datbeardyman

Less about the world, more about me.

Month: November 2016

Weekly Links #18

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Another week, another raft of interesting articles that grabbed my attention. I’ve totally thrown in the towel with #NaNoWriMo. I hit a wall last week and just wasn’t able to pick myself up after it. But I learned some useful things and am already looking forward to next November. But more importantly, I think there is a novel in the idea I tried turning into 50000 words this month. My plan now is to ensure I have absolutely nothing else to do next year other than write. I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself in 2017. I’ve decided that if I don’t complete at least one novel before 2018 then I’m giving up. A tad precipitous I’ll grant you, but it feels like the right thing to do.

As for the links this week, I have included a few regarding Trump. I’d hoped after the election his relevance would wane. Instead the orange buffoon is even more important. I shudder.

As always feel free to subscribe to this blog and if you’d like to read some of my published fiction, please visit here.

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“On Nov. 8, the most powerful country in world history, which will set its stamp on what comes next, had an election. The outcome placed total control of the government—executive, Congress, the Supreme Court—in the hands of the Republican Party, which has become the most dangerous organization in world history.” Noam Chomsky: ‘The Republican Party Has Become the Most Dangerous Organization in World History’

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“Nationalism is a slippery concept, which is why politicians find it so easy to manipulate. At its best, it unites the country around common values to accomplish things that people could never manage alone. This “civic nationalism” is conciliatory and forward-looking—the nationalism of the Peace Corps, say, or Canada’s inclusive patriotism or German support for the home team as hosts of the 2006 World Cup. Civic nationalism appeals to universal values, such as freedom and equality. It contrasts with “ethnic nationalism”, which is zero-sum, aggressive and nostalgic and which draws on race or history to set the nation apart. In its darkest hour in the first half of the 20th century ethnic nationalism led to war.” The new nationalism

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“It said in the article [that] the production team of that movie of the remake, that they would go back more and more towards the novel. And of course, we really, really tried to get away from the novel, because we felt that the novel was fascistic and militaristic,” said Verhoeven.  “You feel that going back to the novel would fit very much in a Trump Presidency.” Paul Verhoeven Slams ‘Starship Troopers’ Remake, Says It’ll Be a Fascist Update Perfect for a Trump Presidency

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“Obama’s insistence on hope felt more willed than audacious. It spoke to the civic duty he felt to prevent despair not only among the young people in the West Wing but also among countless Americans across the country. At the White House, as elsewhere, dread and dejection were compounded by shock. Administration officials recalled the collective sense of confidence about the election that had persisted for many months, the sense of balloons and confetti waiting to be released.” OBAMA RECKONS WITH A TRUMP PRESIDENCY

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“Two centuries ago, electricity was the quantum physics of its age, a mysterious and poorly understood force that was the subject of bizarre and grotesque experiments to understand its relation to life. Ideas about energy and life force appear again and again in pseudoscience, so it’s not surprising that electromagnetism formed the basis for all kinds of quackery, from galvanic resurrection to antigravity via radionics, a branch of nonsense that seeks to cure illness with radio waves. The famous tin foil hat, the bulletproof vest of the quack world, was invented to protect the brain of its wearer from the force.” Why are people who reject conventional science so in love with its trappings?

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“When someone swore in their Twitter posts, participants classified them in the group of people without any college degree. Sometimes this assumption was accurate, but participants tended to over-attribute profanity and conversational language like “lol,” “wanna,” and “gonna” to the non-college-educated group.” Swearing on Twitter makes people presume you’re less educated than you are

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“The Victorian public that first read or read about the Origin of Species were, for the most part, not biblical literalists. For decades the most enlightened writers in the fields of science and religion had accepted that much of the Old Testament, andGenesis in particular, had to be read in a metaphorical sense. Some believed that the creation story dealt only with the latest geological epoch – in which humanity appears on Earth.” Darwin vs God?

