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.

DiEM25 and the future of democracy in Europe

That is also why I am standing in the election for members of the Co-ordinating Collective. So far, I see no other candidate addressing these issues

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes.”

― Marcel Proust

“For all their concerns with global competitiveness, migration and terrorism, only one prospect truly terrifies the Powers of Europe: Democracy! They speak in democracy’s name but only to deny, exorcise and suppress it in practice. They seek to co-opt, evade, corrupt, mystify, usurp and manipulate democracy in order to break its energy and arrest its possibilities.”

— DiEM25 Manifesto


Rodin - The Thinker

Introduction and preliminary information

In the preface to the DiEM25 Organising Principles document, approved on 13 Sept. 2016, it is stated clearly that “DiEM25 has a single purpose”. This purpose is clearly described as being “to promote the principles and values embodied in its Manifesto on the basis of participatory, open-source, democratic actions by members drawn to DiEM25 for this purpose”. Later in the Manifesto these principles and values are listed as:

  • Principles:

    • to democratise the European Union;

    • to promote self-government (economic, political and social) at the local, municipal, regional and national levels;

    • to throw open the corridors of power to the public;

    • to embrace social and civic movements;

    • and to emancipate all levels of government from bureaucratic and corporate power.

  • Actions:

    • we must come together first.

    • forge a common agenda,

    • find ways of connecting with local communities and at regional and national level.

  • Inspired by:

    • Reason,

    • Liberty,

    • Tolerance

    • Imagination

    • Transparency,

    • Solidarity, and,

    • authentic Democracy.

Please read the original document in full, as I have given only an abbreviated signpost to the key items.

These principles and actions appealed to me. As a young man in the 1960s I read about the setting up of a Europe-wide democratic structure to promote the future of Europe after a disastrous war. I subscribed then, and I still subscribe to the ideals and the aims of the founders of the “European Project”. This is why, as an Irish representative at a European Teachers meeting in Milano c. 1964-5, I spoke of the need to recognise that “Europe is for all, from chambermaid to Chancellor, from bar-man to Bishop”. Not particularly elegant, but it touched people nonetheless and some have even contacted me in recent years with the question: “Do you remember what you said in Milano?”

This is why I became a member of DiEM25 in May, 2017, having been following the writings, books and blogs of Yanis Varoufakis, then following his role as Finance Minister in the new Greek Government, and again, once the DiEM25 movement was set up, I checked its early manifestations and documents to re-assure myself that it was really intent upon doing what it claimed it would do. At last, I saw an opportunity to contribute to a movement that was close to my heart. I presume that everyone reading this went through a similar process and shares my hopes for the future.

I also responded with eagerness to the motto: “Carpe diem”. I had adopted it as a mantra at a very early age when I studied Latin at secondary school in Presentation Brothers College, in Cobh, Co. Cork, Ireland. My heart resonated to the urgency of its meaning, translated variously as, “grab the day by the neck, take opportunities by the throat, don’t waste time, do it now”!

Let me remind you again of the pledge we signed only eighteen months ago:

  • “We, the peoples of Europe, have a duty to regain control over our Europe from unaccountable ‘technocrats’, complicit politicians and shadowy institutions.
  • We come from every part of the continent and are united by different cultures, languages, accents, political party affiliations, ideologies, skin colours, gender identities, faiths and conceptions of the good society.
  • We are forming DiEM25 intent on moving from a Europe of ‘We the Governments’, and ‘We the Technocrats’, to a Europe of ‘We, the peoples of Europe’.

But now, however, some eighteen months later, I am genuinely fearful that the “carpe” (=grab) is becoming more like a throttling action on progress and movement in DiEM25 because of the spontaneous or unintentional behaviour of some members who are doing to their best to respond, whilst the “diem” is stretching endlessly into the distance. I say this bluntly and without apology because we do not have a lot of time to spare. I added the words “spontaneous” and “unintentional” because whilst I see the behaviour as having a negative effect on the growth of the Movement, I doubt very much that any members are intentionally aimed at stopping DiEM25 reaching its potential. Nevertheless, we must take decisive action now to correct course where it is necessary, and to explain clearly why some actions are counterproductive in their effect.

Let me remind you that over the past eighteen months, over 30,000 European citizens responded to our call and signed up as members of DiEM25.  Recently it emerged that only 3,000 have volunteered to pay a nominal fee as members to build a small budget. What has happened? Only 10% are willing to contribute a sum as small as €1 to support the cause they signed up for? I read the many complaints from those who condemned them for not paying for their membership. I thank them for not doing so, because it shook me and made me think. Have they really been frightened off by being asked for a small contribution? Have they lost interest? Last night it struck me. The idea stunned me and, like that guy on the road to Damascus, I too had my Damascus moment. That 27,000 spoke to me. They are still interested but they have lost interest and enthusiasm when the look at what we are doing. They are not frightened off, but perhaps they are bored stiff with the platitudes and the dictatorial approach of those who think, undemocratically, that we must be led by their ideas. Where are the discussions, the ideas, the debate, the cut and thrust and testing of ideas, one against the other? When we joined DiEM25 we pledged:

“We call on our fellow Europeans to join us forthwith to create the European movement which we call DiEM25.

