datbeardyman

Less about the world, more about me.

When Did I Know?

Sometimes it isn’t obvious. I overtook a truck on a dangerous hill, between two bends. There was an oncoming car that flashed its lights at me. I felt nothing. No fear, no embarrassment. Just noted that had happened. My wife told me she had a pain that may be a reoccurrence of a kidney issue. I felt nothing. Perhaps some mild irritation at the possible inconvenience. I stopped watching TV programmes where I’d built up an attachment to the characters. Their drama was too much. The tightness in my belly left. The scary tightness in my chest stopped. I stopped reading. I stopped writing. I stopped imagining. I stopped being able to do my job properly. My libido disappeared. My ability to sleep through an entire night, gone. My routine is now one of gentle chaos. I eat as if I’m not a middle-aged man whose cholesterol has almost doubled in a year. Showering is a chore. Brushing my teeth an achievement. I play computer games at the easiest level but couldn’t be arsed finishing a single game. I thought about suicide because my therapist asked about it at every session, but I’m not in pain. He said I was depressed. That felt good for a few days. I’ve been that before. It passes. The absence of pain was a bit confusing though. I stopped seeing him. The absence of pain is confusing. A month passes and it hits me. This isn’t passing. This isn’t like anything I’ve ever experienced. There is no drama. No tears. No despair. No trajectory I can recognise and pin my hopes to. It is an ever-unfolding numbness. An absence. Without tears and pain, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t know how to get better. There is no movement. Pain, tears and despair I understand. Symptoms that need managing as I talk my way to recovery. For the first time in my life I went to the doctor and asked for medication. I have always taken a secret and not so intelligent pride in rarely requiring meds for anything. I think I can remember every prescription I’ve had in my 25 years of adulthood. She wrote the prescription. I knew then for sure. I could see the sadness, I could see the need to cry, but they were a distant event. I could not feel them. I could not experience them. So I need medication to feel again, even to feel pain.

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Weekly Links #29

Oops, a day late, sorry about that. Seven links and I think them an interesting and an eclectic mix. From the history of the anti-choice movement in Ireland to why someone condemns yoga as being unchristian to a critique of indemtity politics to even more history. I hope you enjoy. Also consider following this blog and looking up some of the stuff I have on offer at Amazon.

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“In the late 1970s, one medical clinic in South County Dublin did a roaring trade in pencils. But, as with so many things in Ireland at the time, this was not what it appeared. The pencils were colour-coded and depending on the particular pencil a customer bought, they would receive a certain contraceptive. Condoms were one colour, caps another and so on. But attitudes in Ireland were changing in the 1970s and the influence of the UK and America on Ireland was felt in fashion, music and in one other area that made members of Irish conservative society anxious: sexual liberation.” Story of the 8th: how right-wing Catholic groups staged a remarkable political coup

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“You can find the word yoga and the basic concept in Hindu texts dating back thousands of years. It’s true that the modern western version is not entirely the same as its traditional form, but I do not see that as a mark in its favor. After all, it’s no coincidence that it was exported to the West hand-in-hand with the philosophy of the “universality” of all religions, and it finally began to explode in popularity with the counter-culture movement of the sixties. Hindus had their spiritual purposes for yoga, we have ours. Neither purpose seems at all compatible with Christianity.” Yoga Is A Pagan Ritual. Maybe Christians Should Find A Different Workout Routine.

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“This is the electoral challenge of the extreme right in the west: to find a plausible balance between how racist it actually is, in its policies, and how racist it can appear to be in its pronouncements. Its raison d’etre is to promote and project a mythical sense of national and racial purity; its conundrum is how to simultaneously attract racists and xenophobes to that project while denouncing racism and xenophobia.” How the far right has perfected the art of deniable racism

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“In the worlds of politics and nonprofits intersectionality has become a sneaky substitute for the traditional left notion of solidarity developed in the process of ongoing collective struggle against the class enemy. Intersectionality doesn’t deny the existence of class struggle, it just rhetorically demotes it to something co-equal with the fights against ableism and ageism and speciesism, against white supremacy, against gender oppression, and a long elastic list of others.” Intersectionality is a Hole. Afro-Pessimism is a Shovel. We Need to Stop Digging.

