Friday, August 16, 2019

Romanticism and Literature: Serving Human Liberty?

“Swift has sailed into his rest;
Savage indignation there
Cannot lacerate his breast.
Imitate him if you dare,
World-besotted traveller; he
Served human liberty.”
W. B. Yeats translation of Jonathan Swift’s Latin epitaph

In this continuing series on the effects of Romantic and Enlightenment ideas on modern culture, I have looked at the negative aspects of Romanticism on fine art, music, cinema and politics. In this article I will examine Romantic and Enlightenment ideas on literature from the eighteenth to the 21st century showing how from the earliest days literature has been a battleground for the future of culture itself. Enlightenment influences on literature led to the concept of progressive culture which took many forms through to today. From realism, social realism, the proletarian novel, socialist realism, concepts of progressive culture have constantly changed in opposition to Romantic ideas of ‘art for art’s sake’. Here we will look at these changes over time and and finish by examining suggested definitions of progressive literature for the future.

Jonathan Swift

Romantic and Enlightenment literature
The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement during the eighteenth century in which philosophers and scientists spread their ideas through literary salons, coffeehouses and printed books, pamphlets and journals. It was a time of dramatically increasing literacy and a growing reading audience encouraged by cheaper printed material.

Reading habits changed from public reading of a few books, to extensive private reading as books got cheaper. The Enlightenment was  a time for satirists and humorists attacking the conservative monarchical institutions of the eighteenth century. Writers such as Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope in Ireland and England and Voltaire in France blended criticism, satire and fiction into a new type of literature. While Enlightenment influences tended to be based on reason and science looking outwards, the Romantic reaction stressed “sensibility”, or feeling and tended towards human psychology and looking inwards.

The title page to Swift’s 1735 Works, depicting the author in the Dean’s chair, receiving the thanks of Ireland. The Horatian motto reads, Exegi Monumentum Ære perennius, “I have completed a monument more lasting than brass.” The ‘brass’ is a pun, for Wood’s halfpennies (alloyed with brass) lie scattered at his feet. Cherubim award Swift a poet’s laurel.

Romantic literature put more emphasis on themes of isolation, loneliness, tragic events and the power of nature. A heroic view of history and myth became the basis of much Romantic literature. The Scottish poet James Macpherson’s Ossian cycle of poems (published in 1762)  were a huge influence on Goethe and Walter Scott.  Ivanhoe, published in 1819, was Walter Scott’s most popular historic novel and reflected the Romantic interest in medievalism. In Germany, it was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) that had the most influence on burgeoning German Romanticism. However, the introverted, fatalistic aspect of Young Werther was eventually rejected by Goethe himself who described the Romantic movement as “everything that is sick.”

Literary Realism
Enlightenment ideas took off in a different direction as the scientific method had its influence on literature in the form of the depiction of “objective reality”. Known as Literary Realism and beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, writers such as Stendhal in France and Alexander Pushkin in Russia led the realist movement with a view to representing “subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, as well as implausible, exotic and supernatural elements.”

In this sense Realism opposed Romantic idealisation or dramatisation and focused on lower class society’s everyday activities and experiences in a more empirical way. This led to the the development of the social novel which can be seen as a “work of fiction in which a prevailing social problem, such as gender, race, or class prejudice, is dramatized through its effect on the characters of a novel” and covering topics such as “poverty, conditions in factories and mines, the plight of child labor, violence against women, rising criminality, and epidemics because of over-crowding, and poor sanitation in cities.”

Early examples of the social novel were Charles Kingsley’s Alton Locke (1849) and Elizabeth Gaskell’s first industrial novel Mary Barton (1848). However, it was Charles Dickens whose depictions of poverty and crime that shocked readers the most and even led Karl Marx to write that Dickens had “issued to the world more political and social truths than have been uttered by all the professional politicians, publicists and moralists put together”. Dickens novels Oliver Twist (1839) and Hard Times (1854) explored many important social questions relating to the negative aspects of the industrial revolution.

Illustration by Fred Bernard of Dickens at work in a shoe-blacking factory after his father had been sent to the Marshalsea, published in the 1892 edition of Forster’s Life of Dickens.

Around the same time in France, Victor Hugo published his historical novel Les Misérables (1862). The novel follows the lives of several characters and in particular the struggles of the an ex-convict Jean Valjean. Hugo uses the from to elaborate his ideas on many topics from the history of France to politics, justice, religion and even the architecture and urban design of Paris. He outlines his purpose in a famous Preface to Les Misérables in which he writes:
“So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.”

The Jungle is a 1906 novel by the American journalist and novelist Upton Sinclair (1878–1968).

The American journalist and novelist Upton Sinclair (1878–1968) put such ideas into practice when he spent seven weeks gathering information while working incognito in the meatpacking plants of the Chicago stockyards in 1904. This resulted in the 1906 novel, The Jungle, which exposed the harsh conditions, health violations, and unsanitary practices in the American meat packing industry of the time. The novel was hugely controversial at the time with publishers initially refusing to publish it but eventually the conditions described in the book led to public pressure to pass the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act.

The proletarian novel
As the nineteenth century progressed enlightenment ideas were taken up by socialist movements and produced a new class-conscious proletarian literature created by working class writers. The proletarian novel is a political form of the social novel which comments on political events and was used to promote social reform or political revolution among the working classes.

The proletarian novel achieved significance in different countries in the early twentieth century. It came to prominence during a time of rising fascism during the 1930s when Nazi book burnings were being carried out in Germany and Austria. The political polarisation is evidenced by the writers meetings that took place at the time when the First American Writers Congress (1935) in the USA, the International Writers’ Congress for the Defence of Culture (1935) in France, and the First Congress of Soviet Writers  (1934) in the Soviet Union were all held.

Progressive  literature emphasised social development and was part of the general progressive movement of those who wanted science and technology to lead the way for a better society for all. It was opposed to the content and values of regressive literature such as:
“Despair, mysticism, the thought that man is helpless and incapable of building one’s own future complete degradation, sexual vagaries, respect for war and massacres, condescension to cultural values, faith in the evil of man and the disbelief in the generosity of mankind, hatred towards ideals, all of these are the main trends of regressive literature. Such regressive trends are advertised behind a veil of arguments which state that art does not have any other responsibility beyond that of being art in itself.”
Such a description of regressive literature covers many aspects of Romantic ideas in culture too.

What is progressive culture today?

Ngugi wa Thiong’o. His work includes novels, plays, short stories, and essays, ranging from literary and social criticism to children’s literature.

The multilingual Indian writer K. Damodaran (1912 – 1976) set out his beliefs on progressive literature as a literature in which the writer should adopt a scientific approach towards viewing things, try to eradicate superstitions and blind practices, and not isolate himself or herself from society. He also believed in literatures that preserved regional languages.

