Baseball91's Weblog

June 10, 2008

Global Positioning Systems & Vanishing Ireland

Except for the high holidays, my brother-in-law did not attend church.  You know.  The one when there was food and drink afterwards.  We were all Irish Catholics.  And he was my weather vane to the modern world.  No one thought they were better than he was, based on matters strictly of worship.  It was just the way the world was becoming. 


This same brother-in-law has retinitis pigmentosa.  After a process over at least the ten years, he is for all practical purposes blind.  We gave him a global position system for his birthday this weekend so he did not get lost.  Apparently family members worried that he would get lost at the age of 59.  I wondered if he really wanted it.  I wondered if this was like a book someone bought me, something I never would read.  Like the book his wife gave me for a birthday.  1000 Places to see Before You Die.  Dan Neil’s article within the past week in the LA Times was featured on National Public Radio today concerning “endangered places.”  The clock is ticking on the fabled snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the white water of Patagonia’s Futaleufu River is threatened.  The World Wildlife Fund is collecting money to save the Bering Sea.  And Condé Nast Traveler’s is worried about the future of the Swiss glaciers before global climate change causes them to vanish.  Rich people are afraid that they will be limited in the future in their vacations? 


The irony of the concern over lost places for tourism is a recent book I purchased called Vanishing Ireland.  The Celtic Tiger had eroded a way of life.  Or something had.  It was just the way the world was becoming. 


What was really vanishing? I had been to Ireland twice.  I was of the generation whose social formation was guided by television.  And for the generation after me social formation was guided even more by the media.  I am not sure if it was as much the economy’s impact on the towns and counties of geographic Ireland as it was what had changed with people here over the same period of time. 

In 1993, I had stayed at a bed & breakfast in Kilkenny sixteen years after my first trip.  The place was operated by a woman in her seventies.  Mrs. Hefferan was long-time divorced.  And Ireland at the time was in the midst of an election campaign whether divorce should be legally recognized in her country.  In the course of a breakfast on a Sunday morning, Mrs. Hefferan revealed what was special about Kilkenny.  It was her stories about the man she married.  It had not been an unhappy experience for her.  She just explained what happened on an island, to an American and a French woman over tea, whether to men or to dogs.  After years of breeding, she felt they inevitably just got high strung.  But still Irish men and Irish setters were appreciated the world over for their companionship.  Much as I had appreciated this rather unique Lady Hefferan.



Vanishing Ireland was not so much a degeneration of the vision of Ireland that tourists and natives always had.  Rather, in the world where the media had such an impact now on social formation, the challenge was in finding original characters.  Like Mrs. Hefferan.  Or like Captain Jack who I once met on my very first family vacation in 1967 with my dad.  I had thought about my dad and the people not that he met on vacation but folks that he knew.  Did media erode the chance to meet real characters that had surrounded my dad’s life, people that he had found without a global position system?


1 Comment »

  1. Comment by baseball91 — March 23, 2017 @ 9:40 AM | Reply

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