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“Here’s an example. Should people be punished for crimes they committed in the distant past? It seems pretty obvious that we should only punish a person for a crime if we are reasonably convinced that they are the same person who committed that crime. However, on many views of personal identity, once enough time has passed between the commission of the offence and the punishment, then, even if the criminal is still alive, they will no longer be the same person that they were and so could not deserve punishment.” Why Philosophers Fail to Influence Public Debate—and How They Can Do Better

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“On January 26th, 1340, the English king Edward III stood on a platform in the marketplace of Ghent in Flanders. It was bedecked with new banners commissioned from the workshops of Antwerp, showing the arms of England quartered with those of France. And from that platform Edward declared himself King of France. A Florentine merchant who was there asked some of the locals what they thought. The better sort, he reported, thought the whole thing “puerile”. But for almost half a millennium, until 1802, the English monarchs would go on claiming to be kings of France.” Is Brexit the maddest thing England has ever done? Not quite

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“In 1824 James Mill (utilitarian, colleague of Jeremy Bentham and father of John Stuart Mill) wrote an article On Government for the Encyclopedia Britannica. In it he argued that individuals whose interests were represented by another would not be inconvenienced by being denied a vote. In this category he included children (represented by their parents) and women.” A Regency Era argument for votes for women

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Weekly Links #28

Another week another assortment of bits I’ve gleaned from the Twitterverse. An eclectic bunch, going from abortion in El Salvador,  Deep Space Nine, being gay while married to a straight woman because, god, women’s experience of pain and de Tocqueville in Ireland. I hope you enjoy.

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“As a kid, I was very concerned with being nice. It’s what was expected of me. In the culture that I come from, girls are expected to be nice and sweet (as they are in many different cultures), or to be obedient and demure. That wasn’t me, but I tried to play the part.” THE FIRST TIME I REALIZED I WAS ALLOWED TO BE ANGRY: MAJOR KIRA NERYS

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“In 1807, Britain passed a law banning the slave trade. But for three centuries, that trade had been dominated by Britain; three centuries of savage enslavement, pitiless brutality, and casual mass murder. Twelve million Africans are thought to have been transported to the Americas, half of them in the peak years of the Atlantic slave trade between 1690 and 1807. In those peak years, about half of these slaves were taken on British ships. Historians estimate that at least one in ten, and possibly one in five slaves, died on the Middle Passage, the journey from Africa to the New World. This suggests that half a million Africans may have lost their lives while being transported on British ships.” the great british empire debate

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“But here, too, doctors can be suspicious of women who live on the margins of society, of those they meet only in the emergency rooms of public hospitals.  The consequences of making abortion a crime include a pattern we’ve already seen, in the context of prosecutions of women for ingesting illicit drugs during pregnancy. These prosecutions have disproportionately targeted poor, black women, many of whom were seeking prenatal care at public hospitals. Ban abortion and that pattern will intensify. The hospital will increasingly become the site of a crime scene investigation, and poor women will be the suspects.” The Consequences of El Salvador’s Abortion Ban

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“Thus, this astute Frenchman, who had demonstrated his powers of observation and analysis in America, examined the situation in Ireland just a decade before the catastrophe of the Great Famine.” Alexis de Tocqueville in America and Ireland 1831-1835

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“Over the recent holiday season I found myself becoming nostalgic about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Maybe the mid-season break in Star Trek: Discovery made me long for Trek of some kind, and DS9was the first series that came to mind; maybe the fact that my girlfriend is re-watching Babylon 5made me think of space stations; maybe knowing that 2018 would mark DS9’s 25th anniversary heightened its importance in my subconscious; or maybe the nostalgia was brought on by inscrutable caprice that can’t be explicated.” The Most Human Star Trek is the One With the Most Aliens

