Taking the “dum(b)” out of Referendum

The democratic process in Ireland has shown a new face, a new vigour, a renewed belief in the power of One-ness. We should now, in gratitude, turn to face the rising Sun of change.

In the lead-up to the Referendum, I had struggled with how I might vote. Neither “Yes” nor “No” in itself would or could solve the problems we face. The public debate and commentary was too rigid but I sensed an energy and a movement that was hard to pin down. The same old self-satisfied and smug posturings seemed to dominate the media. For the first time in my life, I deliberately abstained from voting, because even though my sympathies were with the “Yes” campaign I found the public arguments too simplistic and I feared that some of the allegedly “feminist” rhetoric was too phobic towards men. I do not believe in the mythology of virgin birth so how could I support a cause that was apparently excluding men from the solution as well as implicitly vilifying them as being part of the cause?

I am Irish, I live in Ireland and we have just voted in a referendum that has shattered the old political structures and brought world-wide attention to the Emerald Isle. Nostalgia for an old romantic view of Ireland has been dispersed by a wind of change and a new confident electorate is emerging from the chrysalis of romantic Celtic dreams. I needn’t have worried, This convincing win for the “Yes” vote was not carried by the old politics no matter how hard they may try to convince themselves. This battle for a new Ireland was not planned nor fought in the old “smoke-filled” environment of political parties. It was fought hand-to-hand, doorstep-to-doorstep, street-by-street with courage and conviction by people who must be trusted.

The impetus came from a groundswell of grass-roots activism, dominated by younger people and by some new women and men who were not shackled by the old political system or personal religious convictions, but who brought a vigorous and vibrant force to bear. “A terrible beauty is born” (W.B.Yeats). It has brought activism to the fore and relegated old fashioned revisionist politics to “crying the catch cries of the clown”. It has gone further than the now-hackneyed phrase of “new politics” dared to go.

The democratic process in Ireland has shown a new face, a new vigour, a renewed belief in the power of One-ness. We should now, in gratitude, turn to face the rising Sun of change.

The Russian Soul is like a Dark Forest!

Should we not withhold all judgment and jumping to conclusions until we know the facts?

Part One

Dateline Wednesday, March 28, 2018

I am puzzled as to why the U.S. and the U.K., in particular, have now mounted a very aggressive campaign to point the finger at Russia claiming that Mr. Putin and his Government are behind the alleged assassination attempt on the former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, in Salisbury, England. What is their evidence? On March 26th on the RTÉ news I heard a spokesperson for the Irish Government claiming that they couldn’t share the evidence available to them, primarily one assumes through U.K. sources, because it would undermine our national security! Some other E.U. governments have been more certain in pointing the finger at Russia. Nevertheless on the late news on March 26 it was announced that Ireland was not among the 16 EU countries that announced the expulsion of Russian representatives earlier but that a decision would be taken by Cabinet on Tuesday morning (March 27), amid indications that at least one Russian citizen would be expelled. Unfortunately, our varying versions of democracy across the world reverberate to the words of the Chinese proverb – “The reed that will not bend with the wind, will break”. I presume that the same principle is now being applied by the Irish Government in supporting our neighbour, the U.K. in denouncing Russia, when it is emphasised that we are supporting our nearest neighbour. Mar dhea!

Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, collapsed in a shopping centre in Salisbury, England, on March 4 after being allegedly poisoned with a nerve agent. They remain in critical condition. He had been a double-agent but he was pardoned and sent to the UK as part of a spy swap in 2010, in which Russia released four agents to the US and the UK in exchange for 10 Russian agents in the US. Very shortly after the assassination attempt, Theresa May pointed the finger at Russia in a statement to Parliament, saying it was “highly likely” that Russia ordered the assassination of the double agent Sergei Skripal. Ms. May also said that either Russia ordered the attack or that they had “lost control” of the nerve agent to others. In this way she implied that somebody with access to the Russian-made nerve agent Novichok could have carried out the attack. As she didn’t answer that question herself, we can only presume that this means if Russia didn’t do it then someone else must have! But who? Russia’s foreign ministry dismissed May’s statement as a “fairy tale”.

It appears to me that despite the assertive language used by Ms. May, as Prime Minister, she was very short on facts. It is a fact that Sergei Skripal had been a double agent who after being arrested in Russia had then been released to England as part of a spy swop. It is a fact that his daughter, Yulia, who was visiting him, was also affected by the nerve agent. It has not to my knowledge been stated definitively that it was Novichoc that had been used. If the nerve agent had been stolen or bought from the Russians, how certain is it that the agent used was originally made by Russia. If others now had access to it, is it possible that these unnamed “others” now had the capability to produce it or to produce another version of the same nerve agent? In such a serious international incident as this, it is essential that we deal with the facts and that implies that we should use an evidence-based approach. Emotional reactions, not mediated by reason, are understandable but not to be acted on. Over the past 48 hours it is quite amazing to me that so many countries have fallen into line behind the U.S. and the U.K. leaders, both of whom have been under a lot of pressure recently.

What is the real story, where are the real facts, who is the guilty party, or are we looking at the possibility of “guilty parties”? I know that many will dismiss my comments as crazy, even biased, or as yet another conspiracy theory, but let me put them out there now, admittedly with the health warning attached that we are still in the stage of hypotheses based on partial information, misinformation, possibly on misinterpreted or “false” facts, on opinion, or on mere suspicion!

In such a situation I believe it is right to ask the question: Who is benefiting from this attack? Is it Sergei Skripal and his daughter? Definitely not! The policeman who first found them? Definitely not? Could it be Ms May, Prime Minister of the U.K.? Apparently yes, because overnight she has become the self-appointed but almost unanimously accepted leader of a pack of howling national and international bodies! Could it be President Trump? Definitely yes, if only based on the old adage, “give a dog a bad name …! “ What about President Putin? It appears that he is the guilty party in the eyes of many observers in the Western alliance. He was recently re-elected as President of Russia in an election that was heavily criticised by observers and by the opposition leaders in his own country. That may be so, but Russia is now threatened with even more sanctions and threats of “retaliation” thrown at them. Already half the E.U., plus the U.S, Canada, and Australia are dismissing Russian diplomats from their countries. I can’t see that as a benefit! So what had Mr. Putin to gain?

