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 Russian Soul is like a Dark Forest!

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

Part One

Dateline Wednesday, March 28, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Hero’s Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

herosJourney01
The Hero faces his Nemesis

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

 

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

Watch this film and you will understand why!

Heros-Journey-Cartoon

Overcoming the “Me” in Meditation

They didn’t appear to see the edge of the cliff but continued on falling happily into the sea.

I have been following a 21-day course in meditation run by Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey. This is my third or fourth time signing up for their free 21-day meditation course. Each time there is a different focus but the programme is basically the same process, learning to meditate, step by step, to achieve a basic practice of meditation. This is the first time that I have succeeded in keeping up with the weekly assignment and have just two days to go. This time I feel quite exhilarated because it seems that I have made some progress. It’s hard to measure that progress but, for instance, I no longer fall asleep in the middle of the session! I no longer have a utilitarian approach to it, but I see it as a process that is being realised in me rather than an end product I take away with  me. I can see more clearly now how I should approach it. It is not a product to be purchasedi and used, but more a process that helps me to follow a path that unfolds as I move. My greatest hurdle up to now has been looking for an end goal rather than following an unfolding path.

As Lao Tzu said:

“The Way that can be taught is not the Eternal Way.

“The Name that can be named is not the Eternal Name”.

So, what then is the “Way”? What name should I give it? In a strange way, this is one of the threads in my life where, as I explore it, I find increasingly that there is a connection with earlier experiences in my life but with which I have had difficulties in integrating them in a coherent way into Me as I am now. But I now recognise it as a universal theme. Joseph Campbell described it as “The Hero’s Journey”, the Hero being Everyman or as we now stutter and stammer with breathing and grammatical difficulties, Every(wo)man or Everyhuman or Everyperson.

I am now writing this at 4.00 a.m. I went to bed early last night because I have been burning the candle at both ends for too long and I need to re-establish, or should I now say, establish a new regime. I had woken a little earlier, around 3.20 a.m. or so with the remnants of a dream in my head but fast evaporating as dreams do.

unnamedI was standing on a “tulach”, or small hill in the middle of a vast plain. Eager crowds were heading westwards towards the setting Sun. Their eyes were set on the horizon of the descending Sun. As the Sun slipped downwards the pace of the crowd was increasing. They were being egged-on by eager politicians and civil servants and religious leaders and professionals of all descriptions and every one was caught up in the excitement and the happinesss. Even the Dispossessed, the Homeless Families, the Street-sleepers, the Unemployed and the Unemployable, the Rejected, the Dejected, and the Infected, were caught up in the excitement. From my vantage point on the low hill, I could see where the land met the Atlantic Ocean. The crowd was now running. They were all running, cheering and happy as they neared the fulfillment of their plans and their desires. They didn’t appear to see the edge of the cliff but continued on falling happily into the sea.

sunlightoncoralIn the watery depths two fish were hiding from a marauding shark under a rocky outcrop in the cliff. The shark gave up on them when suddenly human manna fell from above. The seas frothed and grew red with blood. The fish found an opportunity to slip away. As they reached the open sea again, one turned to the other and there ensued a bubble of conversation.

“Looks like our ancestors’ little venture onto dry land hasn’t worked”

“Ah sure, didn’t we see that coming for some time now. We better get it right the next time though,” replied his friend, the other fish.

“I’m not so sure,” opined the first fish, “didn’t ye see the way those people had their eyes fixed on the future and lost sight of where they were?”

And Lao Tzu smiled.

And the scales fell from my eyes!


Notes:

i This particular 21-day Meditation Programme is free. You can find more information here: <https://www.facebook.com/ChopraMeditation>

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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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 2)

The Co-ordinating Collective

As noted by me in the Introductory post for this discussion thread, it is stated in the introduction to the Organising Principles, that: 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.”