  • To fight together, against a European establishment deeply contemptuous of democracy, to democratise the European Union;
  • To end the reduction of all political relations into relations of power masquerading as merely technical decisions;
  • To subject the EU’s bureaucracy to the will of sovereign European peoples
    To dismantle the habitual domination of corporate power over the will of citizens;
  • To re-politicise the rules that govern our single market and common currency.

I am now offering myself as a candidate for election to the Co-ordinating Collective because I wish to draw attention to the silent 27,000 members who are not being heard. I am inviting the other candidates in this election to join with me in reaching out to them and telling them that we have not forgotten them; we need them in the Movement; we need them to raise their voices and renew their commitment to our joint pledge. Quite honestly and openly, I appeal to the 27,000 members to renew their commitment and vote in this election. My ideas may not appeal to them, but surely they will identify with some other candidates if they don’t identify with me.

First steps to recovery

For this reason, I suggest that we revisit the Organising Principles before we rush headlong into the future! There are items there that are interfering with the smooth development of the Movement and will continue to do so if we do not change them. These “items”, including emerging structures that have not been thought through and which are still at the “haphazard” stage, the disrupting behaviour of individuals and of groups, whether intentional or unwitting, rash assumptions about the intentions of others, and personal, group, and organisational values, whether shared or not, are undermining our best efforts no matter how hard we try.

Again, I emphasise, that before we jump enthusiastically on our horses, and ride off madly in all directions into an exciting future, that we should take time to survey the present situation and rectify those items in the Organising Principles that need reforming. I am not saying this in a way that is intentionally critical of any particular group or individual. I remind you, however, of the statement in the Section 1 of the Organising Principles (the emphasis added to the text is to focus your attention on some key phrases):

(Quoted from Section 1, Organisation Principles)

At the beginning, DiEM25 was put together spontaneously by initiators who conjured up, together and haphazardly, the idea of a pan-European association aiming at creating a movement for, simultaneously, democratising Europe in general and the European Union institutions in particular, enhancing democratic sovereignty at the local, city, regional and national levels. The time has come, however, to formalise this group that has been, since DiEM25’s inauguration on February 9, 2016, steering its activities into a Coordinating Collective.”

Already I see words and phrases indicating potential dangers, as well as pointing to real, present, dangers. “Haphazardly” is one word. It is perfectly acceptable that things might have been done haphazardly because of the time pressures. To continue on a haphazard path, however, is highly dangerous and already, I see some members reacting strongly, and at times negatively, because they recognise the need to address this issue but their way of reacting to it appears to have alienated some others and may call their own commitment to the Movement into question. Similarly, the word “simultaneously” indicates danger if we try to juggle with two different tasks without improving our organisation structure, procedures and processes. Note that already we are asking questions, such as “Are we a movement or a political party”, “can we be both”, and so on. I would remind those who are pushing for political action now, that in our Manifesto it is stated that: “If we fail to democratise Europe within, at most, a decade; if Europe’s autocratic powers succeed in stifling democratisation, then the EU will crumble under its hubris, it will splinter, and its fall will cause untold hardship everywhere – not just in Europe.”  We have not yet brought the Movement to an adequate stage of development that would support a political wing. 

That is my motivation for initiating this new thread in the Members’ Forum and anywhere else where members of DiEM25 try to meet to discuss our work. We are at a very critical stage in our development. I would also like to state clearly, that because of my experience in organisational change and development projects and initiatives, practised in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, while working as a development aid consultant with UNDP, EU, and British government sponsored projects, I am offering a set of relevant skills and experience for this task. My perspective is not theoretical but is based upon my real life experiences, both successes and failures, as examined through a theoretical framework that has been trustworthy for me. That is why I originally set up a pan-European online “DSC” (now planning to change that phrase to an acceptable format once I receive clarification). I had thought of “GTF” or Grass-roots Task Force on Policy Analysis and Review, but I had delayed the launch until I got clarification.

I am not now, however, willing to wait any longer. On my own initiative and authority, I invite you to join me in two week’s time (precise date and time will be circulated) when I shall be holding the first meeting. I shall sent invitations through the network of DSCs and other active parts of the DiEM25 structure. Our first task will be to continue the discussion that will start from this forum. That is also why I am standing in the election for members of the Co-ordinating Collective. So far, I see no other candidate addressing these issues. Neither am I clear (from what I have read so far of the candidates plans) whether any other candidates are even aware of these issues. But these issues must be addressed. Some members are speaking and writing as if we have already established a structured movement with clear guidelines and policies which can be used for a political presence. Others are rushing headlong to establish a political structure so that we can bring our message to the European electorate! I find this hard to understand and even more difficult to believe. We have not even begun to debate the issues involved in building a movement. Think of other political, democratic, and Europe-wide movements of which you have experience. Compare us with them. We are just eighteen months in existence. If we were eighteen years in existence, I would still wonder what fantasy has taken charge of our lives. It is barely more than eighteen decades since Socialism and Marxism were mooted and they are still riven with disagreements! Capitalism has been around since the Great Silk Road was a pathway and it is still riven with controversy!