Taking the U.S, and U.K. first: Note that several U.S. Presidents, Obama, Bush, “Baby” Bush, and others before them and including the present incumbent have had individuals who were opposing them “taken out” by the Pentagon/Secret Service using drones, assassins, spies. We in Ireland know from our own experience and history of the dirty tricks, double agents, undercover military forces that have been used by England to undermine our sovereignty for centuries and right up to today and including the self-same tactic of “removing”, that is, killing individuals who were in their way.

For me, as an Irish observer, there is another very interesting and intriguing parallel between Russia and Ireland, despite the vast difference in size.

  • For centuries Russia was ruled by Tsars who were remote from the ordinary individual who was treated as a peasant with no rights and often owned by the local land-owner. The Tsar was the only authority. When the Communist Revolution of 1917 happened, the new rulers, despite their different and ambitious philosophy, created a society that led to the enslavement of the ordinary citizen. Only 25% of Russian citizens from 1917 to 1989 were ever members of the Communist Party! As a result, the concept of authority over one’s life was remote and virtually non-existent for many Russians over the centuries.

  • For over 800 years, Ireland was subject to rule firstly by the invading Normans and subsequently by England. Over those centuries the Irish people had no authority over their own island, because the ultimate political authority lay with the King/Queen in England and the ultimate religious authority lay with the Pope in Rome. This latter point is interesting because, due to its geographical isolation from an emerging Europe, Christianity in Ireland developed around independent monasteries and related communities ruled by abbots whereas in Europe, in general, Christianity was developed around administrative dioceses and bishops who were subject to the Pope in Rome. This led to Irish Christianity being seen as a threat to Christianity in Europe. For those 800 years, Irish people dealt only with authority that was foreign and based outside the island of Ireland.

Both the average Russian and the average Irish citizen today have inherited a culture where the role of the individual is conceived of as not being linked to the authority figure appointed by a distant ruler. These parallel histories have led to two geographically distant national and cultural entities being predisposed by their inherited conditioning to view a national authority in a similar way which is quite different from that of other nations in Europe.

I was born two months after World War II started, so I was a child during the period 1939 to 1945. I have childhood memories of the fear around me at home in the kitchen when we listened each night to the radio to find out what was happening in those distant places and imagined places called England and Germany. I have memories of food shortages and being given a slice of bread and butter with sugar sprinkled on it as a “nice surprise” after dinner. I remember my early national school and secondary school days during the recovery years of the later 1940s and through the 1950s. My younger self still has memories of the Cold War period and the fears that could erupt at the slightest threat. I remember a Catholic tabloid weekly newspaper carrying the headline story one week-end that “a blue light would shine in the Eastern sky when Russia was converted to Christianity”. We didn’t realise that the Russian people were already Christian and of the Orthodox kind. Many years later I discovered that my father’s earlier status as technically a citizen of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire carried the ever-present danger that if Hitler invaded Ireland to attack England on a second front, then my father ran the risk of being press-ganged into the German Army!  My mother lived in fear throughout those war years. The stand-off over the Bay of Pigs in April 1961 instilled the fear in me that another light of a different colour and toxicity might illuminate our skies bringing nuclear warfare. Most of my weekends in the 1960s were devoted to demonstrations against the Vietnam war, or travelling to Belfast to join in demonstrations led by my comrades in the Peoples’ Democracy movement. Today’s events, following the attack on Sergei Skripal awaken those old fears in me. Should we not withhold all judgment and jumping to conclusions until we know the facts? Isn’t that what diplomacy is supposed to be about? Should we also not be more careful, as a sovereign country, about the friends with whom we align ourselves. The biggest loser in all this will be democracy. Yes, and I repeat that in case you miss my point: The biggest loser in the present confrontation will be democracy.

I have been observing national and international politics for several years and I still see democracy as a very fragile institution. We hear it spoken of as if it has been around since the emergence of early settled human habitations. We see regular references to Greece being the home of democracy starting 2,000 years ago. We overlook the fact, however, that their democracy was confined to land-owning males, while women (unless they owned land in their own right), foreigners, and slaves were excluded. Today the word “democracy” is very much a catch-all concept covering a wide variety of emerging democratic systems. Which of those allegedly established democratic systems are strong enough to survive another period of Cold War hostilities? Will Westminster, the self-styled home of Western democratic government survive Brexit? Why can’t the tribal leaders of the stand-off parties in Northern Ireland not exercise the democratic mandate they were given and form a government? How will the democracies of France and Germany cope with an E.U. that is suffering from a democratic deficit according to so many of the other member countries? Democracy is supposed to be the system that gives a representative voice to every citizen in the running of their own country. But under the pressures of global capitalism and neo-liberal governments, the very fabric of community life has been atomised, communities and local government structures have been undermined and weakened, the links between government and citizen are being eroded and the stability of the “nation state” is being shaken to its foundations. That is why I suggest that the greatest loser in the present crisis will be democracy itself.

My own life experience has taught me that we would be wise to tread carefully in how we respond to this crisis. I would like to offer some personal information in support of what I have written. I am not anyone special in the sense of having a unique insight into politics or into human behaviour. I have, however, worked for nearly forty years on international development aid projects in Russia, Eastern Europe, Africa (East and South), the Middle East, and in South-East Asia, where I had interaction with American, European, and local politics. I have learned from doing and from being involved and then from questioning myself about what has happened, and why it has happened. This has given me an existentialist and “outsider” view of life and living. Because we now take so much for granted about democracy, behaviour such as that surrounding the events in Salisbury, the rise of Fascism in Europe, the tightening grip of global capitalism, are inevitable and threatening.