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“That act of authenticity brought many of you who will read this into our lives. Finally, we were able to live authentically, instead of this life of quiet struggle we had existed in for a decade. Finally we were able to be honest with our community, our friends, our colleagues, our families about our marriage, and about me—that I am a gay man, and that Lolly and I had gotten married knowing this about me. That I always have been gay. That it was not something I had chosen—it just was— but that I loved my wife and my life.” TURNING A UNICORN INTO A BAT: THE POST IN WHICH WE ANNOUNCE THE END OF OUR MARRIAGE

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“The Aziz Ansari case hit a nerve because, as I’ve long feared, we’re only comfortable with movements like #MeToo so long as the men in question are absolute monsters we can easily separate from the pack. Once we move past the “few bad apples” argument and start to suspect that this is more a trend than a blip, our instinct is to normalize. To insist that this is is just how men are, and how sex is.” The female price of male pleasure

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Weekly Links #27

Welcome to weekly links number 27. Only the five this week but most are reads that may take more than a just few minutes. I hope you enjoy. Also consider following this blog and looking up some of the stuff I have on offer at Amazon.

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“So many people are frightened by the wonder of their own presence. They are dying to tie themselves into a system, a role, or to an image, or to a predetermined identity that other people have actually settled on for them.” A Gentle Corrective for the Epidemic of Identity Politics Turning Us on Each Other and on Ourselves

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“The only surprising thing about this marriage of convenience between the most irritating rhetorical style and the dumbest possible ideology is that it took so long to come about. Whatever merits anti-theism may have with regard to social issues, humanism was never the prime mover for New Atheism’s most devout adherents.” New Atheism’s Idiot Heirs

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“What these findings show is that pride, gratitude and compassion, whether we consciously realize it or not, reduce the human mind’s tendency to discount the value of the future. In so doing, they push us not only to cooperate with other people but also to help our own future selves.” The Only Way to Keep Your Resolutions

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“Unfortunately, anti-abortion terrorism isn’t new. Those of us who provide abortion care have long faced cultural stigma, threats and violence.​ But the more they harass us, the more I want to do this work. Their determination to keep people from accessing abortion care reminds me how vitally important our work is.” Anti-Abortion Harassment Goes Way Beyond Picketing Clinics

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“It was this “civil society” strand that influenced the Irish constitution: a strand that attempted to stave off communist devaluing of the individual, corporatist flirtations with authoritarianism and fascism; and atomistic liberalism.” The Irish Constitution and the evolution of Human Rights

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What Of The Fathers?

I’ve had a few conversations recently, about abortion, with men. Their objection to abortion was based (or part based) on the rights of the father. It’s a point of view I struggle to counter. Not because I see any merit in it, rather I see so little merit in it I struggle to explain my thoughts. Sometimes a value is so fundamental that one rarely has to examine and elucidate it.

I hold that a man has no rights over a woman’s body, regardless of what may or may not be going on inside that woman’s body or any connection he may have to that woman or what is going on inside her body. This is not a feminist conclusion, this is being a liberal. I believe, with every fibre of my being, that no one has a right to control or a right of access to anyone else’s body, ever. While the physical autonomy of Irish citizens is routinely violated, I tend to focus on the criminalisation of abortion as it is, by a long distance, the most egregious example.

But that all sounds a bit wordy and ideological.

I’m not a father. I’ve never been a father. And am intent on never being a father. I’ve never felt that connection to a life I have helped create and/or have chosen to call my child. I can, at best, imagine it based on the experiences of friends who are fathers or what is depicted in literature and television. My conclusion is that the connection is real, it is profound and it deserves respect. It is at once, base evolution and beautiful.

The question then is how does one give due cognisance to this true emotion in the creation of a right for the father that can be vindicated, but one that also vindicates the right of the pregnant woman to her physical autonomy?

I used the term ‘father’ deliberately. I could have used any number of terms, from ‘sperm donor’ to ‘potential father’ but am opting to focus on the cohort of men who are not MRA types or who only use the status of father to disempower women. What does one say to those men, who on learning that a woman is carrying their child, deems fatherhood to have begun at the point of revelation? What does one say to those men when the pregnant woman decides she does not want to continue with that pregnancy?

