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.

Birth of the Ampersand et al.

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

This is the Scriptorium, the Room of Writing.

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

Ireland’s history and relationship with Europe

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

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

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

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

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

Creating a new Government

A creative approach to bypass stereotyped thinking!

I don’t know if our political leaders are up for creative thinking as a way out of the present mucky mess of logical, linear thinking which is spiralling inwards and downwards in a meaningless rhetoric of negativities. Ireland deserves better. So, what would creative thinking contribute to the present stand-off?

Creative thinking is an approach to problem solving that stimulates a fresh approach, or “out of the box” thinking. It is used when people want to make sure that they don’t miss a trick, that they have explored all possible solutions and then some! Just what we need now, you might say. It would stir, maybe even agitate, the primordial soup of the political collective of little grey cells that at the present moment appears to be bubbling lazily and sticking closely together. The only rule that applies in this approach is “no critical comments, no negatatives, build on the previous suggestions”. You can critically examine the result as much as you like when you have completed this little exercise. Got the idea?

 Right! Let’s set the scene. First of all, what is the greatest problem or threat we now face in Ireland?  Without doubt, if we don’t resolve the problems of global climate change then all other problems are irrelevant. Then, be optimistic. But bear climate change in mind. So, let’s start the creative thinking process. Remember the rules! No critical comments until the task is completed! The process is designed to bypass your Ego’s judgmental and intimidating presence. That part of you that jumps in every time you think in order to protect you from making a mistake. It’s the Mrs. Doyle function, asking you “Are you sure? Are you sure you’re sure?”.

Step #01

Put your own name in the box below, nominating yourself for the role of Taoiseach. You will also need to appoint a Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister). Insert here the name of a Dáil Deputy whom you would trust as competent and suitable for this position.

Taoiseach ( Your Name)
Tánaiste

Step #02

Now please nominate a member of the 32nd Dáil for each of the following positions. Note that if you cannot find a suitable candidate who is currently a member of the Dáil, you may, as Taoiseach, nominate someone to the Seanad/Senate, and then appoint them as Minister. There is a precedant for doing this, but it is recommended that you limit the number on this occasion to not more than three nominations.

Now for the remaining members of the team.

The following are the main areas of government in recent times. You may alter them, add to them, or group them as you wish. Then list your government departments in sequence and nominate as Minister the person you would choose for each.

List of possible Departments:

Finance; Public Expenditure and Reform; Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation; Agriculture, Food & Marine; Defence; Justice and Equality; Children and Youth Affairs; Health; Foreign Affairs; Trade; Commerce; Education; Environment; Community; Local Government; Communications; Energy; Natural Resources; Transport; Tourism; Sport; Arts; Heritage; Gaeltacht (or Language(s))

Government Departments

My choice for Minister

a
 b
 c
 d
 e
 f
 g
 h
 j
 k
 l
 m
 n
 p
 q

Add more if required.

dreamstime_m_28250959And that’s it! The job is done, well, nearly done. I hate to disappoint you but as you are not a member of the Dáil you cannot be nominated as Taoiseach. But you have done your job so take a bow and step gracefully to one side. (Thunderous applause).

You must now select a member of the present Dáil to be Taoiseach. Select one of those on your list above, promoting them and fill the vacancy left.

The job is now done! The purpose of the little ruse was to facilitate you in breaking away from the status quo and taking a fresh look at the problem. You have come up with a viable list of names that you believe would be suitable as a Government. In doing so, you have redefined the intractable problem.

The new problem to be solved is “how to get this list of people approved as the new government”.

Ask yourself the question: “What would need to happen now, to enable these people to be appointed as the next  Government”?

If this suggests any new idea that would help us to break out of the present impasse, then please share it with us.

Thanks!