In my first eight years of working after qualifying as an electrical engineer from University College Cork, I worked as a teacher in Limerick, Ireland. I learned from my life and my work there, the importance of theatre and the arts in society and their role is holding a mirror up to democracy, and the need to fight for what one believed in. I became a very active Socialist and irritant gadfly in the Irish Labour Party. I began to discern the dark shadow behind the tribal politics of Ireland. From there I spent a four year stint in Zambia where I witnessed the tensions between an emerging African democracy and the remaining colonial presence of Rhodesia, which was supported by the apartheid regime of South Africa. I was working in Angola in South-West Africa when the Portuguese revolution happened in 1975 and a civil war broke out in while I was there. I saw at first hand the efforts of the ruling Portuguese authorities to use development and trade to keep the local native population away from the rebel forces. They failed.

Returning to Ireland I trained with the Tavistock Institute as a consultant in group dynamics and organisational behaviour. Running training programmes in companies and workshops for public applicants, I saw at first hand, the underlying dynamics of organisational, institutional and social behaviour in Ireland and how that unconscious behaviour interacted with the established conscious structures and behaviour of those in positions of power and authority.

I worked in the former East Germany in 1989-90 on a contract with the Treuhandanstalt during the efforts to align the institutions and companies coming from the former Communist system with the new requirements of the market economy. I saw the short-lived hopes and expectations of those from the East who told me that their vision had been to build a new Germany and then move forward together with their relations and fellow citizens from the former West Germany. That vision and those hopes were shattered when the “Wessies” just took charge and treated the “Ossies” as second-class citizens in their shared new country. From there I moved to work in Russia for most of the 1990s. I worked as development aid consultant and team leader on some EU TACIS projects and saw at first hand the way in which American and European governments conspired to ensure that Russia would never recover from the mistakes of the Soviet era. I also was witness to the way in which the E.U. bowed to the demands of the Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, to change the nature of the development aid programmes from small-scale interventions to help local communities and institutions to major projects with political rather than developmental aims.

On one occasion, after a year’s work in which we received great praise from our Russian counterparts and the Russian authorities for the ongoing success of our project in rural development, and were regularly “wheeled out” to tell visiting dignitaries about our achievements, the renewal of my contract with the UK Overseas Development Service was blocked by the U.S. dominated International Finance Corporation (IFC). I had asked Boris Efimovich Nemtsov, then my senior contact and Governor of the Nizhny Novgorod Province, to help me to get access to James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, when he visited the city on a tour of projects. I had a fifteen minute interview with Mr. Wolfensohn, who was very courteous and positive. He liked the proposal I outlined and initiated a World Bank process whereby his officials worked with us to develop the project scope. As a result a micro-finance project was established three months later to provide financial support for small businesses in Nizhny NovgorodNizhny Novgorod.

My actions were strongly motivated by humanitarian concerns, seeing new Russian farmers being given farms which were already bankrupt when they received them, who were refused finance by the new Russian banks (re-financed from the West) because they had no collateral to offer. I “walked the land” on a number of occasions with farmers who were in the depths of depression and desperate because they literally didn’t know what to do with the rusted machinery, broken equipment, collapsing sheds and outbuildings on their farms and didn’t know how they could cope. They asked for our help and we gave them what we could. But we couldn’t produce miracles in a country where the land had been poisoned by the overuse in Soviet times of fertilisers, pesticides, and chemical sprays and had to be allowed to recover slowly using traditional organic methods. By a strange “co-incidence”, when, years later, Mr. Putin eventually decided to close the IFC office in Moscow, most of the staff, mainly Americans, Poles and Ukrainians were transferred to a new office opened in the Ukraine. Boris Efimovich, Provincial Governor, went on to become a Deputy Prime Minister under the presidency of Boris Yeltsin of the Russian Federation. Sadly, in February 2015, I read that Boris Efimovich was assassinated on a street near the Duma (Russian Parliament building in Moscow). He had always been opposed to Vladimir Putin who, he claimed, was out to kill him. But Nemtsov also represented the New Russian market capitalist system which was causing havoc in their country.

My final big project was in South Africa in 2001, where the “new” South Africa was shedding its apartheid past and was adapting its institutions to meet the demands of a multi-racial, multi-cultural, society. I started with a contract due to last six years. I left after six months when I realised that the Department of Labour, where I was based, was using E.U. funding from our project budget of €43 million to finance work that was already underway within the department while they were delaying in engaging with our project to build a new national industrial training and qualifications system that was targeting the African population. My German superiors promised support but backed down when the local E.U. office made it clear that negotiating new contracts with the South African government for the importation of South African wines into Europe would be jeopardised if the E.U. didn’t comply with the status quo. I left to keep my own conscience clear. It was painful and depressing.

As well as that, I had begun to see a pattern  that was repeated in different countries. I know the effect it had on me, but also I was extremely aware of the implications that pattern had for society in general and for the future. I decided to share my personal experiences rather than quote from the experience of others. I wonder will any of those who read this story detect a pattern? What pattern do you see? How does that pattern affect our society? Is it still being repeated in your country, in your life experience?

There is a saying in Russian that “the Russian Soul is like a Dark Forest”. I fear that we are all now being sucked into a dark forest of misinformation, false news, where nothing is clearly defined and nothing is what it appears to be. What is happening now has the potential to destroy the progress we have made since the end of the Second World War. We face a situation where slow progress is required if we are to succeed but in a situation where instant gratification is the order of the day; where complex arguments have to be compressed into 200 characters or less; where decades of the concentration by media on mind-numbing entertainment where audiences now obsess on boxed sets of TV series portraying a controlled and modulated society where dissent is not allowed or where every problem is resolved by superheroes. We are, indeed, in a dark forest.

