Eurovision 2017 as a barometer of change?

I have grown up with “the Eurovision” as an annual “festival of entertainment” in my life. In the early days of the competition I revelled in the performances that were rooted in the European cultures from which they sprang. A kaleidoscope of the shared cultures that made Europe unstable yet inspiring of a dream – a Europe of the People. It inspired me and encouraged me to walk and hitch-hike around the Continent of Europe, meeting other young people and their families in youth hostels or on campsites, struggling to understand yet hungry for the stimulation of the diverse cultures of Europe. Over the years I have begun to despair at the way that commercialism, dumbing-down, and the force-feeding of a homogenised, skin-deep world of entertainment and communication has become the unchallenged norm.

That is why, in anticipation, I was dreading what the 2017 Eurovision contest might bring. The first semi-final round last Tuesday night was awful in my view. Monotonously pallid, and pallidly monotonous. Of the 32 countries in the Eurovision finals, the following sang in their first or home language and performed in relation to their own cultures: Portugal, Hungary, Belarus, Italy, France. The other 27 sang in English. Of those only the U.K., Australia, and Ireland speak English as a national language.

The second semi-final on Thursday night was an improvement. But the banalities of the Irish commentators wheeled into action in our radio and television studios left me sickened and depressed. They seem forever to tug the forelock in remembrance of their Irish mentors in scoffing at “foreignors and their strange ways” and generally promoting and living off a John Bull attitude that “wogs begin at Calais”. I felt sorry for Brendan Walsh, the Irish contestant, a young man with potential but one who, in my opinion, was squeezed into the mould of a “remember Johnny Logan” campaign. I am sure that when he develops his own persona he will succeed. But not when he is being used to promote and recall the dreams of former glories still treasured by those who were behind the scenes for former winners.

Tonight’s result, however, with Portugal’s Salvador Sobral “ag snámh in aghaidh an easa” (swimming against the flow), celebrating his victory with his sister, Luisa, and stating that music must be reclaimed for the people, for their cultures and for their emotions, was an indicator, a straw in the wind, a wind of change that hopefully will sweep across Europe when the U.K. leaves the EU or wakes up from its dream of empire and comes to its senses. Let’s get back to our roots and start planning now.

I have met too many Irish people abroad in my forty years of overseas work, whose way of surviving was snail-like, carrying their home and their culture on their backs, using the life-buoys of Irish pubs to help them survive in an artificially secure environment. Their insecurity showed in their apparent unwillingness to participate in other cultures for fear of losing their own identity. The world is a big place and we must learn to open ourselves to the anxieties and insecurities that it brings. No roots, no growth! In an interesting way I found this Eurovision encouraging for the future of Europe. Those people who are not afraid of change and of difference cast a vote tonight. The theme of this years event was “Celebrate Diversity”! What diversity? There is still a lot of work to be done, in Eurovision, in the EU, and here at home in Ireland.

How is it all going to end?

Is it possible for us to think outside these two boxes and the fixed beam that joins them and gives them motion?

because it is a fiction that we have created, we feel the need to hide the savagery of the process by giving it a few coats of the varnish of civilisation to conceal the pain.

I have just been reading #NotesfromUnderground by #Fyodor_Dostoievsky as part of a reading list on Existentialism I have downloaded to my Samsung phone. This relates to my ongoing struggle with Life and Living and my present angst arising from the struggle between interminable feelings of regret, failure, and depression and, on the other hand, the inexpressible joy of having savoured Life and Living, tasted the happiness, integrity, and exhilaration that come from a job done with ability and courage whether or not it was deemed successful or merited accolade from others.

In my undergraduate days at #UCC, I was elected President of a small College society , called the #Academy_of_St.Thomas, which was a constituent part of the #IrishAssociationofCatholic UniversityStudents, and through that affiliated to the international #Pax_Romana movement. On one occasion we had a scheduled monthly meeting on the topic of “Existentialism”. Needless to say, back in the days of the 1960s, as an Engineering student, I was not expected to know anything about Philosophy; but the secondary school catechism (bold print part only) after a Catholic upbringing, – a definite ‘yes’, -the Bible, a qualified ‘yes’ provided it was hierarchy approved and not the King James version, – the Beatles, a definite ‘yes’. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara was not the only one toTeilhardP_1947

Teilhard de Chardin

dream and to sniff revolution on the breeze. I had been given a present of “The Phenomenon of Man” and didn’t get beyond the first few pages as I my mind could not cope with the translation from French of the ideas of Teilhard de Chardin about the evolution of consciousness on this planet. Nevertheless, as President of our little College “Republic of Thought”, I was required to step into the breach when our visiting Philosopher pulled out of the engagement due to illness. Yet, he kindly forwarded his script to be read at the meeting. At the hastily called meeting of our Committee, and faute de mieux, I was given the job of reading the script. I do not remember volunteering but, “as the boy stood on the burning deck,” he remembered his duty to God and Country. Either that or the awakening in me of a gene from the distaff side. My mother was a concert contralto singer and regular performing member of the Cobh Operatic Society. Theatre was in my blood. Argol! I thought it was my duty to respond.

I skipped some morning lectures and afternoon practical to sweat the text. Fortunately for me there were enough clerical and ex-clerical students in U.C.C. in those halcyon days upon whom I was able to rely for explanations of the hard words and prayers of support to prepare me for the ordeal ahead. In any case, some of them would undoubtedly be attending the lecture. They usually studied Arts and spent the afternoon in the College restaurant drinking in coffee and the ambience of student freedom. #Gaudeamus_Igitur!

The remainder of the day is still a blur of conscience-stricken ignorance, a churning stomach, of Thomistic support, and a certain je n’ sais quoi, which I recognised many years later as what happens when scales fall from the eyes with the attendant vigorous stirring of the little grey cells and a further leap in the evolution of one human specimen. For thus, without my realising it at the time, had begun with toddler steps, my thirst for the writings of Camus, of Sartre, of de Bouvoir, for the music of Brel and Piaf, as well of the emerging Left in European literature, and of an addiction to the Theatre of the Absurd. This unscratchable itch has stayed with me, unsatisfied, irritating, threatening yet attracting, like a vaguely discerned shape perceived behind a permanent veil of unknowing.

More recent social, political, and related developments in Irish, European, and global affairs have been like patches of dried skin that have appeared occasionally on my right leg! I now know better how to deal with the latter, especially since I became familiar with energy healing, acupressure, and somatic effects relating to the left side of the brain and its connection to the right side of the body. This has now brought me to strive beyond our current binary model of either/or, black/white, yes/no, good/bad. Is it possible for us to think outside these two boxes and the fixed beam that joins them and gives them motion?

That two-dimensional system, like the cinema screen, gives us an illusion of certainty, of a three-dimensional world, that we would control. We can ignore it if we don’t like what we see. In our democratic fervour, every time the see-saw changes, we claim that “The people have spoken”. Excuse me? Even when we have accepted the will of just 51% and ignored the will of the other 49%? Sorry, but you must accept the will of the majority! Why? Why not? When we draw a line of difference in an intact group, community, or society, yet wish that unit to survive as a unit we must also provide a process, a mechanism, for the effective integration of the differentiated parts into a new picture of the old reality. This is the primary problem facing the American people of the U.S. at present. It is a recurring phenomenon in the course of our lives.

The glaring but sad reality seems to be that we do not yet know how to organise and administer systems in which there are, apparently, inherent presenting contradictions. This then leads to the lauding of one view and the vilifying of the other view. This generates spite, anger, fear, resentment, recriminations, and general negativity on both sides, but not necessarily of the same kind or of the same magnitude on each side. The longer this division lasts the deeper the division grows and the more difficult it becomes eventually to resolve the problems generated by the binary or two-dimensional system. This, in turn, leads to each side finding further justification for their views and stance in the contrary beliefs and perceived dissident behaviour of the opposition. The dimensions of the reality perceived on each side are concretised and measured in the resulting total system where they are further separated and perceived in consequence as separate irreconcilable and opposing realities. Yet because it is a fiction that we have created, we feel the need to hide the savagery of the process by giving it a few coats of the varnish of civilisation to conceal the pain. But that varnish is not rust-proof. The truth will out. Just as applying cosmetics to the face of a corpse, and replacing the former shroud with nice everyday clothes is merely an effort to negate grieving by pretence and to deny Death and Dying as unavoidable aspects of Life.

