St. Peter and the Sign of the Fish

As one who left the Catholic Church over fifty years ago, I understand why there is such a strong divergence in reactions to the coming visit of the Pope to Ireland. At a simplistic level perhaps, but nevertheless grammatically and respectfully correct, I use Pope for a specific holder of that office, and pope for the office in general. I have also investigated other religions as part of my life’s journey, I have walked many spiritual paths alone and with others and now I tell this story. I have prayed with Christians, Muslims, with Russian Orthodox, with Quakers, and discussed the Infinite with atheists and agnostics, as well as conversing with other spiritually committed individuals and tribes. That experience also colours my response to the points raised in this article by Fintan O’Toole, writing in the “Guardian” newspaper. I suggest that we need to clarify our attitudes on some of the issues raised therein. There is a proverb that comes to mind now and seems to apply to the current situation, namely “a fish rots from the head down”. A quick “trawl” through the many references to “fish” (pun intended!) has set me thinking and I would like to share those thoughts with you.

In 1768, Sir James Porter wrote about the religion, law, government, and manners of the Turks, in which he said: The Turks have a homely proverb applied on such occasions. They say “the fish stinks first at the head”, meaning that if the servant is disorderly, it is because the master is so. In recent years and probably reflecting the confusion creating in general around the world caused by the comments and behaviour of some prominent leaders in business as well as in politics, it has been applied when organisations got into trouble. It suggests that the blame should be put on the ‘head’ that leads an organisation.

Two fish
Two fish

Now before I get into hot water (ouch, again) with fishermen (and again) and anglers (oh no, not again!) in general, I should emphasise that the old proverb was not based upon the biology of fish and one should not take the saying literally. In fact, and as it were to balance the scales (!!!) the allusion is just not true. As is the case with any other living creature, after death, the decomposition of a fish can begin anywhere and and proceed at about the same rate. Nevertheless, since it first appeared, users of the saying have tended to accept the saying literally.

 

taijitu
More  apt for the topic?

Let me draw your attention now, to the many times in recent years when, even though the allusion to the fish’s head was not specifically alleged, it has been inferred. Think of the many corporate scandals, political debacles, and show business improprieties that have implied that the stink came initially from the head. And in support of that belief, many chief executives, board members, and senior managers were either unable or unwilling to speak out or even to admit the existence of the alleged problems.

 

Now in trying to understand the rationale of such situations, the accusation does make sense at certain levels. Imagine a business in which the top man or woman is tough and driven and makes heavy demands on subordinates, staff members irrespective of their personal views and standards will probably behave defensively to protect their jobs and try to avoid the limelight. When leaders of institutions are outgoing and supportive of more democratic practices, the staff will find it easier to show those qualities themselves.

Nevertheless, there are other facets to this that must be taken into account. It seems to suggest that in every organisation or movement, the top person’s wishes are primary and must be obeyed. In all honesty it should be said that there are weaknesses in even the best of organisations. Bosses are only in a position to influence their direct subordinates. I remember on one particular occasion, when I was working as a consultant on an organisation change programme with a State body, I drew the attention of my counterpart in the organisation to certain issues that I felt needed to be dealt with. He told me that he agreed one hundred per cent with me but asked me to leave it with him and he would sort it out at the next level, his manager being an assistant general manager. I waited for a reply for a few months and when I got no feedback, I asked for a meeting with the Assistant General Manager. He, in turn, assured me that I was right but requested that I leave it with him because the General Manager might be difficult to convince. You can, at this stage, guess the rest. A few months later, I had a similar meeting with the General Manager, followed finally by an accidental meeting with the Chairman at an outside function. After enquiring how the project was going and my giving a fairly neutral summary, he said to me: “You know, I feel that they are keeping something from me and I have a good idea what it is, but what can I do when they won’t tell me!” It is clear that there are more sides to these stories than the simple blaming of the person at the top.

There are, however, some other relevant issues to consider. Does the culture of the organisation (“The way we do things around here”) encourage or allow staff members to question the validity of decisions of senior members? On top of that are there other members of the organisation who agree with the toxic behaviour of their seniors and are only too willing to support them because of the benefits it brings to them. And, of course, there is also the structure of the organisation itself; is it flexible and adaptable to changes in the external environment or is it “arthritic” and with “limited flexibility” to respond to external demands?

