Less about the world, more about me.

Month: August 2016

Weekly Links #5


Another week of stuff I’ve been reading. If there’s a theme it’s the burkini. It has sparked a debate which has several sides and that is at once nonsensical and deeply important. I’ve been trying to write something about it but it is proving difficult as it is so multifaceted. Below is a sample of some of the articles that are informing my thoughts on the subject.

There is an interesting article about how many words we know. This is a link to the test mentioned in that article. I got 86%. Do please tell me if you do less well. I don’t want to know if you did better.

There are also articles about identity, alcohol and more about identity.


“Some civil-liberties groups within France have tried—but so far failed—to get the burkini ban overturned in the courts.” Why the French keep trying to ban Islamic body wear


“It got me thinking because when I was a girl I missed out on sport – we didn’t participate in anything because we chose to be modest, but for my niece I wanted to find something that would adapt to the Australian lifestyle and western clothing but at the same time fulfil the needs of a Muslim girl.” I created the burkini to give women freedom, not to take it away


“For me, however, it triggers painful memories of another struggle by women in the Muslim world who were stripped of the right to make their own choice on the matter.” The Right Not To Wear A Burkini


“In Algeria, the French mission civilisatrice understood the hijab, or haik, as oppressive, and unveiling as a central tenet of women’s emancipation; ironically the result was that the veil became a symbol of nationalist defiance…” Your fascination with Muslim women’s bodies has a long misogynistic history


“There is some danger that Argentines may use Kissinger’s laudatory statements as justification for hardening their human rights stance.” DOES HENRY KISSINGER HAVE A CONSCIENCE


“How many words do we know? It turns out that even language experts and researchers have a tough time estimating this.” Most adults know more than 42,000 words


“For instance, people who believe in climate change were far more likely to perceive the increasing violence of storms than those who did not.” Hurricanes are worse, but experience, gender and politics determine if you believe it


“Bad news – regular alcohol use has the effect of getting the body to produce MORE stress hormones. More! Most notably cortisol (the ‘death hormone’, not to freak you out or anything).” A scientific look at de-stressing/self medicating with alcohol (drinking at home)


“The highest proportion of immigrants to the UK in 2015 hailed from India; for Norway, it’s Poland; and for Austria and Switzerland, it’s neighbouring Germany. Most of the Republic of Ireland’s foreign-born population comes from the UK.” 4 maps that will change how you see migration in Europe


“Then on Tuesday night the BBC went bananas. At 10 o’clock we were denied important news – of Anjem Choudary’s conviction, of swingeing tax fines and of possible “special status” for Britain outside the EU. Instead we had to sit for an hour and a half, waiting for three minutes of BBC pandemonium as British cyclists yet again pedalled fast.” This Olympics hysteria shows that Britain has turned Soviet


“If you can’t explain your ideal to a fairly intelligent 12-year-old, it’s probably your own fault. What we need is a narrative that speaks to millions of ordinary people. It all starts with reclaiming the language of progress.” The left needs fresh ideas and a new language if it’s to win again


“However, while post Brexit debate has understandably concentrated mainly on the economic consequences of leaving the EU, from a Northern Irish perspective the greatest impact is likely to be much less tangible and, potentially, much more damaging.” Identity in post-Brexit Northern Ireland


“Nature and animals play a big part of my everyday life; I live in rural West Cork on a farm next to the sea, and I also grow my own vegetables and catch my own fish. This is a dream come true for me and it helps me getlots of exercise and fresh air in between my writing sessions. It provides balance.” Finding Your Special Place: Writing in Nature by ER Murray

When Politicians Talk Shite



How does one react to the nonsensical gobshitery of a politician without resorting to cheap insults? Should one address one’s remarks to him? To his supporters? To people who already think he’s a nonsensical gobshite? I was unsure until I remembered the main aim of this blog is to explain me, to me. All else is incidental. If I’m angry and/or confused about something, I write about it, make sense of it and hopefully the anger dissipates.

Danny Healy Rae thinks there is no such thing as man-made Climate Change. He’s against a woman’s right to choose. He doesn’t think gay couples can raise children. He’s for shooting people who break into his house. Well actually I’m not angry or confused about that last one.