As I write this, I have on my desk a photograph that I took one week-end in Russia, when I had the use of my landlady’s dacha, or summer house in the forest outside the city of Nizhny Novgorod. I had left the rural bus that brought me close to my destination and was making my way on foot through the forest to the lodge. It was quite dark in the forest even at midday, but as I came to a turning in the track, I looked to my right and saw a small clearing where the sun shone brightly. It lifted my spirits and now it lifts my spirit again. The Russian forest is dark because the Russian people have suffered and been oppressed. That darkness has also clouded their spirit and taught them to suffer quietly. A Russian colleague who had lost his job as a research scientist when his institution closed down after the collapse of the Soviet Union, now drove our project car. When I greeted him each day at work with the words: “Hello Yuri, how are you today?” he replied “Still alive!” That response was common apparently when Stalin was in power. But the sun rises again and times change and, I believe, that Truth will once again be True. But only if we remember the darkness that is part of our lives and if we deal honestly with reality and question authority.

 

The Hero’s Journey

Remember that each one of us will, at some stage or another or even at many different stages in our life, come to a door or a path or a life option that is closed to us. We have the choice to turn away or to open that door, to travel that path, to make that choice.

theFoolI first heard about the “Hero’s Journey” back in the early 1970s. A colleague of mine, Paddy Walley, mentioned it in passing around the time that I was recruited as a Training Specialist in N.E.T., the fertiliser plant in Arklow. I didn’t know much then about the “Hero’s Journey” other than that occasional references to it appeared in the media dealing with training and organisation development issues. About the same time, I was encouraged by an Irish consultant, a behavioural scientist, the late Pat Quinn, who was working with the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, based in the U.K., to attend their annual Leicester Working Conference.

This “conference” was unlike anything I had ever experienced up to then. It was (and still is!) an experiential learning event. Unlike most conferences, where there is a lot of socialising and networking contacts, a lot of talks by panels of experts, and a “jolly good time” is had by all, financed usually by the sponsoring employers (think: scaled-down Davos and a rite of passage for aspiring executives), the Working Conference is an intense learning experience driven by the participants themselves, both consciously as a result of their desire to learn, but also unconsciously by their subliminal needs and desires and personal make-up.

A Working Conference as an experiential event is certainly different. There you learn from your own direct experience of interacting with others in the “here-and-now” as you work with them in an emerging organisational structure and struggle to understand what it’s all about. At one level, you are thinking about the work you are trying to do from scratch, while at the same time, you are being encouraged to examine the process in which the group is engaged, communicating, thinking, doing, arguing, agreeing, visualising. That is, you are dealing with the what and the how of the Task but at the same time, struggling to understand the emerging dynamic of the Process of working together.

The conference consultants focus on analysing what the various groups and sub-groups are doing and interject from time to time with their hypotheses about what is happening in the group, as-a-group. They rarely if ever interact with individuals in the group, because their focus is the group as a group, as if it were a separate “animal” and the individuals merely different, but intrinsic, aspects of that “animal”. The focus is on the dynamic way in which the Task and the Process interact, on how that interaction affects and is affected by the individuals in the group, at the level of both conscious and unconscious awareness, thinking, and behaviour.

The group consultant’s only information is what they see and hear and sense around them. From that they develop a working hypothesis as to what might be going on in the psyches of the group members. It is impossible to describe the effect this has on each participant. Suffice it to say that on the morning of the second day (the conference lasted for a fortnight), I spent almost an hour before breakfast, on my knees, in the toilet bringing up what felt like everything I had ever eaten in my life. By the end of the fortnight, I was aware that the world had changed for me and that I had choices to make. In many ways a Working Conference is another example of the Hero’s Journey in a limited time frame. My career took a radically different direction from then on. I would now in retrospect describe my life as surfing from one wave to the next, even from one Working Conference to another, caught up like a small canoe negotiating dangerous but exciting rapids. I have also attended three further working conferences and trained as a group relations consultant with the Tavistock Institute.

I mention all the above, because over the past few years since 2002, when I returned to Ireland, I have been struggling to cope with the consequences, some good, some bad, others yet to be evaluated, of my life in general. But I have learned how to look at these these situations in a more useful way, and most importantly, to accept life as it is rather than wish it were different. As part of this developing scenario, the name of Joseph Campbell arose again and again. He was the originator of the “Hero’s Journey”! In this, his work is invaluable if you struggle at times to make sense of what is happening to you in your own life. The diagram below is just one of many different examples of how the different stages of the Hero’s Journey may occur.

Three-Act-Structure
A schematic diagram showing different stages in the Hero’s Journey.

Joseph Campbell was born in White Plains, New York,[2] the son of Josephine (née Lynch) and Charles William Campbell.[3] He was from an upper-middle-class Irish Catholic family. He was a scholar and was strongly influenced by the work of James Joyce. His book, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, gives a good overview of his ideas. His work has influenced many modern writers and film-makers, such as George Lucas and “Star Wars”, “The Matrix”, the Harry Potter series, and many others. The popularity of those films and others like them, including folk tales, mythology, and fairy tales, is in large measure due to those stories being built upon a simple framework that we instinctively recognise and respond to as being rooted in our shared human nature.

herosJourney01
The Hero faces his Nemesis

Today I came upon the film “The Timeless Tale of the Hero’s Journey”. [NOTE: This link will take you to a YouTube video summarising the Hero’s Journey and that is then followed by a one-hour film expanding on the first video and pointing out the implications of the myth]. I have no regrets that it has taken so many years for my life to come full circle since then, with many repeated cycles of the Journey, from Paddy Walley’s reference to it nearly fifty years ago right up to now. You will always find the Hero’s Journey relevant to your search for meaning in your life, as well as helping you to recognise the “Here be Dragons!” sign.

 

The key point for anyone watching this film is to remember that this is not about a pantheon of heroes to be admired from a distance. Every human being since the dawn of our history is unique. We live in a gigantic, multi-dimensional, mind-boggling, cosmic arena that we still struggle to understand, so there is still plenty of room for your and my and his and her uniqueness to emerge and flourish. Remember that each one of us will, at some stage or another or even at many different stages in our life, come to a door or a path or a life option that is closed to us. We have the choice to turn away or to open that door, to travel that path, to make that choice. You don’t have to be famous, or fantastically clever or skilled or wealthy see your life as your Hero’s Journey.

