For whatever reason it was much more difficult for me to understand the parallels between 1968 America and Ireland through our previous readings. Uptight and the Informer had similarities, but I couldn’t help but feel a great juxtaposition between the two conflicts. Some of the major themes held true, but I still had reservations about them being drawn together. Mojo Mickybo helped me to realize this much better though. Perhaps it’s due to the accumulation of knowledge I’ve had at this point in the class, or maybe it has something to do with the text itself. The characterization and ongoings of the plot somehow better clicked for me. I think a big piece of what made things more clear is how Mojo Mickybo depicts the oppression of Irish Catholics. The two opposing sides of Belfast have many similarities with the efforts of civil rights in America. Having seen the movie and read the play, I think I’m much better equipped to understand the whole of the situation and how these two events are quite connected. Our most recent reading, The Pentecost, even makes direct reference to MLK and the ongoings at the time in America


In class this week we discussed The Essential Martin Luther King, Jr. I found these readings to be very interesting. I always studied MLK in terms of the civil rights movement, but what many students brought up are thoughts on his person-hood and character, which aren’t really things I put that much thought into. The thought that he evolved as a person and changed his message is very fascinating. Especially if his outlook was becoming more dark. I’ve read a few of his writings before and they’re all written beautifully. MLK has a rhetoric and style that is unique and compelling. I wish there was an individual or specific group that people could rally behind in today’s protests and efforts. I think things became chaotic very quickly, but as we said in class, this anger and frustration is difficult to sustain when left unguided. Regardless of ones views of non-violent protest though, there’s no doubt that having MLK speak eloquently on behalf of the movement helped greatly. I wonder how things might be different if there was a figurehead leading the protests going on today. 

White Slavery

I found the reading and lecture for class Monday to be very interesting. I’ve known about the narrative of white slavery for a while now, and in more recent times, its been used somewhat frequently. Before now I just chose to ignore conversations where the concept was used. Thanks to this reading though, I now have a much better understanding of what people are referencing when they bring up white slavery. I also now understand how unfounded a lot of the claims about white slavery are. In the reading, I learned that there aren’t a lot of primary sources about the difference between slaves and servants. However, the lecture and reading has made it clear that servants were systemically altogether different. When people bring up white slavery, it’s usually meant to undermine the difficulties of slavery against blacks. Considering how different white servants in Barbados were treated though, the argument that black people should “get over” oppression is a great misunderstanding.

Conflict as a Bad Marriage

The idea of looking at the relationships in Mojo Mickybo as a bad marriage was really interesting and captivated me this week. What makes a bad marriage? What are the turning points that convert troubling times into a bad marriage? As I was thinking about the relationships in the play both as literal marriages but also as various other unions, I kept thinking about being stuck in a pattern with no way out. It could almost be described as a sense of complacency mixed with no way out. A larger understanding that because of the larger problems in Ireland and their community, there was no way to escape the conflict and so it was better to just accept the conflict than to seek a way out. To me, that is why there is still conflict in Ireland today. Conflicts have become an expected part of everyday life. Resolution isn’t sought because the conflict is so tied into everyday life that without it, life wouldn’t be the same/would be so different that people wouldn’t know what to do. 

I wanted to use this idea of a bad marriage to look at the other writings we have read in class. Whether it be MLK writing speeches about race relations in the 1960’s United States or Eamonn McCann writing about his experiences between Protestant and Catholic relations growing up in Ireland, I think that when analyzed as bad marriages, this can help one understand what was going on at the time and how it is represented in literature. How the conflict was so ingrained in all relationships that it felt permanent. It felt like one could not escape it, thus leading to years and years of continuing worsening relationships and not being able to understand one another. I’m intrigued to keep using the lens of a bad marriage to analyze the rest of the literature we read and to see how this can help explain and make sense of what was going on at the time and how that impacts life today.

The Coming of Age of Ireland

According to Wikipedia, coming-of-age, or Bildungsroman, “is a literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood in which character change is important.” This idea struck me as I was revisiting Mojo Mickybo that perhaps the story could be read as a coming-of-age story, in which the two boys struggled and matured as a result of the interaction between their childhood innocence and the surrounding reality. This coming of age, then, may reflect the author’s impressions of the history of Ireland since 68’ as a whole, with the perpetual tension between the idealized, fantastic vision of a united Ireland and the complicated reality that kept the vision at bay.

