Re. The Genesis of “Remember Who You Are”:
When I (unwittingly) coined the “Remember Who You Are” phrase for Hugh [backstory here] it was in reference to the print of his I had just purchased, that we proudly display in my ad agency’s lobby. It reads: THE MARKET FOR SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN IS INFINITE. Which pretty much sums up EVERYTHING you need to know about marketing.
At the time I said that it reminded me of the Roman Catholic icons my mother displayed in my childhood home to remind us of who we were: Irish Roman Catholics. I write this on vacation, from my hometown of Galway, Ireland. And I am reminded afresh of why this practice originated.
You see Ireland, unlike Hugh’s homeland of Scotland, was never fully subjugated by the English. We had the great advantage of being separated from England by the sea. We also had the great advantage of being bloody minded in the extreme. The Irish are a passionate and unreasonable race. We are Celts and we will fight you to the bitter end. We will never give up.
At one point in the 18th century, our now-friends the English outlawed both our religion and our language and customs upon pain of death. Or worse, transportation to Australia! The English assumed, not unreasonably, that surely this would do the trick. That we would eventually give up our identity and assimilate. They were wrong. Ireland, despite our proximity to the UK, became the first “colony” of the then great British Empire to defeat it.
We ultimately did this by inventing urban guerilla warfare, aka terrorism. We made Ireland ungovernable by using unconventional techniques that favored our comparatively limited resources. The English expected us to fight them on their terms but we fought them on our terms. The Jewish Israeli independence fighters studied and used these exact same techniques against the British in the then Palestine in 1948.
Unreasonableness won us our independence. Our very identity was at stake. Being Celtic and Roman Catholic was literally illegal. Our reaction was: well f**k that s**t! And in the long run, and it was a centuries-long long run, we won out. Because we never lost sight of who we were, and the value that had to us. Some things just aren’t right. And no amount of bullshit and arrogance and/or money and power can make them right. They’re just wrong. Period.
What was the impulse that initially got you excited you about what you do? Stick with that impulse. Maybe you are right and THEY are wrong. The Sex Pistols were right. The Beatles were right. James Joyce was right. Bill Bernbach was right.
Life conspires to throw you off your true course. So we all need reminders of who we really are. Of what really animates and inspires us on a day to day basis.
My late mother’s statues of the Virgin Mary and pictures of the saints weren’t solely the product of religious devotion. They were also a gesture of defiance. Our culture had come precariously close to losing our identity. But we were damned if we were going to succumb to something that was just plain wrong.
Never forgetting who we are is the key to everything. For all we know, YOU may well end up being the center of the universe. Think about that. Assume that is the case. Why not? It could be true.
[The “Remember Who You Are” archive is here.]