Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Who's Afraid Of The Easter Rising?

Who's Afraid Of The Easter Rising? 1916 – 2016 by James Heartfield & Kevin Rooney


From what we know there is little doubt that the leaders knew that they would lose, and most likely die – Connolly said so, and Pearse said that there would have to be a blood sacrifice for Ireland. This is a way of thinking that is pretty alien to today's postmodern bourgeois liberal for whom there is no cause worth dying for.

This week I will be reviewing a non fiction book...please don't run away! It's a fantastic read, I promise! 

A quick disclaimer – Kevin Rooney was my Politics teacher when I was taking my A levels almost 10 years ago and was probably the best teacher I ever had. At a time when I no longer wanted to be at school and was only taking A levels because it was expected of me due to my perceived academic ability he managed to motivate me and keep me working hard. Something which no other teacher managed during that time period. That said, this has had limited influence on my review. I did not get a free copy and I am not reviewing this as a favour. In fact I haven't seen or spoken with my old politics teacher in the decade since I left school, he probably wouldn't even remember me now. Whilst I guess it is impossible to be entirely objective when reading a book by somebody you have known, I have tried my hardest to keep this review fair and unbiased.

'Who's Afraid Of The Easter Rising?' looks to discuss the 100 years which have passed since Irish revolutionaries proclaimed a republic from the steps of the General Post Office in Dublin. The authors take aim at the Irish governments reluctant efforts to mark the centenary and their decision to not acknowledge it with it's own celebrations, instead banding it in with several other notable centenary celebrations. The book looks back at the events surrounding the 1916 uprising and the shock waves that were felt around the world in it's aftermath. Discussing the influence that this act of rebellion had at various pivotal moments in recent history, the authors explore the changing attitudes towards the Easter rising over the last century. From an inspiring event which helped to begin further rebellions across the world to a potential source of embarrassment and shame for the current regime. The significance of the rebellion is explored, with a lot of time spent discussing how it helped to end the first world war and to spark revolutions in countries such as Russia and India. It also looks at what influence it may have had in the troubles which have plagued Ireland for many years and explores the different ways revisionists have chosen to rewrite the history surrounding the events of 1916.

The authors never attempt to hide their own political leanings at any point during this book and yet they still attempt to provide a balanced and reasoned argument throughout. This is by no means a propaganda piece or an attempt to persuade you to a particular way of thinking. This is a meticulously researched piece which looks at how various parties have twisted the events of 1916 to further their own agendas. Whilst the authors opinions are scattered throughout, they are always backed up with evidence to support whatever point is being made. This is not just an opinion piece, ignoring facts or misappropriating them to fit with the authors on viewpoints.

I found it to be an absorbing read. The idea that the Easter Rising was the first step towards the ending of WW1 and the catalyst for revolutions in Russia and India made for a very interesting read. I was unaware of how much the people of India looked to Ireland for inspiration during their own fight for independence from the British empire. The discussion of the British empire and it's treatment of it's colonies as well as its own people makes this a must read for me personally. Despite being written about the Easter Rising of 1916 the authors have managed to make this book relevant to so much more. There are a lot of parallels between the ideas being discussed from a historical perspective and the world we live in today. Some of these are pointed out, such as the way in which Britain deceived Germany in the lead up to the great war and the way in which America copied this with how they dealt with Saddam Hussein. Other parallels are obvious to the reader but not addressed specifically in terms of recent examples by the authors, such as the use of patriotism and xenophobia as a means to distract people from their own social inequalities. These parallels make the book so relevant in the current political climate and it is alarming at how readily we are heading towards repeating historical mistakes which we should have already learnt from. Perhaps if we all read a little bit more than it would not be so easy for these issues to keep arising. As they say, knowledge is power.

So that being said, I am going to rate this as a 5 out of 5 and highly recommend that you read it!

Mr Rooney, If you have ended up reading this review somehow, thank you for being such an inspiring teacher and I apologise for not being the best student I could have been at the time. Hopefully you get round to writing some more books soon!

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