Cow in Val di Scalve, Alps mountains, Italy

For a little light relief and a whiff of methane at this stage, follow this link

These are not problems that have only now cropped up in our modern technology driven, goals orientated, secular society. A quick check on the history of organisations, large and small, down through history, will show that these problems have not, and do not, arise suddenly, nor are they caused by just one individual. The rot started almost unnoticed and developed and spread over time. It is a phenomenon that has been there since Adam was knee-high to a grasshopper. It has been the cause of the decline and fall of empires and petty chieftains. If you don’t have a long memory or a large library to consult, then just let your mind wander over the troubled areas of our world and ask “how did these situations get so out of control that they now threaten our very existence?” And I bet you thought I had fallen off my trolley when I offered you “the light relief and sniff of methane”. I was just softening you up, wasn’t I?

That is why we must, at all costs, achieve two main goals. Firstly, we must cultivate at all levels of society in all global cultures the principle of “transparency”. When a parent tells a child that they may not have something they want, or go to a place where their friends are gathering, the prohibition should be accompanied by a simple and open answer containing the word “because” when asked the inevitable question: “why?”. If they can’t find that answer, then perhaps they need to examine their own personal and inherited beliefs and check the relevance of their childhood to today’s children. Similar situations arise for managers of organisations, for head teachers in schools, for members of parliaments, for government ministers., but also for you and for me. Most certainly, this change will not, and indeed, could not be achieved overnight. But remember, the situations that call now for transparency were not developed over night.

For transparency to work and be used, another imponderable mystery has to be addressed. Why is our Ego so unwilling to allow us access to our Unconscious Mind, at both the individual and the collective level. Why are we so fearful about images and the ancient knowledge embedded in our DNA and so tightly guarded that we treat it like Pandora’s box and fear that the amassed knowledge and understanding of untold experiences of our ancestors must be kept out of awareness and dismissed as dreams, and fantasy, and even madness? G.K. Chesterton once wrote: “The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.” That is why I believe that we must introduce more, hitherto unconventional, yet effective methods such as community art projects, “town hall” meetings with local and regional representatives of government to encourage direct dialogue between the general public and their representative and not leave that interaction until elections and door-to-door canvassing allow it.

I know, I know, transparency and openness will take a very long time to be developed and installed in our society. It will, most certainly, be a journey of more than the proverbial One Thousand Miles. So, isn’t it time we put on our walking shoes and took the First Step? For this reason, I would hope that during the upcoming Papal Visit, people are allowed to express their pain, their anger, their enthusiasm or their commitment but tempered with respect for the views of others. I hope especially that those who have no direct personal experience of the controversial and upsetting issues now under scrutiny contain their outbursts and not indulge in throwing accusations based upon hearsay or anger, or shower fawning greetings that turn a blind eye to the facts of life. Even though Ireland, the Island of Saints and Scholars, may have a somewhat tarnished image today, let us also remember that Ireland is also Ireland of the Welcomes. We are human, and we must come to terms with the two conflicting images.

P.S. If you would like more information on the topics raised in this blog, try a web search using some of the key words, as I did! You will be pleasantly surprised how much information is available. In particular, I would recommend this link.

Why do I want to blog? …

… Don’t I have enough problems in my life as it is?

I remember one particular incident from my childhood that has left an indelible mark on my awareness. In 5th class in National School (i.e., Primary School) in the harbour town of Cobh (formerly Queenstown) on the South coast of Ireland, I was at the age when young Catholic boys and girls were prepared for the religious rite of passage known as “Confirmation“. This meant, according to the Church, that we were now of an age to be classified as “strong and perfect Christians”, ready to take responsibility for our own lives. It also meant that we had to face an examination on religious doctrine based upon our knowledge of the little book called the “Catechism“. It cost about three pence and was the cheapest and smallest book on our prescribed list of school books. In this Age of Austerity and Financial Chaos, three pence was the price of a small bag of toffee sweets. In today’s parlance we would say it was “as cheap as a fiddler’s fart”, meaning that it was noticeable but commonplace.

The Catechism was divided into two parts. The first part occupied the initial third of the booklet and was in the format of Questions and Answers on essential religious topics; essential, that is, in the post-War years of the late 1940s/early 1950s.  It was printed in scary bold print and, as far as my memory now goes back over 78 years, it dealt with such basic questions as:

  • Q. “Who made the world?”
    A. “God”
  • Q. “List the Ten Commandments”
    A. …. and so on.