There is nothing unusual in this happening when a group gets together to organise opposition and resistance to some unpleasant or dangerous development in their environment. In fact, we should praise the initiators for taking action and drawing our attention to a situation that had really “crept up” gradually and unnoticed by many European citizens. That is what often happens. Fortunately for us, in this case, the boy who called “Wolf” was no longer a boy but an experienced adult, who with his knowledge and respected reputation as an international economist could be believed when he told us that there was a force building in the E.U. that had to be resisted. By resisting with his countrymen and countrywomen for as long as they could, he finally had to admit that this threat demanded a bigger response than one individual could command. Then working together with some like-minded spirits from different roles in life, they produced the idea for DiEM25.

In approaching this discussion I would like to focus my attention, and hopefully yours also, on certain current aspects of the Organising Principles that could become an Achille’s Heel, even for those of us who are not Greek!

From the beginning it is stated clearly that: “the proposed Coordinating Collective (hereafter ‘CC’) will not act as some central committee that makes policy”,

This clearly signals that DiEM25 is going to be a different kind of organisation. Again, we should applaud that statement. But now comes the problematical point. What kind of organisation is DiEM25 going to be? If there is no central committee to make policy, who will make it. It is implied in the sentence that policy making in DiEM25 will be different. I am worried by the use of the title “Co-ordinating Collective”. What does that mean? Let me digress a bit here to discuss some information about organisations as systems and its relevance to our discussion. If you are already familiar with this, then skip ahead to pick up the narrative further on in this document.

Organisations and the Open Systems Approach

The basic principle used here when thinking in terms of an organisation as a system, is as follows. A system is fundamentally a collection of activities that receives or requires an input, and then internally converts that input into an output. This implies that an organisation is separate from, but embedded in, its environment and so we think of it as having a boundary around it. (Sorry! I don’t have a graphics facility in WordPress to include diagrams!). Outside the boundary is the “environment” and inside the boundary is the “organisation”. Now when I use the words “organisation” and “system”, I am using them in a very general way. The United Nations, very big and complex, can be examined as an organisation, as a system. We could also describe a town or a village as a system. It could even be an individual person! It might even have been one of the very early atoms and molecules formed in the primeval slime at the beginning of planet Earth’s formation where single-celled creatures began to emerge. Is there a simple picture that we can draw to illustrate these? Can you think of a simple diagram that could apply equally as a model for the U.N. and for an individual person, or for a single-celled creature? Just think for a moment before moving on. Draw that model!

In the Open Systems approach the diagram we usually start with is a circle! Inside the circle is everything that comprises the system. Outside the perimeter of the circle is the surrounding environment. Now even that simple diagram raises questions. How does the system survive in that environment? The general answer is that it gets what it needs from its environment, works with those inputs and sends out what it produces or doesn’t need again. Why does it need inputs? Because its task is to survive while doing its primary (conversion) task. Just add boxes on the left with an arrow on each pointing to the system circle. Each box signifies a particular input. On the right hand side, draw arrows pointing away from the System circle. Each arrow represents a particular output. That’s the basic diagram for a system in an environment!

Now, take time out and imagine the circle is a system diagram of a factory whose principal task is producing cakes! List as many inputs and outputs as you can think of (quickly!). Good, now list the outputs that you might expect from such a system. (Again, just a sample will be sufficient). Finally, list the different “things” that need to be done to turn the inputs into outputs.

[Make a separate note of any lists you produce]

Again, taking the same basic diagram that we started with, answer the same questions but this time think of the system as your own body! Incidentally, what is the primary task of your body?

Finally, to bring us back to our topic, think of that basic diagram as DiEM25 and answer the same questions. It doesn’t matter whether you are “right” or “wrong” in any of these examples. In fact, there is no single “right” or “wrong” answer to this question in the real world. That is why we need an active discussion, comparing notes, discussing the similarities and differences, leading (one would hope!) to a consensus answer. At the moment, I just want to get you thinking in terms of “the system”. This last diagram will be very useful when we start analysing and planning for DiEM25.

Now for the €64,000 question. What else needs to be added to these diagrams so that each system produces the desired outputs and carries out its primary task?