 

Into the Wilderness: A Story for our Times.

hs-2005-37-a-1280_wallpaper
Crab Nebula

When societies developed their own Creation myths they went to enormous lengths to perpetuate them and build their lives around then, giving them and their leaders a stable reality rather than question the Myth and thereby undermine their Dreamworld. We in Ireland have been living in a Dreamworld that is largely a sustaining stew of old fashioned capitalist theories, disabling colonial memories, with a tad of jaded Celtic Twilight to spice it up. It is a Story that was fed to us with our mother’s milk. It is difficult to break from that story when one has been reared on it. It is a landscape littered with signs, such as “Here be dragons” and “Thou shalt not” because for so long our ancestors lived in a society where Authority, the right to exercise Power, resided in either London or Rome. It provokes great anxiety in society when the basis for that Dream is challenged. It is on a par with the mythic fear of the ancient Celtic warrior king who, when asked by Alexander the Great, was there nothing that the Celts feared, admitted after a pause, that he sometimes feared that the sky would fall on him. For each of us to question ourselves about our existence and about our way of behaving is a challenge and for most it appears to be too threatening to even imagine. “Better to brave the ills we have, than fly to other that we know not of”.

Many people who are disadvantaged by their role in prevailing Dream of Reality feel a strong need to rebel. They have two main options. The first option is to act out their rebellion while maintaining a role in the Dream World. This satisfies their need for psychic security but enables them to vent their anger. It is a futile approach but has its compensations. In the words of MacBeth:

        “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.”
Many will dismiss this description as a poetic boreen, a literary device, but strangely it is an explanation that is being confirmed by modern science that is telling us that there are such things as parallel realities, that we unknowingly construct our own reality. To update that analysis, merely read the ranting and raving, the aggression, the braggadocio and the mock-heroics of the contributions on social media and imagine “Just hold me back or I will…” preceding the statements.
The alternative option they have is to create a new Story, a new Dreamworld, a new way of looking at our world and at our roles in that alternative story. The creation of that new Story is a collective work, It must start with each of us taking responsibility for our own thoughts as well as our own actions. We must then develop a new Story that describes the kind of story in which we wish to live our lives, how we should relate to one another, how we should organise our society. It will not be developed by shouting invective and obscenities at those who oppose us, by vilifying those who try to offer a thread to the new fabric of our Dreamworld. It will require us to produce a story that integrates all (and I deliberatelyRodin - The Thinker emphasise ALL) our citizens into the one shared world of the story. It will be an act of real revolution. To bring this home, just read again the Story that the leaders of the 1916 Rising spoke about and upon which they based their insurrection. The Proclamaton of 1916 is a good summary. They were often ridiculed by those whose lives were embedded in a different Story. Their Story has been twisted and turned since the Civil War. Over recent years, the central characters and settings in the Story have been changed from “Society”, “Commmunity” and their relationship to the “Citizen”  to “the Economy” and the role of the “Consumer/Customer”. Each story line built a different interpretation of what one should do, what one should think, how one should behave, and fundamentally of Who one is. In recent weeks, candidates in the general election produced manisfestoes, ostensibly promoting their versions of the Story, or of selected parts of it, in which we should live and the roles availbable to us.
The results of the election have, as it were, drawn back a part of the veil that hid the mechanics of the system, the Ghost in the Machine. The electorate is beginning to show signs that they are worried and do not like what they see. The political actors in the lead roles are dashing about, trying to repair the rift in the curtain, and pretending that nothing has really changed. But things are changed, changed utterly, and what is being laid bare is far from beautiful. The threat of the ugliness we see is such that it may terrify some, but hopefully it will give courage to others to ask “if not, why not”. As Rudyard Kipling once wrote:
“I keep six honest serving men
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who”
Before it is too late, perhaps our political leaders would introduce us to their honest, serving people and share with us their views. What’s the Story, lads? Why do you want to be our leaders? When are you going to let us share in the work of building our counrty? How will we do that together? Where will that lead us? Who am I going to be in the new Story?
220px-Homo_erectus_pekinensis_-_archeaeological
Enlightened voter (Homo selectus)

Do not expect them to answer these questions now because it is clear that they are very busy doing “grown-up things” and we should wait to be told. We don’t need to wait. We have told them what we want. Let us examine, and even more importantly, let the media, acting on our behalf, help us to interpret the answers implied by their posturing,  positioning, and pretence. Would that be too much to ask? Or do the media prefer the perilous security of their roles in the present Story to navigating the wilderness where we might together constuct a New Story for a Risen People? Aye, there’s the Rub!

We will go on and on, if “they” decide so!

