Monthly Archives: June 2012

Éamon de Valera: Zombie Hunter

Another summer has arrived in Hollywood, and with it another slew of preposterous blockbusters aiming to make millions from the slack-jawed, gormless dribblers that pass for young people these days. As everyone now knows, a shady cabal of movie producers has been secretly building a giant particle accelerator under the Hollywood hills over the past few years. Only instead of using boring things like electrons and atoms, the boffins enter variables such as historical figures, supernatural creatures, absurd plot lines, and other such elements of successful films. Nine times out of ten the machine just churns out 3D remakes of ‘80s films with less dialogue and more explosions, toplessness, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Every now and then, however, it produces an inspired, original idea, such as has happened with the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The alternate historical angle is always ripe for entertainment, and coincidentally, this week in Ireland has seen the discovery of a secret journal kept by former Irish President, Taoiseach and very tall citizen, Éamon de Valera. It provides a fascinating insight into a hitherto unknown series of events that took place during the War of Independence. The following are some extracts from that journal.

December 16th, 1920, New York:

I have been over here for eighteen months now, and the effort of raising funds for our revolution back home is taking its toll. I’m feeling particularly dispirited after meeting with the American Secretary of State today, who advised me that there were probably better ways to earn money than performing an Irish dancing set outside the gates of the White House. Now he tells me.

My depression was not helped when I received a letter this morning from my Minister for Finance, Michael Collins, urging me to come home at once. It appears the British have sent a formidable force of soldiers to our shores to crush our rebellion once and for all. I have decided to set sail for Ireland at once, and I must admit to being concerned and puzzled by Michael’s description of this new squad of troops as ‘a bunch of unkillable, decaying feckers. They’re pure weird Dev.’ He even took a whole three pages to recount a rather crude anecdote about one of the British force feasting on poor Arthur Griffith’s brains. I depart tomorrow at dawn, with a troubled heart, a grave fear for my beloved country, and very sore feet.

January 14th, 1921, Dublin:

I have only been home for two weeks, and the situation here grows worse by the day. The British invasion has swept across the city, and ordinary Irish people seem to be joining their ranks for some inexplicable reason. The soldiers wander the streets night and day, groaning and muttering, occasionally shouting things like ‘God save King George’, or ‘It’s so temperate here compared to Calcutta’, although mostly they seem to talk about their penchant for brains. Their eyes are a deep crimson, and have the same glazed, empty appearance that seems to come over my colleagues whenever I speak in the Dáil. The pallor of their skin and their general sluggishness suggests that they are suffering from some ailment or other, perhaps Spanish flu, or possibly Protestantism.

Only myself, Michael, and a small band of men have so far escaped their advances, and we have taken refuge in St. James’s Gate brewery. Although its high walls offer us adequate protection, I fear we may be undone by the nightly seven-hour singsongs the men indulge in after sampling the massive quantities of Guinness, which are sure to attract attention sooner or later.

One among our group is a young man by the name of John Charles, who is studying to become a priest. He says he dreams of one day becoming a bishop, and even carries a giant crosier around with him. I have become particularly close with him since he saved my life just last week. I was on patrol when a young woman, clearly afflicted with the disease, attacked me from behind, shouting something about cockles, mussels, and brains.

As if from thin air, JC appeared, and smashed the poor girl’s head to smithereens with his crosier, all the while screaming ‘God wills it!’

‘Holy first communion Dev, that was a close one.’

‘I don’t know how to thank you JC, you saved me from being transformed into one of these beasts.’

‘To be honest Dev, I didn’t even notice she was one of them, it’s just that short skirt she’s wearing is so inappropriate to be out and about in.’

We walked away arm in arm, each of us content that whatever happened in this crazy war, at least we would have each other.

February 20th, 1921, Dublin:

These past few weeks we have lost many men to the enemy forces, and now only myself and JC remain. It was just yesterday that Michael met his gruesome end. The undead horde had breached the outer walls, and we were fleeing for our lives. With the brain-hungry masses descending on us in their hundreds, Michael turned back suddenly.

