datbeardyman

Less about the world, more about me.

Month: May 2017

Confusing Agreement With Support

I’m a writer who wants to be a novelist when I grow up. I love words. I’m an activist who wants to change the world. I love being involved in campaigns. I’m a man. I have a huge ego. I am convinced that if enough people would just listen to my words they would finally see every issue from my point of view and necessarily agree with me.

I often day-dream about going on Radio Kerry to discuss the Eighth Amendment and being so eloquent that Kerry becomes a bastion of pro-choice sentiment. It’s an enjoyable daydream. But I’m a writer, so sometimes I look at my daydreams for ideas. I examine the detail. And when I examine the detail of this daydream I quickly realise how full of shit it, and I, am.

I search for the words for my barn-storming appearance. They aren’t there. I know my opponent’s words. They run the full gamut of ‘unborn baby’ all the way to ‘unborn baby’ and she wipes the floor with me.

I’m an activist, I know pithy beats considered every time. What are my soundbites? I have; trust women, forced birth, Savita, choice, medical care, the UK, ten a day, autonomy. I could throw in, misogyny, hypocrisy, patriarchy and religion, but these have too many syllables to tap a nerve, inspire empathy, take the listener’s mind from…unborn baby.

I’m a writer. I try to imagine what it would be like to be someone else. I’ve tried to imagine what it must be like to experience a crisis pregnancy in this country. I last about two seconds before I’m overwhelmed by feelings of panic and despair.

I’m a straight man. The obstacles to my physical autonomy include not being able to smoke weed when I want to and the theoretical possibility that I may not be able to end my own life at some future date, if the circumstances call for it. How do I describe in soundbites the panic I imagine? How do I equate my moral outrage to their moral outrage?

I like telling stories. I like telling farfetched stories. Once upon a time, in a land far far away, a law was passed that gave an appendix the same legal status as the man it inhabited. Why would an unthinking, unfeeling clump of cells be granted such rights? No one could really remember, but they were pretty confident that it had something to do with control and keeping men in their place.

How dare you compare a vestigial organ with an unborn baby. A paragraph of talking, undone by a soundbite. How do I inspire empathy without soundbites? How do I inspire empathy when I do not want to bruise?

Imagine you became pregnant through rape. Do I want to ask someone to imagine that? Do I want to ask women, mothers whose entire experience of pregnancy was positive and joyous, to imagine something so ugly? Imagine your mother, sister, wife or daughter was raped. Really? Am I really going to ask you that? I can only manage about two seconds of imagining a crisis pregnancy and I’m asking someone to imagine something so vile as a loved one being raped?

This is the greatest weakness that we who support choice have, it is a weakness none of the tone policing columns ever hit on, we actually care about the feelings of others. But the downside of that is that we are fighting up hill, one arm tied behind our backs while taking the time to worry about the safety of those who are watching.

And because we care we end up trying to appeal to the mind, rather than the emotions. We speak in abstractions and ideals. And every time we hear, unborn babies, Down Syndrome and regret.

We hear ‘abortion on demand’ and because it has been so befouled we must condemn the term, though it is exactly what we want. It is a soundbite I wished we owned. But it does serve a purpose. We know who uses it and why. It is used by the fanatics to appeal to the middle. It is used to give comfort and protection to the sexism and hypocrisy of the middle.

We know what it means, who uses it and why. It is code for ‘no abortions for sluts.’ We know who uses it and why but we can’t always say it.

We need the hypocrites, the benign misogynists. The men and so many women, who value the foetus of the broken condom over the foetus of the rape victim. The men and oh so many women who value the foetus of the poor woman over the foetus that is unlikely to live. But how do you go into these hypocrites’ homes and help them see their hypocrisy for what it is?

And then we get a tantalising glimpse of what evidence, shorn of soundbites can actually achieve. Lock a hundred people in a room for five weekends and bombard them with facts and they will embrace free, safe and legal. But we know we can’t force four million people to examine the facts. We have to use soundbites and we must be true to our values so we won’t try to wound. We will fight their battle, on their terms, on their ground. And our allies will gripe and our false allies gripe even harder.

We will get a referendum and it will be so restrictive, so far removed from what the Assembly recommended that some of us may even vote against it. We are in the hands of cowardly politicians who don’t even know they are hypocrites. And we will continue to fight fair, declaring where our monies come from, expending energy on making our voices representative, caring for the feelings of those listening and greeting viciousness with calmness.

And in the end, we will be fighting for the right of some women, in certain circumstances, to be considered more important than a clump of cells. We will be fighting for the further institutionalisation of the concept that some women just don’t deserve the medical care they want. And we might even fail at that.

I’m an activist who does a bit. Just enough to avoid the shame of having done nothing. I do less than many but more than most. And I wonder at those who confuse agreement with support. I wonder about that gap between agreement and joining in. Is it laziness? Is it fear? Is it the misapprehension that their help isn’t required? Or is it the belief that defeat is inevitable? Or is it the belief that activism is what other people do?