My head knows and says, there is nothing that need be said. Her body, her choice. This is not mere sloganeering, it is the most basic tenet of the pro-choice movement. All our efforts are based on that simple phrase, her body, her choice. But how does one translate this assertion, this assertion of autonomy into a message that can assuage the hurt and fear of the fathers who feel that connection to their child? Is it even a worthwhile endeavour?

In asking how we convey this message of autonomy, I am aware that I am wondering how a woman can ask ‘more nicely’ to not be a slavish incubator? My skin is crawling. I don’t even know if the question is necessary. Perhaps we have the numbers already, perhaps the few men I have spoken to represent a statistically insignificant cohort who need not be given our attention during the campaign to come. I do know the majority of men of my acquaintance get the difference between potential fatherhood and ownership.

And yet, I still long for a form of words to convey my understanding while also answering the question I posed about rights. How, with empathy, do I say; you have absolutely no rights concerning a woman’s body, regardless of what’s going on inside her body, regardless of your connection to her and your connection to what going on inside her body. None, absolutely none and you and anyone else should never have the power to dictate what another person does with their body. And unless you are prepared to contemplate strapping a pregnant woman to her bed for the duration of her pregnancy there is no practicable way of giving you any say on what happens inside her body beyond what she is prepared to grant you, and even then, she can grant you no more than to listen to your opinion. But I understand her decision may cause you pain.

I’m not sure it’s an argument that will way sway anyone, but it’s all I have. It just that it happens to be true.

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Weekly Links #26

It’s been too long since I did anything on my blog. One of my New Year resolutions is to put something up here every week. Even if only this Weekly Links thingy. This ties in with another resolution, which is to actually read the hundreds of articles cluttering up my Liked folder in Twitter. Today’s articles include topics such as sex, Timbuktu and gerrymandering. I hope you find them interesting.

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“As Bradley will discover, Brexit has unsettled one of the most intangible but important features of the fraying Northern Ireland settlement: the ability of its citizens to imagine themselves into different nationalities.” It’s not just the Brexit border question that divides Ireland. It’s imagination

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“North Carolina Republicans have gotten quite good at this, as evidenced by the state’s 2016 election returns. Republican House members representing North Carolina won 53 percent of the statewide popular vote, but took 10 out of 13, or 77 percent, of the state’s congressional seats. If their seat haul had matched their popular vote total, they would have taken just seven out of 13 House seats.” Still unclear about gerrymandering? See exactly how it worked in North Carolina.

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“I once lost a friend (a really close friend) because my sex life is good. How weird is that?” No Sex Thanks, we’re Irish

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“The headlining of only one line of inquiry, coupled with the unnecessary identification of the arrested man’s nationality has resulted in a toxic discourse about migration, border security, and racism.” Sometimes less is more

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“The discussion reveals how differently we imagine white and non-white populations. Whites are seen as divided by class, non-whites as belonging to classless communities. It’s a perspective that ignores social divisions within minority groups while also racialising class distinctions.” In British education, the central issue is class, not ethnicity

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“The rhetoric of the abortion debate can trigger a range of feelings in women who have had terminations.”  Anti-choice language ‘deliberately stigmatising’

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“His humble description of Timbuktu may have disappointed some in the learned societies of 19th-century Paris and London, but modern archaeological research throughout West Africa is uncovering evidence of large urban centers, unique social and political institutions, long-distance trade networks, and powerful empires.” Digging Into the Myth of Timbuktu

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Purity

Do you ever worry that the Eighth Amendment won’t be repealed because of the purity of the campaigners’ message? Yeah, me neither. Do I worry that the media lacks the energy and interest to accurately describe the Repeal Movement? You betcha. When a journalist, or a politician or anyone for that matter describes Repealers as extremist, you know you’re in the presence of a lazy person or an anti-choicer.

Understanding Repealers is not that difficult. We are the 80% plus, of the population, who think there are circumstances where forcing a woman to remain pregnant is not a good thing. We are the more than 80% who understand that to address this, the Eighth Amendment has to go for there is no other way to allow, some women, in certain circumstances, have abortions. Labelling over 80% of the population as extremist is some next level bullshit. Repealers are the mainstream.

