datbeardyman

Less about the world, more about me.

Month: July 2016

Weekly Links #1

Repeal mural selfie

One of my ambitions for this reconditioned blog is to give a weekly summary of what I’ve been reading. It will be mostly articles, columns and blog posts that I’ve stumbled upon in the Twitterverse, but I may occasionally mention a book.

Every link in this post will be to pieces I wholly or mostly agree with. I do inhabit a bit of an ideological bubble. I’m going to have to try reading things I don’t agree with more often. Even if it’s just to confirm why I disagree with something.

If this week has any themes, it’s the issues of abortion in Ireland and the dystopia being heralded by Brexit and the rise of Trump. But there’s science and writing too.

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Dublin doctor has spoken of the trauma of returning the foetal remains of her baby from England after Ireland’s near total ban on abortions forced her to travel to Liverpool to terminate her pregnancy.”  ‘My baby in a box’: Irish GP tells of trauma of travelling to UK for abortion

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“They also lifted a photograph of Tara and photoshopped her t-shirt to read “ABORTED My Only Child.” The anti-choice argument is lost. Hence the dirty tricks

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“We were told that every woman who had an abortion was racked with remorse for the rest of their lives. We were told lies. And we believed them.” I knew I would be vilified if I started to talk about other women in crisis pregnancies

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“The mural is a loud, proud statement of support for repealing the 8th amendment, an amendment passed in 1983 following a referendum on abortion rights, that equates the right to life of the mother with that of the unborn” #repealthe8th – who owns public space?

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“It seems we’re entering another of those stupid seasons humans impose on themselves at fairly regular intervals.” History tells us what may happen next with Brexit & Trump

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“An idea can start far outside the political mainstream – flat taxes, abolish the IRS, more guns in schools, building a beautiful wall and making Mexico pay – but once it has been stated and argued for, framed and restated, it becomes thinkable.” Brexit Blues

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“Student Leave voters report how, in light of recent events, they would change their vote if they could.” Brexit: For every one student who voted Leave, six voted Remain, new analysis finds

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“The distributors of the anti-vaccination film Vaxxed have sent a cease-and-desist letter to an Irish advocate for autistic people who’s been speaking out against the movie.” Distributors of Anti-Vax Film Are Trying to Keep an Autistic Rights Advocate From Criticizing It

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“Many thousands of years ago, on a chilly African night, a group of people gather around a fire in a cave. Using the flames, they cook their food, fashion new weapons, and warm themselves. But where there’s fire, there’s also smoke, and the smoke is giving the huddled humans a wretched cough. And in their inflamed airways, a microbe that normally lives in the soil is taking hold, changing, evolving into something new.” Was Tuberculosis Born Out of Fire?

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“If a boy is to become a man among the Etoro people of New Guinea, he must ingest the semen of an elder member of the tribe, via ritualised fellatio. The same belief is held by the nearby Kaluli. But in their case, the ceremonies require the semen to be delivered via the initiate’s anus, not his mouth. The Etoro despise the Kaluli’s practice, finding it disgusting and unnatural.” Spot the WEIRDo

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“It struck me then how long it has been since I heard a child talk about Harry Potter. Over the last ten years or so, nearly all the conversations I’ve had on the subject have been with adults – many of them fans, many of them passionate.” Harry Potter and the Adult Appropriation

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“The way I see it, all good writers have the ability to share feelings and experiences with others through imagining what it would be like to be somebody else.” Storytelling: An Exercise In Empathy

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EURO 2016

Euro2016

Euro 2016 has ended and now I have to return to real life. 51 games over four weeks is an immersive experience. It’ll take a while to adjust to reality. That adjustment however might be aided by some reflection.

Overall I found the tournament disappointing. It lacked greatness. It may be churlish to expect greatness at every tournament, but when a tournament is defined by the success of underdogs and dark horses then it is obvious no one team moved football to a higher level.

I had pinned my hopes on Spain and, to a lesser extent, Germany to define European football for the next four years. Both failed. It appears the era of Spain is over and the era of Germany is gone at the first hurdle.

But tournament football can be enjoyed on more than one level. There may not have been greatness, but there was drama. Lots and lots of drama. The success of Wales, Northern Ireland and Iceland will live long in the memory. And in an extraordinary final, someone as unlikeable as Ronaldo won many a begrudging heart by simply not being able to play.