We must speak in long sentences, inspire strangers unused to grappling with long sentences to think in long sentences. We do not have the soundbites. We do not have shortcuts. We must speak in long sentences. And to speak in long sentences we need speakers, so many speakers. Men and women who confuse agreement with support. Men and women who think joining in is for other people. We need numbers, so many more numbers.

To campaign for free, safe and legal abortions is to be considered extremist. We are considered by the lazy as the mirror of the anti-choicers. The lazy get to think this because there are still too few who have joined in, joined up, who confuse agreement with support.

There will be a referendum next year. It probably won’t be the referendum we want. But even at this late hour there is an opportunity to shape those words. All it takes is everyone who agrees with free, safe and legal abortions taking a single step. Joining in rather than passive agreement.

Join your local group, most counties have one. If there isn’t one, start one. It is so easy even I helped set up the one in Kerry. It’s a small step, but it could mean the difference between a dozen women a day fleeing this country and perhaps half a dozen fleeing, and one day, no woman having to flee. It’s a small step. Don’t confuse agreement with support. A hundred activists can be dismissed as extremists, a hundred thousand is a movement.

And a movement gets to speak in long sentences, it has the power to inspire thinking in long sentences.

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On Noveling: Still Not About World Building

I missed last week. Stuff got in the way. And again, I won’t be discussing World Building. Two things happened in the development of this novel (still called Hidden Messages for now), that I want to talk about today.

The first is software. As I’ve mentioned I am plotting this novel in great detail before writing it. To that end, I wondered if there were resources out there that could help. There are by the way. It’s an entire industry. And I’m sure some of it is great and some of it is parasitic nonsense, but my research narrowed it down to two products that seemed useful and legit. There’s the Marshall Plan by Evan Marshall and The Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson. I opted for the latter. It was a toss-up and even if I discover I love The Snowflake Method I intend investing in The Marshall Plan at a later date, just to satisfy my curiosity.

I spent $50 on the Snowflake software. It’s a straightforward process and even I, with my antediluvian knowledge of technology, was able to install and begin to use it in under a minute. The method is also very straightforward. Begin with a sentence that describes your novel, then a paragraph that hits the crisis points. Then describe the characters in ever increasing detail. Progressing to ever more detail about what happens.

Early days, but I’m enjoying it. I’m being forced to really think in a detailed and structured manner about the story. About how it will develop, what the characters want, what motivates them and how to turn all this into a coherent novel. Of course, this may all turn out to be an elaborate ploy to justify my procrastination. You and I both shall know the truth of this in the next few months. More anon.

The other interesting, if only tangentially connected, novel related thing to happen was therapy. We were discussing writing. More specifically the difference between blogging and noveling. I largely blog to explore my own thoughts on a topic. There are times when I sit down to blog on a particular topic and discover that my opinion doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. It’s one of the things I love most about blogging.

Noveling however is my desire to tells stories that reflect those values I regard as fundamental to me. My settled values as it were. What makes noveling such an interesting challenge, other than the technical demands, is making sure those values are buried so deep they don’t get in the way of the story. I may never achieve that but I am enjoying trying.

Next week I just might get to World Building.

Previous: Even More Plotting                   Next: Want To Write This One Now

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Herd Immunity

There’s been debate about linking child benefit payments to vaccinations. A move designed to pressure parents into vaccinating their children. It’s a perfectly logical thing to do. Yet it makes me uncomfortable. And I can’t work out if it’s just a remnant of my libertarian days making me paranoid about ‘Big Brother’ or my more progressive self not liking benefits being used as a weapon.

There are some fundamental principles that require unpacking in such a proposal. I won’t look at the science for that is long settled. And there’s nothing that can be said to anti-vaxers to shift them from their nonsensical nonsense. Such nonsense is bone deep, it is an identity, it is the nonsense of a superstition made into a plague of nonsense by social media. A nonsense that would see the return of polio and small pox and call it progress. Fuck them and their nonsense.

But I’m torn. For years, the term ‘herd immunity’ meant little to me beyond an abstraction. A process I understood intellectually but felt no connection to. Then my mother became one of those people described as immuno-compromised. After her, my wife. This means that their immune systems are not robust enough to always be suitable to receive vaccinations and worse, any infection that is doing the rounds will find them, and hit them harder than most.

It means I get the flu-vaccination. Not necessarily because I’m worried I may get the flu, but because if I get the flu chances are my wife and mother will get it. For me it’ll be very unpleasant. For them it may be much worse. They are not relying on just their nearest and dearest, they are relying on their friends, neighbours, the people who serve them in shops and people they share a bus with to also have gotten their vaccinations. The more people vaccinated, the fewer opportunities an airborne pathogen has of finding them. That’s herd immunity.

Childhood vaccinations meant that things like measles had almost disappeared from the Western World. So high were the vaccination rates that those few children who couldn’t receive the vaccination were safe. Protected by the herd immunity created by responsible parents protecting their own children. Then proven fraudster and disgraced former doctor and chief peddler of nonsense Andrew Wakefield claimed there was a link between the MMR vaccination and autism.

Vaccination rates fell off a cliff. Children began to die. But I won’t go into the science of it. The nonsense is bone deep. It is an identity now.