The question that arises for me then is this: would the result have been different had the inherited framework used and accepted for decision-making in politics and in life in general been different. If Pain and Differentiation are inevitable, how and when can we introduce Joy and Integration? Most importantly of all, is it possible to design and use a decision-making process that caters for both and, if possible, at the same time?

In broad terms the dominant feature of Western social systems is compromise, whereas in Eastern social systems the dominant feature described is one of consensus. In the West we tend to give virtually the same meaning to both words, “compromise” and “consensus”. I have lived and worked for extended periods in the East and in the Middle East, where I have experienced fundamental differences in meaning between the two. They each belong to different realities. These differences have resonances and subtleties that are reflected in the cultures and philosophies developed broadly across each of two halves of the globe. They have been modified with some mutual accommodation in the regions of contact and overlap between the two major spheres of influence. Compare the teachings of Socrates, Plato, Thomas Aquinas, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius. Compare the belief systems of indigenous tribes, of Muslims, Jews, Christians in war-torn areas of the Middle East,of the same groups in Europe, Australia, America. How did they see the world? How do they make decisions?

This basic mode that I have described, of differentiation and integration is again perceived in the subordinate regions of each global sphere of interest and culture and power, where regional units such as islands, countries, nations, and tribes predominate. Within each of these, further processes of differentiation and integration are involved. We thereby arrived eventually at what we chose to describe as the fundamental building unit of the human

220px-Homo_erectus_pekinensis_-_archeaeological

species, namely “Man”. Yet within the relatively tiny duration of my personal life-span, that “fundamental” unit has been challenged and re-construed as “Wo(man)” or “Woman/Man”.  Yet further these definitions were re-defined more precisely recently as “Woman-Man”, an expanding range of human individuality with seamless transitions from one sub-division to the next, from “All-woman to All-man”, portraying a rainbow of subdivisions spanning the scale. A romantic and gentle picture of differences. This panorama is reflected in the basic building block of Life, in the DNA molecule where the blueprint for differentiation is laid down and the propensity for differences in future generations have been labeled by scientists.

This is where the problem begins. This is where “Wo(man)”, as “God”, or as replacing “God”, can, or may, or must decide the future of conscious Life on this Planet. What would you do? Would you use Science, an as yet incomplete body of experimental data and therefore subject to further change and revision as the result of incremental data? What moral and ethical principles would guide us? With what degree of certainty can we produce laws and metrification to guide us in the inevitable choices we shall have to make? Given what I have written above, how will we govern society and make decisions for the human species and all its relatives? Are we so afraid of Death, Disease, and Dying that we must strive to eradicate them and to produce the Immortal Human? Will Woman, Man, or Androgyne be the norm? Should we have brought Spirit into our discourse before now? What difference would that make to the Story of Life?

Or would you choose Nature as the model for the future of our Planet? Would you be able and willing, as our ancestors were, of necessity, to live with the reality of Death, Disease, Dying and the attendant faults in the DNA that lead to disability, to fatal abnormalities, of aberrations from the anticipated development of human life and of, as yet, unrevealed and un-encountered variations in life forms? Who would decide when an intolerable Life should end or be sedated until natural death intervened, or how would such decisions be made? And, as for Science, is there a role in Nature’s Story of Life for Spirit?

© 2017 Tony Pratschke

NOTE: I plan to develop this thesis further and to expand my ideas with further detail. I would appreciate readers leaving critical comment, opinion, and questions on this topic in the Comment box below.

 

 

 

Holmes meets McCabe!

… the obvious conclusion must be that she was digging a very big hole for herself if it were subsequently discovered that she was prevaricating or concealing information. Why would she do that?

“When you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, is the truth.”

(Sherlock Holmes’ advice to Dr. Watson)

Rodin - The ThinkerAs I listened to the headlines on the RTÉ ”News at One” (Monday, 13th Februaaray, 2017) and heard, yet again, a statement from the Garda Commissioner that she would not be standing aside, I was minded of the quotation above. There appears to have been an assumption in the public arena that Nóirín O’Sullivan “must have known” what was going on in the whistle-blower controversy. Add to that, the thinly veiled but apparent threat/promise from Jim O’Callaghan (F.F./T.D.) in an interview with Seán O’Rourke earlier in the day when he insinuated that RTÉ had questions to answer about a “recent radio interview with the Garda Commissioner”. I had listened to that interview and the very personal nature of her story made me wonder why that interview was taking place.

I should state at this point that I have a strong personal interest in this entire whistle-blower scenario. Back in 1979 I was a member of a consultancy and management training team assembled by NIHE Limerick (now University of Limerick) to run the first management training programme in the Garda Training Centre at Templemore, Co. Tipperary, for Garda Chief Superintendents. My role and expertise related to Leadership, Group Behaviour, and Organisation Culture. In particular, my approach is based upon experiential principles where participants learn from guided analysis and examination of their own work and life experience leading to highly personal and relevant learning. For example, instead of teaching participants about Motivation and Maslow’s Theory of the Hierarchy of Needs, I would ask them to reflect upon their work experience and identify a time when they were really happy about their work and felt confident in what they were doing. Similarly for a time when they were unhappy and uncomfortable in what they were doing. By grouping their answers into “Good” and “Bad”, it quickly becomes apparent that the “positive” factors are mainly concerned with internal factors such as feeling competent, liking the work, feeling happy whereas the “negative” factors deal predominantly with external factors, such as work environment, pressure from others, relationships with team members, superiors, and subordinates. This approach, as the saying goes, “reaches parts of the psyche that traditional teaching based upon the studies of others, of experts, cannot reach” because it comes from inside the learner and bypasses the Ego resistance to change thus leading to profound changes in behaviour.

In the setting of the Templemore Centre this approach gave me valuable insights into the culture and belief systems of the Garda Síochána at that time as a national institution. In brief it was a national institution which had internalised traditional standards of moral and ethical beliefs and related behaviour patterns that were increasingly thought to be not relevant and so were increasingly not widely accepted or practised in the Ireland of the time. This was summarised on one occasion during the course by a Detective Chief Superintendent who, in response to my question as what was the greatest change they had witnessed during their careers, said that “the greatest change was that (they) could no longer recognise a criminal by the ‘cut’ of him.”

I later made use of this and other related information I had gleaned to make a detailed contribution to the Garda Training Committee Report on Probationer Training (published by the Stationery Office) which was presented to the Garda Commissioner, Lawrence Wren, in December, 1985. This was the first of a series of Reports on Education and Training for the Garda Síochána. Further reports were planned for In-Service Promotion, Specialist, and Higher Management Training. I made specific recommendations as to how the culture of the organisation should be changed so that the Garda Síochána would be empowered and supported in dealing with a rapidly changing society. In particular, I was drawing attention to the undermining and then immanent failure and collapse of the traditional icons, symbols, and sources of authority in Irish society. From personal contacts, both formal and informal, in the course of the past fifteen years (since returning to Ireland in 2001 after a further twenty years of overseas work in developing countries and transitional economies) I believe that little has changed. It is against this background that I make the following comments.

nine-of-wandsIf Commissioner O’Sullivan had known nothing as she has stated repeatedly about the alleged victimisation of Garda Sergeant McCabe and others, the obvious conclusion must be that she was digging a very big hole for herself if it were subsequently discovered that she was prevaricating or concealing information. Why would she do that? If she had genuinely been unaware of what was happening, how was that possible? If we allow for that possibility though, then however improbable it may seem, we must also allow for the possibility that she was deliberately not informed by one or more senior members of her management team about what was going on! Why would they do that? Did one or more of her team fear that a woman Commissioner would not sympathise or identify with a traditional male ethos? What else has yet to be disclosed? Does she even yet know who has been hiding information from her? Is that the reason why she is determined to remain in office until, like a good police officer, she flushes out the mole in the organisation? Is this yet another example of “The Case of the Dog that didn’t Bark in the Night?”