One writer who puts such ideas into action in both fiction and prose is the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o (not to mention Swiftian satire). While there are many African writers writing social literature about the lives of African people today, Ngugi has been important for his emphasis on the formal qualities of language as well the radical content of his novels. His use of his local Gikuyu language as the original language of his novels is an important anti-colonial aspect of his purpose for writing. As English moves from being the dominant hegemonic language of earlier colonised countries such as Ireland and Kenya to being super hegemonic globally due to the influence of satellite broadcasting and the internet, such linguistic strategies of Ngugi may become more significant when formally ‘major’ languages themselves also start to come under threat.

While there have been obvious influences of Romanticism on writers like Dickens, it could be argued that the realist impulse was a stronger drive and that Dickens knew and understood the poverty he described so well in his novels. This drive to incorporate and expose all forms of oppression in literary work could be described as one of the fundamentals that links the writers in the centuries old development of progressive literature. But, however progressive literature is defined into the future, it can be sure that its writers will not be appreciated for exposing the dark side of human oppression except by those whose voices too often remain unheard.

All images in this article are from Wikimedia 

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is an Irish artist, lecturer and writer. His artwork consists of paintings based on contemporary geopolitical themes as well as Irish history and cityscapes of Dublin. He is an Irish speaker and holds a PhD in Language and Politics (Dublin City University) which is  published under the title Language from Below: The Irish Language, Ideology and Power in 20th-Century Ireland. His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country hereHe is a Research Associate and Culture and the Arts Correspondent of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal, Canada.

Romanticism and Music: The Conversion of Music into a Mass Narcotic on a Global Scale

Narcotic: drug that produces analgesia (pain relief), narcosis (state of stupor or sleep), and addiction (physical dependence on the drug). In some people narcotics also produce euphoria (a feeling of great elation).”

Romanticism is a philosophical movement of the nineteenth century which had a profound influence on music which can still be seen right up to today. Its main characteristics in music are the emphasis on the personal, dramatic contrasts, emotional excess, a focus on the nocturnal, the ghostly and the frightful, spontaneity, and extreme subjectivism. Romanticism in culture implied a turning inward and encouraged introspection. As Hegel wrote:
“The entire content [of romantic art] is therefore concentrated on the inner life of the spirit”.
Romanticist-influenced music increased its audience dramatically from the early theatres of the nineteenth century to the mass pop concerts of the modern era. Romanticism changed music from being a progressive force in society to being a narcotic and self indulgent individualist experience. In modern times it has been industrialised and commercialised and sells individualism and political impotence to the very people who turn to it for solace from desperation in a highly alienated society.

The most regrettable aspect of this alienation is that music has become more and more distant from people’s movements for progressive change. In the past, progressive music, i.e. music which was in tune with the history of people’s political struggles, tended to come from the people themselves, in the form of ballads or music from progressive composers and lyricists. With the commercialising of the pop music industry in the twentieth century, music moved from something to be consumed on a mass basis rather than produced by people on a local basis – by writing, playing or singing, as it was in the past with balladeers, choirs and progressive composers.

Here we will look at the influence of Romanticism on music from the Classical period in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries through to the development of the pop music industry in the twentieth century. Also examined will be composers and singers who resisted the pressure of the Romantic influence and wrote and played music that was rooted in hardship and struggle and an awareness of international issues and crises as they affected the ordinary people of those countries.

Classical Music – ‘structures should be well-founded’
While classical music in general has a broad meaning the Classical period was an era of classical music between roughly 1730 and 1820. Enlightenment respect for the politics, aesthetics and philosophy of classical antiquity (Classicism) combined with the development of ‘natural philosophy’ – the precursor of the natural sciences – had a profound effect on music: “Newton’s physics was taken as a paradigm: structures should be well-founded in axioms and be both well-articulated and orderly.” The effect of Enlightenment ideas on Classical  music was to mark a change to a lighter, clearer texture compared with the Baroque music that came before it.
Thus the findings in science broadly affected or influenced culture in general. At the same time technical developments in musical instruments and the increase in size and standardisation of orchestras changed the way music was played. The major composers of this time were Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Joseph Haydn, Christoph Willibald Gluck, Johann Christian Bach, Luigi Boccherini, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Muzio Clementi, Antonio Salieri, and Johann Nepomuk Hummel.

Joseph Haydn Playing Quartets
Romantic Music – ‘more explicitly expressive and programmatic’
Romanticism originated at the end to the 18th century mainly as a reaction to the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution which were perceived to be using science to destroy nature and man’s traditional way of life. The Romantic emphasis on feeling was in direct contrast with Enlightenment ideas of progress with reason and science being the primary source of knowledge. The philosophers and scientists of the Enlightenment had desired to move away from the Feudalism and Scholasticism of the religiously dominated Middle Ages. Unfortunately, the Romantic artists, composers and poets took a new interest in aspects of medievalism that the Enlightenment philosophers had tried to defeat. Enlightenment ideas were also taken up by the new elites who used science in the exploititive ways so hated by the Romantics.
However, despite the impression one might get from the Romantics emphasis on emotion, Enlightenment ideas were not devoid of feeling. Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury (1671 – 1713) believed that all human beings had a ‘natural affection’ or natural sociability which bound them together. Francis Hutcheson (1694 – 1746) wrote that “All Men have the same Affections and Senses”  while David Hume(1711 – 1776) believed that human beings extend their “imaginative identification with the feelings of others” when it is required. Similarly, Adam Smith (1723 – 1790), the writer of Wealth of Nations, believed in the power of the imagination to inform us and help us understand the suffering of others. [1]
The Romantic reaction towards Classicical music and the ideals of the Enlightenment in one sense was not surprising given the failure of those ideas ultimately in the French Revolution. As Friedrich Engels wrote in Anti-Dühring in 1877:
“the French philosophers of the eighteenth century, the forerunners of the Revolution, appealed to reason as the sole judge of all that is. A rational government, rational society, were to be founded; everything that ran counter to eternal reason was to be remorselessly done away with. We saw also that this eternal reason was in reality nothing but the idealised understanding of the eighteenth century citizen, just then evolving into the bourgeois. The French Revolution had realised this rational society and government. But, the new order of things, rational enough as compared with earlier conditions, turned out to be by no means absolutely rational. The state based upon reason completely collapsed.”
As Engels notes this resulted in the Reign of Terror and then Napoleonic despotism. The ideals of the Enlightenment philosophers were destroyed by an intensification of competition. He writes:
“The promised eternal peace was turned into an endless war of conquest. The society based upon reason had fared no better. The antagonism between rich and poor, instead of dissolving into general prosperity, had become intensified by the removal of the guild and other privileges, which had to some extent bridged it over, and by the removal of the charitable institutions of the Church. The development of industry upon a capitalistic basis made poverty and misery of the working masses conditions of existence of society.”
How is it then that it is the Romantics that are more associated with the revolutionary ideas of the time? Why were they seen by critics and historians as reactionary or politically irrelevant? According to Max Blechman in Revolutionary Romanticism:
“The early romantics were revolutionaries: not because they believed in a political insurrection in their homeland […] but because through public expression they hoped to redefine the meaning of progress and revolutionize the values of modern civilisation.” […] Romanticism in Germany (as in France and England) was a protean [ever changing] movement, and the writings of formative romantics were contradicted by those of late romantics, some of whom broke with the early romantics’ idealism for various forms of conservatism.” [2]
The Romantics, instead of questioning the class basis of society which was becoming more and more sharply delineated, reached back to the simpler life, religiosity and culture of the Middle Ages. The idea of chivalrous heroes, the mystic and supernatural, untouched nature and the security of spiritual beliefs formed the basis of a new culture of individuals and heroes battling against crass modernity. Romantic composers put much more emphasis on showing their innermost thoughts and feelings about love, hate and death through powerful expressions of emotion. Romantic music developed “the use of new or previously not so common musical structures like the song cycle, nocturne, concert etude, arabesque and rhapsody, alongside the traditional classical genres.”