Are all Repealers the same? No. Repealers can be broadly divided into two groups. One group regards every abortion as a tragedy, but sometimes a necessary one. The second group regards some abortions as tragic and some as a positive choice.

The only thing keeping these very different perspectives in the same camp, is the Eighth Amendment. In a civilised country, this difference would be the only debate being had. But with thousands of Irish women being forced to flee the country every year for health care, we find ourselves on the same side.

Those in the former group will be asked to make their peace with ‘abortion on request’ up to twelve weeks because it’s the only practicable way to ensure victims of rape can access the health care they want. The latter will have to accept that women who are thirteen weeks pregnant will have to continue to leave the country because in the current environment it is the only way to ensure some women get health care closer to home.

It’s an uncomfortable alliance, but a necessary one. It is a recognition that the status quo is unsustainable. A recognition that the current regime pertaining to reproductive rights is at best hypocritical, and at worst cruel and dangerous. But while we are in the nowhere land of no referendum yet called, we are all free to still opine on abortion. We are still free to say there are good abortions and there are bad abortions or that there are no good and bad abortions, only abortion. We are still free to say that the decision to have an abortion should, in every circumstance, be the woman’s. We are still free to imagine and to plan what we’ll have to do after the (hopefully) successful conclusion of this alliance.

Once the referendum is called though. Once we have a date. Then it’s the dirty and cynical world of politics and winning a vote. Then and only then will this alliance come truly alive. Its disparate parts, some admittedly holding their noses, will have one purpose, one message and one goal. It won’t exactly be easy, but it will at least be straightforward. It will be an alliance of the over 80% trying to convince that 80% to come out to vote. It will be a campaign of explaining the logic of twelve weeks on request. It will be a campaign of assuaging the fears of those who think it goes too far and reassuring those who think it does not go far enough.

Time will of course be wasted arguing with anti-choicers. Unfortunately, that will be our only way to access the media who are already gearing up to make this a straight up fight between extremists. But away from the media, not a breath will be wasted on anti-choicers. We already know what way they will vote. It’s about the over 80% who are, already to some degree pro-choice. It’s all about them. But until the date is set and the proposed legislation indicated then please expect us to be at least be honest in our views.

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Yet Another Think Piece

Something we don’t see enough of these days are think pieces on the campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment. Or more specifically, pieces on how these women are doing it wrong. So, I’m going to explain what the repealers are doing wrong and why they are making faux-repealers feel all jittery. Perhaps my unique male perspective will have an impact on female repealers and motivate them to do better. And I didn’t even refer to these women as ladies, so I think I might be able to win their trust. It’s important to speak their language.

To understand the Repeal movement, one has to examine its constituent parts. But as this is a think piece, policing the tone of the Repeal movement, I’m not going to bother my arse with that. I will instead target just one organisation within the movement. And as I happen to think I know a bit about them already I won’t need to research the innumerable other organisations that are campaigning to repeal the 8th Amendment. Economy of effort is a much-underappreciated skill these days.

Anyway, I’m going to have a go at the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC). This is the group that runs the annual March for Choice protest. This group of volunteers somehow managed to get 40,000 people onto the streets of Dublin in support of its extremist agenda. But let’s not dwell on that unattributed success or the amount of work that went into getting that march organised. I am here to admonish them after all.

What is ARC’s extremist agenda? Abortion on demand. Yep, they believe a woman should retain control of her body at all times. This is, by definition, extremist, because the vast majority of Irish people only support a woman’s right to choose in special circumstances. This inconsistency, or hypocrisy if you will, has been designated the middle ground by those of us who write think pieces and is therefore beyond questioning by anyone, ever. To win any referendum on any topic, one must always pander to the having their cake and eating it too majority.

ARC, though rarely specifically named, is often criticised for making the cake havers and eaters uncomfortable. They insist on pointing out that philosophically, logically, ethically and biologically, a foetus is a foetus. Taken to its natural conclusion, allowing abortions in only certain circumstances means that the foetus doesn’t actually matter. What is being judged is the pregnant person. (Person?)

