying their violent murderous malice ; where if truth be told , they were more concerned with the mercenary aspects of money and unofficial civic power - the real terror being inflicted upon their own - which was why the moment the opportunity to tell them where to go arose ; they fell in on themselves and had to regroup according to a very diferent agenda - something very, very easy for a pragmatic trotskyite to do - the 'dogma' behind the ideology was never of any import ; the means towards a continuance of the lucrative ends could adapt beyond recognition [the bully could move from bullet to ballot and continue bullying ] - One need only regard New labour and see that most of its draconian 'fascistic' [in its most cogent sense] anti-libertarian agendas derive from the old trotskyite initiatives of the mandelson, the hewitt etc.

I think I must reiterate that after thirty years of bombing it wasn't the [prevalent] growing antipathy and hostility from those around them that brought them to the table - but the systemic malevolent assaults on anything remotely republican/nationalist or catholic - no family was safe, no individual [if they were catholic, or had married/dated or consorted with or employed catholics] , no business, club, church or school....the campaign of hate, destruction and murder worked !
Of course it took till years after the agreement to diminish [even so late as five years ago there were daily reports of 'loyalist' incidents - and their targets had spread out to include immigrants and non-whites....maybe it could be more than a handful of generations to come for the major aspects of this chaotic tragedy to expire....

...and that's where my argument turns towards your version of the Jacobite history - will have to return to this later [have already fallen asleep at the computer twice in the past few minutes typing this, but thankyou once again...

Tribunus said...

Well, we seem to agree, more or less!

I'll await your view of the Jacobites and Stuarts with interest.