Less about the world, more about me.

Month: March 2014

Oh woe to woo

If the anti-fluoride people had come to me and argued that forced mass medication is a heinous imposition, I would have signed up immediately. Especially if they had used words like ‘heinous’ and ‘imposition.’ If they’d then gone on to use the word ‘Orwellian’ I’d now be flogging a calendar featuring my big bare belly and a very small fig leaf. Yes, fluoride made my willy tiny.

I’m big on saying no to being told what to do by those who have the power to tell me what to do. It’s rational to be suspicious of power. Look at what the powerful do with power, the bad bastards that they are. Of course if I’m being really reasonable I’d have to admit that I don’t like people with power because of my conflictual relationship with my father. But as I won’t accept anyone as having the power to deny me the right to base my entire belief structure on unresolved oedipal issues, I shall continue as is.

Perhaps that’s why I think that the day after the scientists prove the existence of a god, they should begin working on a way to kill it. I will still be an atheist the day after the scientists prove the existence of a god. Facts should not get in the way of a dearly held prejudice. The nation-state would fall with such clarity.

So I am, possibly, pathological in my dislike of authority. It led me to support, in principle, the referendums on Dáil Committees and judicial pay, but to vote against them because the wording was a bit too vague in the whole curtailing the power of mediocre teachers department. It’s why I’m in Fine Gael. I don’t particularly like the party, but they annoy me less than the others and no fucking way I’m not having at least a minor say in the laws that oppress, I mean, affect me.

I really should be on the side of the anti-fluoride people. No father I will not eat my greens. Yes father I accept that they may indeed be good for me, that they are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre. And that they form the basis of any good diet. But father I simply will not be told. No father I will not go to my room, I am 39.

I’m not on the side of the anti-fluoride people simply because the enemy of atheism and secularism is not supernaturalism (well not today at least). The real enemy is woo. Not because woo is wrong. I’m a capitalist for Gandalf’s sake, I believe in all kinds of wrong stuff. If woo were simply and merely wrong, then I could politely file wooists under people who are weird but harmless, like pagans, Garth Brooks’ fans and people who don’t like Lord of the Rings.

The anti-fluoride woo is dangerous. Not dangerous in the sense that if they convince our mediocre teachers to stop adding fluoride to our water, people might die. Poorer children may suffer a deterioration in dental heath, but poor people don’t tend to matter to wooists. Wooism is very much a middle-class disease.

The danger is that reason and science will have been discounted in a major public policy decision. Nonsense populism will have won the day. Even if our mediocre teachers then decided to add fluoride to milk and salt like our European neighbours, the anti-fluoride crowd will, with inflated egos and undeserved credibility, begin looking for the next idiocy to champion.

I don’t want to suggest that the anti-fluoride brigade are as woo wrong as the homeopaths, the chemtrail weirdos, the disgraced anti-vaxers, angel healers, the Elvis is still alive, kidnapped by an alien, tin-foil hat wearing loons that inhabit the Conspiracy Theory hell-pits of the internet. I really don’t want to imply that at all. But according to Neuro-linguistic programming, just putting them all in the same paragraph is sufficient to suggest that they are all in fact, up their own fundaments, speaking through their fundaments and/or are a bunch of fundaments.

I’m not on the side of the anti-fluoride people because they represent a regression, an evolutionary cul-de-sac, an idiocracy that threatens lives. This country already has a positive surfeit of native stupidity to contend with. We use Sellotape to mis-teach teenagers about sex and I can’t be the President because I’m an atheist. That’s the only reason under the sun, that I can’t be President. Not a single thing else would stand in my way. And our bankruptcy system can trap individuals for up to eight years. Yes, I said eight years. Yeah my party brought that in. Eight fucking years. Mediocre teachers every one of them.