This is an emotional and moral sleight of hand designed to ease one’s discomfort at the idea that some women are having sex and possibly even enjoying it. If you do the crime then you must be prepared to do the time, is the value espoused by the majority, the middle ground, the non-extremists. The crime in this instance being, sex. The having of it. The possible even enjoyment of same. When an unwanted pregnancy is the result of good sex then that foetus acquires a special status that requires constitutional protection. This is the reality, yet ARC extremists continue to refuse to cater to this cohort of referendum deciders.

ARC supports all women in all their choices. That’s bad of them. This is permissive. The majority doesn’t know what permissive means but they know they don’t like it. Supporting all women, in all circumstances, means some women we disapprove of, not paying the price of our disapproval.

What ARC need to do is be more strategic. This is easy to do. Let me explain it for them. Simply throw several thousand of the women they support under a bus. Then get a nice haircut and politely ask that a few women, who pass the test of having suffered sufficiently for the majority’s satisfaction, please be allowed have an abortion here instead of in the UK. It’s not rocket science.

And anyway, in a few decades, there’s every chance the icecaps will have melted and we’ll all be dead anyway.

But now that I’ve explained how ARC can win a referendum they don’t want to win, I think it’s important to point out another major flaw in their campaign. They keep using politically correct language. They insist on reminding the majority about every single minority that is disproportionately affected by the 8th Amendment. Do I have to explain what’s wrong with this? The clue is in the term, minorities. Minorities are minorities for two reasons, first, there aren’t many of them and two, they spook the majority. The majority aren’t all that keen on trans men, asylum seekers, the disabled, the mentally ill and the poor. Yet, day in, day out, ARC rub the noses of the easily offended majority in their inclusivity. It’s a stunning level of contempt for long held, carefully nurtured and greatly valued prejudices.

I don’t expect to be thanked for my insights and unsolicited advice. I give both freely because as a man I think it is important to educate those with less understanding of the complicated world we live in. You may call it the wise man’s burden. I fully expect there to be some shrill pushback but I have no doubt the sisterhood will eventually understand that the time is yet not ripe for them to enjoy the freedoms I hardly notice I have. One day perhaps, but not today. And probably not tomorrow either. You’re welcome.

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On Being A Dickhead

Barry Walsh is a bit of a dickhead. Fortunately, this isn’t a crime. Who among us isn’t guilty of the occasional lapse into dickishness? That Barry lapses and stays lapsed isn’t necessarily the point. The point is he didn’t commit a crime. He spoke his mind and though his mind may be a small and grubby place, it’s his mind and he gets to vomit out its contents without fear of legal consequence.

And the thing is, he hasn’t and won’t face legal censure. His free speech is protected. It’s a wonderful thing, free speech. Even little men, with tiny personalities, can say what they want about whomever they want and not have to fear a knock at the door from the jackbooted agents of the State. Every Barry and even this particular Barry, is entitled to verbally abuse the women who remind him of his innate inadequacies. Free speech is indeed a wonderful thing.

The problem with free speech though, is that it only applies to legal consequences for things said. Nasty and pathetic comments are indeed protected by our State, but only in so far as the State doesn’t give a shit if you insist on being a dickhead. The State also doesn’t a shit if someone calls you out for being a dickhead.

That’s the thing about the State, it likes free speech because it means it doesn’t have to do anything about dickheads. The State also avoids having to define what being a dickhead actually is. And as what constitutes a dickhead is endlessly subjective, the State prefers to leave well enough alone. It prefers dickheads, however they are defined at any particular time, to sink or swim on their own.

This particular petty little gobshite verbally abused a number of women who weren’t impressed by his brand of dickishness. They decided his oeuvre required a pointed critique. Essentially, they fucked him up. And they fucked him up in a terribly devious way, they simply stood up to him. Nothing is more galling to the little man than a woman using her free speech, her strength and whatever other resources she can call on, to show that little man the evidence of his essential smallness. It’s a terrifying sight. Well, more funny and satisfying than scary, but you get my point.