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“There was still something oddly reassuring about the scene, if only for confirmation once again of the enduring gulf between the way the game is glossed and sold by its governing marketeers and the unyielding reality. In many ways this is still the best thing about football. For all the styling and the schmaltz, the attempts to ruin it with money, football refuses to bend completely, to lose its dingier corners. Above all, and for all its faults, football reserves the right to be stubborn, elusive and insistently uncontrolled.” China and Qatar: spendthrift would-be superpowers unlikely to reach Russia

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“So many old friends behind the camera, but I missed the old team of actors. Mind you, it was a joy to work with Martin Freeman and the dwarves. I was glad to be rid of that old stick Gandalf The White. The Grey was always my favourite. Don’t you remember when it was my turn to play a track, I asked for silence instead? Now I’m nostalgic, remembering those early mornings in the make-up trailer, six days a week.” Lord Of The Rings at 15: theFellowship interview each other

 

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Final Column: A walk on the wild side amid Tralee’s urban cacophony

As published in The Kerryman 23-11-16

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This is my final column for The Kerryman. There was a change made to this piece which I cannot stand over.  I will highlight the piece that was added and I’ll include what it replaced. The issue is the use of the word immigrant to describe asylum seekers. I was unable to convince The Kerryman that this was fundamentally inaccurate.  

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I like towns and cities. I like the variety, cultures and noise. But I also like that towns usually set aside spaces for nature, or at least the appearance of nature. Hustle and bustle are all the more enjoyable if one is able to occasionally escape them. So, I took a stroll on the newly improved Canal Walkway in Tralee.

There’s nothing as restorative as a quiet walk where one’s mind can wander and find peace. And the Canal Walkway is a wonderful example of a planned oasis of calm amidst the urban cacophony. Deceptively soothing despite the busy Dingle road humming away across the narrow expanse of water.

It’s a short walk. Stretching from Tralee to Blennerville, a bare few minutes for the jogger, a little longer for the rowers that use it for their strenuous leisure and a little longer again for the middle-aged man lost in thought.

The canal was opened in 1846 to bypass the silt affected port at Blennerville, allowing ships to load and unload their cargoes in the heart of Tralee. It closed in 1930s as Fenit then had a deep-water port and was connected by railway to Tralee. That line is now also being turned into a walkway for people eager to experience a relaxing amble. Yesterday’s sinews of international trade becoming today’s investment in healthy arteries.

But no more of history. Or so I thought. One begins this walk beside a modern apartment block. A legacy of the Tiger, but at least one that is aging well. Across the canal is the newly built club house of those aforementioned rowers. And beyond it there’s a Direct Provision facility. In a dark period of Irish history The Jeanie Johnson sailed from nearby Blennerville carrying emigrants to America where they hoped to make better lives for themselves. The Direct Provision facility accommodates immigrants hoping for a better life here. We can ask ourselves if we afford them the kind of opportunities we ourselves sought in other lands. (What I’d written: A reminder of a time when we warehoused human beings instead of dealing with them. Hidden away while generating profit for the warehousers. Sometimes history is just the same story repeating itself.)

But we walk on. The path of pristine tarmac, illuminated by the modern lighting so one can avoid the ubiquitous dog waste, passes a sea of reeds to our right. It looks so out of place, set so close to apartments and houses. It’s very oddity acts as a balm.

The reeds give way to farmland. In the distance, there are mountains shrouded in cloud. There is one square of green in those brown hills. Farmland cut into the side of the mountain. What kind of back-breaking effort must have gone into claiming that land from the mountain?

If you’re lucky the sun will give a dazzling shimmer to the choppy water. This canal has the feel of a river to it. Built for ships it’s deeper than canals I’ve seen in other towns and cities.

On your right, the green fields are replaced by wetlands. There is a couple of swans raising an almost fully grown cygnet. It could have turned white by the time you read this. My knowledge of birds extends to being able to identify a swan. On my walk, I saw two other species of large birds that I’d never seen before. One was black with a yellow bill, the other, perched in a tree, was white with some grey/black feathers.

But my phone does not have an app for identifying birds. I was strangely pleased by that. Just as you leave the swans behind you come to a bridge. You can cross the bridge but then that’s a whole other column.

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Column: Predjudice thrives in a new era of brute survival

As published in The Kerryman 16-11-16

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Am I amazed? Am I shocked? Am I appalled? You betcha. I didn’t think they’d actually do it. I never dreamed they’d fall for that man’s cacophony of bigotry, misogyny and ignorance. But I was wrong. That I’m not alone in getting the result of the US presidential election wrong isn’t any comfort. A man who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, a man who boasts about grabbing women’s vaginas, a man who says he respects Vladimir Putin will be the most powerful man on Earth.