This presentation will be lengthy and for that reason, I shall be making a separate post for each section of the discussion about Organising Principles. The initial documents will be presented in short instalments on WordPress and links to access them will be made available on a variety of media, such as Facebook, Slack, the Members’ Forum, and wherever else I can find. This will allow threads of comment to develop in an integrated manner on the WordPress documents. I hope that it will make it easier for members to follow the logic of what I am proposing. This is not a job that can be completed quickly yet it is essential that it be done and completed as soon as possible because the Organising Principles are essential to our performance and to our ability to perform effectively. This task must be open to detailed analysis and I hope that my commentary on the different sections will help to promote analysis and comment and encourage as many as possible to join the debate and make their voices heard. This, after all, is one of our long-terms aims for European citizens! By doing this transparently and with passion as well as objective discussion, we will show to those readers that we can, we do, and we will practise what we preach! Unfortunately, I am already reading comments from some members about the need to keep “certain issues out of the media” and a variety of fears are being expressed about what might happen if “these issues got out”. So we already are offering caveats, parsing and analysing “transparency” before we have even got around to discussing it! I do not apologise for pushing the boundaries of transparency as far as I can. I hope you will come with me.

I am not demanding or expecting that all contributors should be experts, but the concerns of all individuals, no matter what their level of competence, must be addressed if we are to live up to our claims of being a democratic organisation. Believe me, in my book there are no “stupid questions” only “stupid answers”! It is essential that we face up courageously and honestly, as well as dispassionately, to the job in hand. It is normal for members of an organisation to invest not only a lot of their energy but they also invest their personal commitment and identification in the structure and culture of their organisation. Unwittingly, we (and I include myself), must be aware that we also invest our “ego”, our “false self”, in our organisations, making it very difficult for us to be objective about issues in which we feel personally involved, affecting the behaviour, culture, and indeed, affecting the very basis of our declared commitment to this shared ideal. It will call for open, positive discussion, and the questioning of items and behaviours that we might prefer not to discuss openly. Nevertheless, for the sake of the principles we share, and the huge task that lies before us, it is essential that we face the task with love and respect for the people with whom we work, and realise that in taking on this task we must work helpfully, supportively, collaboratively, and carefully, with one another.

The following related posts will discuss the sections of the Organising Principles in the following order. Discuss them and contribute your comments, your observations, and your ideas in any order you wish. It will provide a hard test for the usefulness, transparency, and effectiveness of the various media and platforms we use for our discussions.

      1. Coordinating Collective (CC)

      2. Advisory Panel (AP)

      3. Validating Council (VC)

      4. DiEM25 Spontaneous Collectives (DSCs) and Municipal/Regional/National Committees

      5. DiEM25 Progressive Agenda for Europe: Assemblies-Policy Papers

      6. Amendment Process for Manifesto and Organising Principles

N.B. I am posting these documents on WordPress as the main forum for displaying them. I shall post links and synopses on DiEM25, Slack, and on the Members’ Forum. All of these links will bring the reader to the WordPress page where comments, observations, questions, etc., can be left. This should ensure that DiEM25 members, and any others reading these articles, will find the thread of the discussion in one place.

Eurovision 2017 as a barometer of change?

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

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

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

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

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

Where do we go from here?

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

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

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

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

dreamstime_s_46142943

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

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

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

The Lion Sleeps tonight

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

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

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

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

Birth of the Ampersand et al.

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

This is the Scriptorium, the Room of Writing.

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

A Greek god helps the Homeless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Back to the Future with Rip van Winkle

We fool ourselves if we think that we can change things on our own by the Flurry Knox antics of plying the Medea-like Mme. Lagarde, with drinks and banter in some late-night haunts in Dublin.

I am not a soothsayer, but I will be surprised if the dynamic duo of Tsipras and Varoufakis don’t emerge like the Phoenix from the burnt-out ashes of media toilet paper that has railed against them and what they stand for.

I suppose with the day that’s in it, Greek Referendum and all that, plus all the campaigns and the shouting of obscenities that is going on in the different threads of ersatz debate online, in pubs, around kitchen tables, over fences, alone in bedrooms, we all need to check our sanity and our wallets. I have been taking stock and I must say that the scene depresses me. It is clear that a general election is going to be sprung on us pretty soon, and a lot of the issues that are raised are going around and around in ever decreasing circles like the proverbial Wogga Wogga bird, where they have disappeared up its own dietary outlet, reappeared again, disputed and inconclusive, to fuel more abusive language and further displays of anger, but again without progress. So, to sharpen the appetite, I decided to push the boat out a bit further and challenge the thinking before the Sunday lunch hits the linen table cloth.

We will see later this evening the results of the Greek Referendum. I am not a soothsayer, but I will be surprised if the dynamic duo of Tsipras and Varoufakis don’t emerge like the Phoenix from the burnt-out ashes of media toilet paper that has railed against them and what they stand for. Even if they lose, the result will be the same anyway. Things will get tougher in Greece and there will be a knock-on effect on Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy, and probably in Britain at a later stage, when the unholy Trinity, hidden in the romantic image of the Russian Troika, (except that Dr. Zhivago has been replaced by Wolfgang Schaűble played by a Peter Sellers look-alike in a role like that of the mad German scientist) succeed in the beating down of better men and women.

