Today we have reached the final part of A Purgatory of Misery. It is a little longer than most of the other chapters but it needs to be since it is my attempt to sum up the causes of the famine and enumerate any lessons that can be learned from the suffering of so many Irish men, women and children during the years 1845 to 1851.
One feature of the then British government’s response was the determination to fund the relief effort only from resources available in Ireland rather than the whole of the United Kingdom of which it was a part. Since World War II governments have learned the importance of richer regions contributing to the support of the poorer ones. This is done, for example, through the regional development policies of the European Union and through various United Nations programmes. The UN mandates member nations to pledge 0.7% of GDP to support developing countries and many do.
Opposition to such policies drives those individuals in Britain, Europe and the USA who argue “Britain (or America or Germany, etc.) First”. This, despite the greater visibility, provided by modern technology, of the purgatory of misery still engulfing many of the planet’s poorest people. I have argued elsewhere that the practice of scapegoating particular groups is dangerous. It is my firm belief that the second we start to believe that “our” group, be it nation, religion, or any other illusion of distinctiveness, is superior to another; or the opposite, that there is a group that is superior to us, that is the moment when the seeds of revolution and war are sown. It is why I am opposed to all religions, since each has at its heart the affirmation that there is a special place reserved for its adherents in the hereafter.
Man’s inhumanity to man will end only when we all recognise that we are the same under the skin. We all share the same passions and desires. No one man – or woman – is inherently ‘better’ than another. There is no such thing as ‘original sin’. Armed with that knowledge we might begin to show some empathy and compassion towards those less fortunate than ourselves.
We have now reached the third and final part of the section of A Purgatory of Misery that covers the famine years. It looks at events in Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom in the years following the summer of 1848. There was an economic crisis, failed rebellions in England and Ireland, more famine and disease in, and emigration from, Ireland. And Britain mounted a showcase of its achievements in a specially built glass house dubbed The Crystal Palace. Tomorrow I’ll publish the last chapter in which I try to draw some conclusions about responsibility for the disaster. Meanwhile, you can read the latest chapter here or begin at the beginning here.
This is a cruel and evil practice and should not be tolerated in ANY society, certainly not in one that regards itself as ‘civilised’. Resorting to ‘culture’ or ‘religion’ as a justification for ignoring it is not acceptable.
Source: A SERIOUS IN BETWEEN POST
Today we have reached the winter of 1847-8 in the section of A Purgatory of Misery which deals with the famine years. It was at the end of this season that a group of Irish patriots called “Young Ireland” traveled to Paris to meet with French revolutionaries who gave them the idea for what would become the national flag of Ireland. Resembling the French tricoleur but with red, white and blue replaced with green, the colour of Catholic nationalism, orange, the colour of Protestant unionism, separated by white to signify the desire for peace between the two traditions.
Meanwhile the famine continued, especially in the South and West of the island where death and disease were the daily experience of many. To read Chapter 11 click here. If you need to begin at the beginning click here.
Chapter 10 of A Purgatory of Misery covers the autumn and winter of 1846/7. The crisis had now become a disaster with a combination of starvation and disease causing frequent deaths. In a desperate effort to escape the horrors of the famine huge numbers departed, traveling in appalling conditions to British ports like Liverpool and Glasgow and thence to North America. In none of these places were these refugees, many of whom were contagious with a variety of diseases, welcomed. Click here to read the chapter 10, here if you wish to start at the beginning.
We have now reached part 2 of A Purgatory of Misery which is a brief account of the events of the famine years. The first of four chapters deals with the initial outbreak of potato blight in the autumn and winter of 1845/6. To most of those involved the situation was still only a crisis but in retrospect and to some of the more perceptive observers at the time the seeds of a disaster where already in place.