In general, Romantic music was “more explicitly expressive and programmatic” and public concerts were held for the urban middle class compared to earlier periods when they were mainly the domain of aristocrats. The string section was enlarged and the piano took over from the harpsichord as an accompaniment to songs (lieder) such as Schubert’s Winter Journey. The main composers in the Romantic style were Schubert, Brahms, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Chopin, Grieg, Schumann, Rimsky-Korsakov, Liszt, Elgar and Wagner.

Many of these composers were also associated with that great combination of Romanticism and politics – Nationalism – and composed music using folk tunes, dance rhythms and local legends for this purpose. As nationalist leaders developed ideas of race and a unified nation (often based on territories containing many different ethnic and cultural groups) composers created the musical soundtrack to the burgeoning centralisation and homogenisation of modern states. One of the most negative aspects of nationalist political structures was the First World War, where the peoples of these relatively new states were set against each other in the style of the earlier feudal monarchies: in the interests solely of their leaders.

Hanns Eisler – ‘One cannot always write optimistic songs’
While Romanticism reached its peak during the period of 1800 to 1850, its influence continued on throughout the twentieth century. Hanns Eisler (1898-1962) was an Austrian composer who fought in a Hungarian regiment during the First World War, resisted the debilitating effects of Romanticism in his music. After the war he became more and more radicalised and threw himself into the class politics of the day. Eisler had a long artistic association with Bertolt Brecht:
“Eisler wrote music for several Brecht plays, including The Decision (Die Maßnahme) (1930), The Mother (1932) and Schweik in the Second World War (1957). They also collaborated on protest songs that celebrated, and contributed to, the political turmoil of Weimar Germany in the early 1930s. Their Solidarity Song became a popular militant anthem sung in street protests and public meetings throughout Europe, and their Ballad of Paragraph 218 was the world’s first song protesting laws against abortion. Brecht-Eisler songs of this period tended to look at life from “below” — from the perspective of prostitutes, hustlers, the unemployed and the working poor. In 1931–32 he collaborated with Brecht and director Slatan Dudow on the working-class film Kuhle Wampe.”

Hanns Eisler (left) and Bertolt Brecht, his close friend and collaborator, East Berlin, 1950.

Eisler’s connection with the class politics and struggles of the people are demonstrated in his awareness of the problems of composing in difficult times. He stated:  “It is: consciousness-reflection-depression-revival-and again consciousness … It must be done that way, otherwise it is not good. One cannot always write optimistic songs … one must describe the up and down of actual situations, sing about it and comment on it.” [3]  The dialectics of the process of consciousness and reflection helped him to work with ideas that are sorrowful without falling into a state of resignation. In one of his song series ‘Ernste Gesänge’ for baritone solo and string orchestra, Albrecht Betz notes:
“The third song, ‘Verweiflung’ [Despair], is a fragment from Leopardi’s famous poem ‘A se stesso’; Eisler has condensed it and freed it of all its features of Romantic discontent. Sorrow, as well as occasional anger, is sublimated in the composition’.” [4]
Similarly, in music practice, Eisler also avoided the Romantic element: “I am always horrified to hear a group of union workers, toughened by many class struggles singing, “La, la, la, la, la, la, laaaa, aaaa,” or “I am so lonesome when I remember you.” [5] Eisler and Brecht had a lot in common. Both had “an anti-romantic attitude” and “a rejection of the psychological and the autobiographical”. Betz writes:
“Both had in view the ‘avoidance of the narcotic effects’ of art, the aim to conduct experiments so as to bring it to the height of rationality which would correspond to the scientific age in which they lived, and above all to arm it with a theory which would rationalize the functions of this art.” [6]
Woody Guthrie – ‘This Machine Kills Fascists’

Guthrie with guitar labeled “This machine kills fascists” in 1943.

Another singer songwriter who would also avoid the ‘narcotic effects’ of music was Woody Guthrie (1912 – 1967). Brought up in Oklahoma, USA, Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was an American singer-songwriter, one of the most significant figures in American folk music. Guthrie wrote hundreds of political, folk, and children’s songs, along with ballads and improvised works. One of his most famous songs “This Land Is Your Land” was inspired by his reaction to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” on the radio.
Guthrie experienced hardship at first hand when he joined the thousands of migrants going to California to look for work during the Dust Bowl period. He became concerned by the conditions of life endured by working-class people and started writing songs about unemployment, migration, trade unions, labour struggles, and anti-fascist songs. All his life he believed in the power of music to change society and people’s attitudes. He performed regularly and wrote thousands of songs, poems and prose reflecting the life of working class people, neatly summing it up in the terse statement: “All you can write is what you see.”

Nueva Canción – ‘oppositional in every respect’
By the 1960s, a counterculture movement was making inroads into popular culture with movements like Nueva Canción (New Song) in Argentina, Chile and Spain, the General Strike centered in Paris in May 1968 in France as well as the Civil Rights Movement in the USA. The Nueva Canción (NC) movement started in Chile and soon spread all over Latin America. It went through three main phases in Chile: “The first was one of protest, the second of direct political engagement and the third moved away from direct political engagement to focus on glorifying and documenting the life of working people.” On a formal level Nueva Canción used “non-mainstream musical devices in their compositions such as traditional styles, and their rhythmic patterns, harmonic progressions and scales associated with folkloric music as well as Andean instruments in their arrangements. The songs were thus oppositional in every respect to the new ‘invading’ culture and embodied in sound and content something fresh but at the same time familiar which seemed to appeal to a mass of Chileans.”

Violeta Parra in the 1960s

Composers like Violeta Parra (1917 – 1967) [also songwriter, folklorist, ethnomusicologist and visual artist] and Argentine singer, songwriter, guitarist, and writer, Atahualpa Yupanqui (1908 – 1992) were two of the most important and influential figures in the Nueva Canción popular musical movement which “was anti-imperial in its stance against commercialised American and European music while its content covered many issues associated with the peoples of the region such as “poverty, empowerment, imperialism, democracy, human rights, religion, and the Latin American identity”.”
They led a movement which was anti-Romantic in that they fought back against the narcotic effects of individualist, self-absorbed, introspective music and instead they encouraged a turning outward, an openness and interest in society and their position in that society, a positive attitude towards how society could be changed for the better.