But as much as I’d like to, I can’t spend an entire column detailing how disgusted I am. There is an expectation that I at least try to understand what happened. And I can’t just write off 60 million Americans as racist, gropey, rednecks. I’m tempted to, but despite my best efforts I remain an optimist. I have to believe they didn’t simply choose to endorse white supremacy and sexual assault.

People are hurting in America. This is true. Large swathes of the mid-west have been effectively deindustrialised. Making things and mining the stuff to make those things is now largely done in countries that do it far cheaper. Electronics, household goods and even cars are cheaper and more plentiful than they’ve ever been and they are rarely made in the rich countries that consume them.

Those Democratic voting states that defined themselves by the making of stuff have been devastated. They now must rely on insecure and non-unionised jobs that offer little beyond brute survival. A way of life has died. A way of life that flourished in a time where race relations, gender roles and attitudes to difference were less enlightened than today.

To call it nostalgia is unfair to the middle-aged white man working two dead-end jobs just to cover his mortgage. There is anger, righteous anger. There is even despair. So why not take a punt on the loud mouth who promises to turn back the clock? Hillary Clinton was obviously the more qualified candidate, but she didn’t promise to make America great again because she thought America was already great.

As far as I can tell, Americans do actually take that seriously. Many truly believe America either is, or was, great. It’s a strangely naive thing to think about a nation founded on genocide, slavery and institutionalised racism but they do seem to believe it. And if you are that middle aged white man or white woman, struggling to make ends meet, brought up being taught they are entitled to better, then desperate gambles to recapture that notion of greatness, become less desperate.

That he is a vitriolic man-child is beside the point, he has promised to turn the clock back. That his own Republican party despise him is of no consequence, they were largely responsible for shipping those secure jobs overseas anyway. That he was a Democrat until a few years ago is meaningless as he has promised a better past. That he is a serial bankrupt is of no consequence because he speaks to their fears and prejudices.

Not everyone who voted for that man is a white supremacist and a misogynist but they did vote for one. I can sympathise and even empathise with their desperation, but turning the clock back is a fool’s paradise. And I fear they will learn to regret this global gamble.

 

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Weekly Links #17

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A week in which I am feeling sorry for myself. My NaNoWriMo project hit a wall. I’m not sure why, but after completing Act One I lost heart. I think there’s a novel in there but this first draft is going to take a lot longer than I’d hoped. I haven’t read a huge amount either but have happened upon some interesting articles. I hope you find them illuminating.

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“Let us also agree that ethnic or religious discrimination cannot be justified by calls for greater security. During World War II, the government argued that military authorities could not distinguish between alleged enemy elements and peaceful, patriotic Japanese Americans. It concluded, therefore, that all those of Japanese descent, including American citizens, should be presumed guilty and held without charge, trial or legal recourse, in many cases for years. The very same arguments echo today, on the assumption that a handful of presumed radical elements within the Muslim community necessitates draconian measures against the whole, all in the name of national security.” George Takei: They interned my family. Don’t let them do it to Muslims.

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“Despite the fact I’d be joining a workers’ brigade, helping to rebuild civilian infrastructure in Kobane rather than fighting, simply going to Syria provoked some extreme responses. Two people who’d like to think of themselves as “of note” to MI5 for their thoroughbred leftiness blocked me on Facebook for “security reasons”, and an ex-partner threatened to report me to the “the government” – despite no laws being broken; others on the left seemed to go into denial, deciding I was a fantasist.” Revolution in the mountains

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“Instead of individual subjects, students will study events and phenomena in an interdisciplinary format. For example, the Second World War will be examined from the perspective of history, geography, and math. And by taking the course ”Working in a Cafe,” students will absorb a whole body of knowledge about the English language, economics, and communication skills.” Finland Will Become the First Country in the World to Get Rid of All School Subjects

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“That ancient genes are swimming in our gene pool has been known a while. Non-African individuals inherited about 2% of their genomes from Neanderthals, while people of Melanesian ancestry inherited another 2 to 4% of their genomes from Denisovan ancestors.” Thank Neanderthal and Denisovan genes for health and skin colour

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“It is in the seventh century, before any known document written in Romance or Germanic languages, that the first allusion to our theme appears. It is contained in an attempt, on the part of the Irish grammarians, to defend spoken Gaelic over written Latin.” Eco on a Perfect Language: Gaelic

