Eurovision 2017 as a barometer of change?

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

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

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

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

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

Are you one of the 70 million?

Well, if you are one of those lucky ones, how much do you know about the land of your ancestors?

The Irish seem to pop up in the most unlikely places. It has been estimated that there are approximately 70 million people worldwide of Irish extraction. Because Ireland is a trading nation but a small country, this has led to periods of emigration in search of work whenever the global economy took a downturn. Let’s not worry too much about the precise figures but I know from my own experience working abroad that there are many people around the world who feel a kinship with Ireland because they believe they have at least one ancestor from the Emerald Isle.

dreamstime_m_58494533Well, if you are one of those lucky ones, how much do you know about the land of your ancestors? We all inherit traits from our ancestors and if you have Irish ancestors can you recognise anything particularly “Irish” in your make-up? Well, to do that youwill need to learn more about Ireland and its people. And I am not limiting that to those people who now, today, live in Ireland. I am thinking back over the long history of the country. That is why I am building my web site slowly but with the specific purpose of presenting information from the old manuscripts, dating back over 1,000 years.

It has been said that history is written by the conquerors after a war, but mythology is the “people’s” history. Ireland is lucky in that it has a very rich heritage of these stories, originally part of our oral tradition, where stories about the heroic past were told around camp fires with the purpose of emphasising and imparting knowledge down the generations about what it meant to be Irish, how our ancestors saw their lives, the principles by which they organised their society. Mythology is a record of what is important in the spirit of the people, their beliefs, their values, their aspirations.

Ireland was the third country in the region that we now call “Europe”, to develop a written story of their country, the other two being the Romans and the Greeks. Those three countries preserved the old oral tradition in the written records of the manuscripts. From them we learn about the Heroic Age of Ireland, of Cúchulainn and the Red Branch Warriors, of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Fianna, and of the various tribal leaders who have been recorded in those ancient tales. But those manuscripts were written in Old Irish and in Latin. Many of the manuscripts have been translated into English and other modern European languages but they have been the preserve of scholars mostly and it has not been easy for ordinary folk to access accurate information or even read those tales.

That is why I am embarking on developing a web site with a focus on presenting those tales in an easily accessible medium, with commentaries to explain the background to each. Even more importantly, I want to show how nearly 2,000 years ago, on a small island which was then deemed to be at the edge of the known world, had developed a sophisticated society, with a unique legal system, and its own way of resolving social and political issues that still have relevance today. One example of that is the story of “The Law of the Innocents”.

In 691 A.D. the Abbot of the Monastery at Iona, organised a Synod in Birr, Co. Offaly to which tribal and other leaders from the region now described as Ireland and the United Kingdom were invited. Remember that in those days these two islands did not have a system of national and regional governments as we have today but were organised on the basis of tribes and clans. These tribes were regularly at war with one another over a variety of issues. Nevertheless over a thousand representatives attended the Synod as is recorded on manuscripts of the time. They passed a law outlawing violence against women. Those attending the Synod contributed to a fund to enforce that Law because there was no central authority to do so. This was done over 1,000 years before the “Declaration of the rights of Man and of the Citizen” was passed by France’s National Constituent Assembly in August 1789, or before Thomas Paine published his “Rights of Man” in which he explored the idea that government based on true justice should support not only mankind’s natural rights (life, liberty, free speech, freedom of conscience) but also its civil rights (relating to security and protection).

dreamstime_m_473176
Standing stones

Other stories from the ancient manuscripts describe how the Irish people organised their society, how they coped with spiritual issues as well as those temporal ones. For instance, in the time of the Druids, we read that there were  comprehensive rules governing society. The Druid was similar to the Shaman in other indigenous cultures. They had the power to step between tribal armies on the point of war and impose a cessation of hostilities while they adjudicated on the merits of each side. Even before the introduction of paper in Europe, it appears that the Druids had memory sticks long before the computer industry stumbled on the idea. Yes, they used memory sticks as an aide memoire for the oral tradition of remembering and recalling the ancestral stories! I am at present preparing that story with details about how you may use their technique with investing in computer peripherals!

For those reasons above, I am keen to investigate how relevant the learning from those ancient times is for us today. The web site is aimed at the general reader and will provide resources in response to requests. I hope that you will find information there to whet your appetite enough to learn more about your Irish ancestry, and even if you have no Irish ancestry, I am sure that you will find something there to interest you.

Poverty in life and poverty of spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



 

References

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

Test Results:

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

Detailed Diagnosis

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

 

 

 

General Election 2015. Questions to answer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 International role of Ireland

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

 Health

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

 Education

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

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

 Social Welfare

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

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

Cad atá le déanamh againn anois? Where do we go from here?