I must admit now, to my eternal shame, that I have forgotten the First Commandment. That is because we learned all those things by rote in those days. That meant, one had to take a deep breath and list them mindlessly and at speed. Nevertheless, you will probably have already got the gist of the level of theological knowledge required of those of us desirous to be “strong and faithful Christians”. The boldly printed Qs and As represented 99% of the content of our half-hour religious instruction classes.

The other two-thirds of the Catechism was printed in faded grey, visually unthreatening, print. It followed the same format as the first one-third but the Questions were longer and so were the Answers. This part occupied 1% of class time during the year. And as we had learned in our Mathematics classes, numbers like 99.74  could sensibly be rounded up to 100% and welcomed with a satisfied release of breath because nobody with any sense would notice the difference anyway. Essentially it meant that it was required to justify the printing of the Catechism and charging thruppence, but could safely be ignored. Ignored, that is, by 99.99% of the indocrinees. [Editor’s note: “Is there such a word as “indoctrinee” and if so, what does it mean? My reply: “I know what it means to me and 99.999% of my readers will know instinctively what it means”]. And, as I was saying, it could be ignored by 99.99% … but not by me. Perhaps I wasn’t properly potty-trained in those baby years, and taught the essential rule in life, that is, to know when enough is enough, or else, to learn “to shit or get off the pot”. Wherever the instinct came from, I always wanted to know What and Why and When and How and Where and Who. And so, I read the entire Catechism from beginning to end. I was prepared for the Great Day!

The Great Day arrived and all the boys (we were a “boys only” school, but I shall return to that traumatic experience later, don’t worry) in my class and those from Sixth Class were rounded up and marched into Mr. Sullivan’s classroom which was the only room big enough to accommodate all those little boys, plus the teachers of those classes, plus the Bishop, the Parish Priest, the local Canon, the Diocesan Administrator,and one or two other priestly supporters. We were arraigned, standing stiffly upright, along three walls of the classroom, whilst the Bishop, an elderly cleric who wore a formal black coat, with black trousers, gaiters and buttoned-up boots, a formal purple shirt, and a big signet ring which townspeople kissed when they bobbed courteously on meeting His Lordship on his daily trip from the Bishop’s Palace to St Colman’s Cathedral and back again. You see, we in Cobh Boys National School were privileged to live in the town which was the epicentre of the Diocese of Cloyne. I was never sure why the centre of the Diocese of Cloyne was located in Cobh and not in the village of Cloyne on the Eastern end of Cork Harbour. But more about that later if I find an explanation.

After a few words of grovelling welcome from the School Principal the Bishop started with the first boy on his left and asked a question chosen randomly from the Catechism. The boy answered with the word-perfect answer from the first third of the Catechism. A slightly perceptible communal release of breath and communal tension could be felt. We were off to a flying start. Teachers’ faces allowed a slight sign of relief.; a slight nod of heads to one another suggested perhaps more than relief was felt. With a plodding determination the Bishop moved on, each boy answered with almost military precision. The authority figures around His Lordships chair and small table relaxed and even smiled with approbation. I was standing in the corner of the back of the class on the left, so I could not see those answering before it came to my turn. As it did. A slight quickening of the pulse, increased focus on the sequence of the content of the questions, a little lick of the lips and three long, deep breaths and exhalation, a trick taught to me by my mother who was a singer, contralto with the local Gilbert and Sullivan and light opera groups in Cobh; she assured me that it worked every time for her as she waited in the wings to make her entrance on stage. I was as relaxed as I could be and prepared. The bishop looked up from his list of boys, and stern-faced, ask me my question. I couldn’t believe my luck! God and the heavenly hosts of Angels, Archangels, Saints, Martyrs (both male and female) were smiling on me. I felt and dimly perceived the Cone of Heavenly light shining on me. The question he asked wasn’t exactly straight out of the grey, forgotten two-thirds of the Catechism but I saw the connection and I answered with confidence.

“Wrong answer”, said the Bishop; and turned his attention to the next boy. It was then I heard The Voice saying: “I’m sorry, my Lord, but I think I am right”.

I have heard a recording of the Golden Gate Quartet, sing “Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho, Jericho, and them Walls came a-tumblin’ down”. I realised immediately that The Voice was actually My Voice. In the shocked silence that followed I almost expected the school walls to tumble down. But no, they didn’t. I suppose you will have noticed at certain times in your own life, that Time, our perceived time, seems to speed up and at other times it slows down. Like in a dream when you run for your life through a bog that holds your feet in its grasp and everything is in slow motion, Or as in Shaolin meditation where you meditate to the regular beat of a brick being tapped with a wooden mallet. By focusing on the “click … click … click …” of the beat, the mind goes into meditative contemplation of the Cosmic Oneness and Time stands still as the meditator enters into the sublime Cosmic Oneness. Modesty stops me making such cosmic comparisons in that instance. But everything stood still and then in slow motion I remember the assembled aides and supporters gathering in a huddle around the Bishop. And I didn’t pee or shit myself with fright either!