Jazz, Pop and Rock – ‘part of the entertainment industry’
Earlier in the twentieth century jazz had been a popular form of music among the oppressed but it to fell victim to commercialisation. As Tim Blanning says:

“From the time it emerged toward the end of the nineteenth century, jazz fit very well with the Romantic aesthetic,for it was nothing if not spontaneous, improvisatory and individual. Its African-American origins also made it the potential ally of liberation movements. During much of the twentieth century, however, for all of jazz’s ability to express the suffering and aspirations of an oppressed community, the genre was very much part of the entertainment industry.” [7]
However, by the 1970s commercialised pop music had regained the upper hand again, starting in the late 1960s as the Beatles opened up the way for some of the most self indulgent, narcotic music ever composed, often described as ‘progressive’ rock.

During the early 1960s the Beatles continued a rock and roll lively, dancing style developed by singers like Bill Haley and Elvis Presley. However, by the late 1960s, under the influence of the burgeoning drug culture, the tone changed and Romanticism gained the upper hand. Their music became “a music of introspective self-absorption, a medium fit for communicating autobiographical intimacies, political discontents, spiritual elevation, inviting an audience, not to dance, but to listen-quietly, attentively, thoughtfully’.” [8]

While the Vietnam war was the basis of many radical outpourings during the late 1960s and had even influenced the pop music industry charts, by the 1970s the entertainment industry had recovered to produce some of the most ‘tune in and drop out’ music ever produced by prog rock bands such as Pink Floyd, Genesis, Led Zeppelin etc. During the 1970s, artists like David Bowie and Eric Clapton overreached, when Bowie gave a ‘Nazi salute’ in London and  Clapton stated that Britain was becoming a ‘black colony’ at a concert in Birmingham, both in 1976.
Indeed, in relation to Clapton, Blanning argues:
“Arguably the greatest living master of the electric guitar, Clapton personified the Romantic aesthetic: ‘The classic Clapton pose-back to the crowd, head bowed over his instrument, alone with the agony of the blues-suggests a supplicant communing with something inward: a muse or a demon … his entire career can be seen as a search for a form in which he could express the staple blues emotions-fear, loneliness, anger and humour- in a personally valid way’.” [9]
Fear, loneliness and anger became mainstays of Romanticism in the pop music of the 1970s and 1980s music with Punk (‘anger is an energy’), Morrissey (‘the pope of mope’) and U2 (‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’), not to mention the New Romantics and Heavy Metal. In more recent years, U2’s albums Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience directly reference William Blake’s illustrated collection of poems of the same name. Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker who is considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. Blake held visionary religious beliefs and opposed the Newtonian view of the universe. [10]

Blake’s Newton (1795) demonstrates his opposition to the “single-vision” of scientific materialism: Newton fixes his eye on a compass (recalling Proverbs 8:27, an important passage for Milton) to write upon a scroll that seems to project from his own head.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – ‘Classicism is health, romanticism is sickness’
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832), the German writer famous for the novel The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) is considered to have been one of the originators of the Romantic movement but in later life he described Romanticism as a ‘disease’. [11] The effect of the Romantic ‘disease’ on music has been to turn it inward and and convert its listeners into modern lotus eaters. In The Odyssey, Book IX, Odysseus is blown off course but reaches a land inhabited by people who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. He sends a few men to investigate but upon tasting the lotus they fall into a peaceful apathy and lose interest in going home until Odysseus drags them out and leaves at once. Similarly much modern music has a narcotic effect on mass audiences who are overwhelmed by emotion while at the same time attain personal catharsis. [12]

Mendelssohn plays to Goethe, 1830: painting by Moritz Oppenheim, 1864

The current geopolitical crises involving Venezuela, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Palestine and China are in need of mass political campaigns to bring about awareness and pressure against the drumbeats of a third world war. Building collectivist movements with a radical collectivist culture and moving away from the individualism and irrationalism of Romantic culture of the nineteenth and twentieth century is a necessary step towards real political change. Music, of all the arts, can be a powerful force in the creation of a collective consciousness. Composers of music and song highlighting the various issues affecting people today are necessary. Therefore, examining the issues around the form and content of music in society is an urgent requirement if music is to have an important cultural role in the future.
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[1] The Enlightenment: And Why it Still Matters by Anthony Pagden (Oxford Uni Press, 2015) p72/3
[2] Revolutionary Romanticism: A Drunken Boat Anthology by Max Blechman (City Lights Books, 1999) p5
[3] Hanns Eisler Vokalsinfonik – Vocal Symphonic Music Berlin Classics CD, Sleeve notes p24
[4] Hanns Eisler Political Musician by Albrecht Betz [Trans Bill Hopkins] (Cambridge Uni Press: Cambridge, 1982) p235/7
[5] Hanns Eisler: A Rebel in Music: Selected Writings by Hanns Eisler (Author), M. Grabs (Editor) (Kahn and Averill, London, 1999) p143
[6] Hanns Eisler Political Musician by Albrecht Betz [Trans Bill Hopkins] (Cambridge Uni Press: Cambridge, 1982) p92
[7] The Triumph of Music: Composers, Musicians and Their Audiences, 1700 to the Present by Tim Blanning (Penguin Modern Classics, 2008) p114
[8] The Triumph of Music: Composers, Musicians and Their Audiences, 1700 to the Present by Tim Blanning (Penguin Modern Classics, 2008) p121
[9] The Triumph of Music: Composers, Musicians and Their Audiences, 1700 to the Present by Tim Blanning (Penguin Modern Classics, 2008) p118/9
[10] The Romantic Rebellion: Romantic Versus Classic Art Illustrated by Sir Kenneth Clark (John Murray Pub., 1973) p167
[11] The Roots of Romanticism by Isaiah Berlin (Princeton Uni Press, 1999) p130
[12] Homer The Odyssey (Penguin Classics, 1988) p141

All images in this article are from Wikimedia 

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is an Irish artist, lecturer and writer. His artwork consists of paintings based on contemporary geopolitical themes as well as Irish history and cityscapes of Dublin. He is an Irish speaker and holds a PhD in Language and Politics (Dublin City University) which is  published under the title Language from Below: The Irish Language, Ideology and Power in 20th-Century Ireland. His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country hereHe is a Research Associate and Culture and the Arts Correspondent of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal, Canada.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

From Enlightenment to “Enfrightenment”: Romanticism as a Tool for Elite Agendas


Romanticism is an eighteenth century artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement which emerged as a reaction to Enlightenment ideas of science, reason and human progress. Its effect on politics has been to reassert conservative ideas about society based on hierarchy and individualism as the Romantics looked back to medieval times and monarchism for inspiration. Enlightenment ideas focused on the laws as a counter to monarchical privilege and looked to concepts of citizenship and republicanism as the way forward, ideas which were taken up by workers movements the world over. However, Romantic ideas of the exclusivist nation are coming to the fore again in a world altered by the positive and negative effects of international worker mobility, immigration and desperate refugees.

