This post is an assignment set by a history course I am currently working my way through with Futurelearn, Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland’s History 1912-1923 — Trinity College Dublin.
The question set is, “Does the survival of even some social normalities alter your sense of how dramatically lives were changed or disrupted by war and revolution?” It should be answered in no more than 500 words.
In times of war and revolution death lurks in the shadows but life goes on. What is considered normal in everyday life is changing all the time. Adapting may be a challenge yet somehow people cope and always have done because they have no other choice. The majority of a country’s population have no control over whether or where trouble and violence will occur. Whatever is going on around there are still jobs to be done, meals to prepare and a day to get through. Even when living in times of increased risk, comparatively few will die as a result of a bullet or a bomb.
It does not surprise me that games of golf were played, dances attended and meetings with friends arranged as violence raged in Ireland. The disruptions such as curfews would be seen as an irritation but most would adapt albeit with varying degrees of grace.
More noticeable would be the divisions brought into focus as sides were taken. Political, religious or personal beliefs that may previously have been tolerated become betrayals when a matter of life and death for those someone knows and cares about. A choice to help or hinder a cause, to become involved, can bring with it camaraderie but also deep enmity. Those risking their lives fighting to protect or impose their beliefs expect support from family and friends. This is generally forthcoming even from those who may not previously have had much interest in the cause.
Still though, the day to day lives of most of the population will be their primary concern unless the violence affects them directly. They may discuss the war but also the weather. They are more likely to pass the time of day gossiping about friends and neighbours than about the latest goings on in parliament. War and revolution are of interest looking back when the effects may be studied, but those living through it are doing what all must do in the here and now, living their lives as best they can under circumstances that are largely beyond their control.