Recently girls in Ireland began receiving the HPV vaccination. This protects girls from most forms of cervical cancer. Initially there was nearly 100% take up. Then reports began to appear of adverse effects. The science is clear but the nonsense is bone deep. Vaccination rates have dropped off of a cliff. Women will die. Those who couldn’t get the vaccination because of prior conditions will not have the protection of herd immunity. Their nonsense is an identity.

But if parents own their children, are they not entitled to endanger their children because of their sincerely held beliefs, no matter how far removed from reality those beliefs are? It’s easy for me to make the assertion that children are held in trust by their parents, but do not own them. It is easy for me to say the State has a responsibility to protect children from the wilful stupidity of their parents. That the State has a responsibility to protect children from the wilful stupidity of other children’s parents.

I don’t have children so I can make assertions about the status of children with ease. But I’m a son and a husband of women who could suffer because this nonsense is afforded a level of respect we don’t grant Jehovah’s Witnesses who will not allow their children receive lifesaving blood transfusions.

I’m also a member of this society and I don’t want this society I inhabit to be further marred by nonsense. I don’t care that this nonsense is sincerely held. I don’t care that this nonsense is now an identity. I don’t care that this nonsense is immune to logic and reason and evidence and reality, I don’t want to suffer because of this dangerous nonsense.

But do I want the State to wield the cudgel of withheld benefits? To coerce the wilfully stupid? To finally embrace its role as guarantor of every child’s welfare? To supplant parents and their sincerely held beliefs? Of course I fucking do. If they can do it with Jehovah’s Witnesses then they can do it with gobshite, middle class, conspiracy theorist, homeopathy believing, nonsense embracing, child endangering, gobshites. And yes, I said gobshites twice, because that is what they are.

The problem of course is that this is a nonsense that mostly infects the middle class (or appears that way at least). Halving their child benefit will only further convince them that they are modern day martyrs, without actually protecting children from their nonsense. It is a nonsense that is bone deep.

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Thin-Skinned Godling

Sometimes all one can do is laugh. Sometimes one just has to thank the gods they don’t believe in for having been born a cisgender straight man. Sometimes you find yourself looking at the capital ‘A’ atheists and wonder, just wonder if perhaps…

Our Dáil, in its infinite wisdom voted to make it mandatory for TDs to stand for a prayer at the beginning of every session. The Ceann Comhairle (The Speaker) will recite a prayer, followed by a 30-second period of reflection. A sop to the heathens I assume. Those TDs who do not stand face possible expulsion from the chamber. As I laugh, I’m checking the calendar. Yep, it is 2017.

The thing is, if this act of symbolic sectarianism with menaces, was an isolated incident, then one could simply laugh it off. It is so patently absurd it deserves both ridicule and patronising indulgence. But it isn’t an isolated incident. It isn’t the only occasion when Roman Catholic sectarianism is allowed free rein in this country and its institutions.

At noon and at 6 p.m. our national broadcaster transmits the Roman Catholic call to prayer, The Angelus. It’s irksome in isolation, but added to the rest it becomes burdensome.

In certain county and city council chambers across the country, councillors have voted to have crucifixes on display. That councils are supposed to serve all in that district doesn’t matter to those who require ostentatious displays of their Roman Catholic piety.

To become President, a High Court judge or sit on the Council of State one must swear a religious oath. It’s in the Constitution.

If one’s child is trying to get into an oversubscribed school, that school is allowed discriminate on the basis of religion. And if that school does accept your non-Catholic child, it’s up to the parent to look after the child during the religious indoctrination parts of the school day.

And they own the schools. They actually own the schools.

If you are a religious organisation that owes the State millions of euro for having abused people entrusted to your care, you don’t have to worry about bailiffs seizing your assets. You may get the odd letter and meaningful look, but you are perfectly entitled to ignore such lip quivering.

If you think the law should treat living women as being the equal of the foetuses they may be carrying, you get to have the Constitution altered so that a dozen women must flee this Roman Catholic paradise every day for medical care in the UK.

If you think the law should treat living women as being the equal of the foetuses they may be carrying, you are entitled to set up agencies that lie to those women. There is no law to protect vulnerable women from your religiously inspired lies.

If you think same sex relationships are all icky and against your thin-skinned god you get to hate on same sex relationships while not being called homophobic. Because that might hurt your feelings and the feelings of your thin-skinned godling.

And if someone treats you and your thin-skinned goldling the same way you treat people in same sex relationships you get to cry foul because blasphemy is not just a sin it’s against the law. Because your thin-skinned godling and his thin-lipped worshippers need protecting from words.

If you own strategically important land, the State will build a hospital for you and allow you to own that hospital. Some sap farmer in the way of a motor way will see his land compulsory purchased so quick he won’t know what hit him.

And they own the hospitals. They actually own the hospitals.

And worse than the laws, the land, the discrimination, the sectarianism, the hypocrisy and the sense of entitlement, is that they get to feel hard done by because not everyone is grateful for their death-grip on this country. Thank fuck and thank their petty godling that I’m straight, male, have no children, don’t have any ambition to rise to high office or low office to be frank, don’t watch RTE and am relatively healthy, because at least I’m spared the majority of their parasitic sanctimony.

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