Let me introduce you to two new words with which you are familiar but which I am using in a very specific way. These words are “Authority” and “Power”. How would you define them? Make a note of your answers.

Authority =

Power =

I use them as follows:

1. “Authority” is the RIGHT to do something.

2. “Power” is the ABILITY to do something.

[Important note: We very often use these two words interchangeably, as in the examples given in some of the online results. There is nothing inherently wrong in that. It will help, however,  in our discussion, if we stick to the different emphases I have given].

Think now, where does the “Authority” rest in the DiEM25 organisation? Where is “Power” located in the organisation. Put it another way. Who or what part of DiEM25 has authority. Where do we want them to be located? Who or what has power. If power rests in more than one part of the organisation, is there a difference in the kind of power available? What different kinds of authority can you identify in DiEM25? Use your own words to describe these differences.

So, how is the job of “managing” done in other organisations with which you are familiar? And how is the job of “managing” done in DiEM25? You tell me now!

  • Who (individual or group) will do the “managing things” that you and I have identified?

  • Where and how do they get the authority, the right, to do those things?

  • Who or what gives them the authority they exercise?

  • If they are a group, how should they make their decisions?

How would you describe the Primary Task of DiEM25? By Primary Task I mean the single, overall task that defines the organisation. Clearly DiEM25, like any other organisation or movement will perform many different activities but what is the over-arching task to which all the other activities contribute? Keep the definition of the Primary Task as brief and as focused as you can.

The Primary Task of DiEM25 is to

……………………………………………………………………………………(20 words or less)

Now look at the political system in your own country! We use elections to select individuals who tell us they have the ability to lead the country. In other words we give up some of our authority over our own lives and transfer it to our representatives to enable them to have the RIGHT to organise society on our behalf. Do you think those given that RIGHT also have the required ABILITY to make the decisions on your behalf? If they don’t have the ability or if they make bad decisions, what sanctions, or what controls are available to us then to control them?

That’s enough about Systems theory for the moment. Let’s take up the discussion where we left off

Applying the Systems model to DiEM25

So let’s now re-examine the statement in the Organising Principles that The proposed Coordinating Collective (hereafter ‘CC’) will not act as some central committee that makes policy”.

Co-ordinating is one important function, or set of activities, in the role of management in an organisation. But it isn’t the only one. Take time to think, from your experience, what other functions have you seen taken on by management? List them.

Functions of Management:

(or describe them as groups of activities with a common purpose)

[Make your own notes before proceeding further]

Managers make decisions, don’t they? They communicate with one another, with those senior to them, with those in other departments, with their workers, with customers, suppliers, and so on. Can you think of any other functions?

Some functions of management have been defined by those who study organisations. Carry out a web search if you want to get a wider variety of options. But, in fact, the list of management functions usually narrows down to four or five. Click on the link to find their answers. Do they agree with your ideas?

What then is the role of the CC? What do you see as the main activities and functions of the CC? From where and from whom does it receive the authority to carry out its activities? Most importantly who or what finally has the authority to give the “go ahead” for activities?

It is also stated in the Organising Principles that: “The CC will recommend to the Validating Council disciplinary action against members who have grossly violated DiEM25’s principles and/or Manifesto.” The duty of taking disciplinary action is a very serious responsibility. What is the defined role and source of authority of the V.C.? Is it right to give the responsibility for such decisions to a group of people who were selected at random, and who receive no remuneration because they are not expected to spend a long time on any of their activities?

Furthermore, in regard to the DiEM25 Principles and Manifesto, on whose authority were these principles drawn up. Who approved them. Where does it specify that the V.C. has the authority (remember, “authority” = the right) to do so? Who gives them that authority?