The two teams I’m supposed to support did exactly what was expected of them. Ireland had its moment in the sun by beating a weakened Italy before being dismantled by the first quality team they played. And England lived down to expectations by losing comprehensively to Iceland.

Italy were interesting. I’ve never been a fan of them, as they are at heart a defensive side, but they manage to be negative and cynical with a panache unmatched by any other nation. They earned the right to beat Spain and I would not have been too peeved if they’d won the tournament. That Germany beat them had me convinced that perhaps Germany might be all that they should be. But they were beaten by a French side spectacularly short of the sum of its parts.

I had invested some hope in Belgium but they were woefully below what they should be. And my final hope was Croatia, but like every other team in the tournament, they could not see off Portugal.

Call me a snob but I can’t get behind the expanded format. Yes, it allowed for some novel participants, but tournament football is by its very nature, elitist. It isn’t about mere participation. It is the showpiece of European football and should be about the best of the best, it should be about showing football in its loftiest iteration.

I am probably still getting over the demise of Spain.

I support Liverpool. Even when they are shit, I support them. That’s loyalty. I am not loyal to an international side. I care little about Ireland and England, except perhaps for the pantomime disconnect between England’s perception of itself and the reality of its ability. For the last decade, Spain has been the one international side to take my breath away. I was prepared for Germany to take over that mantle but they are so not worthy.

Perhaps my disappointment is less about Spain and more about a lack of inspiration. Again, there are different levels. Leicester winning the Premiership is inspiring. Portugal, sans Ronaldo, winning Euro 2016 is inspiring. But I want great artistry. I want genius. I want my mouth to hang open, my heart to beat faster and to be transported. I wanted a Xavi, or an Alonso. I want a conductor. This tournament lacked players who could put their foot on the ball, look up, and everyone would immediately know that person was in charge.

Which proves that football, enjoyment and inspiration are all subjective. I know people who find Spain to be sterile, boring and off-putting.

I’m not too downhearted though. These things go in cycles. Strong defences tend to inspire even greater creativity. In four years’ time at least one of Germany, France, Spain or perhaps even Belgium, will have evolved ways to counter this new emphasis on eleven men behind the ball.

Despite my moaning, I can’t wait until the next tournament.

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A Few Thoughts on Brexit

brexit picture

I’ve been trying to understand the decision of the UK electorate to leave the EU. I’m tempted to dismiss those 17 million people as stupid, mad and racist, but while I think they are, I know that there’s more to it than that.

I’m a Europhile. There was a time I’d imagined the EU expanding to include all of continental Europe, its islands, the Middle East and North Africa. The logic of union always seemed obvious to me. Surely in late 20th and early 21st century Europe, nationalism would be seen for what it is, ancestor worship mixed with racism.

I was wrong. Nationalism and racism remain the norm. But I can’t blame Brexit on this ideology alone. I wish I could. We must look at another ideology. Another destructive belief system, neoliberalism. A system so successful few even realise it exists, nor its impact on their lives.

Neoliberalism is an ideology of unrestrained capitalism, of a reduced State and the belief that the creation of wealth by a few, is enough in and of itself, to improve everyone’s lot. It hasn’t worked. There has certainly been more wealth created, but whole swathes of the US and the UK have become economic wastelands. But its influence can be seen in the move right by social democratic Europe.

I offer this criticism of neoliberalism not as a lifelong social democrat. Far from it. For most of my adult life I was a believer in neoliberalism. I even flirted with libertarianism and knocked on doors for candidates hoping to reduce the size of the Irish state.

Though I am working class, I’ve not been a victim of globalisation. I’ve never experienced poverty. I’m old enough to have received a free education, I’ve a good pension waiting for me, I’m protected by a strong labour Union and an ironclad contract of employment, I can afford private health insurance and my mortgage is manageable. I do not know desperation. I do not need someone to blame or hate or fear.

So I must admit I didn’t really engage with the Brexit debate. I’d assumed the Brexiters would fail. It hadn’t occurred to me that politicians in the UK would, like here, blame all domestic ills on the EU. Nor had it occurred to me that there were many in the UK, desperate enough to believe these lies.

The galling thing is that the diminution of borders and national sovereignty has been to the benefit of neoliberalism, which sees the world as a market and communities as customers. Yet this deepening Union has also made war impossible to imagine.