I wish that the Dáil and the media would stop using the mantra “the people have spoken” as if the electorate had sent a clear message with one voice and all that needed to be done now was for the Dáil to read the runes, consult the Oracle at Delphi and then to hammer out a deal, as so often before to pacify the people and all would return to normal. Do they not understand? They are still acting as if they believe in the Story they have concocted and now think it is true. Unfortunately many people in this country got caught up in that Story and began to believe that it was their Story also! Quite clearly it is not true and the electorate has begun to wake up to that fact.

The time has come for us to create a new Story, a new narrative that recognises the hopes and aspirations of a people who have given so much in the past to build a national home  not only for themselves and their families, but for those of Irish descent around the globe. They, and we, all deserve so much more in the future.

Starting from next Thursday, we need to see the Dáil elect a Cathaoirleach (Chairperson) who does not see the role as that of compere or commere of some kind of Music Hall Spectacular, but instead a person with the experience and presence who will control the unruly members with their puerile backchat and disruptive behaviour when they treat to Chamber as an extension of the Dáil bar.

The next task of the Dáil is to nominate a Taoiseach with the integrity, the understanding, the intelligence, the openness and honesty to unite the country. At the moment the leaked gossip and snippets about who is meeting whom, indicate that the focus is totally fixed on power games and has nothing to do with the good of the Nation.Note, by the way, that the agenda item is labelled, “election of Taoiseach”, not “coronation of one party or a cosy coalition”. It is an importtant role. It is a pity that political parties have turned it into an election for the largest party in the Dáil to lay claim to government and power. It does not necessarily need to be so.

From our experience of previous Governments, it is time for a Grand Coalition, preferably not a National Government, because I do not believe that we could trust every party and independent to put the Nation first, if there were no Opposition.

Such a Coalition could draw on the best talent available in the Dáil when appointing Ministers, drawing candidates from all parties or none as well as appointing independents to ministerial office. We even have the precedent of a previous Taoiseach who brought in a candidate from outside by nominating him to the Seanad first before appointing him as Minister for Foreign Affairs – Senator Professor James Dooge. A stately politician and an academic with an impish wit. I remember him lecturing us young first-year would-be engineers on the role of the engineer in sustainable development. We all had to hunt for our dictionaries when he told us with a straight face that the Plains Indians of North America were so good at sustainable living that they even made ceremonial rattles from the scrotum of the bison!

dreamstime_m_33348151The new Government will have a primary task and two main fronts for action. One front clearly is to reform the system and procedures of government, reforming both Dáil and Seanad. Such topics as participative democratic structures eventually reaching from the Dáil Chamber to the Village Community Council, use of online resources to sound the views of the electorate on difficult issues, making equality at work and in society a reality for women and men. It has been promised for a long time. It’s time that it was done now. The second front is to establish a number of task forces, each one actively led by one or more Ministers involved in that field to tackle the crises besetting us in health, homelessness, housing, infrastructure, and public utilities. There is such a mountain of work to be done that Teachtaí Dála who indulge in time-wasting manoeuvres and game playing will not be able to keep up, not to mind sneaking off early to meet their constituents, or even their pals, for a quiet one before the week-end proper starts!

These two fronts for action must be integrated and co-ordinated under the Primary Task, and make specific contributions to it. The Primary Task must dominate over all other priorities and influence their goals and their methods; but that has been almost totally ignored in the election campaign to date and most of the electorate has feared to even mention its name – Climate Change. This global challenge is the target we, and others, must meet if our human race is to survive on this planet. Generations of wilful ignorance, plain greed, and allowing the use and abuse of our global material resources, such as coal, oil, iron, precious metals, even water, to be handed over to private corporations for the enriching of their dreamstime_s_9425462owners have created the problem. Despite warnings from environmental organisations world wide and advice given by our own Green Party and their colleagues elsewhere, successive governments have used “creative accounting” and “quack scientists” to hide the facts from the electorate and lay false trails. Think of a Donald Trump clone as a member of Fianna Fáil and you will see what I mean. “Climate denier” is a polite title for what they do, including giving international guarantees that we obviously could not meet given our appoach to the problem.

We have experienced only the tiniest sample yet of what is to come. But like frightened children we, and our leaders, are hiding our heads under the blankets of feigned ignorance, hoping that the problems of climate change will just go away in the night and not trouble us again. We must prepare, starting now, and build a new way of doing, a new way of thinking, a new way of living our lives. If we do not do so, any temporary solutions we find for our current crises, will not survive long enough to see us through the final great crisis that faces Humankind.