I care not one jot for the safety of someone who breaks into my house. I’m concerned that in America people who protect their house with guns frequently have those guns turned on them. I’m concerned about the siege mentality that exists in rural areas. Many people regard themselves as under attack from roving bands of bandits. Statistics don’t appear to bear out this incessant assault but the emotion exists, and it’s a useful vote getter. But as someone who has been burgled twice, I really don’t have any enlightened feelings towards criminals who trespass on my property. I’m probably as reactionary as your common or garden Healy-Rae on this topic.

As for Danny’s opinions on women and gay people, I find I can only shrug my shoulders. I was already well aware of his antediluvian views there. From reading The Kerryman’s letter pages I know there’s a large rump of bitter fucks who’ve never gotten over their defeat in the Marriage Equality referendum. There are a lot of votes in that box of lemons.

What gets me all self-righteous and angry is Danny doubling-down on his Climate Change denial. And the thing is I shouldn’t get that annoyed. I’m middle-aged and childless. When things fall apart I’ll either be dead or near enough to dead, that I’ll send a #toldyouso tweet before taking a final comforting hot bath, satisfied that at least the gobshites will suffer too.

Climate Change, or our attitude towards it, highlights frailties that have long existed in our species. We are awful at making sacrifices now for something that may happen in the future. We use feelings when we should use our heads. We love nothing more than being told what we want to hear. And we produce people who delight in exploiting those frailties.

When I’m unwell I go to a doctor. I trust that a doctor has gone through a rather intense training process before being allowed pronounce on my ailments and put potentially dangerous drugs into my body. But I’m not naïve enough to trust an individual doctor at all times. Neither do good doctors. I will get a second opinion if I think it necessary, look for a referral to a consultant, I might even have a peek at the internet. Ultimately I am trusting a process, the scientific method.

It’s not perfect but I have neither the time nor the inclination to do the research myself. If I don’t feel 100%, an increasingly frequent occurrence as I look hard into my mid-forties, I trust in medical science to ameliorate the impact of getting older and any other incidental issues I may encounter. I’m not a big fan of being ignorant of so much about my own body. I don’t like putting my faith in the hands of others, but medicine is a specialisation of specialisations. To venture an opinion beyond misdiagnosing a cold as a flu, is unspeakably arrogant.

But there now exists an entire industry built upon the notion that charlatans and purveyors of snake-oil are a legitimate alternative to doctors and the scientific method. Billions of euro are being spent on this nonsense, because we want to be told that those scary and brusque doctors are wrong. Take this magic water and your asthma will clear right up.

So successful has this money making scheme been, that it has infected whole swathes of our population. We’ve dismissed the method that eliminated polio, put a man on the moon and split the atom, for people who think water has memory, that prodding your feet ‘in a special way’ can help your kidneys and that magic hands can heal. The more science has progressed our species, the dumber our species is getting.

97% of the scientists who study and research our Climate have determined that our species has changed it and that unless we do something now, our civilisation will collapse. Look at that sentence again. 97% of scientists who study the climate think there’s a problem. Opposed to them is a man who thinks the Ark myth is a true story. If 97 doctors tell me I have cancer, I am not going to refuse treatment because 3 doctors have access to a Burning Bush that says I’m grand.

But the people of Kerry, in fact most of the world are either unwilling to deal with what scientists are saying or are so scared and/or thick, they’ll believe the tiny minority who tell them want they want to hear. They will vote for anyone who promises them nothing is wrong and nothing has to change.

I don’t think I’m angry with Danny Healy-Rae. No one was forced to vote for him. No one is forced to take him seriously. And I bet he’ll increase his vote come the next election. People just love being told exactly what they want to hear. I don’t think I’m even angry with the cowardly eejits who vote for such obvious gobshitery. I think my anger is more with our entire species. We know what we are doing is going to end in disaster, but instead of doing something about it we’d prefer to have our bellies tickled by a poor man’s Trump.

Weekly Links #4


Another week of having my brain slightly improved by other people providing links to articles that I found so interesting I had to share them with you. This week I’ve even managed to include something by a conservative. Now he’s critical of Trump so I can’t pat myself on the back for being all that diverse in my reading. I wonder what I’ll read when Trump loses in November? There’s a piece about polyamory too, so I suppose that can count as an antidote to the conservative one.

And as I always strive to be topical I included one about the Olympics.