Watch this film and you will understand why!

Heros-Journey-Cartoon

Invitation to an inspiring Event!

Special on-line conference calls for participants from across Europe and from Ireland in particular

You may have already read my previous posts about the Pachamama Alliance and environmental issues. This time I bring you important information about the next Global Change Intensive programme. The Game Changer Intensive is a unique on-line course that will inspire you and equip you to become a game-changing leader in your community and a global citizen in the world.

Enrol in the Next Intensive by January 14

The next Game Changer Intensive begins January 23 and the last day to enrol is January 14. Just click on this link to enrol now.

How much will it cost me?

The Game Changer Intensive has a unique approach to tuition: it is voluntary and is paid at the end of the course. Upon completion, you are requested to subscribe in the Intensive, selecting an amount that reflects the value you have received from the course and your own ability to afford. In case it helps, an $100 donation helps cover the costs of one participant for the eight modules! You may also pay it in instalments. And it is voluntary!

What is this programme about?

cropped-dreamstime_l_14314444.jpgThere are two basic components to the Game Changer Intensive: who do we need to be, and what do we need to do to be effective in “changing the game”. The knowledge you will gain, and the skills you will develop, can be applied to other aspects of your life, both political, social, and personal. No special educational level or qualifications are required and, as you will see from the information below, we use videos and short information sheets, on-line discussion forums (like social media discussion threads) , together with a weekly conference call in a small group of 6-10 participants with a moderator guiding you to discuss each week’s topic with others on the programme.

I shall be organising special additional on-line conference calls for participants from across Europe and from Ireland in particular. Up to now the programme has focused primarily on North American responses to environmental issues. These European/Irish conference calls will enable us to begin applying what we learn to the issues we face as global citizens on this side of the Atlantic. More details will be supplied when you enrol.

Short description of the programme modules

Module 1: Introduction to Game Changing

The Game Changer Intensive begins with an examination of the ideas and concepts fundamental to being a “game changer”, including understanding what is meant by the assertion that “the game is rigged,” and that really changing the game involves “striking at the root” of the problems we face in our social and national systems.

Module 2: The Power of Story

A critical element of changing the game is being aware of and changing the collective cultural story that we have inherited and in which we live our lives. In this module we come to see that by generating and living in a new story of connection, compassion, and relatedness, the old story of separation and domination begins to lose its power.

Earth

Module 3: Evolutionary Activism

This module introduces the powerful concept of “Evolutionary Activism”, which means that we learn to take responsibility for the role we are playing in actually shaping the future evolution of life on Earth.

Module 4: A Case for Grounded Optimism

When you consider the challenges of these times, do you find yourself resigned and in despair, or are you hopeful that a thriving, positive future is possible? This inspiring module presents evidence that a positive future is indeed achievable, and highlights the critical role of one’s perspective and personal stand in the matter.

Module 5: The Rigged Game

This module looks into systems and structures of injustice that exist throughout society, with a focus on income inequality and institutional racism. Game Changer Intensive participants have a chance to explore how we are all, in one way or another, caught up in this rigged game.

Module 6: Game Changing Movements: Democracy

Understanding that democracy itself is at risk and the crucial work that needs to be done to remove it from the hands of moneyed interests and corporate power is the work of Module 6. The goal: how to become part of a movement committed to creating a government of, by, and for the people, where the voices of the people are heard.

Module 7: Game Changing Movements: Climate Change

dreamstime_m_28250959

Henry David Thoreau asks, “What’s the use of a fine house if there isn’t a tolerable planet to put it on?” Module 7 addresses https://youtu.be/XVSgbU6WVSkthe urgent matter of taking action to address climate change, with an emphasis on the game-changing movement to reduce our addiction to fossil fuels.

 Module 8: Going Forth

What’s next in becoming effective, active creators of the future? The final Game Changer Intensive module offers a series of inspiring and practical resources including an Action Plan template to support Game Changers as they go forth. The additional on-line conference calls for European/Irish participants will focus on what we need to do in our particular environment.

Each week includes:

  • Approximately 1.5 hours of videos and readings (you pace your own learning during the week)
  • About 20 minutes of participation in on-line discussion forums (as and when you wish during the week)
  • A 75-minute conference call with your small group (at a regularly scheduled time each week) where you compare notes and share ideas with other participants
  • An additional 75-minute conference call for participants in Ireland and across Europe to link our learning and our action plans to our own regional, national, and continental environments.

What is your idea of citizenship?

To confront the challenges ahead of us, it will take nothing short of humanity rising as one to meet it. It will take not only engaged citizens, but global citizens. You can join the discussion now! Just click on this link. What comes up for you as you consider embodying a sense of global citizenship? Please share your thoughts in the response box below or post any related questions you may have.

Further information:

The site for participants to get to know one another in advance of the programme: <https://connect.pachamama.org/node/541>

Go to this site if you want more general information about the Pachamama Alliance: <https://www.pachamama.org/>

More information about Pachamama global activities: <https://www.pachamama.org/engage>

Specific information and enrolment for the GCI: <https://www.pachamama.org/engage/intensive>

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Why are our political and administrative systems failing us?

They are the blasphemous priesthood of a religion in which they themselves no longer believe.

dreamstime_s_29860986I hear many people saying that the “system” is crumbling. There is abundant evidence available to support that claim. I have read critical comments and heard angry exchanges on TV as well as seeing vituperative accusations and strongly worded exchanges in the public media. Increasing numbers of families, individuals and children are becoming homeless, living rough, barely surviving, their nerves in shreds, with wounds they will carry into the future and suffer the consequences. We have empty houses and homeless people. We see rising levels of violence and whilst the Garda Síochana do their best, they have been deprived of resources and training despite all the great promises made in the Government Report on the Training Needs of the Garda Síochána way back in 1980. The list is endless. “Cram-ucation” has replaced “Education” because while we and our predecessors have slept, trusting in the honesty of our own State and our own Government for our protection, those selfsame leaders have themselves been found wanting.