We fool ourselves if we think that we can change things on our own by the Flurry Knox antics of plying the Medea-like Mme. Lagarde, with drinks and banter in some late-night haunts in Dublin. If the rapidly approaching snap General Election is to yield a change in Government, as the anger sweeping most of the country likes to suggest, then it is time for our political infants to perform or arise from their potties. I find it neither heart-warming nor encouraging that Irish parties claiming to represent left-wing ideologies are queuing for trips around the neo-mythology of Greek politics in the hopes that some of the glitter on the wings of Icarus might rub off and enhance their image. But the heroes on the Left in Greece are in the image of Theseus rather than the eejit who thought he could fly to the Sun by night and avoid the heat by day – anyway, I think that’s the way an Irish myth would have rationalised his endeavours! The dynamic duo of Tsipras and Varoufakis are following a well-conceived and carefully mapped visit to the chthonic Global Minotaur hidden in the labyrinthine caves of the EU/ECB/IMF. Unfortunately the image of our political Jasons will be judged by the policies they produce for the election and their share of the fleece of the electorate will be measured accordingly.

Accordingly, in the interests of stimulating thinking, I would like to throw some fresh bread on stagnant waters (officially supplied by a new State water quango with well-concealed Bonga Bongas arranged by a nearly=jailed former Italian showbiz personality.

Let’s think positively about this.

Enlightened voter (Homo selectus)
Enlightened voter
(Homo selectus)

DAFT DRAFT

First of all, for the voters, I would suggest the following:

  1. Elect the people you can trust, not those who promise to cheat the system to get you things to which you are not already entitled.
  2. If they offer to make applications on your behalf, for grants, medical cards, or anything like that, just ask them to explain the process to you so that you can do it for yourself. It will be a valuable lesson in citizens’ rights for you.
    • N.B. This work could be done in consultation with existing Citizens’ Rights offices and may require access to additional resources described below in item #6.A
  3. If you are constrained by having young children to mind which would restrict your spontaneity in getting information, attending community meetings (see #4.A below) or even voting, just ask them would they supply a registered baby sitter to mind the kids for you while you go on a citizen’s errand. Note that this would be infinitely more meaningful and useful than a Job-Retch programme. If by any freak of chance, they agree, be sure to bring your partner with you and get full value out of the night off.
  4. Each household should sit down now and draw up a list of their “red wine line” items in preparation for the ritual “You won’t forget us now, (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) when you’re voting, will ye” visits of canvassers.
    1. If households were to begin this activity now, then they could take it to a second level and have meetings of household representatives to share these lists and strengthen the bonds in the community. It would be certainly better for your peace of mind, than watching “Big Brother’s House” on T.V.
  5. Depending upon the list you draw up in #4, then you may feel you should ask for training programmes (see items #5.A, #5.B, #5.C, below) to be provided free with any necessary software and hardware required. (They do it for foreign companies setting up in Ireland, so why not for you). In this regard you might consider some of the following random suggestions. When you have read them, I am sure further ideas will come to mind. If not, then I have probably lost you already, so you can just go and
    1. A simple computer terminal for each home so that you can be polled immediately for your preference when the Government, acting on your behalf, needs to confirm their mandate, for example, to guarantee a bank or other financial institution on your behalf, and with your money, or to alert a community when Her Majesty or a member of her family is being brought on a tour of reconciliation-relation binges guilt-trips study tours, or advance notice of any unexpected intrusion upon your rights as a citizen by a government official acting on a tip-off;
    2. A local community centre or other suitable building that can also be used for community support activities. A part-time administrator and secretarial assistant will be needed. These roles could offer good work experience for local people in real work situations.
    3. A timetable for each group of local Senators and T.D.s, to attend monthly meetings with the local electorate to brief the people on what is being done on their behalf, to update them on any decisions that will affect them, or to announce publicly that they are coming out, before you read it in the media. I
    4. t is important that these meetings be organised by the community. The use of small sub-groups with each member taking it in turn to be the facilitator and another the recorder of the subgroup meeting will require training as described in #6.A and also provide valuable skills in community development.
  6. For those housing estates that have experience of dealing, shall I say, diplomatically with Irish Water contractors installing shiny new meters, then there will be some neighbours who can advise on ways in which you might seek to influence or deal with the party canvassers.
  7. Candidates should be asked, on behalf of their Party, to agree and sign the “Red List” as a gesture of sincerity and truth. Be prepared to explain the concepts of sincerity and truth, if needs be.
A dynamic government for a people who are not going anywhere somewhere
A dynamic government for a people who are not going anywhere somewhere

With regard to a programme for Government, then there should be a careful selection of choice items to appeal to the appetite of even the most jaded voter.

