Saturday, 7 January 2012


Two news items this week thrust culture in Ireland into spotlights. One, in the culture of golf and sport, saw The Irish Open Tournament set to be staged at Royal Portrush Golf course, Portrush (55 degrees North, 6 degrees West) in County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 2012. There is a recognition that this is a moment of note when a designated Irish sporting event is to be held in a culturally British – a Royal - setting. An interesting sub-note, about observed cultural imbalance, was voiced in the media when people said this was a prelude to the 'big one' viz. The Open, that is The British Open, coming to Portrush.

The other news item, in the culture of music and dance, revealed an internal row in the County Derry section of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, as a proposal to hold the annual national celebration of Irish music and dance known as Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann grew controversial by possible association with the city of Derry Londonderry's (54 degrees North, 7 degrees West) designation as UK City of Culture in 2013.

The very language above, in the naming of counties, cities, golf clubs and cultural festival designations is complex, laden with cultural, ethnic and national identity subtexts. And desperately fraught.

Modernists throw their hands up in the air and make declarations that holding the Fleadh in Derry Londonderry is a 'no brainer.' They assert that you can call the city what you want, that is doesn't matter that the designation is a UK designation. That culture and politics are separate. That anyone who holds a contrary view is an out-of-date fundamentalist. And no one wants to be a known as a fundamentalist these days, given the ravages delivered by fundamentalists from the east.

However, Islamists and people from the east do not have a monopoly on fundamentalism. A cursory survey of the pronouncements of the candidates vying for the Republican nomination in the US Presidential race shows that fundamentalism is alive and well in the most powerful nation on earth. And that's without reviewing the legacy of the Bushes and Regan. And in British political culture the response to last summer's rioting harked back to the 'Victorian values' glory days of Thatcher, now given the Hollywood make-over in a Meryl Streep vehicle. There is ample evidence that the heartlands of fundamentalism are modern and in the West.

If there is any convergence between European nations, it involves a form of liberalization designed to create new inequalities, endemic unemployment and enlightenment without hope for the casualties of this upwardly mobile form of modernity.

Modernism, as currently asserted, is a form of this fundamentalism. It says that matters are not complex, that economics – in the shape of deregulated markets -  is primary, that politics should be sidelined, that culture's function is to serve the making of money and that the effable and ineffable emotions and experiences of people do not count.

Is culture threatening because it challenges this and other fundamentalisms?

And finally: An international news item of note is the announcement by Africa's most famous singer, Youssou N'Dour, that he will challenge for the Senegalese presidency. A proper mélange of culture and politics.

This post is a reprise of an earlier post THE CULTURE  THREAT, 4th November 2011.

The Myth of Modernization in Irish Culture; an essay in Transformations in Irish Culture; book; Luke Gibbons; Cork University Press/Field Day; 1996

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