Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper) - February 3, 1973, Lethbridge, Alberta
Book Revieivs One sane voice on an insane island The Voice Of One -By. DR. FRANK S. MORLEY "States of Ireland" by Conor Cruise O'Brien (Hutchinson, distributed in Canada by Nelson, Foster and Scott Ltd.). I want to commend to you, especially those of you who are not Irish (and most especially those of you who are and have come here with your heads full of Cathleen na Houlihan, the roost destructive enemy Ireland has ever had), "States of Ireland" by the man who to me is the greatest Irishman alive today. He would think that funny, maybe even ridiculous, but at this moment - like a good many other moments in Irish history - there are not all that many sane Irishmen and O'Brien is the sanest of them. This book is the best that has ever been written about modern Ireland. He takes the fall of Pamell as his starting point and lays the foundation, in these early chapters, for the subsequent examination of the Ulster-Ireland psychoses that haunt the land. He is a very lonely voice, for he tells the truth and examines the small but deep subtleties that outside observers less-well-qualified always fail to understand. But telling the truth in Ireland is apt to make a man extraordinary, as to outsiders it is apt to make him incomprehensible. The thing is so complicated it makes the mind bid. I should explain what perhaps does not need explanation that O'Brien is a southern Catholic with a completely Catholic family background but with a Protestant-by-marriage connection. He married the daughter of my old headmaster, A. R. Foster, a northern Protestant. His sympathies are engaged on both sides of this conflict. I doubt that this is what makes Mm such a reasonable man -in most of us the "mixed family" connection serves only to make us more prejudiced, more defensive, more embittered and more irrational. O'Brien is the reasonable man in himself. What I want to say to you about the book is that, if you are not totally nauseated by the Irish situation, there are important things O'Brien makes clear: The initial innocence of the Civil Rights Movement that sparked tthe trouble; the total irrationaiityt of the - primarily - Paisleyite reaction to it, with savage violence against parades of mainly Catholic demonstrators (my own view is that in the whole context of Northern Ireland the parades tactical errors of judgement, but Dr. O'Brien was among those who advised the students who took a leading part in them that they were the best way to go about getting what they wanted); then the role of the IRA in turning the friendly army against the friendly Catholic community and doing it by design because of the point I have made ad nauseam - that there was no role for the IRA in a situation that remained friendly. This sinister fact has played a tragic part in the subsequent history of events in the north; the stupidity of northern Protestant politicians, the irrelevance of northern Catholic politicians; the depth and nature of mutual prejudice and suspicion, and the reasons for them; the effects of constant reiteration in the South of the myth of Irish unity - which O'Brien, like a majority of Irishmen, would like to see but cannot now see - and its questionable necessity; the complicity of Jack Lynch and his government in gun-running to the North and Mr. Lynch's willingness to sacrifice three of his ministers when the news got out, to have them tried and acquitted and all the time to look the world sideways in the eye with - an air of innocence; the "rule of the dead" in Ireland winch is related to the rule of the gun; and a cruel but accurate portrait of the political practice of Harold Wilson. On the rule of the gun, Conor Cruise O'Brien once told me that young Irishmen are forever - in times of tension - trying "heroically" to recreate the episodes of the past in situations into which the past does not fit. He attacks with sharp effectiveness the mytho-logizing of Irish history by both sides, he examines the disastrous effects of the duty the politicians must pay to historic occasions that, when they are celebrated, inflame the other side, lash one another with memory, and feed fear which is the root of hate. There are, in this category, celebrations of the 1916 Eastern rising, the Battle of the Boyne and kindred tribal dances that are in themselves acts of intimidation Irish horror story "Ulster" by The Sunday Times Insight Team (Penguin, paperback, 311 pages, $1.65). "Anyone who writes about Ulster inevitably invites an extreme reaction," writes Herald Evans, editor of the Sunday Times, London, in the foreword of this book put together by his Insight Team.. In this instance that reaction is most apt to come from Protestant sympathizers because it is the Ulster Protestants who emerge as the most culpable group in this chronicle of perverse and feckless behavior all around. Objectivity is hard to come by generally; it is impossible to achieve in the Ulster situation. The Times team probably did as good a job as is possible. Even when the team got. to the main participants they encountered contradiction and ambiguity. They also lacked access to government records. This report deals with the years 1969, 1970 and 1971 but it sets the stage for what has happened in those years by briefly touching on the discrimination against the Catholics which gave rise to the civil rights movement just prior to the upheaval. It traces the steadily worsening relationships from what may have seemed a hopeful development. In the end the team concludes that reform was