  1. A stop on capital movements out of the country must be put into effect immediately upon taking office and before any gougers consultants still left around the place on contract get a whiff of what’s in store, before the following items are leaked.
  2. Prominent or not-so-prominent citizens with Irish passports who hold offshore accounts and maintain a nominal home in Ireland should be requested to justify a renewal of their passports. A special designation of passport could be issued to such people and linked with their bank accounts. Legally, of course. ;-D <ROTGASM> New legislation, of course, will be required under the heading of austerity provisions.
  3. Pass special emergency austerity legislation to slash Dáil and Senate pensions to the national average.
  4. Cut all Dáil and Senate salaries and emoluments to a small multiple of the average industrial wage. They always say that it is a pleasure and an honour to serve their constituencies so be prepared for big smiles of gratitude when they are told of this.
  5. Instead of paying very doubtful travel expenses, issue all public representatives with a special free travel allowance smart-card that is operated on the basis of prepaid top-ups.This should make budgetary controls easier to enforce.
  6. Senators and T.D.s will no longer have need for constituency offices as more interaction will be encouraged under the arrangements indicated in item #6.A following.
  7. Use some of the money saved by these rationalisations (they are never to be referred to as cuts) to accelerate the training of front-line civil servants in customer service and counselling skills, thereby giving them new job enrichment prospects and wipe the smug smiles off the faces of their section heads.
  8. A-teams of the newly assigned civil servants (see remark above re customer service and counselling training) could be assigned locally to work with citizens on Interface Transactions (not to be shortened to I.T. for obvious reasons). These teams would report to an appropriate level in the civil service hierarchy but would also have a role in supporting T.D.s, so that the poor ould divils public representatives are kept “in the loop” and don’t feel completely cut off from their electorate but at the same time are not allowed to interfere in the processes of State. On second thoughts, a little office aide-memoire in bog-thick oak could be provided with the inspirational mantra “YOU are a legislator” (not pronounced “leg-is-later”) in green and gold letters in Roman Uncial on it.
  9. Introduce a national basic wage given to every citizen whose parents were sufficiently irresponsible to born them, including those seeking asylum or here, thereby removing the need for nasty and unpleasant jobs policing the unemployed, or preventing any unintentional effects being experienced by those held in prison-like conditions, alternative accommodation while awaiting deportation, citizenship, etc, etc.
  10. Each local authority should be given the following additional responsibilities and funded from central goverment sources for the following:
  11. A suitably-sized block of flats to be used for young couples who need accommodation but have not yet found a way of purchasing their own homes or getting on a council housing list.
    • It could be designed to allow some units to be used as hostel accommodation for the increased numbers of tourists who will throng to our shores to find out what the fcuk innovative ideas our communities are developing under our new system of participative democracy.
    • This accommodation could also be used for attendees at summer courses on local history, Irish culture, Irish lace-making, franchised sean-nós dancing, and local crafts, held at the premises mentioned above in item #5.B.

Do you get the idea, then? Good.

P.S. Be sure to get enough beers in to celebrate the Referendum results sometime in the small hours of tomorrow. One way or the other. I’m still positive about the results for the Greeks. Even after writing the above.

Simples, Even for meercats!

A Salutary Tale of the Knave of Hearts

The Queen of Hearts

She made some tarts

All on a summer’s day;


The Knave of Hearts

He stole the tarts

And took them clean away.


The King of Hearts

Called for the tarts

And beat the Knave full sore


The Knave of Hearts
Brought back the tarts

And vowed he’d steal no more.1

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It has been claimed that the Queen of Hearts was based on Elizabeth of Bohemia. But who was Elizabeth of Bohemia? She was the daughter of Elisabeth Stuart and Frederick V, who were appointed Queen and King of Bohemia. This appointment has been cited as the cause of the Thirty Years War. Elisabeth was also a multi-talented woman who enjoyed the classics and art as well as philosophy. She corresponded actively with Descartes and critiqued his work. She even authored a work on on the Mind-Body problem that helped Descartes understand the way a ball bounced on the tennis court. Some lady, who really knew how to attract a man’s attention! Well, let’s say, a philosopher’s attention. She was a deeply religious woman and offered shelter to a number of people who were being persecuted for their faith. She was taught court etiquette, scripture, mathematics, history, the sciences, jurisprudence, French, English, German, Dutch, Latin and Greek. She excelled in Greek and had a liking for philosophy. I know just the fellow she should meet!2

Now you don’t need to have studied children’s nursery rhymes to know that Bohemia, in Southern Germany, is the heartland of the CDU. But what is the CDU and who is the new Queen of Hearts?

The origins of the CDU/CSU3

The CDU was founded in Germany in 1945 by a group comprising former Weimar Republic politicians, activists in the old Roman Catholic Centre Party, liberal and conservative Protestants, workers, intellectuals, and segments of the middle class who wished to prevent any rebirth of fascism in Germany. They were held together by three strongly-held principles.

First, they believed that the historic conflicts and divisions between Roman Catholics and Protestants were partly responsible for the rise of Hitler and should be ended. This job was made easier by the fact that the division of Germany into West and East Germany had roughly equalised the numbers between the Catholics and Protestants in the Federal Republic, because most of the Protestant churches operated in East Germany.

Second, most Christian Democrats by the end of the 1940s believed that a “social market economy”—a mix of free-market capitalism with strong government regulation and a comprehensive welfare state—was the best option for Germany.

Third, the party’s foreign policy was strongly anti-Communist, pro-American, and supported European integration; indeed. West Germany played a vital role in the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (1952), which was one of the precursors of the European Union.