Where do we go from here?

A gap is opening between Government and people. It is widening to a gulf of not knowing. And it is not just in Ireland, but in many other countries that regard themselves as democracies.

NOTE: I began writing this blog about one month ago on a Monday morning just before Christmas.

I have just been listening to the Sean O’Rourke programme, which featured an interview with An Tánaiste from Greece informing us about the progress in arrangements to bring our quota of refugees to Ireland. Earlier there was a discussion about Garda pension arrangements, trade union recognition, et al. Then an interview with Mr. Irwin, founder and now retiring CEO of the Jack and Jill Foundation about the work done by them over the past twenty years or so. Over the week-end I had listened to discussions around Irish art and culture reminding me how wonderful and unique we Irish are. Then, as I sit here listening to “O Holy Night” on the Ronan Collins Show, I check in to Facebook and the first item in my Facebook page is a comment from one of the “anti-water protest” pages objecting to our welcoming of refugees while homeless Irish people are living and dying on our streets. And that is just in the past two hours. Add to that the kaleidoscope of disturbing images and snippets from different media and I find myself torn apart, struggling with conflicted emotions.

I promised myself as I started to write this piece that I would not use adjectives or any words that carried emotion or judgment. I failed but I have gone back and edited those words so that I took the emotions back into my psyche and owned them. The result is that I now feel angry, despairing, powerless, dirtied, complicit, confused, useless, but still determined not to give in. I am listening to the RTÉ news telling me of summary executions of non-combatant civilians in Aleppo in Syria, I can’t be sure that I can continue to process and control these emotions as I write.

dreamstime_s_46142943

Nevertheless, I have devoted my whole life, sometimes with conscious focus but more often than not driven by an unconscious, inexplicable, internal tumult to confront the Unknown, and possibly Unknowable, in an effort to make sense of this chaos.

A few rocks of logic have given me a handhold to survive. And I would like to describe these before making an appeal. It is part of our human condition that we must admit and accept that we struggle to understand what Life is about. Some people accept the tenets of a received religion which gives them a measure of consolation provided they maintain their “Belief in the Unbelievable” (G.K. Chesterton’s description of religion) which appears to be based upon an assumption that “God is Good” albeit not understandable to the human mind, and “Evil” is attributable to a separate entity. Others develop the assumption that there is no “God” and that Life, the Universe, and Everything, is some kind of glorious happenstance that doesn’t require a meaning other than that “it is”, and “après moi”, not only is there no “la deluge”, there isn’t even a tear drop. Truly Theatre of the Absurd!

I began to see a glimmer of humanist hope in the middle 1970s. I had returned from a four-year contract in Zambia, working on the second largest underground copper mine in the world, where I had reached the level of Chief Training Officer. The challenge of working in a different culture and different working environment had opened my mind and led me to question many of my inherited certainties. Back in Ireland after a short spell in consultancy in the UK and Angola, I was introduced to the work of the Tavistock Institute and the work of Melanie Klein, a psychotherapist, who had studied under Sigmund Freud. Without going into the theoretical details of her work which dominated my work and my world for the following thirty years, I can summarise in lay-person’s language the essence of her work.

The Lion Sleeps tonight

Melanie Klein was a psychotherapist who focused on studying young children up to the age of two in order to understand how the human psyche (total mental system) learned how to understand and respond to the world around it. In essence she suggested that the child discovers by accident and by experimenting that there are “good” things and “bad” things about the world that can please or upset, love or hurt, and a mental boundary is thus created between Good and Evil. The good things are internalised/eaten and give pleasure, the nasties are spat out, thrown up, put beyond the boundary that was created in the psyche and externalised. This way of dealing with “objects” is imprinted in the psyche before the child has developed speech to describe its feelings and these “bottled” experiences become the basic mechanism we use throughout our life for dealing with the people and events that impinge on us. This means that we unconsciously reject anything that upsets or offends us and “project” it, like a slide onto a screen, and see it in someone or something external to us. This gives us some consolation but it doesn’t last very long because it is only the association with the external object that is projected. We are still left with the feeling response of disgust, or anger, or fear that was generated initially.

I emphasise that this is done unconsciously. But every time I see, hear, or read a rant on facebook or a report in a television/radio interview that seems to be biased, I am reminded of that mechanism and wonder what can be done to bring about a resolution of the unconscious reaction. We have been fuming with anger against those who have imposed austerity upon us, we are angry with the Government for what we believe they are doing to us. But while the anger burns away at our souls, and people suffer evictions, and loss, and pain in their lives, nothing seems to happen as a result of that anger. Innocent people, adults and children find their lives reduced to bare survival. Why? The inequalities in society are worsening. Why is nothing being done?

five-of-cupsI believe that it is essential for our very health, physical and mental, that we learn to understand this psychic avoidance mechanism. We live in an  increasingly dangerous and uncontrolled environment. Yet, if we are to survive we must come to terms with these learned responses that once served a useful purpose but nowadays are a time bomb ticking down the seconds to our destruction. I am thinking in particular about the anger, violent and palpable, that is expressed by so many people in response to the increasing violence we experience from society, from government, even from those close to us. For that reason I have been asking myself is it worth the risk of putting my head above the parapet to draw attention to this violence. Because much of it is an unconscious, “knee-jerk”, reaction to the pain experienced by so many people our instinctive reaction is to deny it. That is my reaction also, hoping that it will go away, or that someone else will take up the cudgel to attack it. That is why I have held back on posting this message since just before Christmas.

A gap is opening between Government and people. It is widening to a gulf of not knowing. And it is not just in Ireland, but in many other countries that regard themselves as democracies.

Birth of the Ampersand et al.

As I invite you to follow me into one of the larger stone buildings, please do not distract those hard at work at the sloping wooden desks.
Come with me now on a magical, mystical journey back through time to a small cluster of little stone buildings clinging to the side of a rocky island breasting the rolling waves of the unknown Atlantic

This is the Scriptorium, the Room of Writing.