“The simple answer is that these people–my people–are really struggling, and there hasn’t been a single political candidate who speaks to those struggles in a long time.  Donald Trump at least tries.” Trump: Tribune Of Poor White People


“Money+votes = winning elections. Right now Trump doesn’t have nearly enough of either without big help from Republican Party resources and infrastructure.” Yes, the Republican Party could leave Donald Trump high and dry to save itself


“But great wealth flowing from mines or wells allows a despotic government to grow rich — extremely rich — while ignoring the people’s development and repressing their political freedoms.” Why Do We Still Buy Oil From Thugs?


“Today, Twitter is a well-known hunting ground for women and people of color, who are targeted by neo-Nazis, racists, misogynists, and trolls, often just for showing up.” “A Honeypot For Assholes”: Inside Twitter’s 10-Year Failure To Stop Harassment


“Except, he’s not really heroic. He’s dragged kicking and screaming through heroics. Practically the only thing he ever does that’s heroic is not shoot first in that bar (see what I did there?). Let’s be clear. Han fights for himself first, and then everyone else. EVEN LEIA.” HAN SOLO: NOT THE ROMANCE HERO YOU’RE LOOKING FOR


“Trying to imagine someone else’s reality, without removing yourself from the comforts of your own, breeds arrogance, not understanding.” Have a Little Empathy | If You’re Frightened By Feminism, You’re Seeing an Invisible Threat


“Even if you previously granted consent, if you lose the ability to revoke that consent, from that moment on, there is no consent. And if someone takes that control over your consent from you, or ignores that you have lost your control over your consent, that is rape.” An Essay On Consent, From A Woman Who Hosts Huge Sex Parties


“Having been polyamorous for almost a decade, I spend a good deal of time explaining what it all means. When I told my editor that I wanted to write about polyamory, she adjusted her monocle, puffed on her pipe and said, “In my day, young lady, we just called it shagging around.” So I consider it my duty to her and the rest of the unenlightened to explain what’s different about how the kids are doing it these days.” For many in my fearful, frustrated generation, “having it all” means opting out of monogamy


“We all know this. We do. We don’t need numbers to see that, like everywhere in our society, marginalisation of black people is still a huge problem in publishing … The entire system is built to benefit whiteness – and to ignore that is to bury your head in the flaming garbage heap of history.” Black science fiction writers face ‘universal’ racism, study finds


“The Classical era (c.480-323 BCE) of Greece was a time of increased status mixing among Olympic athletes as males from elite families competed alongside farmers. However, slaves were still kept out and the equestrian events added in the 7th century still remained largely the purview of the elites, much as it is today.” Yes, Ancient Olympic Athletes Had Sponsorship Deals, Too


“Such is the life of the Greenland shark—a 5-meter-long predator that may live more than 400 years, according to a new study, making it the longest lived vertebrate by at least a century.” Greenland shark may live 400 years, smashing longevity record

Anthems and Flags


One should be immune to controversy surrounding the Olympics. Drug cheats, the obscene amount of money a nation spends on hosting the event and ticket touts are part and parcel of the event. As for the overt nationalism, well one just accepts that as an unavoidable element of competitive sport.

But sometimes that overtness enters the realm of plain silly. Gabby Douglas, a multiple gold winning American gymnast, was criticised for not showing due deference during the playing of the US national anthem. Instead of telling her critics to fuck off and get a life, she had to defend and excuse herself. I was going to dismiss this as errant nonsense and get on with enjoying the Olympics, but then there was an item on Radio Kerry about respect for the Irish flag and the Irish anthem.

The contributors of the show fulminated on how ‘in their day’ people were taught how to behave properly (towards the flag and anthem). Dark forces were hinted at, that were trying to destroy our culture.

Not once did they suggest any reason for maintaining the traditional formality towards our national symbols and emblems. All that concerned them was their fragile sense of identity and their need for everyone else to cater to this fragility.

Why did we invent and elevate random items like a piece of coloured fabric and a song few people understand? This isn’t unique to Ireland. All nations have their flags and anthems. They were invented in the 19th Century to rally one group of people in opposition to another group of people. They grew out of the intellectual ferment that was the Enlightenment. Traditional forms of authority, the monarchs and churches, were being challenged with unprecedented vigour. This philosophical and scientific (with large dollops of mythology) revolution had to find a new source of authority. A new way to legitimise power. Thus the invention of the nation state.

In this new entity was invested all the authority that was once divine. But to ensure the acceptance of this break from the medieval, those parts of the medieval that were most useful had to be appropriated. What wondrous intellectual tools did this include? Mostly pomp and ceremony (and control of education). It’s difficult to convince someone to die for an abstract idea, but put a flag in their hands then watch that person charge at a machine gun nest.