We can go on, … we must go on, and we will go on!

unnamed

 

It’s the Vision, Stupid!

The citizen’s duties ended when they voted. The task of government formation and the reform of government systems began then.

… it is important that we start from where we are

If the traditional horse-trading is taking place, then that merely postpones the collapse and increases the collateral damage to the innocent.

If our political leaders and representatives face this challenge then we have some chance of developing a different political culture in Ireland. If not, then we need to think again.

Summary

At this stage in the creation and appointing of a new government, the old practices still hold sway, despite claims that reforms are necessary and will be introduced. This present situation, even though appearing chaotic, could be used to begin the work of reform. Starting with the process of appointing a Taoiseach, the various steps in the current process are examined and an alternative, hitherto unused approach is advocated. The citizen’s duties ended when they voted. The task of government formation and the reform of government systems began then.


 

“If they can stop you from asking the right questions, you’ll never come up with the right answers.” (Frank Zappa)

In the present inter-regnum period in Ireland, the political situation is close to chaotic, the migrant situation at the Gates of Europe, is barbaric, harrowing, and coarsening of the body politic, whilst the future of the Eurozone countries is perilous.

For those reasons, I suggest that it is important that we start from where we are. Let us doggedly resist the easier option of trying to start from where we would like to be, or, more accurately, where the dream narrative, the “Story”, tells us that we are. This Story is promoted by the power brokers and their sponsors, and broadcast by the national and local media, growled at and sucked over by pundits, experts, analysts and commentators. They assure us in carefully selected snippets, in sound bites that are impervious to logic, and in neatly trimmed statements, that we are in good hands, that they know how to steady the ship, and set the course again for the ship of state. Most importantly, that Story makes clear to us, the electorate, where we stand and what role is allocated to us. Needless to say, that narrative also reassures us, because we do not like to be exposed to such uncertainties. Our politicians assure us with measured words that they will get it all sorted, that we needn’t worry, because, presumably, they believe that they know how to sort these things out. It is marginally annoying for them that there is a glut of independents, and a few “head-the-ball” characters queering the pitch these days, but it is really only a matter of time before the wiser, and more experienced of our politicians get it all sorted and our citizens can again sleep soundly at night. Ahem! And so …? Is that all?

Yet the aggression and madness rumbles on, mentioned in brief communiqués in the gaps between breathless updates on political progress at home. Updates on events in the sporting world insulate us from alarm. But the aggression and madness barges on and is not confined to Europe. The global economy, the global body politic, and the world community of peoples is facing unprecedented threats on all sides. As the beleagured (and apocryphal) General in the Crimean War is reputed to have said when his battalion was being overrun: “The only logical action is to attack”.

I mean “attack”, however, not as it is used in the general response to date in any of the arenas of conflict alluded to above, namely to attack and abuse those who differ from us. I speak of the need to attack the real problem in each case; to confront each threat in turn and by opposing, end them. Most “discussions” both online and between parties during the Election campaign, focussed on exchange of abuse, of put-downs, of half-truths, of insults, and Truth hid her head in Shame.

When large systems run out of control, positive feedback re-inforces the destructive forces already at work and the system ultimately fails. Whether that system is a modern commercial computerised system in a modern institution or an empire such as the Soviet Union was, it collapses into chaos. But history shows us that out of that chaos can come challenges, and facing challenges provides opportunities to resume development and stabilisation.

For example, returning to the present situation in Ireland, if stand-offs and threats of non-cooperation with particular opponents in the political arena concerning the overarching issue of forming a new government are the initiative or response, then chaos, continued failure to cope with national problems and the infliction of further pain and suffering on those sectors of society least able to cope with them, will be the inevitable result, if not sooner, then later. If the traditional horse-trading is taking place, then that merely postpones the collapse and increases the collateral damage to the innocent. By this I imply also that the seeds of the disastrous events culminating in the collapse of the present Fine Gael/Labour Government and its predecessor, the Fianna Fáil/Green Party Government, were sown at the formation of each Government respectively. The only way to find an effective solution and thereby avoid such happenings again, is for the competing parties, groups, and independents to rise above the immediate arena of conflict and to seek for solutions at a higher and more sophisticated level of complexity and with a somewhat different focus.

