Banking for Dummies

Dateline: Friday June 8, 2018

In today’s Irish Times, it is reported that Supporters of a radical scheme to upend Switzerland’s financial system have made an 11th hour appeal to voters to approve a proposal to strip banks of the power to create new money through lending”. What a brilliant initiative and about time. I’ve just had a dust-up with my own bank, y’know, (Well, I don’t actually own it but you know what I mean) because they have the nasty, sneaky, practice of taking money out of my back pocket and giving it to people they don’t know without asking my permission. If I want to pay a bill, but don’t have enough money to cover it, then, of course, they will slap me (metaphorically, of course, across the knuckles) and say “No, no, no, you naughty man, not till we tell you that you can”. Well, what they are actually doing is processing incoming debits before my pension is lodged. They could have done it in the other sequence of first lodging my pension, and then peeling off enough to pay the incoming demands, which, I hasten to add, are legitimate. I have checked with a few other people including small businesses and the same is happening to them. As we already know, the banks are now completely controlled by computers and human staff reduced to work like robots, while their directors behave towards the public like Daleks in Dr. Who?

The trick, just in case you didn’t know, is that the system pays incoming POS (point-of-sale) requests from traders from whom you have bought something or (in my case) with whom you have a standing order for regular subscriptions. Then, if the account balance is low and there is not enough in the account at that instant, the debit is made in any case, putting the account into the red, incurring a penalty charge. When the debits have been processed, any incoming credits, e.g., my pension, are then processed, and (in my case) bring the account back into the black but with the effect of effectively reducing my pension sometimes by up to 20%.

Now if the sequence were the other way around I would not have paid any penalties in my nearly 20 years with the Bank! I have gone to the trouble of graphing my bank balance against time since I first opened the account in 2003. The clear pattern emerged that shows that anytime I have incurred a penalty was between 02.00h and 04.00h on Friday mornings. In the middle of the night! This is when all, or nearly all, of the bank staff and their families, are in the arms of Morpheus. That is also when I am usually asleep. But, as they say, money never sleeps. Note this, however, someone chose to brief the IT people in the Bank to devise that system. In that way. On the few occasions where I had been hit badly and painfully by the process I challenged them and lodged official complaints.

I should explain that my complaints were always on an ethical, moral, even a philosophical  basis. I think that it doesn’t sound right to speak about money as if it were something dirty and grubby. But then I don’t really understand finance. Between you and me and the wall, I believe that money is an imaginary entity, a concept without a reason, a spirit without a body. My sympathies have always been with the Unwise Virgins. Why should any normal young woman, keep her wick trimmed and her lamp lit in the middle of the night just in case her boss came home late and on the off-chance that he might have lost his keys. Indeed I often wondered why those Virgins, Wise and Unwise, didn’t join up with the Labourers in the Vineyard while the Boss was away. I’d say now that Ten Unwise Virgins would have sorted out those Vineyard boyos, whether they came late or early. Any way, back to my complaints. One of them was acknowledged by the Complaints Department who promised to reply to my complaint within a fortnight. That was two years ago and I still have not received a reply! But me being a “cute hoor” I’m still counting down on the clock! There could be one hell of a fairy goodwill gesture in the pipeline. Hope springs eternal in the human breast.

The other magic trick to look out for is what I call “The Ride of the Little Old Man”. When someone transfers money to me it doesn’t show up in my account for about four days. The same is true if I am sending money to you. It goes out of my account immediately but won’t show up in your account for about another four days either. Where has the money been for those four days? Well, in the old days, when the bank officials wrote with quill pens and home-made ink, it did genuinely take time to record every single transaction, have it checked, signed off by the manager, and details sent to the Central Bank or wherever for whatever central banks do with that information. In fact, they sent a little old man on a high Nelly bicycle with a big woven-willow delivery box hanging off the handlebars, and it full of envelopes containing all the financial information to stoke the financial fires of the Central Bank.

Needless to say, given his age he probably stopped off every now and then to slake his thirst, chat with the lads, you know yourself. But that was back then. And it took time for the L.O.M to get there and back. And certainly he had to make more than one journey of it. And that was a thirst-creating job. And stressful in the extreme. And now? Well, you know, traditions die hard in these great, important, financial institutions. And they have maintained the tradition of “The Little Old Man” to bring a whiff of nostalgia and a stabilising sense of tradition to the business.