It should never be forgotten how revolutionary and novel this idea of a nation state was. How remarkable it was to say to the representatives of the various gods, that the ‘nation’ is now their equal and in some circumstances their superior.

This invention allowed the freeing of a remarkable amount of energy. From its roots in anti-imperialist movements in South America and liberal thought in Europe to the independence movements in Africa and Asia, vast empires crumbled in the face of this wholly made up concept. So successful has it been that people soon forgot that it was just that, an invention. A way to divide people in the mythical groups, to differentiate one human from another.

Yet when I’m at a hurling game I take my cap off when they play, ‘Amhrán na bhFiann.’ When I have to visit a church, I take my cap off. When I have to attend a Mass, I stand when everyone else does (though I never kneel, that’s going a bit too far). But I have noticed these simple acts of conformity are becoming less common. Watching people looking around for cues when in Mass is a constant source of mirth to me. As for hurling matches, mumbling along to a song I’ve no interest in, is as much part of the experience as buying the match day programme.

The pomp and ceremony (and education, never forget the education) that underpin the nation state have become frayed.

I’m pleased by this and I am troubled. I enjoy pomp and ceremony. Watching any nation parade its conception of itself is both telling and usually enjoyable. It is a living history pageant. A military funeral in Arlington Cemetery, The Changing of the Guard in Buckingham Palace, Bastille Day celebrations, the 1916 Commemorations, are all wonderful spectacles. They are the costume parties of a national identity.

They have long been thought of as indispensable to nationalism. Is this a good thing? Well, without this nationalism, this regularly reinforced patriotism, a state cannot hope to prosecute a war. And on the downside, without this nonsense, a state cannot hope to prosecute a war.

Yet I am somewhat uncomfortable that a generation of people are growing up wholly unconcerned by these symbols. I would not wish them to be slaves to these inventions, as previous generations were. Rather that they be taught about them. Taught about their origins and why they once had such awesome power. How even today, in this post-factual world, they still have the power to lead people to disaster.

I wish they were offered the opportunity to at least discuss the role of the nation state in general, and theirs in particular, in a globalised world. I dearly wish I could see someone ignore the national anthem and know that this person has made an informed choice not to give a shit about nonsense some previous generations took so seriously.

Weekly Links #3


On many occasions I will turn to my wife to show her an interesting article I’ve just read. Invariably I will think it’s brand new information that everyone needs to know right now. And just as invariably she will ask when it was published. Often the article will be months, even years, old. I haven’t gotten out of the habit of not noticing the date. Some of the articles I’m linking to this week are a few months old. But Twitter is great for recycling old pieces that I think have dated well.

One of the links, about the myth of Irish slaves, is part one of a series that is, as of now, up to six. It’s a wonderfully detailed piece of research. It’s well worth your time.

The rest are a mix of abortion articles, science, philosophy and writing. Enjoy.


“There are few topics in modern discourse quite as divisive, as fraught with misunderstanding and as rooted in deeply-held conviction as abortion.” A scientist weighs up the five main anti-abortion arguments


“The loss of these possible futures is bad. It makes the killing of a fetus wrong. This is Don Marquis’s argument against abortion. It is one of the best arguments against abortion which does not rest on theological premises.” Abortion, embryo destruction and the future of value argument


“In interviews with 27 physicians with a variety of personal religious beliefs, the researchers found that these directives frequently infringed on a doctor’s conscience, forcing them to offer less than the best standard of medical care.” It’s a sin: Women’s lives at risk thanks to holier-than-thou Catholic Hospitals


“Before the woman lost consciousness she was asked again about the document she had signed on admission saying no blood under any circumstances. This wasn’t hypothetical, she would die. She said, “No blood.” Those were her last words.” What we can learn from Jehovah’s Witnesses about obstetrical violence and autonomy during pregnancy


“In 1915, you would have been hard pressed to find a physicist who believed that time slows down under gravitational force. Yet this is entailed by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, first published that year. It was lucky for Einstein, and for the progress of science, that Dr Gilbert’s proposed prohibition on scientific dissent was not then in force.” Intellectual orthodoxy is a bigger threat than climate change


“To put this in perspective, the first living organisms emerged on Earth some 3.8 billion years ago. Since then, there have been five mass extinctions — dubbed the “Big Five” — the last of which killed off the dinosaurs some 66 million years ago. Today, as a result of ecosystem fragmentation, overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction and global warming, we’re in the early stages of the sixth extinction.” It’s Not Alarmist: Trump and the Republican Party Could Destroy the World