I am puzzled by the statement that “the CC will be assisted by (my italics) several Co-ordinators”. This statement and earlier descriptions of the activities of the CC suggest that the CC actually has a managing role and its co-ordinating role is part of that managing role. Does the CC have other managing roles and, if so, where does the authority for each of these functions come from? I understand the reluctance of those who founded DiEM25 to use any terminology that might suggest the the CC had a traditional management role because it might appear to contradict the evolution in democracy that DiEM25 represents. Nevertheless, we cannot escape the reality that while the intention is to disperse the management role, it would be ridiculous to omit some management functions. Or would it be ridiculous? What would happen if… If there is no managing role then the only result is anarchy! On the other hand, democratic management, where the activities of the management role are continually monitored and subject to sanction by the members is a revolutionary statement and principle which will require major relearning by members in regard to how we move in an evolutionary way to that desired goal without tearing the Movement apart.

It is also specified that “the CC will meet once a week … and will be chaired on the basis of a rota system that ensures a high frequency rotation of the chair (ensuring rotation at least once every three months). (So much revolving of chairs is making me feel dizzy!) Again I understand and support the concept enshrined in this sentence. I wonder, however, would it be better to use the word “moderator” (of the proceedings) rather than “chair(person)” which is a quite different role. My experience of working with intact groups (and also having watched a few of the CC videos) is that when the members are strongly committed to the work of their group, the role of the moderator is one who ensures that every member is listened to and gets a chance to voice their views. This also allows every member of the group to exercise leadership when needed or desired. The role of chairman could be perceived as anathema to this approach.

It is unclear from the same paragraph whether the statement “no provision is made for a Secretary General or President” means that “no provision has yet been made” or “no provision will ever be made”. Again I understand the motivation and the sensitivity implied by this statement. Nevertheless, making that statement before the organisation structure and system have been finalised is unnecessary and reassures no one it will never happen. Perhaps the founders are being unduly and guiltily modest lest such ambitions might be imputed to them!

In regard to the Election/Selection of the CC, I have already noticed and responded to some comments and observations in the various labyrinthine corridors of Slack where there appears to be considerable confusion about the duration for which those selected will serve. If individuals can stand again immediately after being selected to make way for potential replacements, then I don’t really see the need for the elaborate ritual of six being selected (or did they offer themselves?) but then available again for re-election. This process will in no way prevent some effective or popular people being continually elected whereas the intention appears to be to prevent that happening. I suggest this whole area needs to be examined, especially in the light of the statement towards the end that “there will be no term limits for membership of the CC”. Again, I must emphasise that I believe that the intention is good, but thDiEM25 and the Future of Democracy in Europe (Part 2)e implementation is rather ponderous and potentially disruptive. We are a Movement, and a very idealistic movement, but that does not mean there will be no political motives evident!

The statement in regard to the minimum period of membership required for members to be eligible to vote draws attention to the possibility of “rogue registrations” prior to an important vote being used to sabotage the Movement. What would or should happen if it appeared that existing registered members were behaving in a concerted and “rogue” manner to undermine the status quo of the Movement. I suggest that this could be a dangerous assumption and have a bad effect on confidence of members in one another.

End

You are invited to move now to the next section which deals with the Validating Council.

How is it all going to end?

Is it possible for us to think outside these two boxes and the fixed beam that joins them and gives them motion?

because it is a fiction that we have created, we feel the need to hide the savagery of the process by giving it a few coats of the varnish of civilisation to conceal the pain.

I have just been reading #NotesfromUnderground by #Fyodor_Dostoievsky as part of a reading list on Existentialism I have downloaded to my Samsung phone. This relates to my ongoing struggle with Life and Living and my present angst arising from the struggle between interminable feelings of regret, failure, and depression and, on the other hand, the inexpressible joy of having savoured Life and Living, tasted the happiness, integrity, and exhilaration that come from a job done with ability and courage whether or not it was deemed successful or merited accolade from others.