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“Dogs are hugging us with their eyes? That might be the cutest thing in the entire world. And that’s backed up by another recent study, which was part of a BBC documentary. When dogs interact with humans, their oxytocin levels go up, just like when humans interact with dogs, or even their own children. And as a win for dog people, dogs had those hormones spike more than cats did in similar situations, according to the Telegraph.” An Expert Has Confirmed That Dogs Understand How Much We Love Them

 

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Column: Choosing between the disliked and the dangerous

As published in The Kerryman 09-11-16

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As I write this I don’t know who has won the US presidency. At one point Hillary Clinton was heading for a landslide. But the FBI revealing further investigations into her email history has brought Donald Trump back into the race. I’d thought a Trump victory as unlikely as the UK voting to leave the EU.

I’m amazed to find myself in a reality where Donald Trump is within a few points of becoming the most powerful man on Earth. The Americans are inclined towards hyperbole. Land of free, land of hope and all that jazz. But the President of the United States is both leader of this world’s richest nation and Commander in Chief of the most powerful military to have ever existed.

Even in Kerry, three thousand miles away, who leads America matters. Fortunately, for most of the time, the choice between candidates isn’t all that dramatic. Their ideologies, policies and aims tend to be at least mutually intelligible. Often the contest can come down to personality, incumbency or which party is due a win. Even when America chose to elect a black man, they didn’t elect a radical pledged to right the historical wrongs done to black people by America. Obama’s main concern was to tend to an ailing economy and find some way to make health care more available.

If either of his opponents had won, America would be little different from what it is now. It might’ve been a little richer or poorer, might be a lot less fair to the poor and might have a slightly different foreign policy. But it would be recognisably America. But Obama’s greatest achievement was to be so charismatic that the American presidency seems to demand a gravitas and a seriousness that few can emulate.

Fortunately, Hillary Clinton doesn’t try to be Obama. She tries to be serious in her own way. A seriousness based on a lifetime of public service. She has become incredibly wealthy, has a trail of scandals following her that would’ve ended most political careers and is generally disliked and mistrusted by Americans. Against almost any other opponent she’d be facing annihilation at the polls. I dislike her immensely but I would vote for her and I would dedicate my every waking hour to ensuring she won.

I would do all I could to help her because she faces not just another Republican politician. She faces a billionaire buffoon who delights in speaking and pandering to the worst elements of the American psyche.

The greatest con played on the American people, by the American people, was that they assumed the election of Obama healed the wounds of slavery and marginalisation. Worse, it allowed many white people, afflicted by unemployment and loss of privilege, to believe they’ve lost out to people of colour. The white poor have genuine grievances about their economic insecurity but in Trump they have an advocate who seeks to exploit their plight, not heal it.

Even if he could produce some rational policies and a cohesive vision, I’d vote for Hillary. In America, there are only two choices. Even if Hillary was discovered to have robbed a bank at gunpoint I would vote for her. If she was to spout wings, grow a tail and spew fire from her nostrils it’s still difficult to imagine her presidency being anything but straightforward and boring. It’s impossible to anticipate a Trump presidency being anything other than a calamity.

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Weekly Links #16

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Well they did it. They actually did it. They voted to make that clown the most powerful man-child on the planet. Appalled doesn’t cover it. There will be a million articles that seek to understand why this happened and how pollsters got it so wrong and why the apocalypse will be orange. I’m only going to offer one this week. This is by Kenan Malik. I read a lot of stuff by Kenan Malik. I think you should too. But anyway, he blames identity politics.

Besides stocking up on canned goods I’ve been tipping away at NaNoWriMo. As of today I’m a little behind, but I can’t blame that entirely on Trump. Mostly, but not entirely. I also had a bit of food poisoning, some activism to do and the dog ate my homework. But after Sunday I have a whole week free to catch up and maybe even get a little ahead.

As always feel free to subscribe to my blog and have a look at my fiction that’s available on Amazon.