An tseachtain seo caite, do chaith mé roinnt ama ag faire a gcuid fianaise á thabhairt uathu ag na huaisle Enda Kenny, Pat Rabbitte, Joan Burton, Bertie Ahern, et al.,ós comhair an Choiste Dála.

Last week I watched some of the testimony given by Mr. Enda Kenny, Mr. Pat Rabbitte, Ms. Joan Burton, Mr. Bertie Ahern, et al.to the Dáil Committee.

Gaeilge (English version follows after the Irish version)

B’fhéidir gur rinneadh trácht ar seo le déanaí ach ní fhaca-sa é. An tseachtain seo caite, do chaith mé roinnt ama ag faire a gcuid fianaise á thabhairt uathu ag na huaisle Enda Kenny, Pat Rabbitte, Joan Burton, Bertie Ahern, et al.,ós comhair an Choiste Dála.

Agus mé im’ shaoránach ríméadach na tíre seo, do chuir sé clár ar mo chluasa ag éisteacht le, agus ag faire ar, a gcuid iompair ós comhair a gcomhghleachaithe, agus ba léir é go raibh siad ag tapaidh an deis chun “toghchánaíocht de réir an sean-nós” a chur ar siúl. Ní raibh ann dóibh ach ‘charade’, gnáthgheamaireacht na Dála. Bhí mé ag feitheamh, agus ag súil, le réimiúlacht, le meas, agus le humhlaíocht. Dhéanfadh leath-‘apologia’ an ghnó, fiú leithscéal ón gcroí.

Tháinig an smaoineamh chugam: “Níl san ócáíd seo ach cluiche dóibh, iad cosúil le páistí seanchríonna, agus iad ag ligint orthu gur daoine fásta iad, fad is atá siad ag magadh faoinár n-institiúidí, gan ar bun acu ach iarraim cúis ar nós matadóra. Ni hea, ach ar nós fir sorcais ag ligint orthu gur matadóirí iad. Ní raibh san éisteacht seo de réir dealraimh ach cró sorcaise. Bhí áiméar ar fáil dóibh an bhinnbharraíocht a bheith acu ar duine agus fonóid a dhéanamh faoi dhuine eile. Ócáid dóibh chun a lucht leanúna a mhúscailt, saillte le dea-chaint, amhail is gur orthusan a bhí an cáipéis.

Bhí mé am shamhlú go raibh cailíní deasa ar an maide luascáin, go raibh fir cróga ar an sreang ard, agus, cinnte, ba chóir go mbeadh ‘pierrot’ ann. Fir sorcais i ndáiriíre, agus deor ollmhóir ar a leiceann acu agus iad ag déanamh trua don chine daonna faoi fhulaingt do-inste. Ach, tada le feiscint. Ní duine sorcais le croí óir a bhí os ár gcomhair amach, ní raibh grá ná trua le feiscint ann. Ní raibh ann ach dróid-anna nua-aimseartha amháin, Daleks na Dála, agus caint an gheilt á chogaint acu. Ba mhaslach a gcuid cainte agus iad gealsúileach agus tom-eireaballach, ag tabhairt masla do mhuintir na tíre seo atá ag fulaingt go huafásach faoina réimeas, muintir a bhfuil deacair orthu foighneamh lena ngréasán bréag, lena bhfeall ar iontaoibh, agus lena seápála.

Ach gan amhras ní raibh na daoine atá faoin fhulaingt is mó feasach faoin bhfeic náisiúnta seo ar raidió agus ar teilifís. Bhíodar ag codail amuigh ar an sráid agus faoin sceach, ag maireachtáil i lóistíní sealadacha. Nó faoi fhulaingt sa bhaile, gan dóthain airgid acu , gan teas, gan solas, gan bia, gan sólás. Nó ag faire ar glao Skype ó aird i gcéin chun a chlann páistí a fheiscint, chun a chéile a chloisteáil, daoine a ligeadh le sruth mar chacamas le sruth dramhaíol as obair dramhaíola na tíre seo chun áit a chur in áirithint don Déine. Don diabhail le clár damanta na Déine!!