You have only to look at their advertisements on the telly to see how much they care about young couples starting out, starry-eyed on life’s journey, having smiling babies, buying their first house. The same financial institutions are also thoughtful to take care of the money saved up by the elderly for their retirement and, sure, isn’t that why they are smiling and untroubled by anxiety, even though their eldest son is still sleeping at home on the coach. He is at least married but his wife and children are with her mother’s people. The elderly smiling couple alluded to above. At least, the fees for the photo shoots might pay for tomorrow’s dinner. And so on. You are doubtless impressed by the care and forethought of the financial institutions, aren’t you? Like *%^??#?/*%^??#?/ (expletives deleted). Oh, and by the way, whenever I have complained very LOUDLY, and remonstrated, and used very strong undeleted language, do you know what? Within a week a fairy seems to have sent me a “goodwill gesture”. At least, that’s what it said on my account statement, the gesture, I mean. Not the fairy. And now, in my “cere and yellow years”, that’s why I still believe in the good fairy, the tooth fairy, and the f-f-f-f-f-inancial f-f-f-f-airy!

Goodnight now to children everywhere. Sleep tight and don’t let the bugs bite. Don’t forget to say a little prayer to Holy God, for your local Bank Manager and Bank Directors. And don’t forget the Swiss Banks as well. Sure, don’t they all need the odd oul’ prayer to protect them? Because they don’t know the day nor the hour when the Law Officer will come knocking on the door. “I’d like to invite you to come down to the Station with me to answer a few little questions”. Cometh the day, cometh the sentence! And, of course, it’s about time, isn’t it? The longer the time the better, sez you!

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.

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!

The Second Law of Thermodynamics, Modernism, Post-modernism and Me

An Irish Government in Exile – just another English translation for the word Dáil, like Tír na nÓg

Scenario

A large disused garden shed, somewhere in the galaxy. Or maybe in another galaxy.

cosmic-taijitu

The Stage is empty. Entities are scurrying around in the dark. A single overhead spotlight, with green filter, creates a cone of light. An old man enters (stage left), looking slightly out of place and embarrassed. He stands near the cone, occasionally looking up at the spotlight.

Voice (stage right): “Stand directly under the light, please”.

Old Man: “Oh, I see. Thanks. By the way, will they understand that there is no difference between ‘The Tao’ and ‘The Path’?

Voice: “You don’t need to worry about that.”

Old Man: (smiles nervously)

Voice: “Oh, get on with it.”

Beginning

Cow in Val di Scalve, Alps mountains, Italy
Cow in Val di Scalve, Alps mountains, Italy

Imagine that you are assembling a jigsaw puzzle of 4,000 pieces1. You have a picture of what the final assembled jigsaw will look like. Now, why would anyone want to painstakingly and with great difficulty, by trial and error, assemble 4,000 random pieces of colourdy cardboard in order to create a picture that you can stick painstakingly, with glue, and with great difficulty to a large sheet of brown paper, then frame it and hang it over the fireplace in your sitting room, when you could have framed the original picture and just dumped the 4,000 pieces of colourdy cardboard?

Anyway, there you are with the 4,000 pieces finally assembled into a picture that is the same as the one on the box that originally contained the pieces of the jigsaw and you are now carrying that picture on a large sheet of stiff cardboard or plywood into another room to show to your friends what you have achieved , when you trip over the cat, or the dog if you don’t have a cat, and if you have neither just imagine that you tripped somehow and dropped the jigsaw on the floor. As a result, the jigsaw breaks apart into its separate pieces which now lie scattered all over the floor. Get it? OK. Good!

Cow in Val di Scalve, Alps mountains, Italy
Doppelganger Cow in Val di Scalve, Alps mountains, Italy, in  a parallel reality.

Now, imagine that in a parallel reality, someone who looks exactly like you is carrying a box with a lovely picture on the cover, and in the box there are 4,000 similar pieces of colourdy cardboard. Again, for some unknown reason, that someone like you trips over the cat, or as I explained above, trips over a dog, or just trips, dropping the box, which falls open on the floor and all the 4,000 pieces are now scattered over the floor. Get it? OK. Good.