After more than 20 years in power following their foundation in 1945, the CDU was in need of reform and renewal. In 1973, Helmut Kohl was elected leader, and set about that job. The CDU developed a strong organization, and new policies. They returned to power in 1982. Helmut Kohl subsequently won four successive national elections and held the chancellorship for a record 16 years. During his tenure in office, Kohl engineered the reunification of Germany and was critical to the creation of the Euro which was finally introduced in the EU after he left office.

In 1998 the CDU-CSU suffered one of the worst defeats in their history. Over the next year, the party was embroiled in a major finance scandal, which involved illegal fund-raising by Kohl and his deputies. As a result, Kohl’s successor as party leader, Wolfgang Schäuble, was forced to resign, and the party subsequently elected as its leader someone who was untainted by the scandal—Angela Merkel. Lo! The Queen of Hearts entered the stage. And the Tarts? Well, let’s say that they represent the wealth of the resurgent Germany.

Wolfgang Schäuble4

Wolfgang Schäuble was born in Freiburg-im-Breisgau, the son of a tax finance advisor. He studied law and economics at the University of Freiburg and the University of Hamburg, which he completed in 1966 and 1970 by passing the First and Second State Examinations respectively, becoming a fully qualified lawyer. In 1971 Schäuble obtained his doctorate in law, with a dissertation called “The public accountant’s professional legal situation within accountancy firms”. He entered the tax administration of the state of Baden-Württemberg, and eventually became a senior administration officer in the Freiburg tax office. Subsequently he became a practising registered lawyer at the district court of Offenburg, from 1978 to 1984. So we see here that his early training was in the rigorous disciplines of law and accountancy.

Schäuble’s political career began in 1961 when he joined the Junge Union (“Young Union”), the youth division of the CDU. During his studies he had served as chairman of the Ring Christlich-Demokratischer Studenten (Association of Christian-Democrat Students, RCDS), in Hamburg and Freiburg. In 1965 Schäuble also became a member of the CDU.

Wolfgang Schäuble was Minister of the Interior in the Federal Republic of Germany from 1989, the year the Berlin Wall came down. He led the negotiations on behalf of the Federal Republic (i.e., West Germany) for unification with the GDR in 1990. In 1994, he was among those pushing for Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg to proceed quickly toward monetary union, joint defence policies and further economic and political integration. This group also proposed the establishment of a European budget commissioner with powers to reject national budgets if they did not correspond to the jointly-agreed rules and a “eurozone parliament” comprising the MEPs of eurozone countries to strengthen the democratic legitimacy of decisions affecting the single currency bloc. Obviously he was now applying his strict views on money management to a broader, European canvas.

Wolfgang Schäuble succeeded Helmut Kohl as chairman of the CDU in 1998. He resigned, however, from this post in 2000 after a party financing scandal where a large cash donation was accepted from a German arms dealer (in 1994). This led to Angela Merkel taking over as CDU leader. I wonder what her opinion of him was, and what his views were about her and her background in the former Communist State.

In 2004, some people in the CDU and CSU wanted to nominate Schäuble for German President. He did not get that nomination because Angela Merkel and other CDU politicians spoke out against him, largely because the election contribution scandal had not been entirely resolved. This suggests that her confidence in Wolfgang Schäuble was less than whole-hearted. When in 2014, the Wall Street Journal called Schäuble “Germany’s second most powerful person after Chancellor Angela Merkel”, one wonders about the dynamic that had now developed between them.

In 2012, following the resignation of Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the 17 eurozone finance ministers, known as the Eurogroup, suggestions were soon growing that Chancellor Angela Merkel was pressing for Schäuble to take up the position. Given the recent history between them, I feel that there is a hint here that she would have liked him out of her way but was not in a position to “give him the heave” even if she wanted to. Interestingly for us now, we note that the job of president of the eurozone finance group later went to Jeroen Dijsselbloem who appeared, early in the Greek crisis, to be putting a lot of pressure on Messrs. Tsipras and Varoufakis of Greece!

And what about Herr Schäuble? Well, for the purposes of this fairy tale, let’s say that he was less of a bean counter and more of a tart accountant.

Angela Merkel5

Angela Merkel is unique, not only in being the first female German Chancellor, but also in being the first one to have grown up in East Germany. She is also fluent in German, Russian and English.

Her background is quite different from previous German Chancellors, and leaves more room for interpretation and conjecture about her motivation. Shortly after she was born in Hamburg in 1954, her father, a Lutheran pastor, and her mother, an English teacher, moved the family to the village of Quitzow in the German Democratic Republic. This was a rural area north of Berlin in the then German Democratic Republic. She studied physics at the University of Leipzig, earning a doctorate in 1978, and later worked as a chemist at the Central Institute for Physical Chemistry, Academy of Sciences (1978–90). At that stage the Berlin Wall was still standing. Her official biographer, Stefan Kornelius, wrote that “the Merkel mystery is rooted in the failed East German Republic”.