His entourage relaxed a little and dispersed to their positions in the tableau. The Bishop removed his spectacles and fixing his rheumy eyes unblinkingly on me. he said: “You didn’t speak loudly enough, boy, so I misheard what you said. You should learn to speak up. Next boy, please.” Have you noticed in your own life, that those in authority rarely, if ever, apologise but always imply that their mistake was your fault?

excelsior
A banner with the strange device, Excelsior

The experience has burned a banner with a strange device into my conscious awareness. It has become my mantra over the years. It has bolstered my confidence in difficult times and re-assured  me with its consolation when everything around me has been falling apart. The flaming letters of the mantra spell out “QUESTION AUTHORITY”. It is the underlying principle of free humans, it is the foundation stone of democracy, and my goodness, does it screw up the plans and tilt the table when those same authorities are imposing their will. If nothing else, it signals to would-be dictators that it’s time to shit or get off the pot.

Why question authority? Why not!

Our best option then is to block the Government’s control of our lives by planned citizen actions of non-compliance with their rules while still remaining within the law.

When the Pope visits Ireland on Saturday 25 August next, he will make a private visit to the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin for about 2 hours. And then he and his entourage will move to Croke Park to attend the “Feast of Families“.

I am extremely disturbed by the news that “the authorities” in Dublin are making contingency plans to “hide” (my words) the homeless families, homeless children, distressed and disturbed adults and children who sleep on the streets, by forcibly removing them outside the Pale overnight. Or maybe the homeless and dispossessed will conspire albeit unwillingly with their oppressors and go without a murmur. I am even more dismayed and disturbed by the comparative silence of the Irish public on hearing this news.

What message is this behaviour sending to the spirits of the children who were born in the captivity of Mother and Baby “homes” and buried secretly in holes in the ground or dumped in cesspits? What message is this sending to those who have lived their lives with the mark of evil stamped on them and on their human spirit, and on their families by successive governments who didn’t show care, or understanding or forgiveness for fear that it might undermine the unholy alliance of Church and State in buggering and bastardising the poor and innocent? What message does the behaviour of our, yes, OUR Government, send out to people of this country, and to the world at large about our priorities?

Is our Government and our entire Dáil and Seanad and the entire apparatus of State bereft of authority and power and ability to take action, or are they afraid of what might happen to them at the hands of international global capitalism and the eroded democracies of Europe if they were to wake up to their responsibilities to the people and do something? Are the Irish people themselves so dumbed down and silenced that we can turn a blind eye, and a deaf ear, to the pain of fellow citizens, both old and new? What are we afraid of? Why don’t we speak up as a people and say “Stop! Enough! We will have no more of this!” Or are we just afraid of fear itself and how it might upset our cosy yet impoverished lives! We seem to settle for blind rage and name calling and verbal violence on the social media to give us an escape from taking real action to make changes. Vain dreams and foolish waking!

Sun Tzu, in “The Art of War”, the most important and most famous military treatise from China for the last two thousand years, wrote: “Plan for what is difficult while it is still easy, do what is great while it is still small”. We have now gone beyond the stage where our problems were easy (oh! if only we had had the wit to tackle them then) or small (because then we had the money to tackle them and plan for the future). But Sun Tzu had further advice that we might now heed, even at this stage: Thus the highest form of generalship is to frustrate and block the enemy’s plans; the next best is to prevent the coming together of the enemy’s forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field; and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

Let’s translate that from the military, agressive language into advice for peaceful citizen action. The best option for us now is to frustrate the Governments plans where they undermine us as citizens of an independent country; the next best option is to block them where possible from combining with other governments and institutions to undermine our rights as citizens; the next is to respond violently with protests and demonstrations; and the worst option of all is to try to unseat them from their positions of power in the State. We have seen where the “Water protests” got with all their good intentions. Nowhere. We have participated as individuals and in groups in street protests and action groups against homelessness, against incompetence and abuse of power in the health system. Our educational system no longer prepares our young people for meaningful work in society, but instead schools them by rote in the regurgitation of “approved” responses to problems without ever understanding the nature of the problem. Our best option then is to block the Government’s control of our lives by planned citizen actions of non-compliance with their rules while still remaining within the law.