Middle

But why on earth do those two different scenarios end up with the same result? Why, in the second case which is the reverse of the first, do the dropped pieces not assemble into a picture like that on the box when they hit the floor? Why? Because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics2, that’s why. The what? What in the name of all that is good and holy has the Second Law of Thermodynamics got to do with jigsaws? Well, it just does! That’s what every scientist since the Age of Enlightenment will tell you! Get it? O.K. Good!

Now the same scientists from the Enlightenment onwards have checked with one another and compared results and are unanimoniously agreed that the planet we now inhabit was first a cloud of cosmic dust that was set spinning in Space after the Big Bang, and gradually, because of the spinning motion over billions of years , the bits of dust kind of stuck together tightly until it formed a rock. Then drops of water that had become frozen together somewhere else in space after the Big Bang, froze together into one huge, really huge, snowball, or ice ball, flying through space and eventually, accidentally crashed slap, bang, into the stony lump that had been dust.

dreamstime_l_52443973
Smaller lump of rock

Then, later, other bits of debris from the Big Bang, together with other lumps of rock that had been formed elsewhere in Space, crashed into that lump of rock, which now had big, really very big, in fact, ginormously big oceans of water as well as additional lumps of rock that had arrived in the meantime, and caused a relatively smaller but still a very, very big lump of rock to break off and start spinning around the bigger piece, which then became a humungously enormous big rock with oceans with a smaller lump of rock called a Moon spinning around it.

Over the next few billion years, funny things happened on that big lump of rock and water3 which now , due to the Laws of Gravity, was causing teeny, weeny bits of even tinier bits of dust to start sticking on to other teeny weeny , tiny bits of even tinier dust which, over another few billion years, formed atoms and then atoms stuck on to other atoms to form molecules, and then molecules got stuck onto other molecules, until eventually a blob of matter flopped out of the sea somewhere and landed on a dry rock.

220px-Homo_erectus_pekinensis_-_archeaeological
Gouger (Homo dubliniensis)

Incidentally, that dry rock can be seen from the Great Atlantic Way off the West Coast of Ireland and has been nominated by an Irish Government in Exile (just another English translation for the word Dáil, like Tír na nÓg) as another Unesco site worth preserving because we might get a few extra shekels from the E.U. to keep it clean after the gougers from Dublin on holiday in the West wrote inappropriate graffiti on it. Get it? O.K. Good!

And this little blob, over the next few millions years joined with other blobs and formed bigger blobs with blobs attached to them and then, one day, one of those multi-blobs saw its reflection in the water surrounding the rocks

dreamstime_m_28250959
Selfie by blob

and realised that there were other blobs around it that looked just like itself. The He-She-It blob called all the other blobs to view their reflections in the water. Then one blob looked up at the sky and called out in ecstasy: “That’s not Space, that’s the expletive deleted Cosmos”. Whereupon all the other blobs fell to their knees even though it would have been easier for blobs to sit in the Full Lotus Position. Unfortunately, lotususses had not yet become part of the landscape.

And that is how Evolution started.

End

But what puzzles me, after all those billions of years, why didn’t the atoms and molecules and blobs just fall apart like the pieces of the completed jigsaw that you dropped in the second paragraph? Get it? Good. Rrrright! We’re nearly there now. So, what was the difference? You tell me! Because if those blobs and multi-blobs had behaved according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, then we would never have produced Donald Trump, Theresa May, Ching Duk Qwan (or whatever his name is), or Isis,  or Will-Will, or religion, or atheism or whatever and whoever they are, and our World wouldn’t be in the mess it now is. And what’s more, we would never have arrived at the situation we are now in.

That is why a very wise, really stunningly wise, poly-blob called Lao Tsu4, once wrote:

When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.

When Goodness is lost, there is morality.

When Morality is lost, there is ritual.

Ritual is the husk of True Faith,

The Beginning of Chaos”

Long silence.

Old Man: “Can I go now?”

