ArticleA Balancing Act
Human history is, in a way, a history of wars with flowery names - be it quite literally (The War of the Roses in England) or metaphorically. For instance, a clash between football fans that quickly degenerated into a full-fledged war between El Salvador and Honduras - the Football War. It is also known as The Hundred Hours' War, and this type of description is even more popular because of its alleged precision. After all, the Six Days' War between Israel and several Arab countries did last exactly six days - and the famous Hundred Years' War between England and France did go on for a 100 years…and then it continued for 16 more years! Strictly speaking, it's not the longest ever armed conflict as, say, the Spanish Reconquista stretched over no less than 781 years. However, if we consider a type of warfare involving regular armies that engage each other in pitched battles - as opposed to historical processes - “116 years” does begin to sound like a benchmark. In particular, against Irish struggle for independence.
I use the word “struggle” because the formally defined War of Independence didn't begin until 1919, and already in 1922 Ireland became a republic. Yet the actual war - the nation's collective effort to throw off the English yoke and become free - had started as soon as Henry II set foot on Irish soil uninvited in 1172, and it never ceased until the goal was achieved. It doesn't mean incessant hostilities for 750 years in a row - no country or even empire in the world would possibly be able to sustain that without seeing its economy and social life fall completely apart - but rather that many generations of Irish people had to incorporate a possibility of rising up against the occupying forces at any moment, with their daily lives. Such a balancing act would inevitably shape the national psyche, thus producing a unique combination of features once defined by Ancient Romans as the ability to “build houses as if they were going to live forever - and to feast as if they were about to die tomorrow”.
Dublin City Free Tours are so structured as if they were purposefully created to reflect and represent that Irish skill of reconciling the incompatible. Formally, there are two independent tours aptly dubbed “The Southern Tour” and “The Northern Tour” - because each of them is restricted to the respective side of the river Liffey. More important, each of them is strictly devoted to its respective topic - it's all about “Life” in the south, and all about “War” in the north. Never mind that both sides are divided/connected by a rather short bridge crossed by thousands every day, and none of those thousands would ever perceive crossing the bridge as "going to the other side". Just like other thousands in other times would cross the invisible bridge between living and striving today, and possibly dying in a fight tomorrow - and never think about it either? Or had thinking and prioritizing become an inseparable part of the switch? If that were the case, and if we were to gain an insight into their actual priorities, it might be provided by that very bridge - as both it and the street it leads to on the northern side, are named after the same person widely known to the nation as the “Liberator”.