Social Normalities in War and Revolution

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.

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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.

 

What is political activism?

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, “What amounts to ‘political activism’ in a period of war and revolution?” It should be answered in no more than 300 words.

Political activism can include fighting and protests but these are a means to an end. Wars are fought to try to force those who disagree to comply. War is an extreme form of bullying, undertaken by the many at the behest of the powerful.

In peacetime and in war protests are commonly used to raise awareness. They are a rallying call for the faithful, a recruiting ground for those who may not yet have been galvanised to publicly offer their support to a cause. Those who care about what others think of them will feel good being a part of a popular movement. The excitement of being seen to be at the forefront of potential change can be enticing.

Where political activism starts though is in the home amongst family and friends. This is where discussions occur and ideas are shared. Whether a person is regarded or disdained, their opinion has influence. A wish to be accepted by a group can be a powerful factor.

Political activists do not just include the impressive orators and dogged campaigners, although charismatic leaders are required. What is needed is large numbers of supporters who are willing to stand up and be counted, people with a view who will work to persuade others by whatever means they can.

War and revolution focus attention by creating suffering that all will want to end. As more minor differences are set aside in the quest for peace, activists prey on the masses emotions to ensure that their core beliefs are enshrined.