The Enlightenment and politics – ‘You were, crucially, a citizen, not a subject’
In the early 18c in Europe the power of the monarchical system began to wane and enlightenment ideas about the running and ruling of society began to take hold. Those ideas focused on the idea of the ‘patrie’. Like many enlightenment ideas, patria was a word derived from pater [father] from ancient Rome and would later be equated with republicanism. Louis chevalier de Jancourt (the biographer of Leibniz) wrote in the the Encyclopédie that patrie “represents a father and children, and consequently that it expresses the meaning we attach to that of family, of society, of a free state, of which we are members, and whose laws assure our liberties and our well-being.” [1] This new emphasis was based on equality of all before the law rather than on the narrow definitions of ethnicity used in definitions of the nation.

In the pre-modern polity, society was made up of separate feudal sovereignties that were at the same time local power centres. Different ethnic groups lived in insular, heterogeneous communities with local and agrarian independent economies. The economy developed as kingdoms expanded into other ethnic areas. The transition from ethnicity to nationhood happened when the members of different ethnic groups developed a common culture making them into a ‘nation’.
However as Anthony Pagden writes:
“Unlike the nation, the patria was a community, a group. You owed it your love and your life, but you were also a part of it. You were, crucially, a citizen, not a subject.” [2]

Image on the right: Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (1689–1755), generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French judge, man of letters, and political philosopher.

The patria was loosely connected to the concept of a republican government where the citizen, as Montesquieu wrote, would be asked to love the laws and the homeland (patrie) and that this love would require “continuing preference of the public interest over one’s own.” [3]
These ideas about the patrie have “come to be called modern civic patriotism. It was benign, generous, outward-looking, and in principle at least excluded no one”. [4] They can be seen as universal in that they described a form of politics, republicanism, that was not concerned with language, religion or ethnicity but with the idea that all were citizens and equal before the law.
Equality before the law is the principle that each person must be treated equally by the law (principle of isonomy) and that all are subject to the same laws of justice (due process). This principle arose out of the discontent that prevailed under monarchical rule whereby the king or queen was above the law, so that equality guaranteed that no one or group of individuals could be privileged or discriminated against by the rulers.
This principle was enshrined in Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states that:
“All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”.

Photograph of the Great Chartist Meeting on Kennington Common, London in 1848

Equality before the law is a basic principle of legal documents like the Irish Constitution, for example:
“All citizens shall be held equal before the law (Article 40 of the Constitution). This means that the State cannot unjustly, unreasonably or arbitrarily discriminate between citizens. You cannot be treated as inferior or superior to any other person in society simply because of your human attributes or your ethnic, racial, social or religious background.”
The universal aspect of such principles is an important aspect in that universalism accepts universal principles of most religions and is inclusive of others regardless of other persons ethnic, religious or racial background.
As an approach to ethnic difference in society, universalism is similar to instrumentalist approaches which accepts a minimal set of qualifications for membership of a community, unlike the primordialism of conservative nationalism which tries to fix exclusivist kinship, historical traditions and homeland of the ‘nation’.

The Romantic reaction – ‘from patriotism to tribalism’
It was in Germany that nationalism came to emphasise the ethnic basis of the nation with the ancient origins of the German language symbolising the German Volk stretching back into pre-history. In his essay On the Origin of Language [1772], Johann Herder argued for the national origin of language. He wrote,
“[i]t [the urge to express] is alive in all unpolished languages, though, to be sure, according to the degree of each nation’s culture and the specific character of its way of thinking.” [5]

La République universelle démocratique et sociale, painted by Frédéric Sorrieu in 1848. Top left: Le Pacte, Top right: Le Prologue, Bottom left: Le Triomphe, Bottom right: Le Marché. He was notable for his works testifying the liberal and nationalist revolutions in France and in Europe.

Herder’s influence could be seen in the widespread cultural and linguistic movements that swept Europe from the 1780s to the 1840s. Influenced by the Romantic Movement, the cultural nationalists emphasised the volksgeist of the peasantry as the true basis of the nation. Language became the target and the site for conflicting political ideologies as definitions of the nation were formed on ethno-linguistic grounds.

However, the early nineteenth century also saw the rise of workers movements such as the Saint-Simonians and Fourierists in France and the Chartists and Owenites in the United Kingdom. The industrial revolution had caused a profound change in the social and economic make up of society internally which resulted in the creation of self-conscious classes and heightened class antagonism.
Thus the workers movements took Enlightenment ideas of equality to their logical conclusion in the form of class struggle and social revolution while the Romantics looked to the peasantry for their ideal, reasserting the primacy of the older vertical structure of society (containing all classes).
The rise of nationalism saw the growth of exceptionalism as ethnic exclusivity became the norm. Under the influence of Romanticism and ideas of ethnic purity, and in parallel with the rise of the centralised nation state, the ethnic homogenisation of the populace meant the (near) destruction of indigenous local languages and local foreign language communities.

For example, there existed in France about thirty patois or popular Romance languages. In A Cultural History of the French Revolution, Emmet Kennedy describes a report to the Convention on 16 prairial Year II (4 June 1794) where the abbé Grégoire lists the extensive range of patois, dialects and languages in France as “Bas-Breton, Bourguinon, Bressan, Lyonnais, Dauphinois, Auvergnat, Poitevin, Limousin, Picard, Provençal, Languedocien, Velayen, Catalan, Béarnais, Basque, Rouergat, and Gascon.” According to Kennedy, “[o]nly about a sixth (fifteen) of the departments around Paris spoke French exclusively. Elsewhere bilingualism was common.” [6]
Yet, in another report to the Convention in 1794, Barère links the areas where “foreign” languages are to be found, such as Basque, German, Flamand and Breton, with the areas of insurrection and counterrevolution. Barère writes,
“[f]ederalism and superstition speak Bas-Breton; emigration and hatred of the Republic speak German; counterrevolution speaks Italian, and fanaticism speaks Basque. Let us break these harmful instruments of terror.” [7]
In post-revolutionary France linguistic redefinition took on serious political overtones as the question of self/other was redrawn along linguistic lines. Already the interests of the state were taking precedence over the rhetoric of the democratic nation.