The simplest way of starting on this path is to QUESTION AUTHORITY! For instance, in regard to the Pope’s visit, by all means greet him if you feel you owe allegiance to what he represents. Otherwise, go about your own business and ignore the visit. If the Dublin authorities decide to hide the obscenity of homelessness, one option is, for those who object, to allow those who are taken out of sight to be accommodated safely overnight elsewhere, but perhaps they could be replaced on the streets at night by stand-in or even “sleep out” replacements. While the public representatives go about their self-styled business of colluding with the niceties of so-called “civilised societies” no one is forced to come out and cheer. There are lots of ways to starve those in power by gradually withdrawing our authority from them because, and don’t forget this, it was we who democratically elected them and gave them that authority in the first place. Let’s see how they fare without our complicity in their self-aggrandizement. Remember the words of James Connolly from a century ago: “The great seem great because we are on our knees. Let us arise.” Meanwhile, we need to start planning now how we are going to rescue our society before homo sapiens becomes yet another branch of humanity to be lost in the process of evolution.

Oh Joy! Oh Bliss! Oh Rapture! Let Happiness now hap!

As you know, we all have our own little ways of making a house a home and I assumed that worms operating in a different sphere to me would most likely prefer to do it their way.

Oh Joy! Oh Bliss! Oh Rapture! Let Happiness now hap!

Today is another positive step in my efforts to develop a sustainable, independent way of life and living? “So what?” you may well chorus. Indeed so. But I am now equipped with a compost heap (five in fact!), a warm and healthy  wormery, and the crowning jewel, or jewels rather, two Bokashi Buckets. This means that from now on, I have no need to waste money on refuse collection services and no corresponding “opportunity” to finance the State or Local Authority for collecting my (and your) waste to compost it centrally and then to sell the compost back to me to feed my garden. My next target is (hopefully) to get a few SEAI grants to insulate my cottage and conserve heat, to add solar panels to provide free electricity and then finally to go off-grid. Freedom and Fun!

 

wormeryIt has to be admitted though that it has also been a painful learning experience. I have a confession to make. I have been using a wormery for a few years now and gradually learning how make effective use of it. Unfortunately, the wormery developed a crack in the base just where one of the legs joins the bottom “floor” and started to leak the fluid which is a very valuable bye-product and plant food. I stopped using it and bought another wormery … as I thought.

My Silver Palace Composter
My Silver Palace Wormery

This was a metal construction, very sturdy and impressive. It was described on the company’s web site as being a wormery. In my untutored eyes it was the Harley Davidson of wormeries. I also invested in 1 kg of Tiger worms because those from the previous wormery had by now escaped into the wilderness that is my front garden. I hasten to add that my garden is a wilderness by choice because I have been following a course in permaculture design and I am learning to read the strengths and weaknesses of my small holding as part of preparing my overall plan and map for my 2 hectare holding.

 

I read the instructions carefully. In all modesty I can say that I am an eager reader of instructions and I follow them assiduously. Especially those originating abroad and which were translated into English by a junior secretary or office gopher to help their boss and save on the expense of a professional translator. I soaked the coir block overnight in water to provide the initial base for the wormery and laid newspaper over the screen at the bottom so that the worms would not slip through the drainage holes and be lost. And then, in a touching private ceremony, I introduced the worms to their new home. As a shamanic practitioner I dedicated their work and mine to the good of all our relatives on the planet, human, animal, plant, natural resources, rocks, you name it. I could feel the love of Mother Earth and Father Sky enveloping us. As advised I gave the worms time to settle for a few day and get their living conditions sorted out. As you know, we all have our own little ways of making a house a home and I assumed that worms operating in a different sphere to me would most likely prefer to do it their way. A few days later when I opened their Silver Palace I was shattered to discover that a seeming massacre had taken place. There were black streaks tarnishing the inside walls of the wormery but not a worm in sight or on site. I couldn’t understand how they could have escaped and was puzzled by their apparent “break-out” … until last week, that is.