Ach fós anois, agus na hócáidí á leanúint agam ar nuacht an lae, agus na pobalbhreitheanna ag teacht ar shála a chéile, cuireann sé iontas an domhain orm faoi chad atá i ndán dúinn. Tá dian-rialú ann ag na Deasaigh anois, agus iad tacaithe le hairgead a ghoideadh, agus le cambheartanna sracaidh leathdhleathacha a bhí dlisteanaithe ag rialtas i ndiaidh rialtais thar na blianta. Tá an Ceartlár plódaithe leis an iomarca polaiteoirí ainléanta atá deamhéineacha agus garúla agus iad ag iarraidh greim a fháil ar sopanna agus ar gearróga an daonlathais. Agus na Ciotaigh, cosúil le Néandertálaigh i bhfolach ó na dineasáir caipitlíocha atá ar díbheargach ar machairí móra na hÉireann, tá na Ciotaigh ina bpluaiseanna díospóireachta, ag míníneacht, ag cur faobhar ar bioranna oighir, agus ag beartú conas ar féidir leo, cosúil le madraí, na conablaigh curtha de láimh ag sealgairí vóta níos éifeachtúla ná iad féin a chosgairt. Meascadh bróid bhréagaigh ar bhonn prionsabal amhrasacha, éide nua don Impire snite as bréaga, as calaois agus deartha ag claonbholscairí. Sea, is soiléir anois é, go bhfuil toghachán ag teach chugainn anois, in éineacht leis an ngnáth-bhús! Tuigim, a Yeats Uasal, beidh “the catch-cries of the clowns” againn, mar aon leis.

Ach an bhfuil sé riachtanach go dtitfidh sé amach mar sin? Cad is tuairim duit faoi? Fad is atá guth fós againn, ar bheartaigh tú conas a gcaithfidh tusa do guth? In ionad a bheith ag glamaíl ar an ngealach agus tú ag súil go haonarach le macalla glaime a cloisint ar ais, an bhfuil dóthain suime agat ann, an bhfuil an ‘nous’ ionat, an bhfuil tú cróga go leor chun an fód a sheasamh? Chun an fhírinne a rá, táimse in amhras faoi, agus fúm féin chomh maith. Dá mbeadh caoi agam air anois, “I would arise and go now, and go to a little Greek island”, chun mo shaol a chaitheamh i gcomhluadar le daoine a bhfuil meas acu ar a ndéithe, ar a stair, ar a dteanga, agus ar a gcultúr. Ach ní bheidh an caoi agam é sin a dhéanamh. B’fhearr liom fanacht anseo in Éirinn. Is i mo thír dhúchais í. Is oth liom é a rá, áfach, ach ní bheimid in ann tada a dhéanamh chun an tír áluinn seo a chur le chéile arís go dtí go ndéanfaimis tarrtháil ar spiorad na tíre seo, ar spioraid na ndaoine. De réir dealraimh, níl meas muice ag formhór na ndaoine anois ar ár n-oidhreacht, mar Ghaeil, ar na bunphrionsabail a cheangal an pobal le chéile in aghaidh ár namhaid san am atá thart. Cinnte ní foláir dúinn ár n-aigne a dhíriú ar sin agus 2016 ag teacht in ionad Disneyland bréag-Gaelach a thógáil ós cionn uaigheanna ár muintir is ár laochra.

English

Perhaps this has already been commented upon and I missed it. Last week I watched some of the testimony given by Mr. Enda Kenny, Mr. Pat Rabbitte, Ms. Joan Burton, Mr. Bertie Ahern, et al.to the Dáil Committee.

As a proud citizen of this country, I felt deeply offended by their attitude towards the questioning, their general behaviour towards their peers, and their obvious seizing of the moment for “d’oul bi’ of electioneering”.  The whole thing was just a charade for them, the usual Dáil circus. I waited and waited for dignity, respect, and humility. Even half an apology from the heart.

I thought: “This is a just a game for them, like precocious children playing at being adults, mocking our institutions, trailing their coats like matadors. No, like clowns in a circus pretending to be matadors. It was a circus to them. It was an opportunity to gloat and deride. A time to stir up their followers with their witty barbs and pretence at being responsible.”

There should have been beautiful girls on the trapeze, men with courage on the high wire, and of course, there should have been clowns. Real clowns, with a giant tear on their cheeks in their pity for suffering humanity. But, no. These were no clowns with a heart of gold, who love humanity and who pity it. These were mere clown droids, Dáil Daleks, muttering insanities. Their wide-eyed bushy-tailed efforts at humour were an insult to the people of this country who have suffered terribly under their reign, who have put up with their lies, their deceits, and their posturing.

The people they have hurt most, were probably not aware of this national spectacle on television.They were sleeping rough, living in temporary accommodation. Or suffering at home, without enough money for heat or light or food or comfort. Or waiting for a Skype call to see their children, their husbands or wives, who were flushed like shite out of the sewer jobs of this country to make a home for Austerity. Austerity be damned.