I am launching an appeal for the preservation of the “.”
Yes, the much maligned, abused, and misunderstood Full Stop or Period. Restore our Mr., our etc., the I.R.A. Shun the abusive use of USA, UK, EU, and their likes! Omitting the humble <.> is a sign of ignorance, an absence of respect, and a further decline into willful barbarity.
Why do I write with tears of desperation misting my smart phone. Why do they still use a special key for the simple, unpretentious <.>! Quite simply because the dumbing downers have misunderstood the advice that “Brevity is the Soul of Wit”.
I beg you, Friends, Romantics, and Fellow Countrymen, lend me your ears, just for a mo. And in that short phrase at the end of the previous sentence lies a clue!
Lay aside you concerns, your petty irritations, turn off the radio or television, and open your mind and imagination to the greatest gift that our Irish ancestors gave and gave freely to Europe and to the world at large.
Come with me now on a magical, mystical journey back through time to a small cluster of little stone buildings clinging to the side of a rocky island breasting the rolling waves of the unknown Atlantic off the Western coast of a mysterious island marked on the maps of Roman and Egyptian seafarers as Hibernia, the Island of Saints and Scholars, and departure point of leather boats and currachs for Tír na n-Óg, the Land of the Ever Young.
As I invite you to follow me into one of the larger stone buildings, please do not distract those hard at work at the sloping wooden desks. This is the Scriptorium, the Room of Writing. Here you see the Scribes at work. They have prepared their pots of ink from natural materials. Some of those raw materials have been delivered by traders who traded their way up the original Great Atlantic Coastal Way extending from the Mediterranean in the South to the Hebridean Islands north of Scotland. That was a time when Europe was thickly forested and wild animals marauded in the wilderness between isolated communities.
Some Scribes are sharpening the points of their goose feather quills. On the sloping work surface of his desk another Scribe has fixed the prepared calf hide upon which he will apply the ink with the quill. But first he must mark out the space which will be his page. Nowadays, of course, with your P.C., or your iPad, or your smart phone, this is done automatically for you. Left or right justified? Italics? Bold? Which font, what colours? Just set your requirements by tapping the relevant icons and off you go. Not so then! Not so even when I was starting out as a student!
In 1959, I had just completed my first year as an engineering student at University College Cork. I had spent part of that year learning the basic skills of engineering drawing which involved blocking out the different sections of the drawing including penciling in the text boxes where I would insert the explanatory text. My father, with intriguing foresight or perhaps just wishing to pass on to me his skill in the calligraphy required when preparing important legal documents such as leases, contracts, and wills, introduced me to the subject.
He sat me down at my own Dickensian desk in his office in Cobh, Co. Cork, complete with the tools of the trade, a sheet of waxed paper, an array of nibs, a wooden pen-holder, a razor blade, and a little bottle of black Indian Ink. Any error or blob of ink had to be dried and the stain that was left carefully and delicately scraped off. Then the roughened surface was rubbed with a chamois leather cloth to warm the underlying waxed surface to restore the original smooth, glossy surface of the vellum. It took a whole day of writing to reach the standard required before I proved that I could be trusted with the actual job in hand. It was worth it.
Years later when I became interested in studying ancient manuscripts and translating from Latin and Irish to English I found that early experience invaluable when deciphering the manuscripts.When I, like the ancient Scribes, embarked on writing my manuscript I had to plan how many words and letters I would fit into each line. The spacing had to be uniform on my documents. The Scribes had a different problem that in some ways made their job easier. They didn’t put spaces between words! They just wrote uninterruptedly from the first word to the last word of the document! Yes, the whole page. I think that the modern equivalent is the help files supplied with software programs where you need to know the answer to your question before you can understand the turgid prose of the author who is supposed be helping you find that answer. Those manuscripts were hard to read!
Now the early Irish Scribes were way ahead of today’s help file compilers. They listened to the feedback they received from the sponsors who commissioned the manuscripts as the following (imaginary!) dialogue demonstrates:
King/Lord/Abbot commissioning the manuscript: “The formation of the letters is very pretty and I really like the animal and bird decorations but I feel like a right gargoyle dick-head when my guests and my friends don’t dig it if I run out of breath halfway through the story. I need something better if you are to continue receiving my bags of gold.”
Chief Scribe: “I hear what you’re saying, King/Lord/Abbot Boss. Leave it to me.”
So the C.S. called the team together for a brain-storming session. He used motivational techniques common at the time to encCome with me now on a magical, mystical journey back through time to a small cluster of little stone buildings clinging to the side of a rocky island breasting the rolling waves of the unknown Atlantic cosmic-yin-yang-symbolourage the team. Phrases like “that’s your bonus package for Paradise terminated if …”, “No more trips to Tír na n-Óg for you, Brother …”
And it worked. A sequence of lateral, vertical, and horizontal thinking exercises and the team came up with some of Monastic Ireland’s greatest contributions to world literacy and literature. Firstly they invented the FUCome with me now on a magical, mystical journey back through time to a small cluster of little stone buildings clinging to the side of a rocky island breasting the rolling waves of the unknown Atlantic cosmic-yin-yang-symbolLL STOP to indicate the point at which one part of the message ended and a new part started thus providing a discrete cue for drawing breath. And thus was the SENTENCE born. Shortly after that some bright spark added the gloss of decorating the first letter so that Kings/Lords/Abbots would remember where they stopped if they had lifted their eyes to check quickly which of their so called friends and guests had fallen asleep or slipped out for a quick chat with one of the temping, and often tempting, serving wenches. [Thanks, Google predictive for that opportunist pun!👍].
Thus did our Irish ancestors invent and introduce CAPITALS. To put this in context, if Monsanto, or Nestlé, were involved in such an invention today, they would demand copyright control and charge a hefty fee for every time we used them. Instead those brilliant and entrepreneurial monks took vows of poverty and anticipated the GNU Commons License. Well done, lads!
Nevertheless, as we usually find in Life, solving one problem exposes another. In those days they didn’t have access to consultants who would, as part of their investigations, show conclusively that there really was no problem there at all that a little re-organisation of resources couldn’t eliminate and that a spin-doctor could prove was in fact an “opportunity” and not a “threat”. So they had to find a solution to this new problem.
No matter how hard they tried to plan ahead it was virtually impossible to finish a line of text at exactly the same point as the previous line. And Kings/Lords/Abbots did so love their fully justified text with its military precision of left and right edges being parallel. They must truly have been idealists because the natural world in which they lived was certainly lacking in straight edges! But thus was conceived and brought into existence the concept of the “abbreviation”, the crowning achievement of our Irish Scribes!
When you come near the right edge of your text block and you have to fit, for example, the word “September” and there is space only for four or five letters, then you feel like screaming and filling in “shit” just to release your frustration. But no, Brother Scribe taps his nose with his right forefinger, and inserts “Sept.” and thereby saves the day and the vellum. This <.> is now no mere prompt for an indrawn breath. It is an indicator that the preceding letters are a generally understood and accepted ABBREVIATION. That was really putting it up to the educated elite to prove they were educated and knew the codes.
These abbreviations proliferated giving us a donkey-load of useful ways, not only of fitting a big word into a small space, but also of fitting more text into the same space. This is basically the foundation also of Shorthand, a defunct skill now that we have voice recorders. With the increasing use of Latin as a lingua franca for the educated elites across Europe, our Scribes gleefully used abbreviations that had to be understood to be deciphered in a text. A delicate touch of monastic one-up-manship! Not unlike the way that today we use slang and jargon to parade our expertise or professional connections. Thus, the Latin glosses and their abbreviations, such as “et cetera” meaning “and others”, abbreviated to “etc.” with the <.> signifying that it is an abbreviation. The ampersand symbol “&” is an imaginative and artistic squiggle based on the letters ‘e’ and ‘t’ of the Latin “et” meaning ‘and’. Even today legal eagles become scrotally damp with excitement at opportunities to parade phrases they no longer understand.
This brings me to the abbreviations I listed at the beginning of this homage to ancestors. The <.> used in each of the, U.S.A., E.U., etc. is an indication of an abbreviation deriving ultimately from the practices of our early Irish Scribes. They, writing in Old Irish, then in Early Irish, and Latin, preserved not only Irish oral tradition but, together with Latin and Greek scholars aided and abetted by Islamic Scholars in the Middle East, preserved the first written literature and mythologies and hitherto oral traditions of Europe, a treasure-trove of European culture and identity that might have been lost forever during the Dark Ages.I have it on the reliable evidence of a previous Irish President, that at that time the adventurous Colmcille opened discussions with European tribes about rolling out the concept of Europe. Even though Hibernia was at the edges of the then known world, our hearts were at the centre of the Europe to be.
I wonder is it a coincidence, or perhaps even a synchronicity, that the countries and cultures listed above, Latins, Greeks, Irish, Islam, the Middle East, are the ones suffering most today under the lash of neo-liberal capitalist exploitation? Just a thought.
I believe in, and I am passionately committed to, that noble heritage from my Irish and European ancestors. I would not like to see that heritage destroyed because of a lack of understanding or a barbaric obsession with the destruction of what we do not understand. Perhaps it’s time for another diplomatic and cultural assault on the Goths and Visigoths of Europe.
Troglodytes of the World Unite before they beat out our Brains.