First of all, Mojo Mickybo exhibits a striking similarity to the structure of a coming-of-age story. The two boys started off as the classic innocent, idealistic protagonists that enjoyed their freedom and yearned to explore the world. They were away from their parents most of the time and seemed to have complete confidence in interacting with adults—chatting with the smoking women, spying on Uncle Sidney, and talking their way past the Box Office lady. Perhaps the most striking feature of Mojo Mickybo as a coming-of-age story is the spirit of adventure—Mojo and Mickybo as Butch and Sundance, ready to shoot their way out of anything that blocked them from a good time and complete freedom. As the typical coming-of-age story goes, they sought trouble with Gank and Fuckface, and escaped. Shortly after, news began to spread about violent movements in Belfast, and the reality of violence between Catholics and Protestants quickly approached their lives. They still went after freedom, going to Newcastle county, but after they came back, reality inevitably clashed with their idealized lifestyle.

Triggered by Mickybo’s Da’s death, Mickybo was no longer able to “stay out of it all.” Although not explicitly portrayed, Mickybo sure went through tremendous internal turmoil before becoming mates with Gank and Fuckface and bullied Mojo. Now, Mickybo was maturing to better cope with the reality that he must face and conform to, although with detrimental effect on his innocence and idealistic lifestyle, just like a typical coming-of-age story protagonist. This maturation process was completed when, years later, Mojo and Mickybo saw each other but ignored each other, clearly still remembering their otherworldly friendship and idealistic lifestyle, but having to suppress it to survive in the status quo.

Considering the debut date in 1998, the year the Good Friday agreement was signed, and the setting in the 1970s, it is reasonable to think that Owen McCafferty used Mojo Mickybo to portray the maturation of Ireland, just like Mojo and Mickybo. In this case, the “childhood innocence” and “idealistic lifestyle” would be (ironically) the violent conflicts between Protestants and Catholics, usually without proper justification, and instead with just the “shoot anybody in my way” mentality, paralleling the fantasies of Mojo and Mickybo as Butch and Sundance. However, this “lifestyle” came to an end in 1998 with the Good Friday agreement, signaling the overtake by the reality that perpetual violence was not sustainable. In the new reality, with Ireland as a “grown-up,” compromises were made, just like how Mickybo sided with Gank and Fuckface, conforming to the reality.

Interestingly, we can also see a coming-of-age story in The Informer. Gypo symbolizes idealism and freedom, while the Organization symbolizes reality and structure. The society as a whole can be seen as the protagonist. At the beginning, Gypo informed on Frankie, which parallels the protagonist leaving home and going on an adventure in a typical coming-of-age story. This causes internal struggle as the reality quickly sets in, when Gypo was torn between enjoying his fortune and freedom and evading suspicion. Reality inevitably won, as the organization hunted Gypo down and killed him, signaling the death of idealism and freedom in the society. The remaining Organization then mirrors Ireland after 1998 that a status quo was maintained, and if one wanted to survive, they had to play with the rules.

This is not to say that idealism and the passion for a united Ireland is nonexistent. In a typical coming-of-age story, the protagonist would still cherish his idealistic vision, although it is often buried deep in the heart so as to cope with reality. The same goes for Ireland. Although outright violent efforts substantially decreased, activists like Eamonn McCann, Geoff Brown, and Sam Lord still clearly possessed the ideal, as evidenced by their hopeful and passionate voice when talking to us. But to Ireland, these people are like the idealistic self buried deep within, while the majority of society moves forward in a more realistic, balanced, and conforming way.

The Marriage of the Situation

In class we talked a good amount about how marriage is portrayed in Mojo Mickybo and concluded that it is depicted in a flimsy way. We see this particularly with Mojo’s parents. We learn of how they used to go dancing and love one another but eventually it detoriated with Owen McCafferty alluding to Mojo’s Da having an affair and eventually his Ma takes him to go and live with his aunt. There are a couple of other portrayals in the play such as with the box office lady, but one depiction that we did not talk about is the boys’ “marriage” with their situation.