I had by now decided to try my hand with a Bokashi bucket. I was driven to that by having undergone ten days without electricity during the recent heat wave as a result of a bureaucratic stand-off and bungle which pincered me in the grip of a Wifi supplier and a State utility. As a result I had to empty my fridge and freezer and clean it out completely. I haven’t needed to use the refuse bin for several months now being, as I try to be, an almost-Vegan and 90% Vegetarian who is also religion averse. But the waste collectors would not accept my rotting meat, fish, and veggies in the recycle bin for composting. They slapped a big sticker on the blue bin labelling it “contaminated”. That is when I decided to step into Bokashi buckets, figuratively that is, of course. A quick search on the theme of recycling contaminated food and I found my way via “composting toilets” (which are also on my list, but further down) to Bokashi Buckets. I thought it odd when I saw a picture of my above-mentioned Silver Palace wormery, but now masquerading as a BB. I didn’t ponder deeply on it because it seemed to be the immediate answer to my problem of recycling rotten food before the health authorities stepped in.

Bokashi Kitchen Bucket
Bokashi Kitchen Bucket

So, when earlier today a courier delivered my new Bokashi Kitchen Bucket,  I settled down to read the instructions carefully and began to assemble it. Smaller than the silver wormery I have described above, it soon became obvious to me that the components were the same in each. Interesting! Then I read the words “anaerobic environment” and the scales fell from my eyes. To be honest, it felt more like slates being ripped off the roof of my house in a hurricane. I now had to admit to myself that unintentially but with ignorance guiding me I had committed genocide on a kilogram of Tiger worms, a whole city full of Nature’s hardest, unheralded and undemanding workers. The awful truth now screamed at me: “Worms need air to breathe and therefore cannot exist in anaerobic conditions. You, ya eejit, signed their death warrants when you sealed them up for three days in a coir bed in an air-tight container.”

 

There now, I’ve gotten it off my chest. I am a changed person. I now know what not to do. Tomorrow a new adventure starts. Not a worm will be put in the Bokashi Kitchen Bucket and a new coir block will herald a new era of wormery. I think that a different launch ceremony will be necessary to convince the worms that they are safe and that they will be needed for their skill elsewhere than in a bucket. The philosopher (unqualified) in me is even beginning to think that this experience might, as a metaphor, have relevance in the Middle East.

Filming an Owl at Night

Democracy wishes to elevate mankind to teach it to think, to set it free. It seeks to set it free. It seeks to remove from culture the stamp of privilege and disseminate it among the people

Dateline: Sunday June 3 2018 13.00h

Shillelagh, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

When I checked my mail and incoming messages this morning, I found a post from my friend and translation guru, #Antain_ Mac_Lochlainn

Mick and thoul

This is it!

Why is today’s Google Doodle an image of Mick McCarthy filming an owl?

Ever the one for the smart-arse reply, I penned the following and went about my day.

i think that th’oul owl is holding the prompt sheet for Mick while he is operating a concealed but very sophisticated ballistic missile guidance system of North Korean origin to assassinate the woodpecker, who, as every Irish Soccer supporter knows, is a symbol representing our renowned Keano (nudge, nudge) Cork hit-man, who was always pecking away at poor Mick and making his life a misery as manager of the national team. The image of the stag in the background is a literary allusion to the words of the German poet who wrote that “the Irish will always drag down a noble stag”.

Introduction:

I admit, after that response, I felt a nagging regret that I couldn’t remember the name of the German poet who made that remark. Perhaps the reader would get the impression that the quote was composed by me and think I was initiating an assault on the people of Ireland. I get enough abuse as it is for some of my sharper comments about Irish life, so I did a Google search to see if I could get evidence to clarify the origin. And I did.

I got a real shock when I followed the thread of the search. I then purchased an online e-book (referenced below) to confirm the details and got further information. C.J. Jung was right. There is such a thing as coincidence. But there is also synchronicity. I will let Jung speak for himself and when you finish reading come back here and see what it means in practice: Link <http://www.thinking-minds.net/carl-jung-synchronicity/>

It reaches parts of the brain that ordinary thinking hasn’t reached.

Reference:

“Blood Kindred – W.B.Yeats – “The Life, the Death, the Politics”

by W.J. McCormack

Publisher Pimlico 2005

Epub ISBN 9781446444245This link will take you to the book I refer to in the blog


And so the story begins … … tread softly, and all that jazz!