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“At first sight all this seems to give weight to the ‘whitelash’ thesis, the idea that Trump rose to power on a wave of rage from white, male Christians. The real story is, however, more complex. If we look not at the aggregate figures but at the shifts in support, we can tell a different story.” how america got trumped

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“Reactionaries are not conservatives. This is the first thing to be understood about them. Conservatives have always seen society as a kind of inheritance we receive and are responsible for. The healthiest way to bring about change, the conservative believes, is through consultation and slow transformations in custom and tradition, not by announcing bold reform programs or inventing supposedly inalienable individual rights. But the conservative is also reconciled to the fact that history never stands still and that we are only passing through. Conservatism seeks to instill the humble thought that history moves us forward, not the other way around. And that radical attempts to master it through sheer will bring disaster.” Our Reactionary Age

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“I hoped that the trend would fade as quickly as it had come to prominence. Instead, the memes went viral. For nearly two years now I have tracked the trajectory of the ‘Irish slaves’ mythos online and in that time the memefication of this myth has reached unprecedented levels of visibility and popularity across the social web, primarily in the United States. Google searches for the term ‘Irish slaves’ have exploded since October 2014, with September 2016 as the highest month on record so far.” Two years of the ‘Irish slaves’ myth: racism, reductionism and the tradition of diminishing the transatlantic slave trade

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“When Trump, for example, suggested that “you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day,” he appears not to realize that the term for that — and it’s done considerably less violently — is a Cesarean section, a common, safe procedure by which about a third of women deliver their babies every year. In other words, Trump described how more than a million women every year give birth. It’s quite legal, and generally a cause for celebration.” No, Late-Term Abortions Don’t ‘Rip’ Babies Out Of Wombs — And They Exist For A Reason

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“To what extent is radical right-wing popularity fueling this backslide? Certainly in Poland the message is clear: The nationalist ruling party seeks to quash women’s reproductive rights under the guise of so-called Christian family values.” Why the Rise of the European Right Spells Doom for Reproductive Health

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“Britain has long argued that the EU’s pensions are too generous and pensions are one of many areas where complex joint liabilities will need to be unravelled. Failing to find a solution could put at risk pension payments to about 3000 UK officials who have worked in the EU institutions, including the Commission and Parliament, since 1973.” Brexit triggers row over British EU civil servants’ pensions

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“The call to action was more political than humanitarian. America was slowly emerging from the Great Depression and, although unemployment was gradually dipping, it still stood at a staggering 19 percent. Roosevelt found himself facing the twin pressures of isolationism and overt anti-Semitism. The later had spiked in the l930s with the advent of a string of anti-Semitic publications and the popular anti-Semitic radio addresses of Charles Coughlin, a Detroit Catholic priest. Father Coughlin had a following of more than forty million, and the Catholic hierarchy made no attempt to silence him.” that proud history of welcoming refugees

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What The Fuck White People?

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Before today, the closest I’d ever gotten to nostalgia was missing that time when Liverpool FC was the best team in Europe. In all other ways, I’d always thanked my good fortune that I came of age in a time when basic decency began to become law, both written and unwritten. I never felt threatened by those laws.

I don’t regret not being able to use the n-word. I’ve no difficulty using the personal pronoun a person says applies to them. I accept that when I voice concerns about another culture I have do so in a way that is sensitive to the vulnerabilities of members of that culture. I’d welcome a flood of refugees, confident we can sort out the details tomorrow, just as long as we save lives today. I’ve had to accept that my belief in the efficacy of liberal military might was misplaced. I’ve grappled with being one of the most privileged people on Earth and now I acknowledge it.

I’m white, cis-male, straight, able-bodied, employed, literate and live in a country where my vote counts. And I thought things were going to continue getting better. For the first time, I feel nostalgia. I miss that time about five years ago when white people weren’t such whiney cunts. OK, perhaps we were always whiney cunts, but we weren’t voting for far-right, nativist, man-children who spoke with the language of those attempting to bring down the Weimar Republic.

Or perhaps more accurately, in my cocoon of liberalist privilege, I wasn’t aware that my fellow white people were still the racist scumbags of the past, but with better teeth. I had allowed myself to believe that progress was inexorable. The West was richer, more powerful, more stable, more open, and more liberal than any civilisation in history. We’d raped the planet and murdered hundreds of millions of each other and non-Europeans but in the latter half of the 20th and early part of the 21st centuries we had finally cottoned onto basic decency. (And yes, I’m fully aware of the Marxist criticism of that statement, but I’m a liberal, not a Marxist)

We are rich beyond the dreams of Midas. And we are largely rich because we exploit people and the planet more efficiently and on a larger scale than ever before. And with that wealth we had begun to construct a civilisation of rational enquiry, of tolerance and respect. And yes, I am exaggerating wildly. This is nostalgia after all. But there is a kernel of truth to it. I’m from a working-class background and yet I got to go to college. My sort never got to go to college. I got to knock on doors and urge people to allow same-sex marriages. I get to insult my politicians in a newspaper and on my blog. I can believe whatever I want to believe.