Throughout the play the two boys seemed to live in a fantasy world, set away from the grim situation they faced daily. They didn’t have a choice as to the environment they’d be born into and seem to try their best to ignore it by constantly embarking on fantasy adventures. I think that a relationship between a Catholic and a Protestant at the time would be labeled unhealthy because of the high tensions between the two. While the boys acknowledge that they are different, it does not affect their relationship. This all changed once Mickybo’s Da was killed. No longer could Mickybo escape to the wild west because the situation was brought to him. He quickly distances himself from Mojo because he is a protestant. It’s reasonable to assume that the boys knew more about the situation than was alluded to. At the end of the day the boys were stuck in an unhealthy relationship and tried their best to improve it but couldn’t run from the reality of it.

Innocence or Ignorance?

As we have seen through our studies, knowledge of events can shape one’s entire perception of movements and people. However, what occurs when people do not have this knowledge? On one hand, lack of knowledge leads to an idealistic innocence in which negative perceptions of groups do not exist. However, this “innocence” can easily be seen as ignorance, as a willing lack of engagement with pressing issues. This distinction, I believe, can be seen through the childhood innocence found in Mojo Mickybo and the accusations of ignorance given toward white moderates and non-revolutionary black actors.
Mojo Mickybo sees a Protestant boy and a Catholic boy in Belfast having a close friendship, all the while in the background the two groups they come from clash. As children, they have no problem getting along with one another because they have not yet learned they are supposed to be enemies. It is not until they get older that they begin to have a falling out, conforming to the roles society had set for them to be enemies. This friendship being ruined is obviously a bad thing, and it is reflective of how seemingly pointless this conflict was in the first place. If these two boys could get along so well, why can’t all Protestants and Catholics in Belfast? In this way, the innocence of the two boys shows that hate is taught, and the removing of oneself from cultural contexts can actually lead to people getting along better.
On the other hand, however, a lack of knowledge of cultural contexts can be seen to be a willful ignorance of pressing issues. For example, even the peace-loving MLK lamented the inaction of the white moderate, who did not fully understand the plight black people faced in America. Likewise, black revolutionaries saw their more moderate counterparts as not doing enough to protect black peoples’ interests. That is, they believed them ignorant to the fact that violence was the only solution to their problem given the cultural context America found itself in.
Together, both points lead to a complex view of innocence and ignorance. Does ignoring social contexts lead to peace, or is it necessary to find a solution that addresses said contexts? It is hard to know for sure, as both points, I believe, have merits. I think this distinction, though, is an important one to realize going forward in our studies.

Innocence vs. Imagination

Throughout our class discussion of Mojo Mickybo, we deliberated the themes of childhood innocence (or in the case of Mojo and Mickybo, the lack thereof) and the power of childhood imagination. I do not agree with the notion that Mojo and Mickybo lost their innocence once Mickybo’s Da was killed, and his death finally brought to light the Catholic vs. Protestant conflict that the two friends were going against; the notion that only direct violence to one of their families was enough to make them understand the conflict around them and draw a wedge between the friendship. 

I think Mojo and Mickybo were forced to grow up without innocence – they were never innocent to begin with, which is why imagination was such a large part of their friendship and childhood. Growing up in Ireland during a time of serious civil unrest, it was impossible for Mojo and Mickybo to grow up shielded from what was going on around them. Starting from where the boys lived and the lifestyle the two boys lived, it is immediately clear that the Catholics were the poor societal class, and Protestants, the wealthy class. Even the way the adults in the play interact with them shows how unconducive life was for a child at the time. 

Fantasy lets the friendship between a Catholic boy and a Protestant boy deal with the harsh reality that they live in a world of violence and abstract hate. Undeniably, their friendship is shocking and seems to be ‘illegal’ during the time. Like we talked about, their friendship is comparable to the friendship formed in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Unheard of during their times. I think the boys were astutely aware of their questionable friendship, but used their imagination to mask the societal pressures trying to pull them apart. So yes, while the death of Mickybo’s dad did inevitably drive their friendship apart, I do not believe that moment made them lose their innocence and lead to their divide. I think that the death of Mickybo’s dad made them lose their imagination and that is what ultimately led to the end of the friendship, because they could no longer deny the conflict going on around them. 