In Ireland in the late 1920s and early 1930s, after the Civil War, there was a period of unsettled ideas during which there were attempts made to re-orientate an emerging Irish national identity. Think: de Valera and comely maidens dancing at the cross-roads whilst lusty young men were batin’ the tar out of one another in the field over the ditch. At the same time a younger Sean Lemass was dreaming determinedly of clouds of smoke from industrial activity over the Lakes of Killarney, bringing pollution (what’s that) and prosperity (yes, please) to a fairly poverty afflicted country. Around the same period, anti-Semites were also emerging as a result of World War 1. In the ferment of ideas, attempts were made to create links between Irish aspirations and the developing ideas in Europe concerning nationhood. And the names of many that are known to us and revered by us now, such as, W.B.Yeats were caught up in that debate. There was also, Maud Gonne who was one of Yeats’ “intimate” friends who also, it appears, had anti-Semitic leanings. Incidentally, one of the first files opened on a citizen by G2, the Irish Army Intelligence Unit, was opened on said Maud Gonne. The celebrity list is long so try googling a few other names that come to your mind.

Links were being identified between anti-Semitism and the rise of totalitarianism in Europe in the first half of the 20th century. The poets Ezra Pound (America) and T.S.Eliot (England) expressed strong views on Fascism in general. Yeats joined with them but he was more interested in events developing in Italy under Mussolini. Pound and Eliot commented on the threats posed by Jews and Judaism to what Ezra Pound regarded as a “civilised society”, e.g., his own America and Eliot’s England. In Germany Karl von Ossietsky was committed to a Nazi concentration camp in the late 1930s because he was a Gentile who defended the Jews from the anti-Semites. His supporters petitioned the Nobel Peace Prize Committee to award their peace prize to Ossietsky. Yeats’ friend, Ethel Mannin also supported their petition. Yeats wrote to her: “If the Nobel Society did what you want, it would seem to the majority of the German people that the Society hated their Government for its politics not because it was inhuman”. This refusal by Yeats to offer public support for a Gentile victim of Nazism has led some people to suggest that Yeats was a supporter of Nazism. But the story was not clearly black and white regarding Yeats. The emerging information of implied friendship between Yeats and notable Jews he met in Ireland was seen by some as evidence of a vague kind of affinity between the two nations, the Irish and the Jews, because they were both perceived to be victims of history and of persecution.

While Yeats was touring in the United States in 1920 he publicly supported the Palestine Restoration Fund (PRF). This should NOT be confused with today’s Palestine Liberation Front! The PRF was an initiative of the Zionist movement which had been launched to establish a permanent Jewish homeland. This seemed to raise doubts about where Yeats really stood on the situation. How could he support the promotion of a Jewish homeland and at the same time fail to confront a German State that was publicly hostile to the Jews. Truth is we do not know for sure whom he was supporting.

The Balfour Declaration (1926 and 1930) was not clear in its intentions. Was it actually supporting the creation of a new homeland for the Jewish diaspora? Was it part of Britain’s imperial policy for expansion including the Middle East? Or did it owe something to the apparently parallel histories of the Irish and the Jews? Don’t forget also that W.T. Cosgrave, President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, was an official representative of the new Irish State at that meeting so the views of the Irish Government were being expressed also! Or, indeed, was the aim of the founding and establishing of a “home” for the Chosen People (i.e., the Jews) a conspiracy to get the Jews out of Europe and dump them on some other part of the world. Uganda and Alaska had been mooted as alternative sites where they might find room and be removed from their problematic presence in a Europe which was divided about their presence!

Other information adduced about Yeats’ attitudes were based upon the occasion in August 1928 when he was accused of being very rude to Erich Gottgetram, a Jew, when they both were house guests at Coole Park, Maud Gonne’s family home in Sligo. The evidence is slim and the interpretations many! But in McCormack’s book referenced above he suggests that Maud Gonne was in contact with the German spy, Oscar Pfaus, who was chosen to contact the IRA early in 1939. And don’t overlook the fact that Roger Casement had earlier been in contact with the German Government soliciting their aid for the Irish rising in 1916.

Pfaus was the Hamburg chief of an organisation called “Fichte Bund”, whose motto was “Union for World Veracity”. According to McCormack “… they debated Jewish responsibility for the partition of Ireland with Pfaus insisting that ‘most of the British propaganda which is flooding Éire is coming from British-Jewish sources in Belfast’ and (Maud) Gonne in return (was) seeking evidence of ‘Jewish interference in this matter.”

In February 1934, Yeats was awarded the Goethe-Plakette because his plays and poetry with their mystical and folklore interests were clearly compatible with the ideology they were proclaiming. Yeats’ plays in particular had been translated into German and were popular with the Government and its supporters. But not all Germans were of the same opinion.