Some may call this political correctness gone mad. Fuck them. Fuck them very much. This is far from political correctness. This is a simple example of a petty little man verbally abusing women who were in a position to fight back. Free speech would also have protected his right to verbally abuse women who didn’t have the power to fight back. And that is where political correctness comes in. The PC Brigade, bastards that they are, wish to radically change our values. They want it to be unthinkable for petty little men to verbally abuse women, in any and all circumstances. Even when those women do not have the power to fight back. I know, disgusting really.

Public life may have lost this little man forever. It’s unlikely. His brand of dickishness may well come back into fashion. Or he may actually take the time to examine his attitude towards women who disagree with him and grow the fuck up. I won’t hold my breath on that one.

The comforting thing, for me, about this little man and his ilk, is that I never have to worry about the little men. I’m a straight white man. I’m never the target of these little men. It would be a job of mere moments to alter my life so that I’d be entirely oblivious to the very existence of these petty men.

Even now I have to actively search for instances where little men verbally abuse people who don’t look like me. I’m never the target. I look like these little men. I sound like these little men. I pee like these little men.

And that’s the problem with political correctness. It makes not noticing feel a little like not noticing on purpose. This little man took on women who had the power to fuck him up. Political correctness is about supporting those who don’t have the power to fight back when the dickheads come after them.

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To My Hypothetical Son

I took the decision, many years ago, to not have children. Mostly because I’m a selfish pessimist who fully expects the world to end in flames and screams. But there’s another reason. The unspoken tension all prospective fathers of sons have. The conversation. That conversation.

The first issue is when. When to have that conversation. Does one decide the appropriate time based on age or size? Have you seen the size of young fellas these days? I don’t know what they’re being fed, but they are huge. Not too long ago one could wait to have that conversation late into the boy’s teens. No longer. They may not have the emotional equipment, but they have the size. And it’s the size that makes the conversation necessary.

I’ve imagined the conversation many times. Despite my surfeit of well-chosen and sensitive words, it does not go easy. I call him into my study. Yes, I have a study in this scenario. It’s a gorgeous study, all manly and booky. The desk is replete in wooded stereotypes. I love that desk as much as I love my hypothetical son.

I would have my son sit. He’ll know this is serious as I don’t usually allow him to sit. I’m surprisingly old-fashioned in hypothetical world. I watch fear and worry cross his face. What have I caught him doing? Which of his boyish schemes and misadventures is he being carpeted for? Will he finally be sent to military school? My hypothetical world does seem overly influenced by American films of an older vintage. This is very disappointing.

“Is there something amiss, Father.” Yes, he calls me father, what’s wrong with that?

I will look at him with something approaching sympathy on my face. This will confuse him as it is a look usually reserved for my dogs on those days we must visit the vet. Now he’s wondering if he’s dying. This irks me as obviously that would be a conversation his hypothetical mother would conduct.

“What age are you, Son?”

“I am thirteen, Father.” Notice he answers in full sentences. My hypothetical son is well raised.

“And what height are you?” I watch him do some mental calculations. He is of course metric while I retain my quaint reliance on imperial. It’s eccentric and endearing. I said it is eccentric and endearing.

“I am six-foot one, Father.” He’s a fucking monster.

“Yes, you do appear to be ridiculously tall which is why we must have this conversation.” He nods as he adopts the pose of attentive and dutiful son. “What know you of women, Son?” Ha, that rattles him. He was not ready for that line of attack. Damn, I must remember this isn’t an attack. It’s an imparting values and knowledge conversation. “It’s ok, Son, I have no doubt you are conversant with the biological facts and have even begun some practical forays into that world. This more concerns your awareness of yourself.”

My hypothetical son steels himself, his openness to my words writ large on his honest face. My pride in my hypothetical Aragorn is boundless. Well that’s what I wanted to call him but his hypothetical mother shut that shit down early doors. I considered Frederick as an alternative, but I did not want a hypothetical son of mine called, Fred.

“Tell me, Son, are you aware that women are scared of men?”

“What?”