A Greek god helps the Homeless

Quite clearly then Apollo was a Champion of the Homeless, he had no hesitation in fighting against and defeating the stinking Python, who like the Government, was responsible for spreading mischief!

People sometimes look strangely at me when I say that I believe there is no such thing as “coincidence”. I prefer to use the word “synchronicity” which suggests that two apparently unrelated events “click” with one another under certain circumstances. For example, have you ever had the experience of thinking about someone and within a short time, sometimes minutes, the phone rings and it is that person. Or you meet someone whom you haven’t met for a long time. I am sure you can provide other examples from your own experience.

It is as if those two events in the coincidence were waiting to happen in parallel realities, and then for some unknown reason they become connected in time. As if they existed in different worlds, but for some reason it happens that they “touch” and they happen at the same time. The important thing is that when they do “click” they become relevant to one another. That means that by comparing one event to the other we can get insights that we would not have arrived at by logic.But that approach is ridiculed, why?

Since the Enlightenment in the Middle Ages, Science has taken off in a big way and we have been told that those notions we had before the Enlightenment were stupid and primitive. Now Science has developed rapidly so much so that the logical real world is the only one that matters. Measurement is more important than feelings. Economics is a more important measure of the state of the country than is the morale and health of the people, the individual is more important than the group. If you can’t touch it, prod it, test it, break it, then it doesn’t exist! Imagine yourself in the middle of nothing and tell me how big you are.

picture-of-appollo
Why are Greek statues naked? Click here

I am sorry, I beg to differ, strange and all as my views may sound to you. Let me now tease you with this one. Do you recognise this man? His face, I mean! It is Apollo the Greek god after whom that now famous but previously unoccupied building in Dublin was named. Wait till you hear what he was famous for!

Apollo and Artemis were two twins born by the king of the gods Zeus and Leto, a daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe. Zeus was already married to Hera. Leto was a very gracious and loveable deity but was hated by Hera, the wife of Zeus, for having seduced her husband. So when Leto became pregnant and Hera found out, she explicitly forbade any place under the sun to offer shelter to the sinful womanThere seemed to be no place all over Greece willing to offer a shelter to Leto, so she was wandering around desperately and aimlessly. As well as that Apollo  was the god of many things, including: music, poetry, art, oracles, archery, plague, medicine, sun, light and knowledge. He was associated with oracles which was the Ancient World’s equivalent of a professional consultant, one to whom you went when you wanted advice about serious questions or advice on how to solve a particularly difficult problem. It is based upon psychic skills which are very difficult but not impossible to explain in modern scientific terms.For example, how does a water diviner locate underground water sources using a forked branch or a pendulum? It works, so suspend judgment until we hear more. Delphi was the place where the star diviner of the time lived. There was a creature with the body of a snake at Delphi. Wherever the Python went, it gave off an obnoxious smell and spread mischief and death. This Python was once sent out by Hera, the wife of Zeus, to chase the pregnant Leto, a lover of Zeus, so that she couldn’t settle anywhere to give birth.

Apollo was worshiped as one of the primary sun gods in the ancient world. We all know how important the sun is to life on Earth (as in, it wouldn’t exist without it), and though they did not quite understand the science behind it all, the ancient Greeks knew well that pleasing the sun god was vitally important. They described Apollo as driving his chariot across the sky every day carrying the Sun! Apollo was therefore a very popular and highly worshiped god who was also associated with healing.

Quite clearly then Apollo was a Champion of the Homeless, he had no hesitation in fighting against and defeating the stinking Python, who like the Government, was responsible for spreading mischief!

[For lots more information about Apollo, just do a search on “greek god apollo” and you will find lots more to set you thinking!]

So, in summary, Apollo was into music, poetry, art, did a lot to bring light into the world, protected the homeless and was a really genuine nice guy! I wonder did the people who built and named Apollo House realise that one day the qualities of Apollo would be required to protect the homeless, and that artists and musicians would participate in the celebration of human rights, and be an important symbol in the fight against oppression of the ordinary Irish man, woman, or child by powerful people and institutions that seem to think that they are gods and know better?

In the light of the Court’s decision earlier today, which of the “coincidences” dealing with Apollo do you think wlll now be  most important in achieving what Project Apollo stands for? Which of the mythological characters or deities do you identify with the Government’s position.  You are welcome to leave any comments below.

 

And that is how a prince can pass through the guts of a beggar.

I admire you, #Lynn_Ruane, and the work you do. More, nay, most importantly you are the only Irish politician that I have heard using the words “his/her soul”, in such a meaningful context. When someone takes their own life there is shock and bewilderment, why did they do it. The “father of Sociology” described suicide as the “greatest crime against society.” I have seen that phrase parsed and analysed as meaning that the one who took their own life had, in some way, sinned against society because society, their community, perhaps even their family hadn’t helped them. I am beginning to see and unravel another meaning there.

I have my own spiritual beliefs but having come from a Catholic background in Ireland, and examined other religious systems, I practise no religion that has created by men, women, or their so-called “God”. Let me explain, because in the situation up to now, suicide  has been interpreted as “murder without a reason or an explanation” as if the individual had set out to hurt society. I see suicide as the end of a chain of suffering inflicted on the individual by society, including other less final events, or states of mind, earlier on in their life. But we are not introduced to examining these “little things” because either we don’t know how to respond, or we don’t understand, or perhaps even, if we did notice anything, we were blind or too fearful to look at it because we don’t know how to respond effectively. I now believe that suicide should be described as “the greatest crime against the Spirit committed by society”

Rodin - The Thinker

Let me explain what I mean.

People, in general, and very specifically here in Ireland, treat their “Body-Mind-Spirit” triad combination in that descendng order of importance to them. The Body, however, is equivalent to a space suit, but gets the most attention, It is useful for carrying the Brain, i.e, our built-in human computer module, around with us, as it senses and interprets our reality. The Mind is like the software package that comes with the computer. Like the software package that comes with your manufactured computer, it provides a structure and a set of instructions for the Brain to do its computing. I have read recently that the “software for the mind” is loaded from the DNA that we inherit through our parents from our ancesters, our culture, and add to by our experience of life. That is perhaps why C.J. Jung, the psychotherapist, wrote that every child born arrives with a complete history of the evolution of the world in its psyche  The Mind manages the Brain just as the Operating System manages the computer.

I believe, however, and my apologies if anyone disagrees with me and feels hurt by what I write, that “Soul” is our “energy source” that powers our life with only one single charge. Nothing new in that! Most people describe death as the Soul leaving the Body. But after that scientific statement, things get kind of confused. Atheists seem to have missed the point, and agnostics haven’t bothered to get that far yet, but both claim to believe that the Cosmos is just some kind of accident or nasty joke that happened and that it is going nowhere and has no intrinsic meaning for us. They imply that we are wasting out time trying to unravel the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Even stranger when you thing that many prominent atheists announce that they are scientists.  Their advice is “just get on with it.”

When we, die the Body dies. What is generally described as the “Soul” is, in modern terms, like a holograph of the entire Cosmic Spirit/ Energy/ God (not as in OMG), that is, a realistic picture composed of minute versions of the large picture (just like the holograph on your bank card or credit card which gives the illusion that you are looking at the picture in three dimensions, looking at the sides, the top, the bottom as if it were an actual object in front of you). Now that image enables and forces me to look at every individual, good, bad, or indifferent, as the full image of the Unnameable, the Unimaginable One that powers the Universe. It helps me to explore and understand a truth that may exist in the phrase “children of God” but gives it a whole new meaning for me. That is why I believe that the act of suicide is a despairing cry of belief that Life could be so much better, if society stopped believing in lies, put the triad in a different order, writing “Soul, Mind, Body” instead of “Body, Mind, Soul”. We can’t see Spirit or Soul or the Mind but we can examine and know the body. The Body is composed of star dust, created by the the nuclear explosions in dying stars. As a result of that death of a star, dust comprising the atoms of hydrogen, oxygen, sulphur, and all the other chemicals we find in our natural world, have over billions of years floated through space, driven by solar winds, carried on comets and asteroids, eventually reaching Earth. You see, the Bible and other holy books, tales passed down from mythological time, carry a simple message, such as the Christian one that God picked a handful of that star dust, breathed on it and created human beings. That is a very simplified story but essentially scientific and reasonable.