In my undergraduate days at #UCC, I was elected President of a small College society , called the #Academy_of_St.Thomas, which was a constituent part of the #IrishAssociationofCatholic UniversityStudents, and through that affiliated to the international #Pax_Romana movement. On one occasion we had a scheduled monthly meeting on the topic of “Existentialism”. Needless to say, back in the days of the 1960s, as an Engineering student, I was not expected to know anything about Philosophy; but the secondary school catechism (bold print part only) after a Catholic upbringing, – a definite ‘yes’, -the Bible, a qualified ‘yes’ provided it was hierarchy approved and not the King James version, – the Beatles, a definite ‘yes’. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara was not the only one toTeilhardP_1947

Teilhard de Chardin

dream and to sniff revolution on the breeze. I had been given a present of “The Phenomenon of Man” and didn’t get beyond the first few pages as I my mind could not cope with the translation from French of the ideas of Teilhard de Chardin about the evolution of consciousness on this planet. Nevertheless, as President of our little College “Republic of Thought”, I was required to step into the breach when our visiting Philosopher pulled out of the engagement due to illness. Yet, he kindly forwarded his script to be read at the meeting. At the hastily called meeting of our Committee, and faute de mieux, I was given the job of reading the script. I do not remember volunteering but, “as the boy stood on the burning deck,” he remembered his duty to God and Country. Either that or the awakening in me of a gene from the distaff side. My mother was a concert contralto singer and regular performing member of the Cobh Operatic Society. Theatre was in my blood. Argol! I thought it was my duty to respond.

I skipped some morning lectures and afternoon practical to sweat the text. Fortunately for me there were enough clerical and ex-clerical students in U.C.C. in those halcyon days upon whom I was able to rely for explanations of the hard words and prayers of support to prepare me for the ordeal ahead. In any case, some of them would undoubtedly be attending the lecture. They usually studied Arts and spent the afternoon in the College restaurant drinking in coffee and the ambience of student freedom. #Gaudeamus_Igitur!

The remainder of the day is still a blur of conscience-stricken ignorance, a churning stomach, of Thomistic support, and a certain je n’ sais quoi, which I recognised many years later as what happens when scales fall from the eyes with the attendant vigorous stirring of the little grey cells and a further leap in the evolution of one human specimen. For thus, without my realising it at the time, had begun with toddler steps, my thirst for the writings of Camus, of Sartre, of de Bouvoir, for the music of Brel and Piaf, as well of the emerging Left in European literature, and of an addiction to the Theatre of the Absurd. This unscratchable itch has stayed with me, unsatisfied, irritating, threatening yet attracting, like a vaguely discerned shape perceived behind a permanent veil of unknowing.

More recent social, political, and related developments in Irish, European, and global affairs have been like patches of dried skin that have appeared occasionally on my right leg! I now know better how to deal with the latter, especially since I became familiar with energy healing, acupressure, and somatic effects relating to the left side of the brain and its connection to the right side of the body. This has now brought me to strive beyond our current binary model of either/or, black/white, yes/no, good/bad. Is it possible for us to think outside these two boxes and the fixed beam that joins them and gives them motion?

That two-dimensional system, like the cinema screen, gives us an illusion of certainty, of a three-dimensional world, that we would control. We can ignore it if we don’t like what we see. In our democratic fervour, every time the see-saw changes, we claim that “The people have spoken”. Excuse me? Even when we have accepted the will of just 51% and ignored the will of the other 49%? Sorry, but you must accept the will of the majority! Why? Why not? When we draw a line of difference in an intact group, community, or society, yet wish that unit to survive as a unit we must also provide a process, a mechanism, for the effective integration of the differentiated parts into a new picture of the old reality. This is the primary problem facing the American people of the U.S. at present. It is a recurring phenomenon in the course of our lives.

The glaring but sad reality seems to be that we do not yet know how to organise and administer systems in which there are, apparently, inherent presenting contradictions. This then leads to the lauding of one view and the vilifying of the other view. This generates spite, anger, fear, resentment, recriminations, and general negativity on both sides, but not necessarily of the same kind or of the same magnitude on each side. The longer this division lasts the deeper the division grows and the more difficult it becomes eventually to resolve the problems generated by the binary or two-dimensional system. This, in turn, leads to each side finding further justification for their views and stance in the contrary beliefs and perceived dissident behaviour of the opposition. The dimensions of the reality perceived on each side are concretised and measured in the resulting total system where they are further separated and perceived in consequence as separate irreconcilable and opposing realities. Yet because it is a fiction that we have created, we feel the need to hide the savagery of the process by giving it a few coats of the varnish of civilisation to conceal the pain. But that varnish is not rust-proof. The truth will out. Just as applying cosmetics to the face of a corpse, and replacing the former shroud with nice everyday clothes is merely an effort to negate grieving by pretence and to deny Death and Dying as unavoidable aspects of Life.

