datbeardyman

Less about the world, more about me.

Month: October 2012

Things I learned today

Well I learned something new today, I learned that it is important to tell one’s doctor that one has had an abortion. Just in case. Wow! I’m trying to imagine being in a situation where I might have to tell a virtual stranger something intimate about my life, knowing there is a risk that person will condemn my actions. To be honest, I’m struggling a bit. I just can’t imagine being so vulnerable, that I might have to endure the prejudices of someone I rely on for medical care.

Being a bit of an arrogant prick probably doesn’t help me imagine that. Also, I think that being a 38 year old single man, if I hadn’t got up to some naughtiness and suffered some bleakness, my doctor would probably be concerned that I was a shut-in. I also have a job, medical insurance and a car, so if my doctor did presume to raise an eyebrow out of turn, he would immediately become my former doctor.

And today I realise how thoroughly grateful I should be, to have that level of freedom and choice. I am grateful, that through nothing but good fortune, I am not reliant on the good opinion of a medical professional. And today I am for the first time aware, that many vulnerable women, my fellow citizens, do not share that freedom.

A woman who experiences a crisis pregnancy, has to plot a very careful and circumscribed path to a resolution. A path strewn with vicious ideologues, intent on imposing their theology on all and sundry. And now I know, that advice I would have assumed to be helpful, might now be considered less than ideal. Thankfully I have never had to advise a distraught women on her options regarding a crisis pregnancy, but after today, my first question would be, do you trust your GP?

In this climate of virulent condemnation, created by a cabal of toxically self-satisfied anti-choice activists, vulnerable women are reduced to subterfuge, to nods and winks with those who are trying to support them and they are confined, in too many cases, to silence. Today we are reminded that this is no longer a satisfactory route for women who experience crisis pregnancies. Today we learned that discretion is no longer an option. Today we learned that if the men who run this country are too cowed or too in awe of their own ideas, to provide abortion services in this State, then they should at least find the grace and backbones to support women accessing services abroad and also protect them from any consequent medical unprofessionalism.

And today I am reminded to be grateful that organisations like the Irish Family Planning Association exist. Try to imagine what it would be like for women in this country without the IFPA. Now imagine the glee being felt by some who are imagining that. Then imagine that lot being in charge of your womb.

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Trojan Horses

I like to think of myself as principled. I like to think that principles are not arbitrary, that they have some basic logic to them. Others may say a moral basis, but as an atheist, I prefer logic. My principles say that in a crowded world, where I lack the skills to look after myself from birth, to the gentle death, in a clean bed, that I am hoping for, I must rely on the help of others. I can attempt to take that help, pay for that help, or look for mutual cooperation. I live in a country where we attempt a mixture of pay and cooperation. It’s far from perfect, but malnutrition, homelessness and violent crime are now incredibly rare here. So rare that every murder still merits headlines. Not every country is that fortunate.

I’ve never encountered a set of principles, which I could consider to be a logical alternative to our present mishmash of capitalism and socialism. Even the magical thinking of nationalism and religiosity would be difficult to replace or wholly dispense with (at the moment at least). We couch this strange mixture of compromise and silliness in a system called democracy and hope that its inherent contradictions will work themselves out.

How does majority rule, stop itself from becoming a dictatorship of the majority? How far is it right to expect an individual to go, in compromising their principles, in order to retain their access to the community’s resources? Fortunately I am not a philosopher, a leader or a pregnant woman, so I do not have to plot a practicable path through that mire. The laws that offend me, but are imposed on me by the majority, are easily circumvented by me. Thus I am really just an armchair rebel. Worse comes to worse, I can always head off to Switzerland.

I am never going to be told, that what is inside my body is the business of strangers. The business of the majority. And as someone who has been irresponsible, has overindulged, has dared, I think myself more than fortunate that I am not a woman. A woman who might face being told that what is inside my body is someone else’s business. Oh the heady joy of being born a man. Oh the strangeness of having my insides protected by my gender.

In this jurisdiction, we are not even sure what the majority thinks about imposing their views on another person’s insides. We don’t even know for sure what the legal situation is concerning a woman’s insides. We’ve had referendums with ambiguous wording and we have a spineless, cowardly, male dominated legislature, which wishes to please everyone, because a legislature, is where principle goes to die, to be replaced by populism and very fine pensions.

What we do know for sure, is that many of us have decided that there are good reasons to impose another person’s principles on what happens to the insides of a woman, and then there are perhaps less good reasons to impose one’s views on a woman’s insides.

We see something similar in the US. Their Supreme Court ruled that woman’s insides are always her business and never anyone else’s business. But now there are ‘principled‘ men, powerful men, who think that there are good reasons to, in many cases, interfere with a woman’s body, in the interests of principle.

The irony of course, is that in this jurisdiction, some of us have conceded that sometimes it is ok to interfere with a woman’s body, in the hope that if the principle of sometimes not interfering with a woman’s body is conceded, then one day this will lead to a woman always being left alone by principled men. While in the US, the principle of sometimes being allowed interfere with a woman is being pushed, in the hope that one day, this will lead to a woman’s body never being left alone by men of principle.

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Hurling

An article I wrote about Hurling, which the good people over at balls.ie were good enough to publish.