Voice: “Sure! I’ll turn the voice-over off later”

Some Notes

1 At an earlier stage in life, when I worked as an Organisation Development consultant, I was asked to run a course in Management Skills for a project management team. One of the exercises I designed involved a 4,000 piece jigsaw. I emptied the box of pieces onto the table and told the participants that they had one hour to assemble the picture. They dived into the task immediately, asked no questions, and no one challenged my wisdom. It was clear to me that the participants had been on other management training programmes run by reputable self-sustaining drip-fed institutes that I refer to now as WOT Seminars, where WOT stands for “Ways of Talking”. Content never changes but the way of expressing the eternal truths of management do change to maintain the drip-feed.

An hour later we sat in a circle to discuss the task. After dutifully trotting out the standard answers, they were somewhat taken aback when I asked them to include my role in their discussion of the task. Then the penny dropped and we had quite an interesting discussion about the perceived role versus the actual behaviour of management! This sage advice has nothing to do with the main story here. Or maybe it does.

2The Second Law of Thermodynamics is about the quality of energy. It states that as energy is transferred or transformed, more and more of it is wasted. The Second Law also states that there is a natural tendency of any isolated system to degenerate into a more disordered state. Ergo, our post-modern society now. But this also relates to the intolerance of scientists towards environmental activists, New Age unwashed, anybody who uses the word “Namasté” or practises Yoga, Qigong, Shamanism, or Druidry, because they are always complaining and demanding the we conserve energy.

3I know you can’t have lumps of water – lumps of snow and ice, yes, but not water. But for all purposes, a huge mass of smashed rocks and mind-boggling masses of water, can collectively be referred to as a lump when spinning in Space.

4Caveat! Some people say that Lao Tsu never existed and that it was a few other psycho-blobs who were bored one night and decided to write a very clever book on “How to rule without actually getting blamed by the mob of blobs”.

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Poverty in life and poverty of spirit

I find that this article (The Upsetting Reality Of Modern Day Poverty.uploaded in an earlier Facebook  piece)) gives a clear , even bleak, introduction to what poverty means to many people. It set me thinking about poverty in Ireland and about the other problems we face and prompted me to push my ideas a bit further and try to clarify them.

I am speaking here of a poverty of thinking as well as a poverty of circumstances. I wish that those who pontificate about their respect for electoral mandates and their dedication to working for the people who elected them, will read this and then recalibrate the urgency required in forming a new government. You asked for a mandate to govern and implement your policies. No party has reached the line to implement their mandate so it is doubtful that your mandate now extends that far because a coalition, an inter-party, a partnership, or any other arrangement will of necessity limit your mandate. Perhaps it would be wise to temporarily interpret your mandate from your share of the electorate as instructing you to negotiate a part for yourselves and them in whatever arrangement is eventually adopted. Any expectations greater than that is pushing it and would appear somewhat arrogant or chancing your arm.

Don’t keep telling us that “the numbers” dictate that it has to be EITHER a Fine Gael OR a Fianna Fáil minority government supported by a few tame independents whom the winner hopes that they can buy off. That is wishful thinking. The “numbers” you speak of are just like squiggles and blobs on a page, like a Rorschach test, and of themselves they have little or no meaning, other than that the electorate is as confused as you are. We are all in new territory. And that requires working with a new map. Any psychologist using the Rorschach (or Inkblot) Test will tell you that a candidate, asked to describe what they see in the random shape of blobs in the picture, will project the contents of their unconscious mind onto the chaos they see and organise it into a picture that they recognise and feel comfortable with based upon the information in their unconscious mind (See note #1 below). Like seeing meaningful shapes in the random pattern of clouds in the sky or of tea leaves on a bottom of a cup. Other observers may decipher different shapes but of you are right – from your own viewpoint.

Our devoted public representatives, suckled for generations on the spiteful milk of unkindness curdled by begrudgery, fraternal strife, clientalism, and political inbreeding, and at the same time remembering with satisfaction the successes that were gained on different occasions in the past, are now looking hopefully into the chaos of the new parliamentary galaxy of stars, and are scanning hopefully the fortunes and recipes of yesterday. They are seeing only the patterns that worked for them in the past and that once helped them to hold on to power and achieve their goals. The Independents, the Alliances, and the embrionic Parties in today’s Dáil are behaving no differently.

four-of-cupsHas none of them the vision, the imagination, and the character to seize the moment? Is there no one with the courage to break new ground, to show us a new vision of society? A revolutionary vision that will respond to what the electorate is yearning for, a better Ireland, a fairer and more egalitarian Ireland that will treat all the children of Caitlín Ní Uallacháin, both young and old, equally. An Ireland which, though small and struggling, has the heart, the creativity, and the spirit to do better, even to taking its place among the Nations of the Earth?