‘You go on ahead lads, I’ll hold them here.’

‘No Michael, you’ll never survive.’

With his hurl in his hand and that mad glint in his eye, he ignored our pleas as he sprinted into the frenzied crowd, pucking the heads off the vicious creatures left, right and centre.

‘Holy papal bulls Dev, that’s a brave man.’

‘The bravest,’ I whispered softly, wiping a tear from my cheek as we turned and ran for our lives. Amidst the horrific shrieking of the infected as they closed in on our fearless companion, I could have sworn I heard the proud, plaintive cry, ‘Up Cork!’ I am stricken with grief at his loss, and my only hope is that history will not judge me responsible for the death of my gallant comrade.

March 13th, 1921, Dublin:

Myself and JC have taken refuge in Trinity College these past few weeks after fighting our way across the city. In the college courtyard we were attacked by a group of infected scholars, who chanted bastardised Oscar Wilde quotes as they approached.

‘To love brains is the beginning of a life-long romance,’ moaned one of them, before JC sprang into action and quickly dispatched the erudite fiends.

‘Feckin’ Proddies,’ he muttered to himself as he cleaned the blood from his enormous bishop-stick. And from his crosier.

March 17th, 1921, Dublin:

Having barricaded ourselves into a room in the college, our enemies soon surrounded us, leaving us with no option but to stay here and wait for them to breach our defences. We had become resigned to our fate, and last night as we sat by the window overlooking the infested city streets, I sang a few bars of Come Out Ye Black and Tans, a rebel song that Michael had taught me, in an attempt to lift our spirits.

To our surprise the crowd outside instantly became agitated and began to drop to their knees, holding their heads and screeching wildly. As I continued to sing, one by one the zombies’ heads began to explode.

‘Holy First Vatican Council Dev, the feckers can’t hack the rebel tunes at all at all.’

I smiled wryly to myself as I surveyed the corpses below.

‘Let’s get a good night’s sleep JC, we’ve a big day ahead of us tomorrow.’

‘Fair enough Dev. You want to be big spoon or little spoon?’

And so it came to pass that today, on the day that we celebrate Saint Patrick driving the snakes from our shores, myself and JC set out to bring an end to the British invasion once and for all. We mounted one of the college’s speaker systems on an abandoned car in the courtyard, and crashed through the front gates onto the streets. From every direction came the hordes of enemies, loping towards the car with flesh-lust in their eyes. And then I began to sing.

We drove around the whole city, singing every rebel tune, lament and ballad we could think of, to a chorus of exploding heads and horrific screams from our vanquished foes. We ran out of fuel in front of the GPO, and in the spot where five short years ago we had proclaimed our independence, we finished off the remnants of the British forces with our bare hands.

As the sun was beginning to set, we stood there on the field of battle, breathless, exhausted, but victorious. I turned to my ally and friend,

‘You know something JC, this could be the start of a beautiful republic.’

He turned to me and smiled. ‘God wills it, Dev. God wills it.’ And with that we walked, hand in hand, down the street, towards our future. Towards hope, and freedom. Towards a better tomorrow.

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Patriot Claims

Starbucks Ireland found itself in hot, mediocre coffee-flavoured water this week when it mistakenly asked its Irish Twitter followers to ‘show us what makes you proud to be British’. The backlash from the proud people of Ireland was, of course, as prompt and severe as it was inane and littered with spelling mistakes. I am still undecided as to who deserves my respect less: the computer monkeys at Starbucks whose historical gaffe must almost have had O’Connell and Parnell climbing down from their plinths to go up round the corner and crack some heads; or the pathetic group of 2,000 or so self-styled baristocrats who took time out of admiring their MacBooks to follow the pointless tweets of an enormous faceless organisation that serves hot drinks.

This indignation is no surprise of course; we Irish tend to be quite sensitive about these matters, our nationalism usually displaying itself most vehemently when the subject of old Blighty is brought up. In recent times, in particular, a veritable maelstrom of patriotic fervour seems to have gripped our stricken country.