It is not clear why the family had moved to the East. Was it for evangelical reasons or were there other factors that attracted them. I was working as a freelance consultant in East Germany in the early months and years just after the Berlin Wall came down. I spoke with several people who had lived under the old GDR regime, Stasi and all. One former citizen of the old regime confided to me that “wir waren kommunisten, aber wir waren immer deutsch” (trans: We were Communists, but we were always Germans). I took this to mean that their German identity was stronger than their temporary Soviet identity. This was said at a time when East Germans looked forward to “coming home” to a shared Germany. Many were severely disillusioned within the space of a few years, when the former West Germany took charge and, in their eyes, the “Wessies” (West Germans) virtually looted the “Ossies” (East Germans), treating them as second class situations.

In Kornelius’ biography of Merkel she is revealed as more culturally eastern European than many might expect. Her Stasi file noted that while she viewed the Soviet Union as a dictatorship, she was also “enthusiastic about the Russian language and culture”. In her early teens, she was selected as third-best Russian student in the GDR. One story about her was that she learned English, not by secretly reading George Orwell under the bed covers, but with the help of the British communist newspaper, the Morning Star. In a desire to portray how much she was East German in her upbringing, they had forgotten apparently that her mother was an English teacher!

Her critics have claimed that her cultural yearning is for Russia but her ideological admiration is directed on America, leaving her less passionate than she might be about European Unity. Her biographer denies that, emphasising that she has a clear sense of the worth of European culture, but is less than convinced about its survival. She is quoted as saying: “I know what living in a collapsed system feels like, and I don’t want to go through that again”.

Helmut Kohl had recognised her talent when she was a press officer at the GDR Democratic Awakening Party and seemed to take her on as his protegé. She was given her first ministerial post under Kohl in 1990. Nine years later in a newspaper comment, Merkel called for the party to let Kohl go after 25 years at the helm of the CDU. I wonder did she learn that cold-blooded skill somewhere along the line or did it come naturally!

At the Christian Democrats’ party conference in October 2003, she is quoted as voicing the opinion that: “Without freedom there is nothing! Freedom is the joy of achievement, the flourishing of the individual, the celebration of difference, the rejection of mediocrity, personal responsibility.” Her official biographer interpreted that as meaning that “freedom lies in the release of the individual from the collective, but also the solidarity individuals feel towards the collective.” Very reminiscent of the vocabulary of Eastern Europe during the Soviet era.

In 2007, when she was asked “what is the cultural glue that holds Europe together”, she suggested: “Freedom in all its forms: freedom to express opinions, freedom to believe or not believe, freedom to trade and do business, the artist’s freedom to shape his work according to his own ideas.” It’s hard to know from that what freedom actually means to Merkel. It sounds to me a bit like “Mütti und Apfelstrüdel”! It was also time for the Queen of Hearts to meet the Knave of Hearts (to a pantomime chorus of boos and whistles and “Look out behind you!”)

Tsipras/Varoufakis

Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis are, respectively, Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Greece. In this story they are like brothers, almost like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, except that these two are far from dumb! In today’s copy of the German newspaper, “Die Zeit”, there is an in interview with Yanis Varoukis6.

[IMPORTANT: I first accessed this list of questions in German on the “Die Zeit”, web site, at approximately 07:00h today (21 May, 2015. When I returned about 2 hours later to download it for translation, I could not find it! I have since searched every section of today’s edition, but it is no longer there. Fortunately, I was able to go back to the <yanisvaroufakis.eu> site and download the author’s own version in English.]

These are his answers to the three questions he was asked:

<QUOTE>

1. If you would explain to a teenager, maybe your own daughter, what your relationship to the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble looks like – what would you tell her?

I would tell my daughter that it is, from my perspective, a multi-layered relationship. There is a sense of awe that I feel from meeting with a legendary figure whose work I have been following critically for decades. Then there is a strong urge to counter his overarching approach to common problems regarding Europe. Additionally, there is some frustration at not having the opportunity to discuss in a different setting; to stage these meetings in a proper federal, democratic context in which arguments, rather than relative power, would play a more prominent role.

2. What are the European topics you probably could agree on with Mr Schäuble?

That Europe needs a political union and that, without it, our monetary union is problematic.

3. Do you think Mr Schäuble makes mistakes in his analysis of the Greek situation? If yes, which ones?

Yes I do (as I am sure he thinks that I err in my analysis). Primarily, he associates past Greek governments with the Greek people; as if the former reflect the character of the latter. And he does not appreciate how helpful it would be for mainstream Northern Europe to find a modus vivendi with a movement (like SYRIZA in Greece) which may be very critical of European institutions but which is profoundly pro-European and eager to help bring Europe closer together.

<END_QUOTE>

This is a fairly direct accusation that Wolfgang and his EuroGang are ganging up on the Greeks and not playing the game by Mount Olympus rules or even by some form of compromise rules. In fairness, Varoufakis has stated negotiation parameters clearly time and time again, but the EuroGroup is sticking to its version (“Austerity or Bust”) and has hardly wavered – as a group, but I thought I detected some blinking going on within their group. And this is where the children’s rhyme comes in.

