I don’t think so .
Do you remember the events in your life ? All the events ? Of course you don’t. If you kept all that day to day clutter neatly filed away in little compartments in the rooms of your mind , there wouldn’t be enough hours or minutes in your day to go back and study each little moment of your life .What you actually have as a life, are a handful of selected memories which your ego will tweak and carve and mould into a malleable shape that suits what you want to project to the outside world as “you”.
You have your version of your “history” which will be heavily edited to suit your ego and how you want yourself or your life to be seen. You’ll want to forget many things .Outside of that , your friends and family might remember all the things you’d rather forget . The undoubted mistakes you made. the foolish things you might have said .The hugely stupid pratfalls you have made .The relationships that didn’t work out . The time you were drunk and were sick all over the cat…..
Your life , though , is mostly not in the public domain.Certainly if you ‘ve lived through the past forty odd years , you have mostly not been filmed or recorded for posterity.That is not the case for “public” figures like Ian Paisley.
As I write , the world as I “knew” it .The world as I “know” it ….is being re-written on the radio on the day that Ian Paisley is being buried . To all intents and purposes he is being sanctified by some of the people who betrayed him .He is being eulogised by former enemies, who for their own reasons have chosen to forget the huge part he played in throwing the whole of Ireland into a thirty year conflict. Political party leaders are trotting out a litany of half-truths and erroneous lies about the man which bear little connection to the historical reality.There’s a kind of two -faced -hypocrisy at work from every political faction.It’s the kind of society we have here where sins are wiped out at the moment of death .There’s not much use in kicking a corpse..
What it adds up to is that beyond this one death there is every reason to completely distrust the critical faculties of anyone who decides to write any kind of historical record…about anything. .There is certainly a major problem with local reportage and commentaries on the likes of the “Nolan” radio show and “Talkback”.
Maybe, in the cold light of day a true picture of Ian Paisley will emerge, but the truth of the man ‘s life mostly pivots on that Damascene moment when he broke bread with Sinn Fein and cosied up to Martin McGuinness. That moment in time has never been fully explored and it has certainly not been fully explained to or by the DUP party and their followers who seem to have abandoned him in the latter years of his life and are now sanctifying him when he is harmlessly dead. I think , at that moment in time he was telling all the world that he only meant all that mayhem as a bit of a joke . It was something that got a bit out of hand .
In retrospect, I believe that much of Paisley’s behaviour has its foundation in his blunt, under-developed, broad humorous streak. Many of the things he did were ultimately sorry, black jokes that were taken too far. He seemed to enjoy stirring things up..like the noisy child in the classroom..everything was basically for a bit of a laugh. A good “geg” or gag.He didn’t seem able to respect the inevitable consequences of anything he ever did. A sort of social and comedic naivity, then.
I think it was much like the Native American Indians idea of warfare . The idea for them was to deliver a “coup” to their enemy. The Plains Indians called it “Counting Coup”. In warfare , coup was counted as marks of bravery in battle and then recorded in stories ..That meant delivering a “touch”or at worst , a glancing blow while in a dangerous position. To them , the winner was the one that delivered the most touches , much as a boxer is awarded points. Winners who touched coup without injury were allowed to wear an eagle feather.That is the way I see many of Paisley’s many noisy engagements, now.He enjoyed the circus of victory but he ran away from the consequences of his rabble-rousing.If no injury was received during the coup , the feather remained plain. His eagle feather would have to be painted red to denote some blood -letting….even though he personally did not deliver it.
For the Plains Indian, or “Human Beings” as they called themselves, without irony ; they were dumbfounded, when in battle ,the white intruder took the game to such extremes as actually killing their perceived enemy, in the face of this “coup” counting . That revelation really was a game- changer. For Paisley, the revelation was possibly that the game was over and there were no more battles to win and no more games to play.The fun had gone out of it when there were no more windmills to tilt at..
As for “history”,I would recommend to anyone the “Flashman” books of George Macdonald Fraser. They are rattling, chortling good reads and his ability to make history , both very entertaining, but also so full of holes and disbelief , is a lesson to us all. A warning , though , for all who are faint of heart . They are not very politically correct in any sense…..