never a realistic expectation because Ulster is predicted on Protestant privilege. "Dismantle the apparatus of Protestant supremacy, and you have destroyed Northern Ireland's only justification for being a state on its own. It might just as well not exist." There was, thus, logic in the parades for they were a means of asserting supremacy. If the Catholics took the insult lying down, all was well. If they did not, and threw stones or insults, then it was necessary to show who was boss by putting them down using prejudiced police to io so. Almost everything that has occurred in the three yews dealt with can, with hindsight, be recognized as contributing to solidifying Catholic rebelliousness. The most ironic con- and defiance of a kind one might well expect of children at a street corner. What Dr. O'Brien appears to be trying to do is to persuade his fellow-countrymen, at home and abroad,, to think about Ireland as sane men, to stop the universal practice of measuring every situation by the carrying power of the voices of the dead, whether they died at the siege of Deny or at the Battle of the Boyne, or in Kilmainham jail or on O'Connell street in 1916. -His countrymen and any disgusted bystander will learn more about Ireland from this book than from any other available to them. Perhaps some will learn more than they want to, not least some of the confident new-experts who covered events in Ul- ster when they were still a circus providing 4aily features to fill space around the world. How little most of these men knew of the shades of meaning in events was obvious to some of us because that is where we came from; for example O'Brien's difference between a stupid Protestant and a silly Catholic; the first is too stupid to articulate his case, the second is sly and aware of the de-viousness of "explanations" and the value among enquiring strangers of "charm" and humor (it's Michael Vaughan's assessment of the value to the tourist trade of "the Irish smile"). Conor Cruise O'Brien would like, it has always been clear, to de-mythologize Irish life and politics. I would like to see Irish politics demythologized, and if people like Dr. O'Brien succeed in the not too distant future - who believes they will? - maybe God will be less suspect in the world at large. But the mythologizing power of the Irish mind is part of the inheritance of the nation and the source of its literature and it would be nice if Dr. O'Brien could destroy the first and preserve the second. Isn't that part of our tragedy? That which makes up the most imaginattive people who ever put pen to paper makes us also the devotee of violence and suffering and melodrama in politics - we are always taking part in a play, and always stage centre. SHAUN HERRON Suicide a continuing problem Patiently waiting for the paper tribution has been made by th� British army. It seems clear enough that the army was initially impartial and that it was unjustly accused of being anti-Catholic. The Times team notes that the first soldiers were Welsh who "did not have the faintest idea which side was which." Through inadvertence - and perhaps as a result of a bit of Protestant conniving - the army quickly became identified with the Protestants. Some subsequent army behavior, especially in connection with the disastrous implementation of internment, gave Catholics justifiable cause for anger. At the end of 1971 .the Times team discerned a slight change of mood on the part of Protestant leaders. The Rev. Ian Paisley himself, "chaplain to the forces of no-surrender Protestantism and yet one of the most perceptive men in the north, began to make tentative' sounds about the reunification of Ireland." He said that if the SDecial position of the Roman Catholic church was dorc away with, the Republic might be looked on with different eyes. But the IRA Provisionals had got up a head of steam by this time and 1972 was turned by them into a year of increasing horror. The radicalization of people is fully understandable in the light of the treatment meted out by the forces of law and order. Yet the criminal tactics employed by the gunmen accomplish nothing except release of their outraged feelings. Those tactics certainly cannot contribute to a further softening in attitude on the part of the Protestant supremacists. In fact they have provoked a Protestannt guerrilla reaction. The Times team book roads like a horror story, concocted out of imagination. Unfortunately it is a true story - allowing for discrepancies originating with those interviewed and any distortions due to blind spots in the interviewees. If 1972 had been included the story would have been that much worse. Now 1973 is here and the strife continues. Is there no end to it? DOUG WALKER Photo by Rick Ervin Alberta telephone history "Singing Wires: The Telephone in Alberta" by Tony Cashman (The Alberta Government Telephones Commission, $6.95, 196 pages). At first I was inclined to be amused at the idea of a history of the telephone in Alberta. When I leafed through the handsomely prepared book and noticed many full-page color photographs of telephones and switchboards it seemed to me that devotion was being carried too far. However, as I read the text I became aware that telephones have been far from peripheral in the life of the province and its people and that a history is justified. Not only will readers be interested to follow the fortunes of the telecommunications industry in Alberta but Ihey will be apt to find it a bit of a game to tote up the number of people they know among the scores who are mentioned. My own tally was