Steam locomotive wreck 0910_08
End of the line!

I emphasise that this was not necessarily done deliberately and with malice a forethought. But in the desperation of their own ignorance they want no one else to challenge them. They themselves have lost trust and belief in the system because they live in a so-called “reality” that is, in effect, their own collective Dream World. They are the blasphemous priesthood of a religion in which they themselves no longer believe. The past is a manipulated history to prevent themselves as well as us from remembering. The future is unknown and unknowable but is continually reported on as fantasies of what they will do. We can neither act nor change an iota in the past. The future is an unknown country until it becomes “today”. The unavoidable truth is that we can only act, do, and achieve anything today, in the here-and-now. What we do in the Now is what will determine our future results. We could have built houses in the past for those families who are homeless today. But we didn’t. “Live, horse, and you will get grass” is the only advice I hear offered. “Sleep on the streets, rear your children n a hotel bedroom, and you will get a house in the future”. Bloody brilliant! There are empty houses around the country now, why can’t they be made available. Now!

dreamstimefree_6741071I could weep every time that fresh young politicians with stars in their eyes speak of “plans”, “better plans”, and “more plans”. I have no reason to believe that they are not sincere in what they say. Their senior colleagues had briefed them and given them those jobs. They will soon learn that all this “planning” is merely theatrical flim-flam. The offices of Government have filing cabinets filled with plans, most of which will never again see the light of day. These fresh young political minds will soon find that the world has moved on and their plans are a waste of time. But they themselves, through the old-fashioned training device of “sitting with Nellie” will have learned that the only survival route for themselves will be to allow their seniors to groom them further. Meanwhile all they can do is pray that the world around them will go into slow motion and allow their fantasies of effective government to come magically to fruition. They do not seem to understand that their seniors and their leaders, in concert with most governments around the world are intent upon creating countries inhabited by zombie citizens, dumbed down and compliant, that will follow them unquestioningly. That is the main difference between consumer societies and societies inhabited by human beings.

Yet while those running the country are becoming increasingly remote and protected from the awful reality they are creating, we, the people, suffer. And as long as we accept the Dream World created by those with their hands on the levers of power in the State, and as long as we accept that Dream World as our Reality, we will be powerless. We are not, however, powerless. Merely caught up in a Dream World which is becoming our recurring nightmare.

dreamstime_s_9425462We, the people, have a job to do. And only we can do it. Ignore the failed old rhetoric of revolution and the proletariat taking control of their own fate. Revolutions are usually followed by revolutions against the revolutionaries. And when power corrupts the human mind, the preservation of the system becomes the message and the circus rolls on. The world has changed. We need to find new solutions to new problems. We must work together,  and for each other, rebuild our communities from our own resources, remaining outside the system as far as we can. A grassroots movement must be built to show the people that we do have power over our own lives and over our own environments and we can exercise that power collectively if we want to and if we dare to. A pleading voice from the past echoes “The great seem great because we are on our knees. Let us arise!” Arise, yes, but not to sacrifice lives merely for us to change the people occupying the seats of power.

butterfliesSystems rarely if ever can be changed from within but, as the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis of the caterpillar, a new system can be built from the ground up if we refuse to co-operate with the puppet masters and begin to build our own real-life society. But this, as in the story of the caterpillar’s transition to a beautiful butterfly, requires a lot of preparation by communities and society in general if it is to take root. There are examples of that groundswell of movement in different communities around the globe. There are fresh green shoots appearing in Ireland where the GIY movement is not only showing communities as well as individuals how they can provide a healthier diet for themselves, but are already gaining substantial following for their initiatives in other countries. New forms of education are becoming available which put the child’s need ahead of the needs of would-be employers and which aim to develop confident adults with rounded education and ready to play their role in society. Living “off-grid” is another option for those who think that life basics have become too expensive. Those are just some examples of what can be done, and of what is being done now.

Rodin - The Thinker
Rodin – The Thinker

Shouting in anger at people who are not listening achieves nothing and is usually injurious to your health. Following the Duke of York up the hill of yet another demonstration lessens morale. We need to talk more to one another about the things that matter to us. The old Irish saying “Is ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine” is often translated literally as “We live in the shadow of one another”, as a reminder that man is a social being. But there is a much deeper message in that old saying, because the Irish word “scáth” as well as meaning “shadow”, also has nuances of looking after someone, putting them under your wing. It also implies the reflection of ourselves that we may see when we look into the eyes of the other person and engage with them; it also has the meaning of “fear”. I believe that if we could see a fellow human person without the filters that have been developed in our evolutionary journey, we would find ourselves in the conjoined presence of the Cosmic Spirit of Creation, our shared human Spirit. And the responsibility for living and working with that, and realising that we ourselves could be seen like that, would be a terrifying responsibility. It would also awaken us to the potential of our human Destiny.

TeilhardP_1947
Teilhard de Chardin

At present we live in the Biosphere of Planet Earth. Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit palaeontologist, postulated that the next major leap in evolution of life on this planet would involve the development of the Noosphere, effectively another layer or “skin” around the planet, but this time based not upon plant and animal life, as in the Biosphere, but upon the interaction of human minds and intelligence. Now evolutionary change takes long periods of time and is most unlikely to happen within the lifetime of any one individual person! That means that the Noosphere is not going to suddenly appear some day in the near future! But nevertheless, having arrived at this stage in the evolution of the human species and of all the other aspects of life on Planet Earth, we could begin to work towards taking a more active role in the future development of the planet. And even though our contribution might be miniscule in terms of the total process involved in evolutionary change, it might be better than letting all the previous billions of years that preceded our arrival on the scene go up in a fried planet, don’t you think? It might also lead to a friendlier and more peaceable world for our children and our children’s children to the seventh generation!