Then there’s our deference to authority and our lack of respect for authority. Often a dichotomy contained in the same person. What’s that about? I won’t compare the wooists to the Barbarians at Rome’s gates or the Ottomans standing before at Venice. Those would be overly dramatic references. More showing off really and possibly saying more about me than the wooists. (The allusion I’m aiming for here is floodgates. I think it works. Comments on a postcard please…)

If we allow the wooists a victory, even an empty and relatively unimportant one as this, then we may as well begin handing out the tinfoil hats now, for the idiocracy will be in the ascendancy. (That’s an astrology allusion by the way. You’re welcome) Our politicians will have surrendered to a populism so dumb and scary that a Conspiracy Theorist would think that our mediocre teachers are simply following the mob where ever it may take them, even if it’s down the rabbit hole, or up a conspiracy theorist’s fundament just to stay in power. Not realising that mediocre teachers are just that dumb.

(Just a few links to the fight against woo)

OneTwoThreeFourFiveSixSevenEightNineTen and Eleven


A multiplicity of Irish Identities

“St Patrick’s Day is a universal celebration of Irishness and shallowness. With a national identity translated universally, we are left with little meaning except marketing. Irishness is now a connotation abroad, hollowed of content at home.”
 Gerard Howlin (The Irish Examiner)

I read this article recently. It’s a strange one as I am left wondering if I agree with the overall thesis or profoundly disagree with it. In my first read all I could discern was that old and debased saw, ‘in the good old days.’ Yes, they were the ‘good old days’ but only for a very small cohort of the population and even then they still had terrible teeth. In the ‘good old days’ Irish national identity, which was code for cowed catholic, was the stick used to beat all those who erred from the proscribed path. The mentally ill, the women who dared get pregnant in non church approved ways, actually any woman with a brain was scary, gays, lesbians, the poor, children and those perverse enough to play garrison games were all victims of this ‘good old days‘ identity.

I hold these ‘good old days’ in as much contempt as I do those who dare express any misty eyed sentiment for those foul, violent and oppressive days. On the other hand, the days when Irish identity was that bastard amalgam of 19th century nationalism and revanchist catholicism were easy on those who did not wish to question who and what they were. One could go through an entire lifetime, sated with the certainty that Irishness was this thing and not any other thing. That is easy, that is safe. That created the monoculture, the economic stagnation and political waywardness that led to a country with two dominant parties who don’t have as much as the width of a cigarette paper between them on any issue. Other than mutual acrimony of course. (And I say that as a member of one of those parties.)

“This is a country with an identity crisis so acute we are largely unaware of it. Life goes on, but out national conversation has essentially stopped and stultified.” Gerard Howlin (The Irish Examiner)

Today we don’t have an Irish culture, an Irish identity. We have a plurality of Irish cultures and Irish identities. We have about 4.5 million identities in this jurisdiction. About another 1.8 very different different identities in Northern Ireland and Gandalf knows how many other different identities across the Globe. I can’t think of anything healthier.

There are those of course who are uncomfortable with this democracy and plurality of identities and cultures. How can there be millions of Irish cultures and also just one? How can there be mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and in-laws, but only one family?
I am atheist, thus barred from certain Public Offices, I can’t speak Irish and have no interest in doing so, I hold our Constitution in contempt, I support marriage equality, full reproductive rights for women, the decriminalisation of drugs, I wish people would be a little bit more German when it comes to parking their cars, I hold a British Passport, have a proud English woman as a mother and I think the ’16 Rising was a mistake. I am a Kerry man first, a European second and yet I remain an Irish man. There are those who think my identity disqualifies me from any claim to Irishness. To them I say, go fuck yourselves. Croziers, guns, nor even the universities get to tell me who or what I am.

If a person cannot comfortably hold many identities at once nor comfortably accommodate the plurality of identities in others, then I fear they have that limited intellect most beloved of the fascists. One can simultaneously cringe at the shamrock nonsense going on over at The White House on Paddy’s Day and still accept the economic benefit of such fawning. And one must make room for those who are genuinely touched by our Taoiseach being given access to the most powerful man on earth, so he can celebrate Irishness (or a version there of at least). There are those who still find a part of their identity in St Patrick’s Day celebrations. Who am I to criticise where they find their Irishness?