That is also why I stated earlier that we must begin to re-evaluate the message that wasn’t written by the person who ended the life of their own Body but expressed that message nonetheless. Just because it wasn’t written down as a note, doesn’t mean there was no message in their action. To understand that message we must first understand the process of the life of the Body. It has come from another human body, which has fed and nourished itself on plants and animals containing feed that had been absorbed from the earth composted plants containing that same star dust mentioned above. When our human body dies, it also is composted and broken down again into star dust to join the star dust of every other living creature throughout the planet which has died and decomposed and became ready to be recycled. And if there is no doubt but that the bodies of all living things having died, decomposed with their handful of star dusk returning to the composting earth, then it is inevitable that what I refered to earlier as my space suit is actually made from recycled material from previous living beings, then there is no reason to doubt that the material of our body has been recycled and is the home of the hologram of the Cosmic Spirit. As the Gravedigger in Hamlet remarked “and that is how a prince can pass through the guts of a beggar.” I believe that we must turn our attention to Spirit and Mind, and cease from putting Body ahead of Spirit and Mind. I think that we must do this if we are ever to understand why someone dear to us has apparently taken their own life without a reason. We should be examining our Selves and our society to find out why  collectively we have created a society that stalks those are threatened by what they have seen when they looked into the heart of Darkness.

Peace and blessings be with all who grieve.

EU or EuroZone: What’s in a name?

It is easy to use the catch-cries of the clown in the current chaos of Europe. I do not believe that the “meeting of three”, namely Germany, France, and Italy, was an inner circle deciding policy to be imposed on the rest. It smacks to me of a beleaguered Germany trying to crack the whip with France and Italy to prevent another Greek-style tragedy. Look at the state of the Eurozone now. The Eurozone was badly designed but intended as a device to stabilise the mixed economies of Europe as they tried to build a political Europe. The Eurozone is not another name for what was the EEC or for what is now the EU. I suggest that Germany is trying to patch up the mess they created in the Greek situation., and hoping that it can be done “diplomatically” without precipitating further disasters.
The Left in Europe did not stand by Greece. Too many site-seeing old Socialist tourists just hoped that the bravura of Syriza would rub off on them, but, the Left failed Greeece because it has no coherent set of values and beliefs on which to build new policies that will respond to today’s problems. Outdated Marxist mantras do not resonate with today’s world. But then what are the attractions of neoliberal Capitalism in a world of negative interest rates?
We have learned a lot from earlier empires and political systems. I believe, however, that neither Marxism nor Capitalism is any longer relevant as an “off-the-shelf”. Both are based upon the dialectic it leads to confrontation and conflict and this, in political terms, has led to the “either/or” position. This means that if the Right wins, the Left must lose, and vice versa. In consequence, there is no progress but permanent revolution. The Marxist Dialectic was based upon Hegel’s triad of “Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis” but appears to have dropped the third stage in practice, other than in the fade-out sequence of the imagined Socialist Millenium.
These three steps are a generalised, theoretical model for solving problems and planning change. In brief;
  1. Thesis -The statement of the problem or the present situation or a proposal for change;
  2.  Anti-thesis: The statement of the opposite argument or the converse of the problem or an opposing proposal for change;
  3.  Synthesis: By the process of argument and discussion, the best of both thesis and antithesis are worked out, and a new thesis is developed based upon the best parts of the other two being integrated and co-ordinated.

Look at Europe today. Podemos (Spain), Left Bloc (Portugal), Die Linke (Germany) show no signs of creating a break-through; in France the Socialists are slowly self-destructing. Italy is in the middle of a banking crisis that can only be resolved by Italy defying the Eurozone regulations. Germany cannot afford to let that happen. That, I suggest, is a more realistic assessment of the Bunker Trio meeting. Neither can any European who stands for democratic principles afford to let the Eurozone destroy Europe. We have had too many wars in Europe over the centuries and we do not need to blunder into another one. The only parties to benefit from the present situation will be the far-Right parties of France, Italy, Poland, Hungary, and Brexiting Britain.

If we are to evolve to a better and more equitable society, we must forego the conflict inherent in both Marxism and Capitalism and opt for a third way that aims at synthesis. We must replace revolutionary opposition with evolutionary development. Up to now, creatures have developed on this planet by random events in evolution, with those that could not find a better niche being left behind and eventually dying out. This has happened in the case of humanity also, with competing hominid branches failing to survive. We seem to be destined to conntinue moving in that direction with the survivors inheriting the planet. The new movement of evolutionary activism is aimed at synthesis, the development of a third way that combines the best of the other two, thesis and anti-thesis, capitalism and socialism. That is now possible because humankind is the first time that evolution has produced a creature capable of reflection upon its self and its history and making a choice.
Economics is an important bank of knowledge for the modern state. But so also are Sociology and Philosophy, Technology and Medicine,  when applied to and included in our political plans. Economics deals with measurable aspects of society but ignores the spiritual dimension, even denies it. Whether we wish to be described as nation states, as tribes, or as ecowarriors, the only relevant commonality when it comes to organising society, is that we are humans, and it is a shared humanity, “with a seat for everyone on the bus”! But that humanity shares the planet with other sentient beings. Is it time that we took our stewardship role seriously and included them too as our relatives as well as recognising that Nature has its rights also that must be recognised. That, truly, would be a Brave New World!
Two issues face us. Can we rescue “Europe of the People” from the parasitic clutches of the Eurozone. And if we can rescue it, is it worth rescuing. The second issue can be rephrased as “do we want to turn the clock back to the 1960s and 1970s and start again!”  From my point of view, however, there is a greater and more serious problem to be addressed. And that is the binary nature of Right-Left politics with an imputed Centre. The binary nature of the present system has an inherent instability that the Centre parties cannot control. The binary system is also a “flip-flop”, an “on/off” system, or a zero-sum game. The emphasis of the Right has always been based on the imputed or alleged rights of the Individual not being submerged by the lumpen mass of society. The emphasis of the Left has basically been based on the rights of society to cater for all and bearing in mind the differentials in intelligence, in skills, in understanding, and even in desire to be involved in any society.
The way ahead is not clear but we have two main tasks to face before we destroy the planet. Firstly, I suggest that we need to start working on how to balance the rights of the individual with the rights of society seen as a unit in itself. This will not be achieved by monolithic structures or hegemonic regimes. We need a new way of seeing things, and a new way of organising our world in a way that promotes shared goals, allowing for differences. When we examine today’s world, or indeed any previous stage in the development of our planetary society, we see that shared consensual realities or “dreams” were and still are the norm. Over the generations and the centuries, our inherited cultures, traditions, and social structures teach us what to “see” as our “reality”. That goal of “Changing the Dream” and “Awakening the Dreamers” is going to take a lot of time to achieve but climate change has set the clock ticking and we are close to 23:55 h in Cosmic Time.
The second task is gargantuan in comparison to the first. It is a long, long way from the evolutionary branching tracks of our cave dwelling ancestors as well as the other hominids that failed to make the starting line for the Ultimate Race to Space! Up to now, evolution has been an independent variable that enabled the survivors to thrive and left the others to be interesting fossils for palaeoanthologists and grave-diggers. The second task is that of raising our sights to encompass conscious evolution. Each previous major stage or jump in the evolutionary process, has led to enlarged brain power with increased brain functions developing. The next stage is probably only a few millenia down the track from us now and what is that compared to the previous 14.7 billion years of our galaxy’s existence. But if humankind has a future then it is most likely out there in the Noosphere. Let us, at least, sort  out Europe first.