“This is something I’ve been wondering recently. It’s one thing to disbelieve a study because there are problems with the methods used. But is it scientifically valid to judge a study by its results alone, even if you don’t know of any methodological flaws?” I Just Don’t Believe Those Results


“There are plenty of things that make it possible for humans to live in large groups and pack into cities. New building techniques and materials, for instance, allow construction of high-rise buildings; plumbing delivers clean, fresh water and sewage systems that help to prevent diseases. One factor, however, is rarely included on the list: having one or more gods.” Religion as social unifier


“Is the Kobayashi Maru a good test of leadership, and of the ethical decision-making that’s a part of it? And what should we make of the fact that Kirk seems to have “beat” the test by cheating?” The Philosophy of Star Trek: The Kobayashi Maru, No-Win Scenarios, And Ethical Leadership


“Whatever one thinks of the activities of groups like the I.R.A. or the P.L.O., those activities were governed by certain norms and contained a rational kernel. It is the arbitrariness of jihadist violence and its disregard for moral bounds that make it terrifying.” These Days of Rage


“Those that promote the meme of Irish perpetual hereditary chattel slavery use a variety of images entirely unrelated to indentured servitude to accompany their anti-history. I examined a selection of them.” Debunking the imagery of the “Irish slaves” meme


“Since the right-wing Law and Justice party seized power in the autumn of 2015 on a familiar wave of anti-immigrant bile and Brussels bashing, Poland has moved to ignore its past as a way of coming to terms with its present.” Poland should face up to its anti-Semitic past


“On the one hand, so much inexperienced writing suffers from generalities. The writer is urged to be specific, particular, concrete. At the same time, when the inexperienced writer gives the reader detail on character, clothing, settings, and actions, he tends to give us a surfeit, robbing the reader of one of the great pleasures of reading, exercising the imagination.” Less Is More When It Comes To Setting

Being Married to Someone who is Bisexual


(This was published in the Cork Pride guide 2016. Paula wrote about being bi+ living in Kerry)

What is it like to be married to someone who is bisexual? It is something I am still processing but thus far I can describe it using four key words.

The first word is challenging. I consider myself to be a very open minded and cool dude. Or as open minded and cool as a middle aged man who uses the words cool and dude can be i.e. cool in theory but never tested. I grew up in a rural area and despite living in Dublin for ten years, I’d met precious few people who were gay or bisexual. I never imagined I’d meet, much less fall in love with and get married to someone who’s bisexual. I’d have considered it a ridiculous notion. And yet that is what happened.

The second word is titillation. The shortest unit of time known to our species is the gap between a man meeting a bisexual woman and the prospect of a threesome entering his head. OK, perhaps that’s just me, but I’m hoping I’m not uniquely juvenile.

The third word is inconsistency. When my partner glances at another woman I experience the deep satisfaction of knowing I’ve died and gone to heaven. If it’s a man, I suddenly feel my knuckles dragging along the ground and itching for a crude club with which to assert my unbridled manliness.

The last word is pride. I’d assumed when we met, I’d assumed when we began dating, I’d assumed when we moved in together and I kept on assuming when we married, that I got it. That I understood that sexuality was a spectrum. I knew my place on it and I knew her place on it. Then I watched her, already married, braving the scorn of strangers to campaign for marriage equality. I watched as her sexuality was side-lined by those she was supporting. I watched her persevere, a minority within a minority, identity erased for the greater good.

I’ve never required pride. I am a straight, white, male. The only thing I can be proud of is not being quite as dickish as my privileges demand. I watched her slog and the spectrum began to lose its significance. She is at once someone who is bisexual and she is a bisexual. She is attracted to both men and women*. She has to be proud of that because there are so many people who would insist she feel shame. There are people who see her as less, as not legitimate, as selfish, as confused.

She never hides who or what she is and I am left feeling nothing but pride. Whatever unspoken misgivings I may have had about telling people in my part of the world her full story, are gone. I may be still adjusting, or more accurately my feelings may still be catching up to my thinking, but I am fortunate to have such a self-possessed guide, helping me to grow the fuck up.

