May 24, 2003

Celts an Oppressed People

I thought this was a joke when it was first pointed out to me:

Celts claim to be oppressed by Ireland and its alcohol

Seems a UN conference on native rights is seating a delegation of Irish as an "indigenous people" like the Native Americans or Australia's Aborigines:

Speaking for Retrieve Foundation, Margaret Connolly said the Irish government had "neglected" Celts, who, for "2,000 years, had been forced to adapt to a culture that was foreign to them."
[...]
Irish government officials were equally perplexed. "Ireland's position is to respect the rights of minorities," said one.
"But in Ireland, I don't know whether you can class Celts as a minority."

I always wanted to be a part of a struggling, oppressed minority. Now I am one!

cf: How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It by Arthur Herman
(Certainly "The Greatest Book Ever Written"™)

We Celts are a humble race, you see, we only created everything.

For a bit of background, Celt (pronounced Kelt, no matter what that Boston Basketball team says) likely comes from the Greek word Keltoi, referring to people who lived up in Central Europe around the Danube. They are also called Galatians, Gaels, Gauls and more generally "Barbarians". Virgil and Martial were Celts, as was Asterix.

One standard story of the migration comes out of Central Europe through France to the British Isles. Others suggest that the Irish came from the offshoot in Spain. By 400 BC, we Celts pretty much controlled everything in Western Europe North of Italy. Then came the Romans. I guess this is the "culture" we've been adapting to for so long. Damn.

My professor, the writer Hugh MacLennan (of course) liked to point out that Gaelic is the only remaining original European language, older than Latin.

The British Isles are the main holdouts for Celts in Europe (as defined linguistically, since there is little other way to define these people): Wales, Ireland and Scotland. Manx died off as a language last century, but the people are still ethnically the same.

My grandfather was an Irish immigrant who became a cowboy in Canada. The family legend is that we descended from those Campbells expelled from the Highlands in 1693 for slaughtering the MacDonalds at Glencoe. I'm sticking with that story, although there has always been Irish-Scottish cross emigration -- for the usual reasons (economic, religious and criminal).

My paternal grandmother was also a Celt: a Breton from the northwest of France. They are a people who could conceivably claim oppression more readily than the Irish, as they constitute a distinct ethnic minority in France. (The rest of my ancestry is all from Scotland: 100% Celtic.)

Finally (for completeness) whiskey is from the Gaelic:

Whiskey is a shortened form of usquebaugh, which English borrowed from Irish Gaelic uisce beatha and Scottish Gaelic uisge beatha. This compound descends from Old Irish uisce, "water," and bethad, "of life," and meaning literally "water of life."
—American Heritage Dictionary

Water of Life. We have so much to thank the Celts for. Let my people go.

For more on Celts, there are some interesting excerpts at this pagan-oriented site.

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