Image on the left: Nur für Deutsche (Eng. “Only for Germans”) on the tram number 8 in occupied Kraków

Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762 – 1814) took exceptionalist and chauvinist ideas of the nation even further. He wrote:
“the German, if only he makes use of all his advantages, can always be superior to the foreigner and understand him fully, even better than the foreigner understands himself, and can translate the foreigner to the fullest extent. On the other hand, the foreigner can never understand the true German without a thorough and extremely laborious study of the German language, and there is no doubt that he will leave what is genuinely German untranslated.” [8]
Fichte, like Herder, shifted cultural value from the elites to the common people (volk). According to Tim Blanning in The Romantic Revolution:
“Folk art, folk dancing and folk songs were not to be despised for their roughness but treasured for their authenticity. They were the ‘archives of a nationality’, the ‘ national soul’ and ‘the living voice of the nationalities, even of humanity itself’.” [9]
The Romantics promoted popular ballads which had been seen as “the dregs of fairy-tales, superstitions, songs, and crude speech”. [10] Of particular note was the Ossian cycle of epic poems published by the Scottish poet James Macpherson from 1760. The work was an international success and was translated into all the literary languages of Europe. Even though Ossian was soon realised to be a creation of its author and not from ancient sources it was highly influential both in the development of the Romantic movement and the Gaelic revival.
As in other forms of culture the Romantics emphasised all that was backward-looking and medieval in opposition to Enlightenment figures who had tried to create a new culture based on reason and science. Moreover, Romantic folk culture was very different from working class culture which developed during the Industrial Revolution. With the influence of socialist ideas and movements over the following decades, working class authors and poets produced many fine poems, ballads and novels about the struggles of ordinary people.
It is interesting to note that in the late seventeenth century and the early eighteenth century, the cultural elites of Europe were more interested in French than their own languages and went on the Grand Tour of Europe to broaden their horizons and learn about language, architecture, geography, and culture.
Also, it is ironic that the  the thrill of romanticism often came from the safety of modernity (in the form of enlightenment science) as the development of steamboats and railway systems allowed the new middle classes to experience the sublime in the beauty of dramatic landscapes like the Alps.

Nationalism – ‘countering the worst excesses of neoliberalism’
The influence of Romanticism on politics shifted revolutionary thinking from burgeoning socialist movements to nationalism instead. Nationalism is the perfect class conciliatory ideology in that it retained the full social order/hierarchy (i.e. it includes the elites) and homogenised the people by excluding other national languages and foreign communities while putting the elites into positions of leadership and control.
Using divide and rule tactics and stirring up xenophobic attitudes and fears, the elites ran the new homogenised nations and used them for their old purposes: war. Modern global power struggles of the twentieth century started with nation set against nation in the First World War.

A postcard from 1916 showing national personifications of some of the Allies of World War I, each holding a national flag

Throughout the twentieth century the rise of globalism and neoliberalism led to a breakdown in nationalist ideology as the world became more and more economically interconnected leading some to believe that we had moved on to an era of postnationalism. However, postnationalism is an internationalistic processs whereby power is partially transferred from national authorities to supernational entities like the European Union. Power is transferred from local elites to the super elite of the European Commission.
However, nationalist sentiments are still used to allow elites to consolidate power and new nationalist movements have risen in many parts of the world as people turn to local elites to try and counter the worst excesses of neoliberalism. This has led to Hindu nationalism in India, Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and “America First” campaigns, the United Kingdom’s Brexit, anti-immigration rhetoric in Hungary, Germany’s Pegida, France’s National Front, and the UK Independence Party.

Douaumont French military cemetery seen from Douaumont ossuary, which contains remains of French and German soldiers who died during the Battle of Verdun in 1916

Romanticist sentiments are still used and manipulated to keep the masses on board with the agendas of the elites thereby diverting people away from questioning the social and political systems under which they live and work. As the global economic and financial crises deepen there is the worrying possibility that more and more people will be dragged into the national and international power struggles of elites rather than examining and fighting for their own social, economic and political interests, i.e. a revival of political and social consciousness.

[1] The Enlightenment: And Why it Still Matters by Anthony Pagden (Oxford Uni Press, 2015)  p259
[2] The Enlightenment: And Why it Still Matters by Anthony Pagden (Oxford Uni Press, 2015)  p259
[3] The Enlightenment: And Why it Still Matters by Anthony Pagden (Oxford Uni Press, 2015)  p260
[4] The Enlightenment: And Why it Still Matters by Anthony Pagden (Oxford Uni Press, 2015)  p261
[5] On the Origin of Language: Two Essays by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Johann Gottfried Herder (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986) p149.
[6]  A Cultural History of the French Revolution by  Emmet Kennedy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989) 325-6. See also Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914 by  Eugen Weber (London, Chatto & Windus, 1979) p326
[7]  A Cultural History of the French Revolution by  Emmet Kennedy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989) 325-6. See also Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914 by  Eugen Weber (London, Chatto & Windus, 1979) p326
[8] Addresses to the German Nation [1808] by Johann Gottlieb Fichte, trans. R.F. Jones and G.H. Turnbull (Chicago and London: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1922) p130
[9] The Romantic Revolution by Tim Blanning (Phoenix, Great Britain, 2010) p119
[10] The Romantic Revolution by Tim Blanning (Phoenix, Great Britain, 2010) p120
All images in this article are from Wikimedia Commons

 Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is an Irish artist, lecturer and writer. His artwork consists of paintings based on contemporary geopolitical themes as well as Irish history and cityscapes of Dublin. His blog of critical writing based on cinema, art and politics along with research on a database of Realist and Social Realist art from around the world can be viewed country by country here. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Catholic Church and the Constitution

The political aspect of the 1937 Bunreacht na hÉireann or Constitution of Ireland is usually avoided in analytical writings on the constitution and emphasis tends to be on the social teaching of the church. This essay sets out to explore the language used in the 1937 Constitution to demonstrate the fundamentally political nature of the underlying philosophy of the Constitution.

While the 1937 Bunreacht na hÉireann recognised the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, the Society of Friends, the Jewish congregations and other religious congregations,[1] Article 44, 1. 2° declared that the state “recognises the special position of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church as the Guardian of the faith professed by the great majority of the citizens”.[2] The “special position” of the church was evidenced by the predominantly Catholic influence and teachings on moral issues such as divorce, contraception and abortion influenced by the Rerum Novarum and the updated Quadragesimo Anno.

[On 5 January, 1973, the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1972 removed from the Constitution the special position of the Catholic Church and the recognition of other named religious denominations.]

The Church’s more active position on sexual morality contrasted with its lack of concern for families affected by emigration, mental disease, terrible family living conditions and “a demoralised working class, urban as well as rural.” As Lee points out:

"Few voices were raised in protest. The clergy, strong farmers in cassocks, largely voiced the concern of their most influential constituents, whose values they instinctively shared and universalised as “Christian”. The sanctity of property, the unflinching materialism of farmer calculations, the defence of professional status, depended on continuing high emigration and high celibacy. The church did not invent these values. But it did baptise them.”[3]

Catholic ideas on social movements and private property had originated in the Rerum Novarum (The Condition of Labour), an encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 and were eventually to influence the content of the new constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann, published in 1937. According to J. H. Whyte in Church and State in Modern Ireland 1923-1979, the Rerum Novarum was “a cautious document” but ruled out “some extreme courses”.[4] It asserted man’s right to private property in opposition to socialism while, at the same time, asserting the right of the state to intervene in the worst excesses of individualism such as exploitative working conditions. The statements regarding private property were defined along Lockean lines.