But yet, as I follow events in the news, listen to the polls, I wonder. The Right is in tight command now, supported by stolen money, barely legal extortion rackets legitimised by our Governments for years. The Centre is crowded with well-meaning political illiterates who are grasping for the straws of democracy. And the Left, like Neanderthals hiding from the dinosaurs who maraud on the plains of Ireland, they are hiding in their caves of debate, splitting hairs, sharpening their ice-picks, and planning on how they can live off the carcases left behind by more efficient hunters of votes. A mixture of false pride in debatable principles, a new garment for the Emperor spun from lies, deceits and designed by spin doctors, yes, it is clear, that there is an election coming down the road, with all the razamatazz that comes with it. Yes, Mr. Yeats, there will be the catch-cries of the clowns, as well.

But does it have to be like that? What do you plan to do? While we still have the Vote, have you decided how you will vote? Instead of howling at the moon in the lonely hope of hearing howling echo back to you, have you enough interest, enough nous, enough courage to speak up? Quite honestly, I doubt it. I doubt that I am ready for the struggle. If I had the chance, I would arise and go now, and go to a little Greek island, to live among people who have respect for their gods, their history, their language, and their culture. But I do not have that chance. I prefer to stay here in Ireland. I was born and reared here. It is my home. I am sorry to say, however, we can do nothing to restore our beautiful country until we salvage what we can from the wreckage we have left behind us, the spirit of a country, the spirit of its people. It appears that most of the population couldn’t care less about our heritage, as a Gaelic people, about the basic principles that united the people in the face of the enemy in times past. Certainly we will need to direct serious attention to this area with 2016 getting closer by the day. Especially if we do not wish to erect a pseudo-Irish Disneyland over the graves of our ancestors and our heroes.

Back to the Future with Rip van Winkle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s think positively about this.

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

DAFT DRAFT

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

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

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

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

Do you get the idea, then? Good.

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

Simples, Even for meercats!

Austerity just for the craic!

It was once said of the Irish, that “all their wars were merry and all their songs are sad”. Without doubt many Irish ballads and sean-nós singing have a haunting air about them, expressing pain that is too difficult to describe in words, coming as it does from deeply hidden wells of history, of faded dreams, and of exploitation. There is also some substance in the allegation that our wars were merry. It is said that the ancient Celtic tribes of Europe went into battle naked, save for a helmet, a shield and a sword. When a captured Celtic chieftain was paraded before the all-conquering Alexander the Great whose empire once sprawled across the world then known to Europeans, Alexander is said to have asked him, with some grudging admiration, was there nothing that the Celts feared. After some thought the captive chief replied: “Every morning when I go out, I fear the sky is going to fall on my head!”.

I can empathise with that fear, living as I do in Ireland of the Austerities. Beleaguered citizens squeezed by the policies imposed by the Troika, the EU and the IMF as a corrective punishment are now suffering for sleepwalking into a world moulded by the fantasies of the Celtic Tiger years, “But we were only following our leaders. They told us we were wealthy, that we are the greatest little country in the world to do business in. Even foreignors told us the same. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of the money available? And sure, wasn’t it great while it lasted”. And yes, indeed, it was great for a small minority but a large majority were left blinded and crippled like wounded, would-be warriors of a new and glorious age of prosperity. Little did we realise that we were but bit-part characters in a larger and grander narrative satisfying the egos of the few and providing a story line of their greed. The same leaders are now standing before us like insufferable senior students, toadying up to the Headmaster and Teachers, our betters, as they chide us for “losing the run of ourselves”. We must submit to punishment and take what we deserve.

It is heart-breaking to see and hear the deluge of stories from families and individuals who were caught up in that narrative. The stories of emigrations, of suicides, of financial destruction, of homes and families being pushed beyond their all too human limits are stirring a cauldron of memories. We are being haunted by memories of informers who ratted on our attempts at freedom, of leaders who fled the country leaving the detritus of dreams behind them, but worst of all, the spectre of the Great Famine is hanging over us, chilling our dreams. One third left, one third died, one third remained, and for what? Is the same pattern to be repeated in the era of the Great Failure? If we don’t learn from the past, then it surely will be repeated.

I remember from my studies when I worked on projects exploring leaders and leadership, individuals, groups and organisations, that the “power distance” between leader and followers is an important dimension in defining the effectiveness and behaviour of that leadership. Different countries show a wide variety of tolerance for that “power distance”.  It is a bit like social distance. I am reminded of a joke abut what would happen if a man and a woman were washed up on a desert island. If they were French they would make love; if they were Irish, the man would wander off looking for the local pub; and if they were English, nothing would happen because they hadn’t been introduced!