*meaning all genders and none

Weekly Links #2


Another week of articles gleaned mostly from the Twitterverse.  There’s a lot wrong with Twitter but there’s no way I would be exposed to such a range of interesting articles without it. This week’s links include such diverse topics as Lord of the Rings, the evolution of language, research into hunter gatherer societies and abortion.

One day I’d like to not read about abortion, but while it remains illegal in so many countries, including my own, I’ll have to keep reading about it and speaking about it.

(I’ve also, just now, decided that for Weekly Links posts I am going to always use photographs I’ve taken myself. And they will be selfies. If I think of more rules I’ll let you know.)


“There is a growing dissatisfaction with the established political parties. One of the great changes in recent political history has been the erosion of the old ideological divisions that characterized politics for a long time.”  on brexit, borders, being offensive (but not being in a hollywood movie)


“What we would today call cash assistance for the differently abled could in a different era permissibly have been called welfare for cripples. The terms welfare and crippled sound somewhere between loaded and abusive today, and yet once were considered civil by educated, sensitive people.” Euphemise this


“Long before the advent of social media, human social networks were built around sharing a much more essential commodity: food. Now, researchers reporting on the food sharing networks of two contemporary groups of hunter-gatherers in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on July 21 provide new insight into fundamental nature of human social organization.” What hunter-gatherers can tell us about fundamental human social networks


“Merely asking the question about spousal income led to enormous shifts in men’s preferences in the upcoming presidential election.” Even the Thought of Earning Less than Their Wives Changes How Men Behave


 “I would counsel people to pray for healing. That’s dangerous. That’s harmful. People die from that. And I acted irresponsibly with my health, because I knew that God was going to take care of me.” The fundamentalist Christian preacher who became an atheist


“What do you do when people adhering to a faith or ideology insist that others with different convictions submit themselves to taboos outside sacred places?” Why I Published Cartoons of Muhammad and Don’t Regret It


“Populism is when courting popularity becomes an ideological goal in itself, through the advocacy of policies which over-simplify the world. These policies usually also scapegoat and dehumanize some people, while flattering others, as well as distorting truth, and making promises which are either vague (“I’ll make you safe”) or the keeping of which would only spawn new evils (“We’ll deport them all”, “Our sole priority will be our own country” and so on).” Where does humanism stand at a time of crisis?


“We were granted leave that afternoon to bring a legal challenge and it felt like we had won the first round of what I was sure would be a long-running battle against the Irish Blood Transfusion Service and the State.” Tomás Heneghan on his High Court case: Why was I shaming the family? Why was my sex life being opened up to public scrutiny?


“Her book, My Life on the Road, opens with a dedication to the doctor who performed her abortion in 1957, when it was illegal to do so without health reasons. He asked her to promise that she would do what she wanted with her life. “I’ve done the best I could with my life,” she writes.” ‘You can’t control the flesh of a person. That’s called slavery’


“A month and a half after L. C. submitted the request for an abortion, but the medical board of the hospital denied her the procedure, saying that her life was not in danger, without mentioning the danger to her mental health.” PERU: ABORTION GUIDELINES ESTABLISHED AFTER 90-YEAR DELAY


“Clinics in some states must provide them with medically inaccurate information on the risks of abortion. After all that, women often cannot have an abortion without waiting an additional one to three days, depending on the state.” Fertility clinics destroy embryos all the time. Why aren’t conservatives after them?


“Behold the King’s daughter, fairest among maidens. Lips red as a rose, hair black as ebony, skin white as a Keith Urban concert. No wonder a handsome foreigner was smitten when he saw her. And his love didn’t go unrequited. This is how the Tale of Beren and Luthien begins in The Silmarillion. Boom! See that misdirection? You thought it was some Snow White shit, but it wasn’t. I mean, it is that, but it’s also Tolkien.” Snow White Is A LOTR Sequel: A Mind-Blowing Theory

Awestruck by Comments on Abortion


As appeared in Letters – The Kerryman – 3 August, 2016 edition

Reading Henry Gaynor (July 26) I found myself full of admiration for the man. In this Politically Correct World criticising two women who chose to end their pregnancies, in tragic circumstances, is just so rare. And to assert he does so because he is more cerebral than emotional is breath-taking.

I’m sure there are those who would accuse him of lacking basic human empathy. But as he explains in his letter, he is a contrarian who can see things others cannot. It seems he knows what is best for women enduring a diagnosis of Fatal Foetal Abnormality better than they or their doctors do. I only wish I could be so certain about something I’m incapable of experiencing.