That would also require the combatants to put the good of the country and all its people before the short-term tactical gains from the manoeuvring of political parties and social classes. If current leaders are too greedy, if they lack the requisite skills, or are too unaware of the dynamics in the situation, to be able to do that, then other leaders must be sought or they might possibly emerge during that period. But more important even than leadership is the creation of a climate in which participants are supported to develop confidence in the fair-mindedness of others, even of those who oppose them. Remember that when the other person’s opinion is different to mine, that does not necessarily make them evil people. My confidence in my own position or in my policies does not necessarily mean that I am the only one who is right. In the recent Election campaign those, sadly, were not the prevailing attitudes and beliefs. Even now the negativity is still dominating despite the protestations.

Unfortunately, we have very little, if any, experience in this country of opposing camps taking a different approach. Compromise on butchered solutions and mashed promises is not healthy food for a democracy but it has been the staple diet of many coalition negotiations. It requires different skills and mindsets to find a way to a real consensus agreement on a range of national policies that opponents can agree to, and hopefully, with their hands on their hearts. In Ireland and in many other English-speaking countries we rarely differentiate between “consensus (note 1)” and “compromise (note 2)”, or between”authority (note 3)” and “power (note 4)”. I use those different definitions in the context of this article. Consensus also requires different leadership skills other than the blunt instruments of cute hoors to lead without expecting to have 100% control over decisions and policies that affect the Nation. If our political leaders and representatives face this challenge then we have some chance of developing a different political culture in Ireland. If not, then we need to think again.

The complexity of the present situation and the variety of bodies involved is a benefit because it should force those involved to take more time in seeking a resolution. If we reflect on processes in the natural world around us, a natural world of which we are a part, there is one very simple and clear model that has led to progress and resolution of differences in other fields of endeavour and life. The general principles are easy to understand and can firstly be described in general terms. Starting with a kernal, a core, or a single cell, the first step is growth to the point where the cell splits into multiple similar basic cells, Growth continues, and at the next stage, the separate cells re-integrate in a more appropriate formation with an additional, higher-order managing or controlling and support function added. Additional types of cells may also be created at this stage. This is the simple process of natural growth and of life in general that we are familiar with but it also underlies other less obvious growth processes. This basic process can be continued, not necessarily ad infinitum, but towards some inherent final state, in a spiral process, repeating the cycle of differentiation-integration-differentiation, eventually leading to growth or decay. The entire life cycle of the process is usually related to the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the controlling-maintenance function generated and expanded at the start of each new cycle.

We saw some examples of this simple natural model during the life and death of the present government. Some Independents formed groups as embryonic parties, such as Social Democrats, with a simple, easily understood structure and basic operating procedures and rules. In other cases, some new or recently formed groups, came together with others to form a second degree integration with somewhat more complicated controlling and maintenance functions, as in the case of the AAA-PBP. The dissolution of the coalition is also an example of the life cycle at work. And this is where the model I have described above shows its usefulness for the identification of future directions, suggesting ways in which we can arrive at new processes including the identification of opportunities and threats. Both political parties and pundits, independents and smaller groupings, have regularly called for the revision of structures and procedures. This presents an opportunity to explore these changes in a meaningful way at a time of crisis.

At the moment, the existing parties, associations, embryonic parties, and independents are behaving like cells in a human body under attack by cancer cells, struggling to ward off the invaders and maintain the integrity of their particular position. The likely result is clearly obvious from the model, a slow, painful death, possibly mediated by external interventions to relieve the pain. On the other hand, our model above does offer hope.

Let’s begin by comparing the current narrative with the actual situation. The established parties, in particular, are dominating the debate, primarily in a negative way judging by their public utterances. Smaller and new parties, along with independent T.Ds. are circulating around the situation, like smaller fish around sharks, some to do menial cleaning up, others to serve as nourishment eventually! The clear message of the shared narrative is that political parties will nominate their leaders for the role of Taoiseach, presenting a programme for government for which they seek the support of others. This, of course, can only take place as the second item on the agenda for the upcoming meeting of the 32nd Dáil. Candidates for Cathaoirleach (Chairman) will first be nominated and the Cathaoirleach elected under Dáil procedures. That is the current narrative or Story! Is it the only one?