But I got complacent. I’d begun to believe that the only argument left was the constant tension between individual rights and societal obligations. I’d begun my own journey from centre-right to centre-left on the political spectrum, but always liberal. Always focused on my personal journey I forgot to look at other white people. I didn’t take seriously the occasional cranks who decried the presence of colour in their white redoubts.

It never occurred to me that white people, enjoying all the privileges I enjoy, could seriously feel threatened by people of colour or could seriously resent not being able to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community. In part defence of my naivete, I have lived, for the last eight years, in one of the whitest parts of the planet. I’d heard stupid things said about refugees, but that was just a lack of information, not a core deep unease at difference. Wasn’t it?

Now Trump is president elect. A majority of white women voted for him. A majority of white men voted for him. Was there an economic element to his victory? Certainly. Did misogyny play a part? Of course. Was there a backlash against treating the LGBTQ+ community as actual human beings? Yes. Did the spectre of Islamist terrorism move some lily-livered white people? I’m afraid so. But what animated them most was his insistence that being a whiney white cunt was a valid lifestyle choice. That being a dangerous, racist piece of shit was perfectly acceptable in the face of liberalism’s fumbling and erratic attempts at constructing a tolerant society. That ignorance is a badge to be worn with pride.

Fucking white people did this. Fucking white people voted for Brexit. Fucking white people have begun to vote for authoritarian pricks all over the EU. Fucking white people are bitching that Angela Markel chose the save over a million Syrian refugees. Fucking white people, in Sweden, SWEDEN! are reacting to refugees.

I know, I know, I’m a liberal. I’m supposed to attempt empathy, I should attempt to understand these fucking white people, if for no other reason that with understanding I can address their fucking white people fears. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to delve into their smallness, their inadequacies, their pathetic fears. I know one day I’ll have to. But today I can’t bring myself to feel their sick ignorance.

It’s inevitable that to beat these petty pricks we are going to have to find some way to help them mature into fully functioning adults who aren’t scared by colour and difference and exotic food and languages and the complicated work of getting along with people who see the world that bit differently.

And yes, I see the irony of that last statement. But I’m not a cultural relativist. I don’t think all cultures and all ways of doing things are equal. I’m a liberal. I believe in some universal and fundamental human rights. You can believe in any bullshit you want. You can indulge in any practice you want. But fuck you if you attempt to impose your bullshit on anyone else, be they your partner, neighbour or society.

Fucking white people. In the history of our planet we’ve never been so powerful, rich and healthy. Yet we still tremble at difference. There is so much wrong with the world (I didn’t even mention climate change) and our response is to elect fascist man-children? Just what the fuck white people? You dumb pricks have made me miss five years ago.

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Column: It should be possible to be more discriminating about discrimination

As published in The Kerryman 02-11-16

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The Court of Appeal in Belfast recently upheld a finding that Ashers Baking Company had discriminated against Gareth Lee. Mr Lee is a LGBT rights activist who ordered and paid for a cake that displayed a pro marriage equality message. Ashers had initially accepted the order but after two days’ consideration they changed their minds. They objected that the cake’s message went against their Christian beliefs.

It’s possible that a case like this will arise in Kerry. Bakers, printers, pubs, hotels, photographers etc. may find that their sincerely held beliefs are in conflict with their legal requirement not to discriminate against members of the LGBT community.

Should a business be legally entitled to discriminate against minorities? Or to put that question a different way, should one be obliged to act against one’s conscious? Then there’s a third way to frame this question, should the state being telling us what we may say, or indeed sell, to people?

There are many people who think the behaviour of Ashers is offensive but defend their right to be offensive. They make the argument that this ruling means that racists, homophobes, anti-Semites and Islamophobes will feel entitled to have businesses print their bile or host their hateful rallies.

This is an argument I have a lot of sympathy for. It is a free speech argument. I oppose all efforts by the State to curtail my right to say anything I want. And the only way I can maintain this ideological stance is to also defend the right of everyone else to say what they want or treat their customers how they want.

