Why do I want to blog? …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

excelsior
A banner with the strange device, Excelsior

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

Why question authority? Why not!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filming an Owl at Night

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

Dateline: Sunday June 3 2018 13.00h

Shillelagh, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

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

Mick and thoul

This is it!

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

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

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

Introduction:

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

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

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

Reference:

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

by W.J. McCormack

Publisher Pimlico 2005

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

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

Taking the “dum(b)” out of Referendum

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

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

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

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

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

The Hero’s Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

herosJourney01
The Hero faces his Nemesis

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

 

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

Watch this film and you will understand why!

Heros-Journey-Cartoon

Put a sock in it, Taoiseach!

“This is the third year in a row that we’ve had more resources, a bigger budget, more staff, more beds, more home care, and despite all that we haven’t seen an improvement”

nine-of-wandsAccording to this morning’s Irish Times, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has “expressed his frustration that higher public health spending is not improving services” because the number of people on hospital trolleys remains stubbornly high. He went on to express his regret to those members of the public who are affected. The Taoiseach also added: “This is the third year in a row that we’ve had more resources, a bigger budget, more staff, more beds, more home care, and despite all that we haven’t seen an improvement”. I hope we still have enough citizens in this country who have the testicular strength to shout “Bollix to that”! Anyone with a titter of wit could tell you that pouring money into a failed system is more than careless. And continuing to pour money in when you know that it will not bring better results is sheer insanity.

In fairness to him, I presume that Leo meant to reassure us all. The Taoiseach is lucky though that he has only to put up with frustration. I wonder has he stopped admiring his socks and taken stock of what is happening under the stewardship of his Government? We are being traumatised by the incompetence of those whom we have elected. We are being bewildered by the verbal gymnastics of Ministers, T.Ds. and oh-so-many other experts, advisors, and hangers-on who are running out of words to dodge their responsibilities while the world as we knew it is crumbling around us.  Is dying on a trolley in a hospital corridor deemed an improvement on dying alone and cold on the streets of the City? Starting at the top of the incompetent organisation the old-fashioned tried and trusted rule of your beloved capitalist neo-liberal system is “piss, or get off the pot”.

I am sorry, Taoiseach, that you are frustrated. Nevertheless, you and your retinue of sycophants should be down on your bloody knees in sack cloth and ashes begging forgiveness for what you have done, continue to do, and even worse, you plough on condoning the behaviour of banks and other financial institutions, courting favour with foreign fascists in the name of diplomacy, endorsing failure and blaming everyone but the culprits.

Why is this happening? Simplesh, says the meerkat! First of all, there is the Peter Principle and that allied with Parkinson’s Law is the HSE in a nutshell. The Peter Principle arises from the simple observation that when people are promoted in an organisation they are usually selected on the basis of their current skills and performance in their current role, rather than on the abilities relevant to the intended role. And this is repeated ad nauseum until eventually they reach a point where they are not able to do their job. Stated simply, the Peter Principle asserts that every member in an organisation is eventually promoted to the level of their incompetence. In the case of the HSE, this mistake was compounded by transferring redundant personnel from the old Health Boards and finding space, rather than jobs, for them in the new super-duper HSE.

Then there is Parkinson’s Law which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. When one has an organisation staffed by “ropey” managers, supervisors, and administrators, who do not know how to manage the work of others who report to them, and when many of the those employed lack motivation, you have all the ingredients for an Irish Stew of Gargantuan proportions!

I suggest that Leo Varadkar’s final statement merely adds insult to injury. Indicating that individual hospitals will be called to account for their performance, he said the Government will have to learn “why some places have very few patients on trolleys – in the case of Cavan, zero – and why others have many more”. Isn’t that a brilliant idea! How come no Government has come up with that idea before now? Makes me wonder what Health Ministers and Department of Health officials have been doing all those years. Perhaps they were just playing the “Pass the Potty” game!

Why are our political and administrative systems failing us?

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

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

Steam locomotive wreck 0910_08
End of the line!

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

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

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

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

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

Rodin - The Thinker
Rodin – The Thinker

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

TeilhardP_1947
Teilhard de Chardin

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

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

Crisis? What Crisis?

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

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

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

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

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

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

pollution and waste
Is this our reality?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


Please submit any comments or ideas below. Thank you!

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

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

Advisory Panel (AP)

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

Comment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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.