On the one hand we have the defensive, jingoistic wailing of our socialist contingent, lamenting the loss of our sovereignty, our free water, and our jobs for white people to the maniacal fat cats in Brussels. In marked contrast to this we have also seen a much more positive exhibition of our national pride in the euphoria surrounding the impending European Championship. Tacky plastic referendum posters and tacky plastic tricolour bunting have been jostling for our attention, each intent on whipping up a frenzy of patriotism for very different reasons, the only common element being that they both look shite.

Patriotism can be something of a nebulous concept, ranging from the nostalgic fondness of an emigrant for the auld sod, to a convenient label to excuse the ignorance and xenophobia of the ultra-nationalist. Oscar Wilde labelled patriotism ‘the virtue of the vicious’; Mark Twain regarded it as an illustration of moral cowardice. Although it seems that those two spent most of their time sitting around thinking up pithy witticisms and probably should have left the house a bit more often.

While there are certainly elements of truth to their aphorisms, perhaps the most salient description was offered by George Bernard Shaw, who called it the ‘conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it’. This summation captures both the simplicity and the illogical nature of the idea of patriotism.

In this country it is almost impossible to separate our supposed patriotism from a very childish, but deep-rooted anti-English sentiment. An immensely complicated relationship with our neighbours, which has been characterised for centuries by violence and bloodshed, has essentially been reduced to the ritual of celebrating whenever an English sports team loses. The less progressive among us, of course, still cling to a mountain of sectarian prejudice, as evidenced by the bile and invective spewed by many around the time of the Queen’s visit to our shores last year. Hatred and stupidity dressed up in a Celtic jersey does not equal patriotism, but it is unfortunately all too common a sight.

One major problem is that in the current strained economic and political climate, as has always happened throughout history, more reasonable and educated people are turning to the extremist fringes of the political spectrum. Anyone who has a functional cerebral cortex and has ever read a book, other than a pamphlet entitled ‘Methadone: The Easy Way Out’, should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for even considering voting for a party like Sinn Féin. It is when their exploitative, abhorrent republican propaganda begins to seep through to the minds of previously sensible people that you really start to think that evolution might actually be a bell curve, and that we are currently entering freefall from the apex of human civilisation marked by the discovery of nuclear fission, the moon landing, and the revelation that was Angry Birds.

Where flagrant, flag-waving patriotism is concerned, however, the Irish aren’t a patch on our star-spangled friends from across the pond. When it comes to national pride, and as it happens, most other things, the US is rather like that really loud, spoilt brat from your primary school class. He’s a classless, brazen little shit who has to be the best at everything and screams the house down if he doesn’t get what he wants. But you go to his birthday party anyway because you know there’ll be rice krispie cakes, and because his mam has huge cans.

The US is a case study in using the blind patriotism of its lower echelons to its advantage, particularly when it comes to supplying the fodder necessary to flex its military might. Naive, impressionable kids grow up taking the Pledge of Allegiance and being programmed in the ways of idolatry and worship of an intangible idea of America. The chimera of American freedom, under threat from the looming shadow of terrorism, is the product of one of the most successful propaganda machines in recent history, resulting in legions of young men and women who give their lives, and take plenty too, for something they can never hope to realise. This is the most profitable form of patriotism, and its proliferation is a sad indictment of the world we live in.

The sense of wanting to belong to a tribe is very much a human trait, and this explains our affinity with people of a similar culture. However, the fact that this is usually expressed most vehemently at a national level is peculiar. Even small countries like ours encompass countless disparate peoples, religions, personalities, beliefs, and anything else which may define us. To be grouped together due to geographical circumstance, and to have a collective identity and pride, is very much a phenomenon of the modern world.

As easy as it is to be sceptical of the uninhibited, zealous patriotism of others, there is something attractive in its ability to bring people together. Which is why, even as a devoted cynic, a disillusioned, lapsed patriot, and someone who can’t stand that overblown, tedious spectacle of overpaid ball-chasing urchins that somehow passes for a sport, I’ll still be cheering for the boys in green this summer. I might even have a chuckle to myself when the English team inevitably implodes and crashes out of the tournament. I guess old habits die hard.