To be consistent I must accept verbal assaults and discrimination against LGBT people, just so I can condemn those attacks in the strongest possible terms. And if I was a gay man I could defend that ‘consistency’ to the hilt. But I’m not gay. I don’t get discriminated against. I’m not a woman and I’m not a person of colour. I’m not part of any minority that must accept abuse just so someone else who doesn’t get abused is free to say whatever they want about anything they want.

I am, as most people who look like me are, privileged. If I was a member of the LGBT community, my chances of experiencing mental health issues and suicide would be higher.  If I was a women I‘d be paid less, have less physical autonomy and fewer opportunities to advance in my chosen career. If I have a disability I can expect unemployment and marginalisation. The list of groups who must begin to grapple with life one step behind people like me is long. The closest I’ll get to understanding the reality of discrimination is if I reach my fifties or sixties and find myself looking for a job.

So it is very easy for me to defend freedom of speech. It is very easy for me to wrap my idealism around the idea that the state has no business telling people what they can say and how they must conduct their businesses. But consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. There have to be some exceptions. One must be able to say that discriminating against gay people is unacceptable while discriminating against racists is not.

Discrimination is always wrong, except when it isn’t. A species as advanced as ours should be able to understand this inconsistency and even celebrate it.

 

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Weekly Links #15

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Haven’t been able to do a lot reading this week. I’m taking part in the annual NaNoWriMo madness. This is a competition where participants are expected to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. For people like me that means completing a 50,000 word first draft. More accomplished writers might be able to manage more than a rough draft but I certainly don’t want to do anymore than get that draft done.

The problem I have with first drafts is that I can’t switch off that part of my brain that imagines it being read. A first draft should be for the writer alone. This ridiculous deadline makes it easier for me to ignore my worries about unfleshed out ideas, poor grammar, plot holes and weird inconsistencies.

I’m four days in and still full of enthusiasm. I just hope that enthusiasm lasts.

Again there are US presidential election and Brexit nonsense to read. Thank Gandalf the election will be over by next week. No doubt all the news will end then. I’ve also included a piece about pensions. It’s a bit right wing in tone but the issue remains important. Especially for someone like me as I can’t help thinking it will have all fallen apart by the time I’m due to retire, even if I have to wait until I’m 70.

Finally do please consider checking out my one and only completed novel over on Amazon.

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“And the principle means the tabloids used to obtain this result was the “endless xenophobic nudges of its immigration coverage.” Of course these newspapers will say they were just expressing their readers fears, but when they are reduced to making up stories to encourage this fear any claim to innocence becomes very hollow. Fueling anti-immigration feeling was their version of a southern strategy, and Brexit saw its culmination.” Brexit and neoliberalism

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“Demonology aside, most conservatives and Republicans—and yes, many non-conservatives and non-Republicans—will recognize many of the factual predicates of the critiques of Hillary Clinton’s methods and character. The Clintons sold access to a present secretary of state and a potential future president in pursuit of personal wealth. Hillary Clinton does indeed seem a suspicious and vindictive personality. For sure, a President Clinton will want to spend and regulate even more than the Obama administration has done. Like Henny Youngman, however, the voter must always ask: compared to what?” The Conservative Case for Voting for Clinton

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“Geraldine “Jerry” Emmett, 102, was born before the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and lived through the women’s suffrage movement. She’s a Democrat and now lives in Arizona.” Arizona woman born before women’s suffrage votes for Clinton

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“Contemporary sexism is mainly ambivalent in nature. We often hold both positive (benevolent) and negative (hostile) attitudes to women (and men). Hostile sexism involves old-fashioned and overt negativity towards women, whereby they are perceived as wanting to control men. It reflects beliefs that men should have more power than women, that women may use their sexuality to benefit from men’s higher status and that women are less competent than men.” Why do so many women oppose feminism? A psychologist explains

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“When I visit high schools with my novels, I always encourage teenage girls to call themselves feminists because I believe all girls need feminism. They need it to safeguard the rights they already have and those inequalities still not fought. I have always been a feminist, but it’s from feminists that I’ve faced my harshest criticisms.” Call yourself a feminist?