“The independent Irish state was itself the rump expression of the rump population, remaining un-emigrated in the southern part of the island” Gerard Howlin (The Irish Examiner)

This however, is a wonderful sentence. All else can be dismissed as the unfortunate sentimentality of atavist nationalism, but this is purest accuracy in a single sentence. This should be the point entire of the column.

Has there been an impact on our collective identity by being the ‘left-behind?’ Was that the basis of our earlier cruelty to the most vulnerable among us? Did we lose imagination, radicalism, vision, confidence, empathy and sympathy because the best of us left?

I’m in a bind here, because I am the product of emigration. My dad left Kerry back in the 60s. I wouldn’t exist if he hadn’t been forced to leave. I have had no negative experiences of emigration. I am comfortable with my many and varied identities. But this little country is smaller than it should be or could be. The collective identity that is 4.5 million identities, the ‘soul’ of our nation, to use the sentimental term, cannot but be marred by such stunting. That stifling, if it exists, is worth exploring.

Allergic to my Arwen?

Today my doctor told me I may be allergic to Arwen. Imagine that, allergic to my Arwen. How did this happen you may ask? Arwen has been with me since August 14, 2010. Why now? How now? Apparently there is a price to be paid for eating as if there is no price to be paid. I have managed to compromise my own immune-system by being a greedy little bollix. As I count down the months and weeks to my fortieth birthday, it appears this year will be the year I finally have to take my health more seriously than I would an occasional hobby.

I am overweight, I now have chronic rhinitis, I have a few tiny sores on my legs, which refuse to heal, reflux and acidic indigestion and I feel lethargic a lot of the time. And eight hours are not enough when until recently, seven hours sleep was plenty. Me and Arwen 10-03-14

If tests should confirm that Arwen is the cause of my eye watering, neck stiffening, shoulder tensing and facing aching fatigue then that’s tough for me, because she sleeps on my bed and has done so since she moved in, so I’m just going to have to adjust. Take my meds and thank Gandalf I can afford them.

The annoying thing was that within minutes of getting home I had thrown my entire chocolate biscuit stash in the fire (burning calories the easy way. Anyone? Anyone? Well Paula laughed) and was looking up fad diets. Oh how I love fad diets, anything that involves me not having to think for myself everyday, make decisions every day, take responsibility for my own actions, everyday. Oh please can I have someone take me by the hand and do the grown up stuff for me.

Gallingly, this need for reasonable dieting coincides with finally having mastered a few dishes I’d happily (yet nervously) serve my foodie friends. Granted one of those is steak, but oh my Odin, people who like food have no patience for less than perfect steak. It also coincides with having belatedly discovered some very good food in Tralee. And it is happening in a year where I intended eating my own weight in French food as hey, it’s my birthday.

Most importantly, it is a reminder that I am in fact now at an age where I can no longer merely complain about my weight, then go for a second and a third helping. I am now seriously courting danger. That terrifies me, but like Global Warning, my human brain cannot easily compute what may happen tomorrow, when a feta-cheese risotto is staring me in the face today.

Yet it is not a terror of death, but a terror of a slow decline given extra pace. I do not wish to spend the next 20 years back and forth to the doctor, I want to spend the next 40 years living. I do not want to spend the next 20 years with a chronic illness, obesity.

I threw my chocolate biscuits in the fire. I have paracetamol ready if I get sugar withdrawal. I am going grocery shopping tomorrow. I am trying to work out what vegetables I’ll eat, when not smothered in garlic butter. I am trying to find some vegetarian options that don’t appall me. I am trying to hold onto the fear just long enough to create a new lifestyle.

And I am hoping my blood-tests show I’m allergic to sugar rather than Arwen. Wouldn’t that be serendipity?


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