Subject to my understanding of the rules governing the nomination of a Taoiseach, I believe that there is another narrative, another Story, a Story that meets the requirements but that has not yet been explored. In brief, I suggest that the nomination of Taoiseach and the agreement of a Programme for Government, should not make one package. I suggest that the current discussions should focus initially on collectively developing and defining a new system with appropriate control and maintenance (or management) functions for the proposed government before policies are even discussed. Candidates seeking nomination as Taoiseach should then present their proposals to the Dáil and promulgate them in general including any reforms required in Dáil procedures. Success in making progress on these “cooler” issues of structure and working relationships would develop better levels of understanding and trust within the Dáil but also within the public at large. It would also pave the way for a more direct approach to preparing a joint platform for action.

In our National Elections, candidates are nominated by political parties but candidates may also be nominated without party affiliations as independent candidates. Why then are the political parties, some Independents, and the media in general promulgating the Story and perpetuating practice from previous Dáil elections of having nominations for Taoiseach put forward by parties complete with programmes for government? Not only this, but the Story has also developed the idea that the programmes for Government will also thereby be selected at the same time. Is this the constitutional position? Is it part of the procedures adopted previously? Or, is it a practice, that like “like Topsy, it just grow’d”?

I have read the Irish Constitution and searched for supporting evidence and here is what I have found.

  • In Section 13.1.1, we read: “The President shall, on the nomination of Dáil Éireann, appoint the Taoiseach” (my italics)
  • In Section 13.2.2, we read: “The President shall, on the nomination of the Taoiseach with the previous approval of Dáil Éireann, appoint the other members of the Government.”
  • In Section 13.7.1, we read that the President after consultation with the Council of State, may communicate with the Houses of the Oireachtas by message or address on any matter of national or public importance (my italics).
  • It is also stated elsewhere in the Constitution that such elections take place under the voting system for all State elections.

Nowhere have I found a defined process for the nomination and election of a Taoiseach. Accordingly I believe that it is reasonable to expect that the same democratic principles governing our other elections still apply.

Whatever its origins the current Story is part of the present situation and is being followed like Holy Writ! Is this then, the only Story, the official Story? In other words, when the Dáil nominates a Taoiseach for appointment, it also nominates the Programme for Government. Would it be possible to nominate a Taoiseach but allow time then for the nominated Taoiseach to prepare a Programme for election involving parties, groups and independents to participate. The nominated Taoiseach could also prepare a list of nominations for ministries and other roles at this time. In many respects, this would have similarities with a national government, but need not necessarily involve all members of the Dáil in the final arrangement. This approach would also allow for the nomination of an Independent as Taoiseach but with Ministers drawn from other parties and other Independents.

The electorate made its choice of Dáil representation based upon party manifestoes but in the current narrative the electorate is excluded from further discussions. These are the prerogative of party members only at special conferences. The main structure, however, of a working relationship between those considering coalition or other form of government described above may be sketched out at an early stage allowing, at a later stage, for further integration processes at a higher level than those currently in use. The structure and operating systems of a coalition should be mapped out describing how the structure would work, before the work of agreeing policies is discussed. It could also identify any reforms required in the Dáil. It could allow for both processes to proceed in parallel, but separately. It would be a sine qua non, an essential component of Cabinet that decisions be made by active consensus (note 1) if, in practice, this is not already the case.

I have had first-hand experience of consensus-seeking during my working life in such processes at work, not only in Ireland and in the West in general, but also in South-East Asia. In both regions it was remarkable to see the same rules applied but in different ways. In the West we tend to make decisions in control groups and then seek to win support for them in the larger community or organisation as well as in the subgroup tasked with implementing those decisions. In consensus seeking, all those involved in the decision, either directly or through representatives, are involved from the beginning, in defining the problem, agreeing a decision, right through to planning implementation. In the West, decisions are made quickly but implementation is very often problematical and delayed, it engenders distrust and undermines confidence in the leadership. In the consensus-seeking approach, also being used now in some aspects of our organisations in the West, the decision-making process takes longer but the implementation is quicker and cleaner and builds confidence and trust in the leadership.