Some notes:

  1. The concepts of conscious evolution, noosphere, and evolutionary development, are well worth exploring. I first came across them in “The Phenomenon of Man” by Theilard de Chardin. He also coined the word “Noosphere”. The Noosphere was something of an abstract concept when I first met it, but it needn’t be so today. Think of the Noosphere as a virtual World Wide Web. The only difference is that instead of using your computer to link over the Internet with other computers, you will be using your own mind and brain (software and hardware equivalents) to link with other sentient beings (human, animal, plant, rocks, you name it) for a session of telepathic communication! The Noosphere is imagined as a belt around the Earth, like the Stratophere, or the Biosphere.
  2. That book was given to me as a present when I was a student at UCC in 1959 by my friend Valentine Rice after I gave him a short grind on Maths Physics when he joined our course. Val went on later to become Professor of Education at Trinity College Dublin. I reread the book again recently and added a few more by de Chardin to my library. And remembered Val (R.I.P.).
  3. Where climate change and environmental activism are concerned I can strongly recommend a short online workshop (2 hours duration) provided free by the Pachamama Alliance. It is a great introduction to the world of climate change politics and activism. If that “floats your boat” or even “cools your planet”, then I would encourage you to sign up for their moderated online programme lasting 7 weeks called the “Game Changer Intensive”. Visit <https://www.pachamama.org/engage/intensive&gt; for further details. I would add that these programmes are available free but if you can afford it you are invited to make a contribution. If you have any questions you can also contact me as I am a Course Moderator with the Pachamama Alliance.
  4. What is the Noosphere?

    The noosphere is the planetary sphere of mind or thinking layer of planet Earth. To grasp the idea of the noosphere we must elevate our consciousness and open ourselves to the most general, elemental and cosmic principles of life on Earth. [Book Cover]
    Manifesto for the Noosphere:
    The Next Stage in the Evolution
    of Human Consciousness

    by José Argüelles

    As the mental sheathe of the planet, the noosphere characterizes mind and consciousness as a unitary phenomenon. This means that the quality and nature of our individual and collective thoughts directly effects the noosphere and creates the quality of our environment—the biosphere.

    As the Earth’s “mental sheathe,” the noosphere represents the breakthrough to a new consciousness, a new time and a new reality arising from the biospheric crisis. This is known as the biosphere-noosphere transition.

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DiEM 25 Petition for Transparency in Europe

“Europe is for everyone, from barmaid to bishop, from chambermaid to chancellor”

I received a request today on my Facebook page <www.facebook.com/tony.pratschke> to sign a petition started by DiEM 25 (Democracy in Europe Movement) demanding transparency in the EU. This Movement was started by Yanis Varoufakis and a number of international figures who are deeply concerned by the attitude of officialdom in the EU
(and elsewhere) towards their own electorate and also towards outsiders.

dreamstime_l_28861743I am now 77 years in this space-suit. My family is European Irish. Let me spell that out to those who purport not to “understand” or who for one reason or another do not now “feel part of” Europe. My Irish identity is an integral part of my European heritage and identity. “Europe is for everyone, from barmaid to bishop, from chambermaid to chancellor”. That phrase is from a contribution I made in 1966 as an Irish delegate to a European Teachers Conference in Milan, Italy, in the heady days when a united Europe was a dream and the wounds of war were still nursed. I still remember quite vividly, after that conference, walking and hitching my way from Trieste to Dubrovnik (then both part of Tito’s Yugoslavia) down along the Adriatic Coast. I camped for a few nights in Dubrovnik with others young travellers, many from Eastern Europe, at that time a part of the Soviet Union. When dusk was falling my two Czech friends fell silent. When I continued to chat, one them dropped his voice and said just one word – “Spitzer” (“spies”). I began to understand.

That experience related to my earlier attendance at the University of Peace, at Huy, Belgium in 1963, where I spent time with other young people from around the world, studying the ideas of Pere Dominique Pire, a Dominican monk and Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work with refugees after World War II. On another occasion, I walked from Brussels to Amsterdam, along country roads and beside canals. One morning in a small town I went to the local bread shop and in French asked for the bread I wanted. I thought the service was rather lukewarm. I went to a bookshop and bought a phase book for tourists. It was in Dutch. I returned to the same shop later in the day and in a very stilted few phrases I had learned in Dutch I sought to buy some more food. I received smiles and nods of friendship from the staff and nearby customers. I had not realised earlier that I had arrived in the Flemish-speaking half of Belgium.

These and other similar experiences in my travels around Europe made me more aware of how important were to efforts to unite Europe. My holidays as a young man were spent camping and hiking in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Italy, as well as, I may add, in Ireland, as my way of absorbing the culture of Europe, my shared inheritance, from both sides of my family that include O’Gormans, O’Sullivans, O’Driscolls as much as from Pratschkes, Pumphrys, Czabys, and others.

Rodin - The Thinker When we see the tensions created in Europe today, the threats hanging over us are very real. They have been put into stark relief by the Brexit results in the U.K. They cannot be seen clearly from blinkered eyes. Bigoted hearts can never throb in time with the heart of Europe. We must never forget that our Irish ancestors from the so-called Dark Ages, living on a misty island on the edge of the world as they then knew it, ventured by boat up and down the Western Atlantic Highway, along the Atlantic shore of Europe from the Orkneys in the North of Scotland to the Mediterranean cultures of Egypt, Greece, and Rome and the others in between. That was a major European trade route by sea, because in those days, Europe was covered in forests that were home to bears and wolves and other threats to existence. Those hardy ancestors brought back more than traded goods or slaves (even though they may have brought both at times!), they brought back ideas, revolutionary ideas such as writing, learning, social systems, and put them to use at home in ireland.

As a result, early Irish scribes and monks developed a written version of the Irish language, they learned Latin and Greek, and together with the Romans and the Greeks, the Irish were the first Europeans to create a written literature! In this way they preserved oral traditions and cultures, when they committed their knowledge and our mythology to written manuscripts. They brought writing to Britain and if you think I am exaggerating, search online for copies of manuscripts written at the Monastery of Lindisfarne, in the North-East of England, where Irish monks were teaching the local scribes how to write. Look at the online copies of their work, look at copies of the Magna Carta, the Doomsday Book, and other English manuscripts. In them you will decipher some evidence that should make you proud of our Irish ancestors. For there you will see from those scripts that the people who wrote them by hand with a quill and homemade ink, both in daylight and in candlelight, learned from Irish teachers. Look for the unique Irish shapes of letters like the following: ƽ ƾ Ᵹ Ꝼ ꞇ ꝺ in those manuscripts now available on-line. As a schoolboy I learned my Irish using that old script too.

A few years ago, President Mary McAleese attended a meeting in Central Europe commemorating the contribution made by Irish explorers, and travellers, and monks to the development of the “concept” of a Europe. Remember, Europe was an area occupied by Celtic and other tribes. There were no national or regional governments then. Our ancestors were there at the beginning, quite literally at the conception of Europe. It is a tragedy that so few Irish people today know why were there, why we are there, and why we must be there, at the heart of Europe, not with a begging bowl on the fringes.

Nevertheless, as is clear from this petition initiated by DiEM25, the soul of Europe has been and is being dragged down and degraded by elected politicians, by appointed officials, by commercial interests and by crude nationalist rhetoric in the EU. We must stop this decay. There is too much to lose by letting our heritage be destroyed. These are the reasons why I signed this petition. That is why I am now an active member of DiEM25, the Democracy in Europe Movement that was founded in the past year. There is an added urgency to this message today also, because I hear the rustles and the whispers of the stage managers of Irish politics getting ready to put another barn-storming show on the road, another election. This time we must interrogate every party, every candidate, who dares to stand. I suspect that many will grab their pensions and run. We must stay. We have a job to do. We are Irish. And we have always been Europeans.