Thomas Mann, the German writer and winner of the 1929 Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote about a different future for Germany. His concerns were about “democracy considered as thought”. He wrote: “Democracy wishes to elevate mankind to teach it to think, to set it free. It seeks to set it free. It seeks to remove from culture the stamp of privilege and disseminate it among the people – in a word it aims at education”. I suggest that Mann’s views are as relevant today, perhaps even more relevant, in an Austerity Era where education and art and music and culture, need to be made available to all. Instead they are being withdrawn from the reach of those who need them most. These are not luxury items to be reserved for one group only. They are essential to enable all citizens to participate fully in the development of their own society. These so-called finer things of life are also the building blocks of a free society. They are part of the very soul of democracy.

My trawl through the back streets and quaint resources of the Internet this afternoon gave me the opportunity to browse through those nuggets of information, telling me about the role of Irish leaders in the early development of our State. But all those described above fade into the background, yet provide the base upon which I can display the treasure of my random rummaging of information. And in a happy “coincidental” manner it provides a tantalising background to the final item. In all honesty, this one frightens the life out of me.

In a pamphlet produced by Terramare Publications of Berlin in 1937, two years and two months before I was born and two years before World War II started, Rudolf Frerds’s “Population Papers” iwere published as a pamphlet under the title “Germany Speaks”. He wrote “… [this paper] addresses the problem of the falling birth rate among ‘families hereditarily endowed with the highest qualities’ and the rising rate among ‘families with a large number of social inadaptable elements’.”  Nazi laws had been introduced in July 1933, the year in which my paternal grandfather, Rudolf Pratschke, gave my father, František Mořic Anton Pratschke (known in Cobh as “Tony”) a copy of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”.  He told him to read it and protect himself.

My Dad had Austro-Hungarian citizenship up until 1933 and if, as was the fear when the war started, that with the help and support of the IRA and the Irish people, Hitler might invade Ireland from the Atlantic side and create a pincer movement on England, then my father could have been drafted into the German Army. Can you imagine a man who spoke Irish, a member of Connradh na Gaeilge where he met my mother, who was an athlete with Ballymore Athletic club, who played hurling with Carrigtwohill and coached young hurlers in the Cobh Hurling Club, suddenly sucked into the vortex of war and death and destruction. The fears and anxieties that I experienced as a child in my pre-verbal years left an indelible mark on my psyche that only now I am beginning to evaluate and try to understand?!

In 1938, Joachim von Ribbentrop was appointed Hitler’s Foreign Minister. In the National Library of Ireland in Dublin there is preserved a copy of that book which came from Yeats’ personal book collection. Von Ribbentrop liked Yeats’ plays and felt that they resonated well with Nazi Germany’s efforts to integrate their mythological Teutonic past, just as Yeats integrated our mythical Celtic heroes into his vision of Ireland. There is another article in that book, “Germany Speaks”. It is titled “The Prevention of Hereditary Diseased Offspring” and it includes reference to the provision (28 June 1935) abolishing “the maxim according to which no offence can be punished unless it is specifically in the existing code of law”. In other words, if it’s not listed as an offence then there is no offence.

My thoughts now, as I review my afternoon’s exposure to this flow of “coincidental” (sic!) incidents from Ireland’s history are focusing on the central question. What Pandora’s Box have we now opened as a result of the recent Referendum on the Eighth Amendment? I would ask you to consider that question and try to imagine what might happen over the next several years if we fail, again, to identify the legal framework required to enhance the lives of Irish people as civilised human beings who are concerned with ultimate questions for which we struggle to reach a consensus decision. How sure are we that we will always be able to elect a Dáil with the competence, the intelligence, and the courage to appoint a Taoiseach and Ministers who can and will lead our people and protect them from the evils that flow from failure to understand the issues facing us, and an unwillingness to face and discuss our shared perceptions of reality?

And to finish, I am glad to say that I identified the quotation source. Yeats had repeated a remark made by the German poet, Goethe who had written: “The Irish seem to me to be like a pack of hounds, always dragging down some noble stag”. Think about it. Please.

Footnotes:

I was unable to find a direct reference to this article by Frerd, but I stumbled on this item which is of related interest. It is an onine (available free) copy of Deirdre Toomey’s “Yeats and Women: Yeats Annual No. 9” which contains a lot of information relating to Yeats and eugenics.

ii The web site linked to the “German Voices” will have brought you to a German language site. It is not necessary to understand German because I just wished to draw your attention to the fact that W.B. Yeats is the only one on that list of winners in the era concerned who does not have a German name. He appears to have been the only foreign winner over that period.