One of my first sporting memories is tears. I cried like a baby in 1982. I was eight years old and I knew two things for certain; Kerry did not lose and the five-in-a-row was our destiny. Eight years old and I was already marked as one of those people who is emotionally involved with the actions of men in shorts, playing with balls. It is a sad life, caring so much about events over which one has no control. We can shout and roar, and wear our lucky underwear, but which way the ball flies, remains something over which we really have no control.

And when it comes to following a GAA side, we don’t even get a choice of which side to support. Worse, we don’t always even get to decide which sport. I’m from Lixnaw, County Kerry. My first love is hurling. My teams are Lixnaw and Kerry. There are less than ten senior hurling sides in Kerry and yet, in over a century, Lixnaw has won only seven County Championships. Kerry itself, hasn’t won the All Ireland in hurling, since 1891. And don’t think for a second we still don’t talk about that.

We don’t even have a football side in Lixnaw. We send our footballers to Finuge. And when I say our footballers, I mean our hurlers who like to play soccer, football and any sport that’s going i.e. normal young fellas. The difference of course, is that some of our hurlers, who go to play with Finuge, come back with All Ireland Medals. The be all and end all, of GAA competition, a Senior All Ireland Medal. We have gone so far as to give the Kerry footballers a manager, Eamon FitzMaurice. A hurler from Lixnaw.

The strange thing now, is that I support Lixnaw, Kerry and hurling. And as I get older, it is hurling, more than Kerry and Lixnaw that holds my loyalty. When the draw for the Munster Championship is held, my attention is to the hurling side. Before the boom ended, I would join my Old Man and his posse, in Munster wide journeys, the Gaelic Grounds, Semple and Páirc Uí Chaoimh were regularly visited. Circuitous, traffic avoiding routes chosen, sandwiches eaten and the last minute remembered pens, for the keeping track of who scored what, for the post-mortems.

Without computer graphic, without computational egg-head, the game and it’s statistics were parsed in ways I have yet to see matched on any TV. Just on the strength of ticks against names and a few centuries of experienced witness. It was analysis I could never hope to emulate. I was content to sit and listen, keeping my usually loose lips shut and my ears open.

And I learned that these neutrals, loved hurling above all else. No team, no player, no era, mattered more, than the hurling itself, than its long term future. It took me a while to realise that. I have invested a great deal of my affection for hurling in Kilkenny. I am near blinded by their greatness. I have even made the pilgrimage to Nowlan Park to watch them rehearse their battle plans. I count it a great privilege to live in this era, this Kilkenny Age.

It is an enthusiasm not shared by my Father and his friends. In fact, their joy in hurling is dimmed. Where I love Kilkenny’s dominance, they merely respect their prowess. For in their hearts they nurse a fear. A fear that the narrow base upon which hurling rests, will be further eroded by this Kilkenny tide.

I’m not sure I share their worry, but then I am not old enough to remember a time when the Kerry hurlers could beat Galway. Could compete in Munster without humiliation. I’m not old enough to remember someone, who’s father won that one Hurling All-Ireland over a century ago. Now Kerry, nor its clubs, play in any senior competitions in Munster, while our footballers bring back an All-Ireland every three years or so.

Does the brilliance of Kilkenny risk putting hurling in the shade? Is the culture of hurling, too shallow, to long endure a single dominant force? I don’t know. Dublin and Clare have come to the fore at underage level in the recent past. Galway and Tipperary have interrupted Kilkenny’s winning streak. And a county like Cork, does not take many years to build an All-Ireland winning side, even if from scratch.

I cannot however, dismiss concerns about hurling’s long-term future as paranoia. Hurling is just too damned important and peculiarly Irish, not to warrant constant concern and nurturing. But I’m still going to shout for Kilkenny next year and in twenty years from now, I hope to the gods, that I get to bore the arse off of some young fella, about the greatest team that ever played, the greatest game that ever was.

 

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Marriage Equality (Letter 3)

As appeared in Letters – The Kerryman –  3 October 2012 edition

I note that some of the commentators who have expressed their opposition to legalising gay marriage base their argument for continuing to discriminate against gay people on a supposed link between procreation and marriage. How very Henry VIII of them.

Procreation has never required marriage. When we lived in the trees and even in the caves, babies were being born, but marriages, Church or Civil, were not taking place. Indeed I hear tell that there are babies born, even today, without there being a marriage.

Marriage involves and encompasses issues to do with private-property, succession rights, tax incentives, joint-custodies, infidelities, powers of attorney, financial dependency, people choosing to marry and not have children, people choosing to marry and not being able to have children, funeral arrangements, mortgages and pensions.

Marriage is about society recognising the status of certain relationships. Marriage is about the State giving a legal endorsement to certain relationships. Marriage can also be about romantic love and it can be about providing a stable and loving environment for raising children.

We tried linking marriage to procreation and that got us into a situation where we locked women up and sold their babies. Fortunately we have, for the most part, left that kind of religious zealotry and ignorance behind. Today children can experience different kinds of family model. One being, a family with same-sex parents. Access to marriage in that instance, allows these families to enjoy the full protection and rights afforded to other families.

I doubt Mister Whelan wishes to restrict marriage to fertile couples who’ve promised to procreate, so I can’t understand why he is content to see gay people continue as second class citizens.

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