Note:

If you would like to see the details of the DiEM25 petition, just click here. Who knows, you may even be moved to join us and make your voice heard!

Ireland’s history and relationship with Europe

The Europe that subsequently developed from those raw beginnings, and the way that we Irish related to those changes tells a lot, about the European leaders and about the Irish people.

I wish people would differentiate between Europe and the EU. The EU has been hijacked from its origins as a Coal and Steel Community after the Second World War. It was originally supported by idealists on the one hand, who thought that developing trade ties and prosperity between the warring factions of Europe would be preferable to regular wars in Europe. On the other hand it was supported by the US as a way of exporting their trade surplus and developing American hegemony in Europe as their global role developed. The EU is now a prosletiser for the neoliberal agenda spanning the US and Europe and undermining democracy on both sides of the Atlantic as well as extending its economic and trade tentacles into the Pacific Rim area. Global institutions, both corporate businesses and national governments, wield power in an increasingly undemocratic way. Can nothing stop this behemoth from destroying our world?
Let me address this reply to Nóirín Gannon who responded to my original Facebook comment. I deduced from her reply to my comment that she is equally as aware as I am of Ireland’s history and relationship with Europe. But there was something in her comments that resonated with me and deserved more than a quick Facebook reply.
Let me recap a few points and please forgive me in advance, because I am not as polite and forgiving as most of you, my readers. I also need to explain for the sake of those who do not know me, that I was born, raised, and educated in Ireland, roughly half my ancestry on each side of the family coming from Gaelic Ireland and the other from Central and Eastern Europe.
dreamstime_m_33348151I am now 76 and I have lived through WW2 (as a young child when sugar sprinkled on bread and butter was a real treat), through the Cold War with the threat of nuclear destruction on a scale that was difficult to comprehend, through the emergence of the European Coal and Steel Community  (ECSC) when as a teenager and young adult with pen friends in Germany, Greece and other European countries fanning my curiosity about the world around me, then through EEC and more recently the EU. Back in 1964, I attended a Conference of European Teachers in Milan as an Irish representative. We were young, enthusiastic and undoubtedly idealistic in our expectations for Europe as a result of what we and our families had experienced in Europe from WW1, through the rise of Fascism in Europe, through WW2, to the promise of a new Europe. I remember vividly to this day my reaction to one speaker after another speaking of a Common Market and the future of Europe as it was then unfolding. I declared to my colleagues “Europe must be for everyone, from barmaid to bishop, from chamber maid to chancellor. We want a Europe of the People”.
The Europe that subsequently developed from those raw beginnings, and the way that we Irish related to those changes tells a lot, about the European leaders and about the Irish people.
“Nobody understands the workings of the EU”. I agree. But the situation was not like that in the “Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy”, the famous trilogy (in five parts!) by Douglas Adams where the application for planning permission for the removal of planet Earth to make room for a hyperspace bypass was displayed for one million years on a remote planet in the Andromeda galaxy that no earthling bothered to consult. We, however, in the planning stages of the new Europe had newspapers, we had radio, we had commentators, we had politicians, who collectively behaved like gombeen businessmen, interested only in what they could get out of doing a deal. The Fianna Fail government under Jack Lynch, aided and abetted by Foreign Minister Paddy Hillery, demanded a better deal for Irish farmers, dumping Irish language and culture prerogatives that would have proudly proclaimed our heritage in Europe extending back over a thousand years and which was expected from us by the Brussels bureaucracy at the time. No, we got a deal for farmers which has led to the destruction of rural Ireland, the industrialisation of farming in favour of big agricultural interests and the destruction of rural Ireland. The sniff of grants from Europe was already enough to beguile a population that had lost respect for itself and who had an acne-ed version of its cultural identity.
You are also right, Nóirín, about the way that a craven national government allowed itself to be bullied by Brussels and whose members were too arrogant, too ignorant, too lacking in courage, to stand up for our country and our people. European bureaucrats, bankers, financiers and other low-life forms of capitalism were responsible for what happened, but we had already sealed our fate over decades by dumping malfunctioning TDs and other officials that might cause problems at home on Europe as Commissioners and high ranking officials. We, as a country have behaved irresponsibly over the years, fighting to suck up as much as we could in localised grants and aid to pave boreens, and build commercial principalities, tossing brown envelopes to local officials and big wigs to get their support. Meanwhile, no one in the population cried “stop”, because too many lived in hope that their turn would come to suck on the hind tit of the European pig.
pollution and waste

The other ills you list, the butter mountains, the beef mountains, the spilt milk, and the crocodile tears of regret, were all part of that reality. A reality of greed, a dream of easy money, a non-functioning democracy raised and perverted on a distorted nationalism and a bowdlerised version of religion. Anyone who dared to question what was happening, was vilified and ignored. Having been actively involved in left wing socialist politics in Ireland, in the sixties and seventies, I found myself unable to get work here during the recession of the 1980s. I was fortunate to find work on development aid projects overseas, in Indonesia, in Africa, in the Middle East, and from 1989 onwards, in East Germany, Poland and Russia. But at that stage, international capitalism and the new religion of neoliberal economics had infiltrated the EU. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US and the EU conspired to deconstruct the countries of the former Soviet Union so that they would never recover to threaten them again. The IMF blocked the renewal of my contract in Russia because, as they alleged, I was “anti-American”.

dreamstime_s_46142943I had worked hard in the Russian Oblast of Nizhny Novgorod to develop rural consultancy centres for the new private Russian farmers who were being given private farms in a kind of mad lottery, with skeletons of rusted agricultural machinery, no access to banks or financial aid, and land that was so polluted by abusive use of fertilisers, that in some areas, the use of fertiliser had to be banned and in others up to a metre of top soil had to be removed because of chemical contamination. My work was appreciated by the Russians, however, and I was acceptable to them as one who had their interests at heart, as a result of which I was appointed Team Leader in Moscow of the Russian Bureau for Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS), working with Russian and European experts to prepare the annual request for an EU development aid programme until that was again subverted by the oligarchs and the EU bureaucrats to provide aid to Yeltsin in his exploitation and domination of Russia. And I had to move on!

six-of-pentaclesIt is not the sole fault of the EU bureaucracy, that global corporations stole our oil and gas from us in Ireland, that farmers had to pour their milk down drains, that our government polluted our country by breaking environmental regulations, that our political leaders conspired with our tormentors to prostitute our country to foreign investors and vulture funds. As Connolly said, “the great seem great because we are on our knees”. It is we though who must arise from our knees. It is we who must take responsibility for our actions. It is we who must now question the authority that was delegated by us to our leaders and we must get answers and an account for their stewardship. It is we who must demand that our self-styled left wing leaders today put their petty differences to one side, that they subdue their lust for small rewards and inflated egos, that they lead us and stand with us.
We live in interesting times. We have inherited a political, economic and social structure that is no longer fit for purpose. Admittedly we have gained some benefit in the form of dreamstime_s_29860986technical, scientific, medical and other developments but we have paid a heavy price for these. Our society has been reduced to an aggregation of isolated, lonely, dispossessed, sick, angry and alienated individuals that can no longer provide community support for one another. Our politicians and other corporate and institutional leaders have carved up the system so that they can continue to make their fortunes and control a country that is now in hock to foreign investors, whilst our young people are exported to provide fodder for other countries to exploit. Yes, again, you are right, Nóirín, the EU is a corrupt and corrupting institution. It must change or it will collapse. Yet, despite that, there are still people in Ireland and in Europe who do care, who do see what has to be done, and who will, I believe, win through eventually. But it is going to be a bumby ride. And as we tread that pot-holed road to the future, together, we must ensure that we remain in step. We must differentiate between dreams and reality, between friends and betrayers, between fact and fiction. Yes, these are certainly interesting times. May we be blessed rather than cursed by the way we live them.
day 1 sun in the glade