Imagination is a powerful tool, and once reality sets in, there is no going back.

Communal Hatred

Watching Mickybo & Me and reading Mojo Mickybo has given me the most enlightening insight into the relationships that developed, or didn’t develop, between those on different sides of the “bridge” in Northern Ireland during the 68′ era. Throughout the class so far, it is hard to try and imagine and understand how people could be molded since they were quite little to have contempt for those who believe a different form of the same religion, even if it involved much more than just religion. It’s hard to imagine myself as a 10 or 12 year-old worrying about anything other than the next backyard baseball game with the neighborhood kids. However, this is the environment that children of this era in Northern Ireland lived in constantly.

There are multiple particularly important scenes in Mickybo & Me that I felt illustrated this point exactly. The first time that Mojo travels to Mickybo’s home, Mickybo’s mom asks Mojo, “Are your parents okay with you being here?”. It is clear that Mojo’s presence comes as quite a surprise to Mickybo’s mom. In contrast, a different poignant scene plays out towards the end of the movie after Mickybo’s dad has died. Mickybo, seemingly ignorant to his previous relationship with Mojo, has now joined with Gank and Fuckface in terrorizing Mojo for allegedly stealing Mickybo’s bike. In the scene, I found Mickybo to be quite unsettled, and I would guess this may be the first time where pressure from his community has affected his personal relationships. Even though he knows Mojo has not stolen his bike, I think he is learning that the truth does not matter, the only thing that does is a respect for his community.

After both watching the movie and reading the play, I stumbled across the short summary on the back of my version of the play. The last sentence reads, “The play unsentimentally portrays a kind of innocence betrayed by communal hatred”. “Communal hatred” is what led Mickybo to push Mojo away. I would venture to say that “communal hatred” or some form of communal pressure is what led “The Committee” to push away Teddy in The Informer. This idea has been prevalent in every signal piece we have discussed, a “you vs. us” mentality that trumped any other feelings, but led to dangerous tension and conflict.

The Role of Imagination

We are influenced by the actions of our parents, our friends, our peers, and our teachers. We look to those around us to fill the gaps in our knowledge, and to steady our wavering hands. As children, this need is exacerbated; the exploration of life and love and truth is innate and is fueled by our surroundings. Mojo Mickybo illustrates the depth of this need for others while adding in the role of imagination and the ideologies of temporal society.

The imaginations of Mojo and Mickybo are fascinating. It is even more interesting, however, that the extent to which they align is ten-fold. The question becomes, then, is this alignment innate? Or was it formed out of a need for companionship? For Mojo, it is no secret that his family is in a different situation than that of Mickybo. Even so, he continues to go to Mickybo’s home, speak to his parents, and join forces with him against the bigger, meaner kids in town. If Mojo were presented with the choice to divorce the comfort that his family has to salvage his friendship with Mickybo, I believe that he would. This belief stems from the importance of imagination, and of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid within the play.

Cowboys aren’t really portrayed as having families and religions. In a sense, they’re bachelors living on the land and on the adrenaline of appearing as a “hero”. But since Mojo and Mickybo are still dependent on their parents and are being taught by their actions, the parents are intertwined in their thoughts and imaginations. This is seen when they discuss going to Australia with each of their sets of parents. They would prefer to go as a group. However, when the going gets tough, they go to “Bolivia” alone, truly living out their fantasies of being Butch and Sundance.

I would argue that the need for companionship, and the friendship between Mojo and Mickybo, is stronger than the ideologies of their families because of the extent to which their imaginations run wild. This is further shown when Mickybo describes Mojo as childish when he wants to roll down the hills at the park. Mickybo has “grown up” and his sense of imagination has faltered due to the death of his father; he then becomes committed to the ideology and religion of his family, because those ideas are the connection to the love of his father. Imagination was the link between Mojo and Mickybo.