We have done it before and we can do it again. Digging deep and remembering the richness that lies at the roots of our history, we know that the people of this island once played a crucial role when, together with the Greeks and Romans, they rescued Europe from the Dark Ages. As was pointed out in a recent documentary on RTÉ 1 which was presented by former President Mary McAleese, that period in our history is more appreciated and remembered by continental Europeans today than it is recognised by Irish people. At various stages over the centuries since then, our country has contributed in many and varied ways to the development of a unique culture and community that has not baulked at taking and holding a world view, and is now ranked as number one for our peace-keeping efforts under the United Nations. We have gained recognition from those who valued what our ancestors both recent and ancient have contributed on the world stage. In the past week, a documentary on RTÉ, described eloquently how the 1916 Rising had provided the inspiration for the people of India and Pakistan to fight for and assert their countries’ independence from the British Empire. A respect shown by the people of India and Pakistan which is considerably more real and appreciated by them than is our awareness of their gratitude.

We are at a strengthpoint now where we need to form a government. We need a period of stability but not the static equilibrium of a ladder leaning against a wall. We need the dynamic stability and balance of a body moving swiftly and adapting with awareness, intelligence, and co-ordination to meet our changing circumstances, like a thoroughbred horse under a skilful jockey, like a skier on an icy downhill run, or perhaps more aptly, like a bare-footed person picking their terrified way over red-hot coals!

To achieve that, both we and our representatives must move out of our respective comfort zones; we must inhabit the visions of our youthfulness and not linger with the consoling dreams of old age. Poverty of vision and lack of courage are not the coinage for the journey we must undertake. And undertake it, we must.



 

References

#1: If you are not familiar with the Rorschach Test, you might like to try a fun version available online at Rorschach (or Inkblot) Test (click here).  I hasten to add that the clinical version is for serious use, but don’t worry about this one. Nevertheless, if you understand how the test operates then you will have a clear understanding of what I mean above. These were my test results:

Test Results:

Congratulations! At a 49% “Sickness Quotient”, you’re almost well-adjusted.

Detailed Diagnosis

  • Interpersonal Insights
    You have trouble being friendly to others, especially people who hate your guts and want to hurt you. You complain about everything regardless of what it is. You wouldn’t be happy even if you were hit by a new car.
  • Job Performance & Attitude
    Your attitude towards work is that you could watch others do it all day long. Although your work can upon occasion be very good, remember that even monkeys can be trained to do what you do. And they don’t call in sick.
  • Personality Insight
    Your personal motto is “If you can’t make them think, make them wonder.” Trust us – you’ve succeeded beyond your wildest dreams.

 

 

 

A Count-down to (S)laughter

Now that the count-down to our General Election is getting closer, I would like to appeal to all those angry people on social media who are advocating either spoiling their votes, or plumping, that is, just using their vote for number 1 and no others. I know what it is like to feel that Irish politics is just a charade and changes nothing. If you doubt me cast your mind back over the past century. I have also been tempted to spoil my vote, but I believe that democracy is necessary even though big improvements are needed in the system to make it appropriate and usable in today’s world. [Ed: Now that’s enough of the po-faced introduction! Get on with the message.]

There is a better way and it is a little game that I invented for my own amusement back in the 1970s. It is designed to keep the spirit of democracy alive whilst giving a stiffly raised finger to those who would subvert it for their own sakes. I think of it as:

The Bored Game of Noble Knights a-Pricking on the Plain People of Ireland
A fantastical mediaeval Age of Austerity board game without the gory bits, nor a maiden in distress, and not even a board!

Introduction:

First of all, you must remember that unless your vote is for one of the major parties, under our system of Proportional Representation, you may as well vote on toilet paper, because your vote will have no effect after the first count and you will be the one left with shit on your hand. In a situation such as we face today in Ireland, however, where there is very likely not going to be a winning party with a clear working majority, it is important to vote right down the list if you are to have any effect on the outcome. That is a difficult task, when you look at the list of candidates and see just a bunch of arse holes smiling back at you. This game counteracts the nausea you would feel.