But because a European war is unimaginable a united Europe has lost its lustre. We could address this by teaching our children to form an emotional bond with the EU, much as we instil nationalism in them. The very idea of it makes me shudder. Loyalty is a dangerous animal. What I’d prefer is for the EU to earn only the respect of its citizens.

Respect isn’t a thing of flags or curriculums. It is the decades long, boring work of ensuring that every citizen enjoys a standard of living that makes desperation an unfamiliar paragraph in an unread history book. The EU remains one of the most fabulously wealthy entities that has ever existed. This should be reflected in the lot of those with the least. At present it isn’t.

The EU has ended war in Europe, to survive it now has to end desperation. And I have to stop dismissing all those Brexiters as stupid, mad and racist.

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Women Deserve Better

Kerryman 06-07-16

As appeared in Letters – The Kerryman – 6 July, 2016 edition

There are many things we prefer to keep private. Needing an abortion is certainly one of those things. This right to privacy was sacrificed by Amanda Mellet when she complained to the UN about her treatment by this country.

Ms Mellet was informed that her baby would not survive outside her womb. The medical team hinted that ‘travelling’ might be an option worth exploring. She decided that an abortion was in her best interests, forcing her and her husband to scrape together enough money to go to the UK. It was barely enough. They could stay in the UK scarcely a day, and she returned home, after the abortion, still dizzy and bleeding. Three weeks later, a courier arrived to her door with the ashes of the foetus.

The UN Human Rights Committee found her experience to be cruel, inhumane, degrading. It further found that she had suffered discrimination and that her right to privacy was violated.

For the 80% of the population, who’ve indicated a willingness to remove the 8th Amendment from our Constitution, this description of Ms Mellet’s experience does not require any further explanation. Unfortunately, our Fine Gael government and its Fianna Fáil supporters seem intent on catering only to those 20% who are content to see women return to Ireland, bleeding and traumatised. Content that Irish women, should only have abortions, if they can afford to go to the UK.

It is well past time for this government to allow the people of Ireland to decide what’s best for this country, rather than what’s easiest for spineless politicians to get away with. It is well past time for women to have to endure the cruelty of the 8th Amendment. Women deserve better than being shuffled off to the UK for treatment they should receive at home.

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Anxious About Writing

Wordpress Pic Head

I have been experiencing a great deal of anxiety these last few months. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say that in common with most people, a sudden and large injection of cash would make things a lot easier. What it feels like, is a tension in my belly. And when it gets really bad, that tension travels to my chest. I have learned over the years that when I feel something in my chest, things have gone a bit too far.

If I was really struggling, if I couldn’t pay my mortgage or for food, then I would embrace that tightness in my chest as entirely natural. How else should one feel such fear? But I’m not in that situation. What I have been thinking is irrational and even obsessional. What I have been feeling is the result of that irrationality.

The most galling aspect of this bout of unhealthy thinking is its impact on my writing. I had big ambitions this year, but it is July and I haven’t written a thing. And that has added to my anxiety. I am neither a prolific nor a successful writer but I have arranged a great deal of my life to enable me to be a writer. If I am not writing, then who the Mordor am I?

It’s not a simple case of not being able to write because I’m anxious about money, it’s more that when I’m day-dreaming or trying to imagine how a story should go, I keep thinking about winning the lottery. Or when I manage to get past that silliness, I get distracted by thoughts of commercial success.

How irrational has my money obsession been? In desperation to get my head straight, I sought professional help. Yep, I am in the privileged positon of being able to afford to see a therapist about my anxiety. There’s enough irony in that for a novel. But it did emphasise to me that my anxiety was irrational.

A couple of DMs and a few phone calls later, I had an appointment with a therapist. I used the term ‘privileged’ earlier. When it comes to mental health it really does all come down to privilege. It shouldn’t, but it does. Think on it, wannabe writer, worried about money, can pay to see a therapist within a few days of deciding a therapist is necessary. I don’t mean to downplay the effect anxiety is having on me, nor do I feel any guilt that I can get the help I want and need, but what if my money concerns weren’t irrational?

I’ve had one session and I may have more, because I can afford it. I already feel less tension in my chest and learned a great deal about how writing forms an important part of my identity. Hopefully that means I can salvage some part of this year’s ambitions. More importantly, I might rediscover the reason why I write in the first place, the enjoyment of telling stories. And being aware that it is an unearned privilege.

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