“One of the big things that poor Irish people have is a fantastic ability to tell stories.”
This wasn’t an obvious one.
After all, these podcasts have more been about post-World War II than pre-World War I. Living memory, or at least living memories of those that lived them.
But frankly, it was too good to resist: U Dhammaloka, formerly Laurence Carroll – among other names – making his way from Booterstown, Dublin across the Atlantic then traversing the US until finally turning up as the kind of in-yer-face Buddhist monk the British weren’t expecting to find in Burma.
Come on, you’d want to know more, too.
In many ways, it’s a different world – where Irish soldiers are essentially the muscle of the Empire, where Irish dockers and Chinese coolies fought for control of the ports in New York and San Francisco, where revolution is in the air and a man can change his identity five times and disappear for a quarter of a century.
But – as Laurence Cox points out – it’s a familiar one, too. It’s the dawn of the era of fingerprinting and mugshots, of surveillance and documentation. It’s an age when individuals like Dhammaloka can break free of the expectations of their identity. And it’s a time when the answer to the question of what it means to be Irish (or British or Burmese or Indian) is very much in flux.
So, no, this isn’t an obvious one – but at the same time it’s completely self-evident that this belongs among The Plastic Podcasts. Laurence’s own passion not just for Buddhism and Irishness, but for the need to uncover stories and make sure they get told, has its own relevance to Ireland (and Britain and no doubt Burma and India) today.
There’s still so much that needs to be said, and heard. So much “bloody work” that needs to be done. But when the results are as spellbinding as “The Irish Buddhist”, you know that work is worth it.