Equipment required:

All you need is a legal voter’s card and a borrowed pencil. The game may also be played with the voter’s cards of the deceased, the incapacitated, and the deranged (but these will require a handbag of disguises as provided by the agents of the registered contesting political parties). For the final stages of the game, a flask of soup, a bottle of wine or a crate of beer, and any “thou” beside you giggling in the wilderness having made the sandwiches for you, will do.

A strategic approach:

So if you are like me, and you are pessimistic about the future of Irish politics, then try this strategy. It means that you can at least have fun throughout the election campaign, right up to the end of the entire count, And you will also have had the satisfaction of seeing where your vote trickles down … and if enough voters participate in this game, we could make the eventual winners sweat long enough to make them think again. Of course, if all of the great unwashed electorate participated then we would have a Dáil that might elect a Government that could terrify the Bejaysus out of  the EU and have trembling despots on their knees crying for forgiveness. It is a simple game for simple minds and simple natures. It is for the childlike amongst us who know that the Emperor was always starkers.

Rules:

This game is played in real time. The game starts once the election is called by the Great Panjandrum himself. During the run up to the polling day, you must listen assiduously to every election broadcast and make notes. Collect all election literature dumped in your mailbox. That information will be a source of invaluable information and ribald comment later (see notes below about the night of the count). If you can catch the departing canvasser(s) before they depart and engage them in pointless debate for at least half an hour, you gain “Lustre Points” (calling them “Bluster points” might tarnish the mediaeval atmosphere of the game).

On Voting Day dress well for the outing. Greet all the one-eyed party minions who have been bluffed into canvassing those entering the building, with a gentle but knowing smile and a wink. Then, bestill your trembling heart as you identify yourself to the officials who will provide you with the voting paper. Don’t panic about the pencil, that will be tied to the voting booth. Neither should you forget about the pencil being tied to the polling booth, because in your haste to escape there would be nothing so embarrassing as dragging the booth after you as leave. Then, take a deep breath, contain your laughter, and just vote Number 1 for the candidate on the ballot paper that you believe will be THE FIRST TO BE ELIMINATED, then continue with the next most likely to be eliminated, and so on down (or is it up?) the list, leaving the last candidate standing with no vote (it won’t be needed, and neither probably will they). Do not write or depict your anti-establishment views by scribbles or cartoons, because that will disqualify you. Then fold the ballot paper neatly like every other sucker (sorry) voter, but knowing that you are actually a revolutionary in disguise, smile at the returning officer, at his/her assistant, at any Guard hanging around, and pop your voting paper in the box. You may,  at this stage, wish to try a little visualisation, such as the ballot box going up in flames when your ballot hits the bin, but do so only if you are sure that you won’t give the game away. As you leave, tell all the party ToaDies outside that you gave them a vote, and smile, damn you, smile gently. Hysterical laughing at what you have done will destroy it all. Then go home and treat yourself to your favourite treat and wait for the early results to come in. Be prepared for a Long Knight at the Count. The latter title is again merely to justify using the word “mediaeval” in the title of the game. It may also give someone the opportunity to remark later about the Long Count of the Night.

This part of the game can also be expanded into an Election Count All Night Party if you persuade your friends to join you for a Party of Parties.  Those participating in the Party might like to prepare victory / defeat speeches in advance, based upon the party literature mentioned above, to bring some light relief to otherwise banal solemnities. This could even rival Eurovision parties as the last resort of contrarians! Do take care, though, and make sure that all sharp objects are removed before you start and that all drinking vessels are of plastic. You may have a closet Party Member attending and we don’t want to upset them unnecessarily , do we!  I do not wish to encourage gambling in an Age of Austerity, but if enough people participated, then the various Turf Accountants in the business might be tempted to give odds. (Note to the unitiated: Turf Accountants are not bog-trotters counting sods. The latter are the current tally-men for the political elite and the former are those who never lose in the long term. And neither is a qualified accountant – or, at least, admits to it).

Above all, have fun. It will be your only chance to have fun at the expense of those whose expenses are guaranteed by making fun of you. And may the Seven Signatories turn over in their graves joining in the laughter.

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!