The question that arises for me then is this: would the result have been different had the inherited framework used and accepted for decision-making in politics and in life in general been different. If Pain and Differentiation are inevitable, how and when can we introduce Joy and Integration? Most importantly of all, is it possible to design and use a decision-making process that caters for both and, if possible, at the same time?

In broad terms the dominant feature of Western social systems is compromise, whereas in Eastern social systems the dominant feature described is one of consensus. In the West we tend to give virtually the same meaning to both words, “compromise” and “consensus”. I have lived and worked for extended periods in the East and in the Middle East, where I have experienced fundamental differences in meaning between the two. They each belong to different realities. These differences have resonances and subtleties that are reflected in the cultures and philosophies developed broadly across each of two halves of the globe. They have been modified with some mutual accommodation in the regions of contact and overlap between the two major spheres of influence. Compare the teachings of Socrates, Plato, Thomas Aquinas, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius. Compare the belief systems of indigenous tribes, of Muslims, Jews, Christians in war-torn areas of the Middle East,of the same groups in Europe, Australia, America. How did they see the world? How do they make decisions?

This basic mode that I have described, of differentiation and integration is again perceived in the subordinate regions of each global sphere of interest and culture and power, where regional units such as islands, countries, nations, and tribes predominate. Within each of these, further processes of differentiation and integration are involved. We thereby arrived eventually at what we chose to describe as the fundamental building unit of the human

220px-Homo_erectus_pekinensis_-_archeaeological

species, namely “Man”. Yet within the relatively tiny duration of my personal life-span, that “fundamental” unit has been challenged and re-construed as “Wo(man)” or “Woman/Man”.  Yet further these definitions were re-defined more precisely recently as “Woman-Man”, an expanding range of human individuality with seamless transitions from one sub-division to the next, from “All-woman to All-man”, portraying a rainbow of subdivisions spanning the scale. A romantic and gentle picture of differences. This panorama is reflected in the basic building block of Life, in the DNA molecule where the blueprint for differentiation is laid down and the propensity for differences in future generations have been labeled by scientists.

This is where the problem begins. This is where “Wo(man)”, as “God”, or as replacing “God”, can, or may, or must decide the future of conscious Life on this Planet. What would you do? Would you use Science, an as yet incomplete body of experimental data and therefore subject to further change and revision as the result of incremental data? What moral and ethical principles would guide us? With what degree of certainty can we produce laws and metrification to guide us in the inevitable choices we shall have to make? Given what I have written above, how will we govern society and make decisions for the human species and all its relatives? Are we so afraid of Death, Disease, and Dying that we must strive to eradicate them and to produce the Immortal Human? Will Woman, Man, or Androgyne be the norm? Should we have brought Spirit into our discourse before now? What difference would that make to the Story of Life?

Or would you choose Nature as the model for the future of our Planet? Would you be able and willing, as our ancestors were, of necessity, to live with the reality of Death, Disease, Dying and the attendant faults in the DNA that lead to disability, to fatal abnormalities, of aberrations from the anticipated development of human life and of, as yet, unrevealed and un-encountered variations in life forms? Who would decide when an intolerable Life should end or be sedated until natural death intervened, or how would such decisions be made? And, as for Science, is there a role in Nature’s Story of Life for Spirit?

© 2017 Tony Pratschke

NOTE: I plan to develop this thesis further and to expand my ideas with further detail. I would appreciate readers leaving critical comment, opinion, and questions on this topic in the Comment box below.