I also considered Alexander, but only in Star Trek is that name not reduced to the sobriquet, Alex. I do not like Alex.

“Yes, most women, in almost every situation are just a little sacred and sometimes a lot scared of men.”

“Why?”

I considered Edward too, but they tend towards unhappy kings. Fine name though it is. I eventually settled on Richard. It’s a fine name, Richard. And, the hypothetical mother of my hypothetical son did agree that in consideration of the proffered compromise, that she would stab anyone who dared shorten, Richard. The hypothetical mother of my hypothetical son is hard-core.

“Experience.”

Though I will let you all into a little secret, as a hypothetical father I often imagine Richard as Aragorn. I suspect that as a hypothetical father I look for vicarious glory through my hypothetical son.

“I don’t understand, Father.”

Oh, how I hate this conversation.

“Without wishing to be indelicate, I assume you have noticed the girls your age experiencing some profound physical changes in the last year or so.” He has the good grace to blush rather than demur. “Yes. And as you have noticed, so too has every man they have contact with. And this is where it gets unpleasant, Son. Many of those men will have taken the liberty to point out those changes, in lurid detail, to those girls. Men of all ages, men known to them and unknown to them, of all stations. And repeatedly.”

I watch his face, a mixture of shock, disgust and a soupcon of recognition. I must wonder what level of guilt he may share with these men of low morals. I will not ask, this is for the conscious his hypothetical mother and I have instilled in him. I must hope our hypothetical efforts are not found wanting. Who’d be a parent, even a hypothetical one?

“I ask you to further consider this; if men feel entitled to comment on the bodies of children, what leap is there to assuming a right of access to those bodies?” I watch him put his privately educated mind to work on this simple but monstrous proposition. Yes, my hypothetical son is privately educated. Come at me.

I watch horror dawn on my hypothetical son’s face. “Do all girls and women experience this?”

“It’s very ubiquity can make it seem invisible.”

“What can I do?”

My hypothetical son is an idealist. Well he’s thirteen, so I have high hopes he will grow out of it, but for now I must endure his doe-eyed belief in hope. But I tire of this conversation. I’ve alerted him to the reality he need not endure. My job is done.

“I don’t know what you can do, Son, but I will leave you with a scenario to ponder. It is dark, you are walking down a street, you notice a woman is walking several yards ahead of you. What do you?”

I move to return to my reading. We are in my study after all.

“I offer her my protection of course.”

I feel vomit in my throat. My hypothetical son is a gobshite. “Why is heaven’s name would you do that?” Oh no, there’s earnestness on his big dumb face. I’m really glad now his hypothetical mother prevented me from naming him, Aragorn. “What would possess you to approach a strange woman on a dark street and presume to speak with her? Have you not heard a single thing I’ve said?”

“But she thinks I might hurt her, I have to let her know I would rather die than hurt her. Not all men are predators.” I wonder if my hypothetical son’s hypothetical mother can be blamed for this. I quickly review my parenting over the previous thirteen years. I see him for breakfast every morning, I allow him visit my study every night before his bedtime and listen to him describe his day. He goes to a private school, paid for by his hypocritical mother, I even wear one of those silly hats at his birthday parties. No, I’ve been the perfect hypothetical dad. I even used the word ‘dad’ in my review.

But then my attitude softens. It is neither unnatural nor uncommon for little boys to want to be thought well of. That egocentric hypersensitivity is something boys do grow out of. I have no doubt that by his next birthday, and the trial of those god-awful hats, he will have realised how indescribably ignorant it is to think one’s need for approval trumps a woman’s hard earned right to fear a strange man on a dark street.

I send my hypothetical son from my study with what I think is an appropriately affectionate pat on the shoulder. I will have to write a report on the meeting for his hypothetical mother. She can be quite pedantic about my contributions to her task of raising a hypothetical son. At least now she will know that Richard (still possibly Aragorn) requires a crash course on not thinking his pathetic need for approval is of equal importance to a woman fearing an attack. I don’t know how she will do that but as I’ve already lost interest in this hypothetical son, it’s no longer my problem.

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