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“I am a veteran of 3 Caesarean Sections. When I read the phrase “grievous assault”, my blood ran cold and my uterus contracted because that’s how I felt. Assaulted. I was not too posh or too old to push. During my first labour I was told that if I didn’t push the baby out by 5.30pm the doctor was going to come in and give me a section.  I was lying on a bed strapped to a heart monitor with a clock ticking down the next 30 minutes. I was tired, drugged and scared and was in no state to make a stand.  I consented to a section.” Papa Don’t Preach, Repeal the 8th

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“The plot line of the episode is not tied to anything in the history of Beverly’s character. Nor does it depend on her being a doctor or a woman. In theory, any of the major characters could have been the star of this episode. But it is not at all a coincidence that it is Beverly — a woman, a healer, a mother, and Picard’s occasional love interest — who lives out this story.” Star Trek’s Feminist Statement: Believe Women

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“Prof O’Malley-Dunlop says the law should set out clearly the circumstances where consent cannot be given. This would include cases where the complainant was asleep or otherwise unconscious, or too affected by alcohol or drugs to freely agree to sexual activity; while Anne Sexton says a YouTube video, Tea Consent, makes a comical but accurate analogy between making someone a cup of tea and having sex with them.” It’s time to talk about consent

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“The bizarre attack on Max Mosley – the third spread Pendlebury has penned about him this year – was motivated by the former Formula One bosses’ support for Impress, the new press regulatory body. Pendlebury did not mention that the pre-war owner of the Daily Mail, Harold Sidney Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere, was so excited by the BUF that he personally wrote a full-page editorial headlined ‘ ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ in January 1934.” Revealed: The Extent of the Daily Mail’s Support for the British Union of Fascists

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“Demographic aging is the social and economic equivalent of climate change: it is a problem that we all know must be addressed, but which we would rather leave for future generations to solve. The impulse to put things off for a later day is understandable, given current economic and political troubles; but when it comes to public pensions, procrastination comes at a high cost – even more so than in the case of global warming.” The Creeping Public-Pension Debacle

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Column: I get the point about speeding…just don’t give me the points

As published in The Kerryman 26-10-16

i-get-the-point-about-speeding-just-dont-give-me-the-points

There’s an unwritten rule observed by many of us who drive; a rule no one is ever taught by a driving instructor. The rule is, we flash our lights at oncoming drivers if we pass a speed check. It’s an exercise is mass civil disobedience. It’s not something that’s spoken about. It’s not celebrated. It isn’t a battle of heroic martyrs against an oppressive system.

It’s just a bunch of people conspiring with each other to circumvent the detection of lawbreaking. And it’s a bloody good system. I can’t even begin to estimate to number of points I’ve avoided over the years because some stranger has flashed me a warning.

I don’t consider myself a particularly fast driver. I make an extra special effort to drive at 50 kilometres per hour in areas where that speed limit applies. I do this because I obviously don’t want points but also because I understand there’s good science behind the 50km speed limit. In the areas where this speed limit applies there are a greater number of pedestrians. Going slower means decreased breaking distances. And where impacts do occur there’s a measurably better chance that the pedestrian will avoid death and even serious injury. So I feel a moral obligation to respect this law.

Outside of built up areas I must admit my sense of right and wrong gets a little bit fuzzier. So those flashing lights have been a great help.

There was a time I wasn’t concerned about being stopped for speeding. I never had a car that could do 100 miles per hour so I was never going to get into any real trouble. The points system however has me watching. I’m watching my speed, watching for speed vans and watching for flashing lights (warnings from other drivers, not blue lights with blaring sirens). It can be a bit exhausting.

I pay attention because I don’t want points. Not just because in time I may lose my licence, but more immediately, get a few points and my already expensive insurance becomes even more expensive.

How will I feel if and when I do get points? First, I will curse my luck for not holding out for several more years. Then I’ll be annoyed as I think about all the other drivers, who I see every day, doing things that merit points but who never get caught. The speedsters who whizz past me, even when I’m going too fast. The two or three drivers I see every day talking on their phones. And the people who park in the most stupid places, making already dangerous junctions almost lethal.

I might even get so angry about my bad luck that I contact my local representative and complain that I’m too respectable to get points. I’ll demand action, insist that speed checks should only happen to other people. Explain that when I am on the road I deserve special treatment.

And as I wallow in my self-pity I know I’ll have a politician trying to sooth me. A politician willing to go on national radio to fight for my right not to be caught driving too fast. Possibly even throw in a right to do a bit of drink driving as well, but only on the weekends, with a special licence, because I’m special.

Or I might try copping onto myself and drive within the speed limit from then on.

 

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