In the Rerum Novarum it is claimed that “when man thus spends the industry of his mind and the strength of his body in procuring the fruits of nature, by that act he makes his own that portion of nature’s field which he cultivates ... it cannot but be just that he should posses that portion as his own, and should have a right to keep it without molestation.”[5]

The influence of Locke’s defence of bourgeois property in the Second Treatise of Government (c.1680) can be observed in the similar arguments he put forward on private property: “Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature had provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.”[6] These ideas can be seen in Article 43, 1. 1° of the Constitution which states: “The State acknowledges that man, in virtue of his rational being, has the natural right, antecedent to positive law, to the private ownership of external goods.”[7] However, the encyclical, Rerum Novarum, was written about 210 years after Locke’s Treatises and did not reflect the profound changes in society caused by the industrial revolution. As Russell notes:

"The principle that a man has a right to the produce of his own labour is useless in an industrial civilisation. Suppose you are employed in one operation in the manufacture of Ford cars, how is anyone to estimate what proportion of the total output is due to your labour? ... Such considerations have led those who wish to prevent the exploitation of labour to abandon the principle of the right to your own produce in favour of more socialistic methods of organizing production and distribution."[8]

Yet, the Rerum Novarum states that “... it is clear that the main tenet of Socialism, the community of goods, must be utterly rejected” on the basis that, inter alia, “it would be contrary to the natural rights of mankind”.[9] Bunreacht na hÉireann (1937) Article 43, 1. 2° states: “The State accordingly guarantees to pass no law attempting to abolish the right of private ownership or the general right to transfer, bequeath, and inherit property.”[10]

Pope Leo XIII states that “God has granted the earth to mankind in general”[11] and Locke similarly claims that “... God, as King David says (Psalms 115:16) ‘has given the earth to the children of men’, given it to mankind in common.”[12] The contradiction implied in holding up the right to private property while claiming that the earth had been given to “mankind in common” left the Church open to criticism and which Pius XI endeavoured to deal with in the Quadragesimo Anno (Reconstructing the Social Order) published in May 1931. The main purpose of the Quadragesimo Anno was to update the ideas contained in the Rerum Novarum. In regard to private property, Lyons comments that “the over-riding concern was not to balance nineteenth century individualism against twentieth century collectivism, but rather to accord closely with Catholic teaching on the subject at that period.”[13]

Pius XI writes: “there are some who falsely and unjustly accuse the Supreme Pontiff and the Church as upholding both then and now, the wealthier classes against the proletariat”.[14] The product of surplus labour regarded by Marx as “wealth” and the capitalist as “profit” is described by Pius XI as “superfluous income” i.e. “that portion of his income which he does not need in order to live as becomes his station” and its use for “the grave obligations of charity” is insisted upon by the “Holy Scripture and the Fathers of the Church.”[15] Pius XI opposes the principle “that all products and profits ... belong by every right to the working man” and advocates in its place a “just wage” or a partnership of workers and executives.[16]

Bunreacht na hÉireann (1937) Article 45, 3. 2° states: “The State shall endeavour to secure that private enterprise shall be so conducted as to ensure reasonable efficiency in the production and distribution of goods and as to protect the public against unjust exploitation.”[17] A wage should be sufficient for the workingman to be able to support himself and his family as “[m]others should especially devote their energies to the home and the things connected with it.”[18] Bunreacht na hÉireann (1937) Article 41, 2. 1° states: “In particular, the State recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.” Article 41, 2. 2° states: “The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

The Pope advocates a “reconstruction of the social order”. It was the duty of the State “to get rid of conflict between “classes” with divergent interests, and to foster and promote harmony between the various “ranks” or groupings of society.”[19] Bunreacht na hÉireann (1937) Article 45, 2. ii. states: “That the ownership and control of the material resources of the community may be so distributed amongst private individuals and the various classes as best to subserve the common good.”[20] The Quadragesimo Anno document proposed, as an alternative to class conflict, “that the members of each industry or profession be organised in “vocational groups” or “corporations”, in which employers and workers would collaborate to further their common interests.”[21] The encyclical tried to find a middle ground between the vagaries of laissez faire capitalism on the one hand and the spread of socialist ideology on the other.

In 1933 Cumann na nGaedheal joined with the Blueshirts and the new Centre Party (formed out of the old Farmers” Party) to form the United Ireland party or Fine Gael with O’Duffy as leader and Cosgrave as parliamentary leader.[22] Of the three main political parties Fine Gael was the first to take on board the vocational ideology of the Quadragesimo Anno. Whyte notes that the main exponents of vocationalist ideology were two academics, Professor Michael Tierney of UCD and Professor James Hogan of UCC and General O’Duffy. While the establishment of agricultural and industrial corporations was written into Fine Gael’s programme, interest in the idea waned. After O’Duffy’s resignation in 1934 Fine Gael’s parliamentary opposition moved away from a state corporate order, even in the economic sphere.[23]

The Fianna Fáil government established a commission in 1939 to examine the “practicability of developing functional or vocational organisation” in Ireland under the chairmanship of Dr Browne, the Bishop of Galway. Even the Labour Party came under pressure of the Church’s social teaching as fundamental tenets of socialist ideology, such as the concept of a “Workers’ Republic” and public ownership, came under attack. In an amended constitution of 1940 the phrase “Workers’ Republic” was substituted with “a Republican form of government”, and the assertion regarding public ownership was rephrased as follows: “The Labour Party believes in a system of government which, while recognising the rights of private property, shall ensure that, where the common good requires, essential industries and services shall be brought under public ownership with democratic control.”[24] Thus, the Catholic Church became the catalyst for the homogenisation of mainstream Irish political ideology.

In December 1930 Pius XI published the Casti Connubii (Christian Marriage), a document also containing many of the ideas and principles later to be seen in the Irish Constitution. Issues such as birth control, abortion and divorce are dealt with in no uncertain terms. In a section on birth control, Pius XI asserts that:

“... consideration is due to the offspring, which many have the boldness to call the disagreeable burden of matrimony and which they say is to be carefully avoided by married people not through virtuous continence ... but by frustrating the marriage act. Some justify this criminal abuse on the ground that they are weary of children and wish to gratify their desires without their consequent burden.”[25]

In dealing with the abortion issue Pius XI appeals directly to the lawmakers of the land with threats of vengeance on those who ignore the Church’s teaching: “If the public magistrates not only do not defend them, but by their laws and by their ordinances betray them to death at the hands of doctors or of others, let them remember that God is the Judge and Avenger of innocent blood which cries from earth to heaven.”[26]

[On 7 October, 1983, the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1983 acknowledged the right to life of the unborn, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother]

[On 18 September, 2018, the Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Act 2018 provided for the regulation of termination of pregnancy]

Divorce is denounced as one of the evils of “Communism”. Pius XI writes: “what an amount of good is involved in the absolute indissolubility of wedlock and what a train of evils follows upon divorce”[27]. Divorce is yet another example of “the unheard of degradation of the family in those lands where Communism reigns unchecked.”[28] Bunreacht na hÉireann (1937) Article 41, 3. 2° states: “No law shall be enacted providing for the grant of a dissolution of marriage.”[29]

[On 17 June, 1996, the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution Act, 1995 provided for the dissolution of marriage in certain specified circumstances.]