It is no longer fashionable to sit in judgement of women, but Mr Gaynor seems to have no truck with fashion. He admits he has no medical training but that will not prevent him from expressing an opinion.

Ten women leave Ireland every day for an abortion, including one woman a week from Kerry. It would seem Mr Gaynor knows every one of those women is in the wrong and is proud to trumpet that opinion. I’m in awe.

Freedom of Speech v Political Correctness


Political Correctness can be a terribly frustrating thing when one also believes, wholeheartedly, in Free Speech. Of course I could just have as easily begun this post with; Free Speech can be a terribly frustrating thing when one also believes, wholeheartedly, in Political Correctness. It is a struggle I thought I would one-day resolve but only recently realised it cannot be resolved. This is who I am. These are my values. I absolutely and 100% adhere to the principles of Free speech and Political Correctness. So all I have to do for a quiet life is religiously avoid any topic or issue where these two values may be in conflict.

Easy to do, I just need to leave the internet, stop reading newspapers and not speak to anyone ever again. I’d considered only speaking about the weather but even that is political now. How do I respect the Free Speech of those who deny Climate Change and how do I maintain my poise of Political Correctness when speaking of the dim-witted people who believe these self-serving charlatans? I can’t even ask after someone’s health for fear they will prove to be believers in woo.

Where it gets horribly complicated is when discussing Islamic violence perpetuated, against Europeans, in our very cities. Some feel more comfortable calling it a manifestation of evil. That smacks of magic to me so I cannot take that person seriously. Some find comfort in labelling it a symptom of mental illness. I’ve had mental health issues, I know people suffering mental illnesses and they do not look for relief by murdering people. No evidence exists for it being a factor, so please take your false comfort elsewhere. Some say the problem is Islam itself. Then we would have 1.2 billion suicide bombers to worry about. It’s an explanation that smacks of chauvinism and opportunism. Not buying it. Don’t want to listen to you.

Then there are those who want to blame the Americans. This might be the beginning of an interesting conversation. There are two types of people who make this claim. There are the weird and semi-literate types that blame America for everything, including fluoride and keeping alien incursions secret. Fuck them and their nonsense. And then there are the ones who know a bit. While they may still suffer a reflexive anti-Americanism, they know American foreign policy was a factor and not the sole cause for someone murdering people in Brussels. And the key point here is that reflexive anti-Americanism is less problematic than being a reflexive anti-Muslim. This is not inconsistent; it is Political Correctness. The Americans can take it; too many Muslims live in precarious situations for the same to apply to them.

One can have a long and possibly productive conversation on the basis of it being entirely America’s fault. Of course this will only be productive if the causes and blame is spread a bit further than just US foreign policy. It’s a conversation I would have on Twitter and not be concerned by who might be watching. Yet when Trump targets Muslims to enhance his particular brand of strong-man-here-to-save-the-day, part of me wishes he could be silenced. Especially as it encourages others to echo his words and thoughts. Much like the upsurge in anti-immigrant violence that followed Brexit, baser instincts are always looking for an excuse to let rip. Powerful people and movements attacking minorities provide that excuse. Simplistic explanations for Islamic violence in Europe (as Europeans we obviously don’t care that much about violence in Muslim countries) paints targets on the backs of our Muslim neighbours. Political Correctness is one of the tools at our disposal to keep those targets off of them. But we do need to discuss Islamic violence in Europe, because, you know, one day I’d like to see it end.

And the reality is, understanding this violence isn’t terribly complex, it’s simply a combination of; American foreign policy, European foreign policy (past and present), neoliberalism, globalisation, oil, Sykes-Picot, the fall of the Ottoman Empire, nationalism, religion, sectarianism, racism, sexism, oppression, dictatorship, easy access to arms, Israel, the Cold War, Russian foreign policy, demographics, radicalisation, technology, young men, old men, culture, education, unemployment, Climate Change, the refugee crises (that’s the plural for crisis by the way), this global recession and probably a dozen more factors I haven’t thought of. So all one has to do is unpick this Gordian Knot and, hey presto, problem solved.

Do I even know where to begin? Fuck no; they are issues that need addressing by people smarter than me. And it will require the freedom to criticise, to question what some consider sacred, to expect change and to demand values be altered. Fortunately, my job, as a nobody who spends too much time on Twitter, is simple, I just have to make sure I’m saying and doing nothing to paint targets on the backs of my Muslim neighbours.



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