Returning then to the present interparty negotiations, I would predict that if the current negotiation processes focus only at the current level of negotiating and bargaining about policy items, then no real progress will be made. If, instead, the negotiations park the policy bargaining bits and concentrate initially on developing a structure within which they would agree to work, then, depending upon the openness, the trust levels and the sophistication of their thinking, these groups could possibly develop to a stage, in a relatively short period of time, where they would have created a new political system that could respond to the nation’s needs. The citizen’s duties ended when they voted. The task of government formation and the reform of government systems began then. We must now turn our attention to new ways and build a democracy that uses modern technologies and processes to integrate the electorate into the ongoing work of government.

Notes:

  1. consensus: an agreement to which all members of a group, after discussion, agree without reservation and also agree the understanding of the different components after discussion. The propositions is modified until that stage is reached.
  2. compromise: an agreement or decision, settled on by a group, after a discussion, in which agreement is reached on the wording but individuals may retain their own personal definitions in reserve.
  3. authority: the agreed or delegated right to exercise power on behalf of another (e.g., the electorate gives authority to the Dáil to elect a Taoiseach)
  4. power: the ability to do something (e.g., the Taoiseach appoints as Ministers those who have  demonstrated that they have the power to act)

 

 

General Election 2015. Questions to answer?

If you think negative thoughts then you will attract negativity to you. Yes, the situation is a total mess now, and merely talking and dreaming about it will not change it. Neither will old thinking and worn out ways change it. The Game is a rigged one and we are at present caught up in it. We can change that Game by changing the Story that holds the System together. The present story is based upon the belief that we, the people, need a small group of people to take charge of our country, and then, by merely waiting for them to deliver the future that they promised and not interfering, we will have solved every problem and we shall all be wealthy, and, of course, healthy, ever after.

Yes, the System is wobbling at present. Indeed, there are fears that the global Financial System is failing, just as the world’s Climate is changing. The lies and the faults are beginning to show that the old Story cannot be maintained; it is not the whole Story. But all that is being offered in General Election 2015 are a few small groups and individuals who are challenging the Old Guard yet they are not offering any new Story. Even if the old exploiters in Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Labour are routed, what are the newcomers offering? Sexier versions of the old Story, is the kindest I can say. In brief, all any party is offering, is that if you support them and they get in, then you and your class/group/tribe/whatever will benefit and the losers will suffer. All based on the nonsense of living our lives as part of an economy. What is the economy? May as well call it the Swings and Roundabouts game! But no, have you not noticed that one section of the world’s society has been increasing its power and its wealth, whilst for the other side, poverty is increasing and so is the percentage of the population that is affected.

All my life I have seen efforts made, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, in Ireland and in other regions of the world, to “grow” the economy! Have you asked yourself for how long more can economies keep growing? Is it possible that one day our descendents will be living in economies where their weekly take home pay will be over €1 million???? What do you think would be the price of a loaf of bread then? Nonsense. This growth is happening only because a Story was created that we can have what we want, provided we use the Market based upon debt. To pay that debt, the Banks manufacture money out of paper and charge for that service. There was a time when bank notes were backed by an equivalent value in gold that could be claimed and redeemed on demand! Needless to say that part of the Story was changed very soon.

We are now being told that the way to grow our economy is by creating a magical circle or cycle, create jobs, negotiate or dictate (or even ‘set’, now that’s a nice word!) the least amount necessary to get people to take those jobs, then those on the receiving side, use that “money” to buy goods and services at an increasing rate, paying taxes, creating more jobs, etc. I am sure you have got the idea by now. In the past, the only thing that increased in that version of the Story is that the tiny percentage of people who are at the top of the pile, got smaller and wealthier, and the rest got poorer and larger. And so it is now also. Even the fairy story of the “trickle down” effect, is like some of the present advertisements for ladies toiletries on TV, and shows no sign of any trickles! This system has brought the planet Earth to its knees, It has consumed non-renewable resources, That is the system which has been growing since the Industrial Revolution but is now beginning to creak under the weight of the lies and fantasies that it carries. Have you yet asked yourself why no Irish political party or individual candidate for election has addressed the issue and stated the obvious?