The political aspect of the Church’s thinking culminated with the Divini Redemptoris (Atheistic Communism) published on the nineteenth of March 1937, three months before Bunreacht na hÉireann was “enacted by the People”[30] on the 1st of July. The introduction describes the history of “Previous Condemnations” of “Communism” as early as 1846 when Pius IX described it as “absolutely contrary to the natural law itself” in Syllabus. The role of the Church is described as a “special” mission to defend truth and justice (the word “special” also describes the position of the Catholic Church in Ireland in the Constitution).[31] The Encyclical endeavours to explain communist theory and practice as essentially a “false messianic idea” and a “pseudo-ideal of justice and equality” which traps the multitudes with a “deceptive mysticism” and rejects, as a basic principle, “any link that binds woman to the family and the home”.[32]

The spread of Communism is attributed to the “real abuses chargeable to the liberalistic economic order” which has left workmen in “religious and moral destitution”.[33] In contrast, the Church restates the socio-economic ideas of the Quadragesimo Anno and calls on the parish priests to win “back the laboring masses”.[34] This was to be achieved through “the militant leaders of Catholic Action” whose object was “to spread the Kingdom of Jesus Christ” (e.g. An Rioghacht in Ireland) and would be trained through study circles, conferences and lecture courses before taking “direct action in the field”.[35] In the penultimate section of the encyclical entitled “Duties of the Christian State” the Church calls on States to recognise “the authority of the Divine Majesty”[36] (Article 44, 1, 1° of the Constitution asserts that: “The State acknowledges the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God.”) and insists that the State allows the Church full liberty to fulfil her divine and spiritual mission”.[37]

While it may be argued that the 1937 Constitution merely reflected the views and aspirations of a predominantly Catholic population or even, as Lyons contends, helped de Valera “steer between the Scylla of republicanism and the Charybdis of dominionism”,[38] however, the “invisible hand” of the Church steered state ideology into the safer waters of a Pax Hibernia for some decades to come.

[1] Bunreacht na hÉireann [1937] (BÁC: Foilseachán Rialtas, n.d.) 144. Article 44, 1. 3° states: “The State also recognises the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland, as well as the Jewish Congregations and the other religious denominations existing in Ireland at the date of the coming into operation of this Constitution.”
[2] Bunreacht 144.
[3] Joseph Lee, Ireland 1912-1985 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) 159.
[4] J. H. Whyte, Church and State in Modern Ireland 1923-1979. 2nd ed. (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan Ltd., 1980) 63.
[5] William J. Gibbons, Seven Great Encyclicals (New York: Paulist Press, 1963) 4.
[6] John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (London: J. M. Dent, 1993) 128.
[7] Bunreacht 142.
[8] Bertrand Russell,  A History of Western Philosophy (London: Counterpoint, 1984) 612-3.
[9] Gibbons 7.
[10] Bunreacht 142.
[11] Gibbons 4.
[12] Locke 127.
[13] F.S.L.Lyons, Ireland Since the Famine (Great Britain: Fontana, 1974) 546.
[14] Gibbons 136-7.
[15] Gibbons 139.
[16] Gibbons 144.
[17] Bunreacht 150.
[18] Gibbons 145.
[19] Gibbons 148.
[20] Bunreacht 148.
[21] Whyte 67.
[22] Lee 179.
[23] Whyte 80-1. See also Lyons 528.
[24] Whyte 83-4. See also Lyons 525.
[25] Gibbons 92.
[26] Gibbons 96.
[27] Gibbons 104.
[28] Gibbons 105.
[29] Bunreacht 138.
[30] Bunreacht, iii.
[31] Gibbons 178.
[32] Gibbons 180-1.
[33] Gibbons 182-3.
[34] Gibbons 200.
[35] Gibbons 201.
[36] Gibbons 204.
[37] Gibbons 205.
[38] Lyons 521.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Notes on Using Your Name in Gaelic

In Ireland using your name in Gaelic produces discussion and even difficulties of pronunciation despite the fact that Gaelic is compulsory in Irish schools, both primary and secondary levels. One reason is that Gaelic spelling was modernised in the 1940s and 1950s. As an example, I like to say that Gaelic now has a more modern spelling than English, as the many extra consonants in Gaelic were reduced by using an accent. For example, ‘oidhche’ (night) was changed to ‘oíche’ (unlike in English where the extra consonants were not changed from ‘night’ to ‘nite’ as the Americans use).
In my surname ‘croidhe’ was changed to ‘croí’ but like in many Gaelic surnames the old spelling is retained. So Croidheáin is believed to be ‘croidhe’ (heart) and ‘áin’ (noble), (noble heart) and is a word still used in Donegal Gaelic-speaking areas for a gallant or a suitor. It is pronounced ‘kree-an’. In other words, like in ‘night’ most consonants are not pronounced or at least have a different sound to English. For example ‘mh’ is pronounced with a ‘v’ sound so you get ‘caoimh’ pronounced ‘keev’. Caoimhghin is ‘caoimh’ (fair/gentle) and g(h)in is ‘birth’ similar to the Greek ‘gen’ (birth) and pronounced in Gaelic as ‘keeveen’. I have seen on an old map from the 1800s a church rendered ‘Kilkeevin’ (Church of St Kevin, Co. Roscommon) showing that the phonetical link between caoimhghin and kevin was retained until it lost an ‘e’ and became kevin.
My father was Kevin Cryan (like me) but Gaelic speakers in Ireland use their names in Gaelic unlike most of the population who have Gaelic names (and learned Gaelic in school) but speak in English (like my father). The phonetical spelling of Irish names and places was carried out by an English colonial administration who spoke no Gaelic and wrote down what they heard. As a result, for example, with my surname I have found three phonetical variations (Crean, Cryan and Crehan depending on local accents) and over 40 different spellings.
Ireland is a mainly Anglophone population today and with Brexit will become (ironically) the only English native-speaking population in the EU. There are Anglo-Saxon elements alright in Ireland but like Scotland, Wales and Cornwall (all Celtic areas) were invaded by the Normans and Anglo-Saxons.
Gaelic is one of two official languages and legally Gaelic takes precedence over English which means I can use the original Gaelic version of my name (even on my passport) without having to legally change it. For those who come to Ireland to learn English, be warned – Irish people speak Hiberno-English which means that our English retains some words, syntax and expressions from the Gaelic language. For those interested in this see How the Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads by Daniel Cassidy which may be a bit over the top but not fully contradicted either. There are even dictionaries of Hiberno-English.
The struggle to make Gaelic the common language in Ireland is still ongoing, and, indeed I have Irish Gaelic-speaking friends who refuse to speak to me in English. As a minority language Gaelic is not in a bad shape with Gaelic-medium schools, television, radio, press, websites and even Google translate.
The word Irish is generally used in Ireland for the Gaelic language to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, its linguistic sister (“Scotland” comes from Scotti, the Latin name for the Gaels).