Denoument in the Drawing Room

As Agatha Christie showed in her Poirot stories, there should be a long preamble and a ramble with false trails, dodgy characters, and the possibility that Poirot will finally turn to you, the reader, and charge you with the crime whilst all the guilty characters who rampaged through your fevered brain get off scot free and back to the library. Not so here. I will, as usual, stick my neck out and try to decipher the likely outcome. Let’s do it, with a precision that would appeal to Poirot:

The Queen of Hearts

Angela Merkel appeared earlier on in the drama and spoke with Tsipras and Varoufakis. Then, quick exit, and no further appearance on the stage. Meanwhile, in the background, the Ukrainian crisis rumbled, the Americans tossed some GMO farmyard manure over the fence and accused the Russians of interfering. On their turn, the Russian got all hurt. Angela Merkel made a quick trip to Moscow, probably for a bit of shopping. Then a rumour went around that the Greeks were looking to join the BRICS and maybe, just maybe, would get some Russian loans, but that died down. Silence.

She made some tarts

and told Wolfgang S. that she left them outside the Greek’s hall door, in case people got hungry. Wolfgang got upset then because he thought his jumped-up Ossie “freundin”, was getting above herself, and needed to be brought back in line. She confirmed that the shopping trip had gone well in Moscow and that she might have a contact for his arms dealer friend. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink)

All on a summer’s day;

Relative calm returned to the situation, the tarts cooled down a bit, the EuroGroup huffed and puffed (sorry about that intrusion from another nursery rhyme but they have free movement within stories that are part of the EU). The EuroGroup tin soldiers marched up and down, singing the Horst Wessel chorus, which upset Wolfgang considerably because he doesn’t like being reminded of his likeness to Dr. Strangelove.

The Knave of Hearts

The Tweedle Brothers travel around Europe, appearing at news conferences, giving information briefings to foreign journalists, fulfilling speaking engagements at Important Conferences in different EU capitals, and explaining to unbelieving EU Taoisigh (Leaders) how they were going to reconstruct the EU in a more democratic way and, by the way, were going to sort out that little debt spat en route.

He stole the tarts

Well, the Tweedle Brothers did not, in fact, steal the tarts. As they explained, these were tarts that had been stolen in the bad old Hitler days and consumed by the soldiers of the Reich when they were beatng up, sorry, visiting some Greeks for a cultural exchange. Mr. Putin put his head around the door and said that he might have some tarts left over in BRICS if they were stuck.

And took them clean away.
This throwaway remark really took the Tweedle Brothers right out of their cleverly concealed angst-driven misery. They continued to explain to whatever EU leaders would listen, how they could sort out all the Euro $$hite, if the EuroGroup could see their way to meet them and discuss the details.

The King of Hearts

The King, a.k.a., Jeroen Dijsselbloem, (do you not remember his name? He’s the guy who jumped Wolfgang S. for the the job as president of the euro finance group. Nowadays he sits like a ventriloquist’s dummy on Wolfgang’s knee and thinks it’s eerie to have his voice coming out of Wolfgang’s mouth.

Called for the tarts

Jeroboam Disselblob, (HTF do you spell these Dutch names? It’s all jaysusses and essesses, looks like double-Dutch, oops, maybe that’s why… oh, gotye now. Anyway, JD, sounding remarkably like WS, insisted that the Greeks give back the tarts as they did not belong to them. And as well as that, there were other European countries, with their begging bowls out for tarts. Needless to say, those Irish were there first with a friggin’ suitcase.

And beat the Knave full sore
At this stage, Wolfgang beat the $$hite out of Jarryboom Dilliplop, and told him that he – Wolfgang – was now effectively in charge because of the incompetence of said JD. At this point the Queen of Hearts jumped out from the fridge and gave WS a one -way ticket to Brussels, substantial severance package for good luck, and told him to get going a.s.a.p. Oh yes, and he could keep the friggin’ tarts, as well. She added that Vlad the PuckPusher had got a part-time job in the Aegean area and was now working undercover in the Eastern Mediterranean area as an ice-hockey coach. He said he was keen to work with the Tweedle Twins on a destabilisation project he had in mind in the Black Sea area.

The Knave of Hearts
The Tweedle Twins got further lessons from Sheherazade on telling long stories with endings carried over to the next episode. She assured them that it had worked perfectly for her and even saved her life on several occasions when her husband got a bit edgy. Tsipras said he would finish the job he had started, but when it was all over, and Greece had had its turn at being top-dog in the EU, he planned to retire to a little-known Greek island, and breed minotaurs for export.

Brought back the tarts

Varoufakis took the Queen of Tarts to a little taverna that he knew in downtown Athens where he told her that he never intended keeping the tarts anyway. She surprised him by saying that it didn’t matter, as the whole escapade was set up to get that $hite $chäuble out of her hair. At that, Varoufakis stole away to a quiet corner and began to write his next economic textbook – “How to have fun, make a bit of mon’, and kill no one”, a book that, of course, he dedicated to his daughter.

And as the Sun went down over the Western Mediterranean, he smiled, for the first time in many, too many months, …

And vowed he’d steal no more

 

 

 

1Traditional rhyme

2Informaton about Elizabeth of Bohemia based upon a dissertation by Dr, Deborah Tollefsen and biographical details on her web site page <https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/hypatia/v014/14.3tollefsen.html&gt;