What’s stopping us? We have a lot to discuss and a lot to do. Let’s do that together then. I would also recommend decisions by consensus for such issues as this because majority voting and even qualified-majority voting tend to create divisions. Consensus build team and group solidarity and understanding as well as making the environment more accepting of differences.

Who was Ophelia?

“We are often to blame in this,
“As evidence shows, that with a religious face
“And an assumed holiness,
“We make the face of evil acceptable”

I have always been intrigued by the names give to hurricanes by the meteorology folk. The hurricane now sweeping across Ireland from South to North has been labeled “Ophelia”. I presume that this name refers to Hamlet’s girl-friend in Shakespeare’s play. If this hurricane is seen as feminine then she certainly is a mad, crazy woman who has no respect for those around her. Is that fair to the fair Ophelia? And is it fair to the hurricane?

Shakespeare’s play, “Hamlet”, was on the curriculum the year I did my Leaving Cert. back in the 1950s. Or was it for the Inter Cert? I can’t be sure but I really loved that play. I was also fortunate that my English teacher was a very good teacher. He challenged us to analyse the characters in the play and helped us to articulate our own understanding of the characters rather than learn off set answers by heart for the exams. I am grateful to him for that because it was a skill that has stood me in good stead during my working life, encouraging me to trust my own judgment of others while allowing room for ongoing re-assessment. Human beings, like characters in a Shakespeare play, do develop and change over their life-time.

Life for women in Shakespeare’s time would not be acceptable in today’s society. In the opening scenes of the play, Ophelia’s brother, Laertes, was, in effect, advising her to keep her knees together and told her Be wary then best safety lies in fearbecause he knew his pal Hamlet! Well, that is advice that we might well bear in mind today when Ophelia hits our town or parish! Her father, Polonius, got in on the act as well, cutting short her protestations that Hamlet had “importuned (her) with love in honourable fashion” by telling her she was speaking like a “green girl”! I thought she was a bit wimpish when she gave in to her father and said: “I shall obey my lord“. Later when Hamlet flips his lid and behaves mega-strangely, he appears to succeed in getting her to support him in his plan to “out” his uncle as the murderer of his father. But the audience has the advantage of knowing that Hamlet’s “madness” is an act wherein he planned “to catch the conscience of the King”. In a turning of the tables it is actually Ophelia who goes mad and kills herself by drowning in the river after Hamlet kills her father.

So in looking at this hurricane through the prism of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and the tragic character of Ophelia, I am looking past the drama of the hurricane at the global stage of climate. This hurricane is making us in Ireland face a mere fraction of the horror of a planet in agony. My personal spiritual understanding of planet Earth is that it is a conscious entity, together with other “living” components such as rocks, plants, and animals, each with its own level of consciousness. We humans are a responsible part of that great unified Consciousness. The Qigong mantra, “I am in the Universe, the Universe is in me, the Universe and I are One” is particularly relevant. Hurricane “Ophelia” is a call from Mother Earth and if we have any sense we must listen. We do not own the planet. We cannot control Nature. We must learn to bend with the wind, otherwise we shall break like the reed in the wind. And we must also beware of those of our leaders who either are mad or who are pretending to be mad in order to manipulate us for their own advantage. In the words of Polonius, father of Ophelia:

“We are oft to blame in this, —
“Tis too much proved – that with devotion’s visage
“And pious action we do sugar o’er
“The devil himself.”

[In today’s language, that reads as follows:

“We are often to blame in this,
“As evidence shows, that with a religious face
“And an assumed holiness,
“We make the face of evil acceptable”]

Crisis? What Crisis?

The only effective way to solve the homeless crisis and the lack of housing for families, is a radical one.

[I posted a comment yesterday on a friend’s Facebook page and I have received a few requests for a link to it. Instead, I am reposting it here as I believe that it is a topic that must be put on the agenda for public debate. I have taken the opportunity to edit it slightly to make my meaning clearer.]

dreamstimefree_239424 - Cóipeáil - CóipeáilWhen I look at Ireland today, I am faced with crisis after crisis. Homeless people, both indiviuals and families, are living and some are dying on the streets of our capital city. Other homeless families are stored in rented accommodation with no facilities that support or encourage the healthy life of a family that is now in shock. Our society is becoming increasingly violent. Violence is like a symptom on a sick body, it is a sign of a deep-rooted illness. Our hospitals are under-staffed, with closed wards, with qualified staff leaving to work abroad, and yet those entrusted with the health of the nation behave like the blind leading the bland. Mistakes in providing medical attention to passive patients ,who are not listened to, are coming to light, years after the damage was done, infants were lost, blood transfusions contaminated, evidence denied until eventually extracted under legal requirements. Political effort is confined to propping up systems that should have been torn down years ago. Political power is still being abused by those who should have been rejected generations ago. Incompetence rules. The call from the Captain is: “Steady as she goes. We will get you out of the mess that you created for yourselves”.

The only effective way to solve the homeless crisis and the lack of housing for families, is a radical one. The State repeatedly declaring a “national emergency” is merely papering over the cracks. It will waste time and achieve nothing and consume even more resources and funds to no avail. We do have sufficient resources, however, to set a solution in train immediately but it is clear that the Government doesn’t believe that the people would be worth the effort. They have other cosier “friends” whose needs must be satisfied first. The Solution??

dreamstime_l_28861743We must declare a State of Emergency under the Constitution, because our “ship of State” is adrift in a hurricane, the engine room is under water and the crew is in shock. What should we do? Firstly, the State must commandeer all building land that is currently not being used. Then we must bring in the Army to do something that they have done before when working abroad for the UN. They have the proven skills to build townships for immediate accommodation. They have done so abroad for refugees fleeing from oppression. They can build accommodation on land that is currently lying idle apart from satisfying the gold lust of property owners and disgraced developers who are returning with their soup bowls and asking: “Please, sirs, can we have some more?” Back in 1956, the Army was able to supply emergency accommodation for refugees fleeing the rising in Hungary. 