seven, including a Herald reporter, Herb Johnson, who gets mention for his days spent with CKUA (the Edmonton radio station owned by AGT). Through this history the Bell Telephone Company finally gels belated credit for a pretty good job of introducing the telephone in Alberta. An almost irrational hatred of "the Bell" was endemic among the pioneers; it must have been like the animosity expressed toward the CPR by prairie people when I was a boy. The first major decision of the province in September 1905 was to bring the telephone system under public ownership and get rid of Bell. Newspaper editors must have felt gratified in those days to see their fulminations against the greedy private company get such endorsement. Maybe, however, it was subsequent developments which have contributed to later editorialists being chary_ about seeing tilings quite so" simply. Service to subscribers did not come appreciably cheaper under public ownership and there came that embarrassing clay 25 years after takeover when AGT had to concede that rural lines were losers and abandon them to mutuals. Those who have worked for the government in telecommunications have reason to be proud of their achievements. Some significant pioneering of new concepts and in the use of advanced techniques and equipment falls to the credit of AGT. One of the unique bits of pion- eering has been that of developing Small Fry systems for therapy purposes among handicapped children. Beginning by accident in the Red Cross Hospital in Calgary, the Small Fry systems have spread throughout Canada and the United States. Although this book will be enjoyed by almost all Albertans, it will naturally have a special appeal for the employees of AGT. Much of the humor in it can be classed as family fun, to be savored by those who have been on the inside. Also some of the highly technical discussion toward the conclus-. ion of the story can only be appreciated by those with the know-how. There are a few mistakes, such as calling Bob Kingston "Ben" fp. 104), and the odd place where a bit of editing would have been an improvement, such as eliminating one of the two appearances of the "old union suit" (P. 100), but they scarcely detract from what is on the whole a very fine book. With its couple dozen color plates and dozens of black and white pictures it is a bargain at the low price of $6.95 being asked. DOUG WALKER Suicide continues to be a major cause of death in Western society, just how large no one knows, and it is a major factor also In social disorder, a dominant factor in unemployment, strikes, and accidents, including especially car accidents. Dr. Karl Menninger held that everyone had a little murder and suicide in his heart and that there were no more than 15 per cent of accidents that could be ascribed to pure chance. All the study of psychiatry put into the problem, which was a study of this column some time ago, has been to no avail. For a considerable time Denmark, West Germany, Switzerland, Sweden headed the list, but now Austria has for several years led the Western world in suicides, despite the fact that the International Society for the Prevention of Suicides is based in � Austria. Now Austria is one of the loveliest countries on the face or the earth, cultured and charming, enjoying great prosperity. Frankl, the world-famous psychiatrist, blames the lack of faith for Western discontent and says a man cannot live without faith. He points out how necessary faith was to survival in concentration camps. The suicide rate is eight times as great among the rich as the poor and about the same for the highly educated as among the poor, so that education and prosperity are no solution. Nor is socialism as a study of Scandinavia points up. The psychiatrist, Erich Fromm, finds a correlation between industrialism and insanity and suicide. The more inlustrialized a nation is the more prosperous, the more they want to kill themselves. Between 1336 and 1890 suicides increased 140 per cent in Prussia, 355 per cent in France, and: spectacularly in Britain and Sweden also. One fascinating fact is that suicide is four per cent greater among psychologists than among the rest of the population! Meaninglessness in life is an undoubted factor in suicides, since it is considerably more frequent among the elderly and in countries where the meaning has gone from life, like Hungary and Czechoslovakia, than in most of the rest of the world. Suicide rates are lowest among Jews and Catholics. Is tins because they have more faith or because Protestantism is more individualistic? Suicide decreases in war, but is war a substitute for suicide? Divorced men have a higher rate of suicide, then is divorce often an expression of a death wish? Austria also ranks highest among car accidents, infant mortality, and alco-hilism, all of which can be associated with the death wish. Drug addiction among the young is definitely related to the suicidal tendency. Negroes are represented in modern fiction as filled with frustrations resentments, and feelings of worthlessness', but tsuicide has a much lower rate among blacks than whites. Do blacks suffer less from the urge to "make good" which Freud blamed for suicide? Do blacks suffer less from the boredom and spiritual despair of our time which Durkheim blames for suicide? Since suicide is more frequent in cities, does urban life induce suicide or does it merely aggravate emotional patterns? If boredom causes suicide, why does it most frequently occur in the prime of life between the ages of 35 lo 64? 