Walking into Dublin I immediately notice one thing: English has stopped being the leading language on this part of my journey. I hear (mostly) Spanish, also Portuguese, Italian, German, Japanese, Russian and a lot more languages. In any of the shops and restaurants I am being served by personnel whose mother tongue is Spanish or Urdu rather then English. It makes me think of Chicago.
The dress code of female office employees in the morning seems to be black, allowing a touch of pink or yellow because of the heat wave that has hit Dublin. The prominent foundation type is a yellowish/gold blush, applied in generous quantities. The men go in their smart tailored suits with the ties a bit loose. Also taking advantage of the heat wave, I guess. The tourists, later in the morning, dress as loosely as possible. Between 8 and 9 in the evening you can see the back office and cleaning employees going home in jeans and dark coloured t-shirts. Everyone is recognizable by their clothing.
I walk the 25 kilometres from Howth to Dublin. Howth is an old fishing village north of Dublin, turned into a busy and prosperous suburb of Dublin in recent decades. It is a hot day, again. People are sitting and lying on the lawns in the parks in masses. The faces here are Irish, all of them. So are the faces of the youngsters going to the beaches. Only when I get closer to the centre of Dublin, in the northern, poorer neighbourhoods, peoples faces turn into East European, Pakistan and Indian. They also sit and lie on the lawns in their parks. A melting pot in a horizontal way, people from different backgrounds working and living together. Doing the same things. How do they define themselves in this situation? How does it influence their lives and choices?
On the way along the bay of Dublin, an attempt is being made to educate the public on the celebration of a battle that took place exactly 1000 years ago. On 6 large panels along the path the battle of Clontarf (as Dublin was called then) is displayed. King Brian Boru is generally seen as the king that freed the Irish from foreign domination. An attempt is also being made at showing that it was a bit more complex then that. For a long time people have been fed this image of history and seen themselves maybe as being part of that.
Newgrange and Nowth, the archeological sites where, as the Irish proudly proclaim, the finds are older then the pyramides of Egypt, shows yet another kind of melting pot. Some 5000 years ago, in the Neolithical era, the island was inhabited by people who lived, worked and worshipped at these places. It is the largest concentration of Neolithical finds in Europe. After they were gone, early Christians occupied their sites, and after that the Vikings and then the English. King Brian Boru sits somewhere in between them.
Layer upon layer of civilization. Also a kind of melting pot, but in a more vertical way. They have influenced each other, the one coming after the other. They have built, in this case literally, one on top of the other. The guide at the archeological site states that there is much that we don’t know about these places and their function. They were thought to have been burial sites, but are now seen as places of worship and celebration. It would seem that we try to make history fit in with the contemporary belief.
We need a lot of reassurance, I guess because a lot of effort is being put into explaining the past in ways that fit our beliefs. What did these people learn from the ones that came before them, how were they defined by their predecessors? How does this influence the contemporary Irishman? How does our history influence or guide today’s efforts and direction?