Why has no party or individual candidate stated what “issue” and what is “obvious”? In November last, at the COP21 Climate Change Summit in Paris, the Great and the Good from governments, global corporations, international institutions, and groups of environmental scientists, climatologists, presented a stark picture. Our current way of doing things on this planet is destructive, heading in the wrong direction, and if left unrestrained will lead within the next fifty years (the combined lifetime, by the way, of the next six full-term governments in Ireland) to the ‘tipping point’, or the point of no return, the point beyond which it will be beyond our control to stop an irreversible process leading to the destruction of life on this planet within the following century. Apparently we must prevent the average temperature across the globe from rising more that 1˚ or 2˚C before 2150. Some experts fear that we are on the way to a 8˚C ríse or even more. Perhaps, you should pause here to let that point sink in. And perhaps take a deep breath also.

Why then, if we have reached such a dangerous point, does no political party or candidate begin their manifesto by telling us how they, as representatives of the people of this country, are going to face that difficult period of thirty years now facing us? If they were honest and sincere when they agreed with COP21 and signed up solemnly “to do their bit” in averting that disaster, why are they not now putting forward coherent and interlinked policies for every area of government that will fall into place creating an integrated programme to tackle the real problems we are now facing?

 Let me give you a few examples of what I mean.

Taking some of the main headings used in the Election Manifestoes, what are the most important issues that must be addressed if we are to solve existing problems and, at the same time, address the global problems we are now facing?

 International role of Ireland

What part can we play in ensuring the safety of our own people in times of world conflicts? What role should we aspire to play on the international stage? Do we have a role in relation to citizens of other countries? We are told that our economy is the fastest growing in Europe; what are the implications of this for us vis-à-vis other European countries?

 Health

Climate change is going to create greater and more problems for our country as the climate changes. How are we going to cope with that? We have had patients on trolleys for over a decade now. What can we do over the next three decades to ensure the our health and illness system can cope with the anticipated changes in demand. What new threats are likely to emerge in that time. With climate change affecting the geography of the country, more flooding, rising tides, what use will “Centres of Excellence” be, if our entire transport systems, our roads, our countryside, prove inadequate to get people to these Centres? How do we “join the dots” to examine and resolve the various health crises and epidemics coming to awareness? Are we sure that the internationalisation of our diet, the increase in processed foods and meals, the use of more and more chemicals in the production of food to preserve the illusion of freshness, to increase shelflife, is not causing more problems than it is solving?

 Education

Successive government experts and propagandists have told us we have a highly educated and trained workforce. That may be true in cold statistics on a spread sheet, but we also know that technology is changing very quickly and that the life time of many skills, trades and professions is shortening. If a forty-year-old employee now becomes redundant how many of his/her skills are still relevant to the job market? What systems have we in place to upskill and re-educate people for new jobs, new technologies, new opportunities. In a society where the majority of population has been brainwashed into believing that learning more than one language is unnecessary, too difficult, or pointless, can we expect to communicate with a global market where there are customers who do not share those primitive and self-serving beliefs?

And what about access to education? Is our education system fit for purpose? Upon what assumptions is access to educational opportunities based? If couples wittingly or unwittinly are responsible for begetting children, does society have any obligation or responsibility in ensuring that each child is given equal opportunity to develop and make their own unique contribution to life and to society?

 Social Welfare

What is the relationship between the individual and society? Who decides the nature of that link? Why do we appear to believe that individuals are of value to society, and qualify for full membership, only when they have a defined “job”? Should every citizen be provided with a social “wage” to acknowledge them as a member of society, encouraged to find their own role and contribution in a non-defined or a defined way (such as a job, trade, profession) as their skills or talents lead them? How do we organise society in a way that encourages and promotes communities and groups as socially supportive and caring environments, independently of any other work or institutional role an individual may have.

The above items are just some of the initial questions and issues that I believe have to be asked of a new Government. If they don’t answer those questions then what is their framework for planning? But firstly it is essential that every individual ask and answer what it is that they want for themselves, for their families, for their communities. This year we are celebrating the 1916 Rising and commemorating what it means for us, as a people and as a Nation. Their proclamation at Easter 1916 implied a view of the kind of Ireland they aspired to. As each of those leaders was led or wheeled out to execution, I wonder how far they had gone in formulating their answers to these and similar questions before their execution. I also wonder have we yet earned the right to claim their inheritance as a republic by way of the answers we now seek.