The Army will build not just housing, but build a number of frameworks for integrated communities, with services. There is a difference. We must create immediately a whole network of services, for education, for growing our own food, for nurturing children and building families that can care and cope, provide social amenities where communities can meet and talk, provide public transport that satisfies needs and reduces the need for private transport, provide local employment, support volunteer groups, and recognise and promote the skills already in the community.

pollution and waste
Is this our reality?

Crazy? Of course it is, but we live in crazy times. We live in a nightmare world created by those we have trusted as our leaders and who now persuade us that we created this nightmare, this Dream world, this Hell. This is our Reality? That is what the Dream Weavers would have us think. But it is not our Reality! And now, we must reconstruct and take back the ownership of our own reality. We must build a grass-roots movement that provides leadership, inspiration, and guidance to unleash the stifled power of the oppressed and the dispossessed.

Of course, you are right when you say that it would be impossible. It would be impossible, because we are locked into a Dream World that is not of our making. It is continually presented to us as our Reality. It is a Dream that we have been taught and brainwashed into accepting as “our Reality”. And the other part of that brain-washing message is that we, the people, are too stupid, too profligate, too unruly to be allowed our own Reality. But it is not our Reality because our Reality IS possible.

six-of-pentaclesThat Dream World has been fabricated piece by piece by those in our society who have failed in their duty of care to the citizenry and in their responsibility as citizens:

  • by those politicians who live by controlling the population, and creating dependency and feelings of guilt and produce nothing but propaganda, but who, like the Emperor and his new clothes, now believe their own story, improbable as it sounds;

  • by the bankers and financiers for whom people are mere zeroes that turn millions into billions and feed their masters;

  • by those in the media who feed the public on useless pap and political pornography that fills time and negates any desire for change, stultifies the appetite for learning and achieving; 

  • by those in control of business and industry who exploit workers for their own personal gain, whilst they demonise the unemployed and the unemployable as cheats and liars and a burden on the State, yet still expect State aid when they themselves fail;

  • by those who like the vampires of fiction, suck the population dry of ambition, of curiousity, and of hope and then set them on one another in an orgy of social destruction and paranoid delusion.

 

nine-of-wandsBut most of all, that Dream World, that Nightmare existence of homelessness, unemployment, illness, and abuse have been fabricated by those of us who do not care anymore, who make noises as if we cared and who feel overstretched by the little comfort we publicly offer. No Prince Charming is going to rescue us from our cobwebbed sleep in the Castle of Despair. But we can awaken ourselves. That is possible but challenging. We can build a grass-roots movement, not fuelled by the dead theories of fossilised revolutionaries but by the energy in the hearts and minds of those who will work together today to reclaim our democracy, to reclaim power and authority today for the “demos”, the people, and who are of the people.

Which category are you in? I know that if I do not take action every day, and take action every hour of every day, then I could quite easily and comfortably slip into any of those categories. But there is still something in me that says “NO”. I am now the eldest of my generation, of my family line, and “No” is not enough to say to those who produced me and brought me this far. Then let’s start changing that Dream and building a new Reality that is ours.

It can be done. It must be done. It will ……..?


Please submit any comments or ideas below. Thank you!

DiEM25 and the future of democracy in Europe (Part 3)

“They can recommend changes to the Manifesto or to DiEM25’s governance, including the nomination of potential CC members.”

Advisory Panel (AP)

From its inception, DiEM25 has attracted some well-known, influential personalities from across the globe: artists and film-makers, economists and intellectuals, writers and activists. They have been helping ‘curate’ DiEM25’s thinking, events and campaigns from the very beginning. It is, therefore, proposed that they become acknowledged as a group. Thus, the Advisory Panel.

Comment:

I am not clear why it is necessary to have a specific group, the Advisory Panel, tasked with the job providing advice, when in the following paragraph it is pointed out that “Just like all DiEM25 members, they will have the opportunity to propose actions, campaigns, etc., to the Coordinating Collective (CC) as well as to DiEM25 at large.”

It is further stated: “They can recommend changes to the Manifesto or to DiEM25’s governance, including the nomination of potential CC members.”

Potential CC members may nominate themselves as part of the democratic process we are developing. Why then introduce an additional option for the AP to nominate candidates. Are DSCs and individual members entitled to nominate candidates for the CC? There is need for clarification here.

Finally, I find this statement very puzzling: “As for nominations of new Advisors, any DiEM25 member can make suggestions to the CC which then puts these proposals up for approval by the Validating Council. Is this not another way of saying that the CC has actually made a decision and is now submitting it for approval by the Validating Council? Or if the CC are merely making proposals then the V.C. is then in reality making the decision. Is it right, as I mentioned previously, for the C.C. to dodge making a decision and leave the V.C. to make the decision. As I have noted earlier, members of the V.C. are selected by lottery, serve a very short period in office and for that reason receive no money. Again, I fear that the writers of the document seem to be avoiding making clear statements about who are the real decision-makers in DiEM25. There is nothing wrong or shameful in making a decision if one has the authority and the power/ability to make such decisions. The critical question is to whom is the decision-maker responsible when making a decision and what sanctions the members have over those who make decisions on their behalf.

I must emphasise one important point at this stage, because of the many negative and critical comments that I have read in the different platforms used for members to share information. I am not saying that there is any plot or intention to avoid transparency on the part of those in the CC or any other part of DiEM25. I am saying, however, that lack of clarity in these statements is providing ammunition for those who want to be extremely critical of what is being done.

[This completes the current list of documents. Further discussions regarding other parts of the Organising Principles will be resumed after the election for new CC members]

Thank you for participating in the discussions. If you were one on the 27,000 members who signed up enthusiastically for DiEM25 at some stage in the past eighteen months, then I hope that this discussion will have re-assured you that we are still working towards our aims and we would dearly love to have participate actively in our discussions.

Thank you.

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.