We Irish do not feel comfortable with leaders who are socially distant from us. We don’t do anonymity. It’s a small country and a dense web of relationships ensures that we don’t need to search far to find a relative or a rival. We distrust leaders who get above themselves and we are quick to wind them in. But when we feel close to them, we are too trusting about their decency and fairness towards us. This has led to an Irish political culture based upon connections and influence. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, it is the normal currency of human society. But our TDs (members of the Dáil) are committed to “stroke” politics and doing “turns” for their constituents, often in opposition to the rules governing our society. In a strange way, it is almost as if our representatives view our government as being in some way alien and not the real authority. That was true when we were colonised, with the King or Queen in London and our other monarch, the Pope, in Rome. For 800 years Irish people had no native symbols of authority other than a precarious and threatened tribal system.

The political  system demands, and is structured so that our representatives will not be re-elected if those norms are not met. Political policies are largely irrelevant in the face of “the catch cries of the clown”. We don’t do political philosophy either. We don’t really have an intellectual framework for discourse about who we are, what we want, and how we can achieve that state. It is a culture built upon activities and not on thinking. It is a culture that we have exported, most obviously to the New World (for Europeans, I hasten to add), where it thrived and spread through the gangs of NY and the Unions and Irish American politicians.

That culture is one of the main reasons why we are now suffering turmoil in trying to cope with our problems. We have known only a corrupted form of politics based upon the Civil War, that was manipulated by an over-bearing Church that interfered with political processes but forbade any questioning of their diktats. Small wonder that there is confusion and growing levels of violence in the streets. We lack a patois, a people’s language for political discourse. Pent up anger, frustration and fear is erupting in the throwing of insults and shouting confrontations with authority figures. It is not a pretty or re-assuring kaleidoscope of possibilities. Our Uachtarán (President) is a mild mannered intellectual, a poet, a champion against oppression in the Americas. This did not save him from an ignomious and hasty departure from an event in Dublin this week.

Unfortunately for Michael D., and I once knew him well enough to address his so, when we were colleagues in the Labour Party that once aspired to socialism, but yes, again I say unfortunately for him, he has had to compromise himself and his principles by lying down with dogs over too long a period. I am sure he hoped sincerely that he could achieve progress and change gradually and democratically. And he has done so but on the very limited palette of the arts where the colour red was verboten. Alas, but when one lies down with dogs, one gets up with fleas. He has been making obvious efforts to use any semblance of power left in his constitutional role as Uachtarán to good effect, but I believe that the New Labour Party of the Roses, that left Connolly’s Starry Plough to rust, merely threw a bone in the form of the Presidency to keep him out of the way and put a veneer of decency on their politically obscene groping with Fine Gael.

We are now in an increasingly precarious position in Ireland. The volume of protest and dissatisfaction is growing to a crescendo. A lot of energy is being generated but, whilst it is clearly directed at the single issue of the privatisation and commodification of water supplies, there is little sign of a new wave rising in Irish political life. Different groups are defining themselves in terms of activities and in so doing are attracting support from citizens who just want the pain to end. Shouting and screaming at the Garda Síochána, hurling abuse at politicians and at anyone who is seen as Other, and communicating in the short-hand of obscenities and spitting byte-sized gobs of abuse is no basis for forming a coherent policy of change. If the mass rallies planned for Jan 31 do not produce a tangible result and an agreed plan for further development of protest, then disillusion which is hovering in the wings, will take centre stage.

And now Syriza and Alexis Tsipras has burst upon the stage in Athens. Is this relative unknown to be a Greek hero in the mould of Athenian theatre, or a tragic figure, or ultimately an Icarus burning his wings in the flames when he challenges the Sun Gods of Finance and Politics. If nothing else he is focusing minds. He is making brave demands that are threatening to rattle the foundations of the European dream but then the Gods of Brussels feel sure they can swot this impudent Greek. Or can they? A lot will depend upon whether we in Ireland, and others in suffering countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Italy, not to mention the newbies from the former Soviet Union who were getting their first experiences of what might be theirs of right in future, whether we will find common cause and stand together with Greece. That requires leaders who have the courage and the vision to lead. It requires followers who are willing to work together in a consensus rather than fight over compromises. And, above all, it requires people who will not flinch when they look the opponent in the eyes. It looks like we are living in interesting times and whether that is a Chinese curse, or not, is for us to decide.