'Hie primai*y cause for suicide wan given by a. caretaker of a building where a man had destroyed himself by leaping from one of (he upper stories. "When a man lias lost God," he said, "There isn't anything to do but jump," THE UNIVERSITY OF LETHBRIDGE APERTUR Sport and the community Dr. J. A. P. Day joined the University of Lethbridge as chairman of the physical education department in 1970. He obtained his BEd degree from the University of Alberta in 1954, Ms MA. from the University of Oregon in 1965 and his PhD in 1968, also from the University of Oregon. His PhD thesis was on the subject of boys' growth and physical development in relation to exercise and activity. What qualities cause a community to be called "sports-minded"? When I moved to Lethbridge in 1970, I was told it was a sports-minded city in a sports-minded area. My experience here has confirmed this early impression in some -surprising ways and I have had cause to reflect on the less obvious indicators of "sports-mind-ness." The kind of sports-oriented community we are discussing is one in which "Hockey Night in Canada" and "The NFL Today" and "The Game of the Week" are significant cultural forces, but not so important as to overshadow the more tangible performances of the Sugar Kings, Red Devils, Cougars, Pronghorns, Bulldogs, Comets, Lakers, Ridgerunners, Rams, Kodiaks, Elks, Bombers, Oliinooks, Clippers, Zeniths, Braves, Gymini, Cobras, ad infinitum who participate locally before smaller and more involved audiences. In ton, local spectator sports haven't the power to keep us from our skating, camping, jogging, bowling, ski-dooing, racketball, swimming, hunting, tennis, skiing, boating, riding, curling, golfing, squash, and badminton, which truly mark us as sportsmen. On tlie official level, tins orientation toward sport provides us with excellent facilities. Our politicians recognize our sportsmindedness and spend our money in ways which will please us. We have an effective joint use agreement which ensures that our schools have access to our recreation facilities and our recreation programs have access to our schools, on a regular basis, While it is true that cities differ in their degree of "sports-mindedness" it is also an interesting phenomenon that otherwise comparable communities differ in their rc-ceptiveness toward some sports. A case in point is Vancouver, where the public is remarkably receptive to professional football and ice hockey (in spite of highly unsuccessful teams), and yet professional soccer folded after two disastrous seasons. This, in a city where every third person seems to have an English or Scottish accent, and there are more active amateur soccer players per capita than anywhere else on this continent north of the Rio Grande. And where, you may ask, in all of North America has professional soccer aroused the most interest and attracted the most regular fans? Why, Atlanta, Georgia and Dallas, Texas, of course. Amid this discussion of the interaction of sport and community, one might assume too great a relationship between a sports culture and a community culture. Tills would be overenthusiastic and presumptuous, for our culture has been and will continue to be dominated by our commerce, industry, agriculture and education. Nonetheless, sport can be a significant cultural force, a catalyst for community growth, an income producer, a bridger of communication gaps, a surefire conversation piece, a maker of friendships and a breaker of psychological barriers between people. In 1971, I was in Saskatoon during the Canada Winter Games. As a visitor, I was ' impressed by the tremendous effect the � event had on the city. Canada Winter Games was everywhere, certainly the dominant cultural force for those hectic days. My observations were superficial, of course, as I was not close enough to the local scene to really appreciate the scopa of this event. Also, at that time, the idea that Lethbridge might at some future time play Saskatoon's role, was no more than a moment's thought. Since 1971, I have had many occasions to talk to people who were close to the action in Saskatoon, some, like myself, who are chronically involved with sports and games but many others who are not. The picture they all help create for me is this: Saskatoon is just not the same place. The Games picked up the city, shook it gently, and put it down again, a better and more interesting place to live in and to visit. The changes began to occur the day the first announcement was made and continued well beyond the closing ceremonies. Certainly the city grew in terms of sports facilities. A ski industry was created where none existed before. However, the most significant and interesting changes were produced in the lives of the Saskaton-ians. The process of gearing up for the Games, the myriads of committees, the re-. cruitment of manpower (and woman, boy, and girl power), the politiclal action and reaction, the general commitment to a common cause, caused significant changes in established patterns of communication. Plumbers related to doctors, and doctors to teachers, teachers to businessmen, businessmen to students, and on and on, in ways that were previously impossible or at least unnecessary. Improbable friend-ships were established. People tried new things, both as spectators and participants. Not only sporting things benefitted from this renaissance of community concern. Music, art, drama, politics, community service, all felt the shock. In a few days we will know whether Lethbridge and southern Alberta will bo in (ho 1975 hosts of the Canada WinLcr Games. This will be the biggest tiling to hit us since the migar beet.