datbeardyman

Less about the world, more about me.

Category: Current Affairs (page 2 of 5)

Dáil Prayer

There’s a good chance the world will end this week, but here I am writing about prayers in the Dáil. It’s as if my atheism, once again, comes with a capital A. It’s not that the idea of non-religious people being forced to stand to attention while a Christian prayer is said at them, appals me. Irks me certainly, but not appal. It is just one of a litany of petty insults that Roman Catholics like to throw around in this country. But what is important is that by their very nature, members of our parliament are quite a privileged bunch, so a few insults won’t harm them.

What I’ve found more interesting are the inventions by two Kerry politicians, Michael Healy-Rae TD and Councillor John Joe Culloty, on the topic. Neither man could care a whit less about an audience outside of rural Kerry, if you’ll forgive the apparent tautology. They were speaking to their constituents and both men are very skilled at reading and catering to their constituency.

They did not mince their words, other than to offer contradictory and demonstrably false comfort to anyone who isn’t a Roman Catholic. One gets used to listening to Iona types disguising their exclusionary opinions in so much smooth blather. It was refreshing to hear two politicians essentially tell anyone who isn’t a Roman Catholic to fuck off. A little irked, but not appalled.

I even began to feel some empathy for these rural types who fear the loss of their Roman Catholic privilege. Because this is more than simple privilege. Again, I’ve listened to too many Iona types that I forgot to listen to the sweaty masses that Iona like to speak for. This is about identity. Since before there was an Irish state, Irish children were being indoctrinated by the Roman Catholic Church.

Come the revolution, the Church smelled the direction of the wind and jumped on the nationalist bandwagon with all the gusto of the recently converted. And once independence was won, they got to keep the schools. Every generation since then has been taught a type of nationalism that twins Roman Catholicism with Irishness. It should not then be surprising that for a great many people in Ireland, an attack on their Church is an attack on their nationalism, an attack on their identity. An attack on their perception of who and what they are.

No wonder their hackles rise and their representatives smell votes anytime this new-fangled idea of secularism is touted.

To say one’s faith is a private matter goes against a century of conditioning. It’s just that a century of faith formation still seems to require constant public support to survive. The schools, the hospitals, RTE, council chambers, courtrooms, the constitution, the presidency and the parliament are all required to buttress this seemingly weak faith. It appears that there is no faith in the faith of Roman Catholics.

In this age of the ‘Identity’ and of all cultures being deemed worthy, it’s difficult to know how best to negotiate this impasse. Is it ageist to suggest that our senior citizens be allowed the comfort of Roman Catholic iconography on television and in hospitals? Is it too much to expect minorities to grin and bare it while an aging and diminishing majority lords it over them? Is it sectarian to accept that only Christians can be judges? I really don’t know how one can manage to keep everyone happy and equal, while ensuring no injury to someone’s dearly held identity.

Speaking about the values of a republic is meaningless in the face of an identity that does not distinguish between faith and nationality. I just don’t know how to square this circle.

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Hypocrisy and Middle Ireland

There are few things as galling as enduring hypocrisy. And those struggling for abortion rights are having to endure more than their fair share of it. It often feels as if the only thing standing in the way of abortion rights is hypocrisy. It assails campaigners from all sides.

There are the tone policers. A section of the commitariat that has managed to misinterpret the marriage equality referendum as a template for all future socially divisive campaigns. They want clean cut, middle class women, to tearfully come out to their grandmothers about the abortion they had because the foetus could not survive. They want campaigners to hold the hand of Middle Ireland as it reluctantly agrees that some women deserve autonomy, in some cases, for some reasons. They want gentle. They want clean. No burst condoms, one night stands, poverty or careers. No bad timing, wrong circumstances or indeed anything that smacks of women refusing to take responsibility for the sex they chose to have. Of course, rape victims should have some physical autonomy, but please don’t mention the near impossibility of turning this into law.

Keep it clean and polite and all things nice. Our betters are certain they know how to win. They may not campaign, but they just know. They expect standards, but only from one side. The vicious and serial dishonesty of the anti-choicers is never even alluded to. The made-up statistics, the made-up links, the misleading agencies, the money and the overwhelming hatred of women who have sex. Not one comment. Whatever act of fanatical misogyny, they escape censure from the tone police?

It is Middle Ireland however that is most guilty of hypocrisy. A hypocrisy that continues to confound those of us who work for abortion rights. The polling evidence is clear, a majority of Irish people agree with some women, being allowed abortions, in certain circumstances. It’s as if the status of the foetus is unimportant. What matters is the woman. How did she arrive at the point where she has demanded (always demanded) an abortion? Are they nice and tragic or just buyer’s remorse?

The foetus doesn’t matter. What did the woman do? Don’t talk to me about the ten women who leave Ireland every day for an abortion. What has the woman done to deserve an abortion in this country? My country. My dear old Ireland. The foetus doesn’t matter. Middle Ireland pretends it does but even the anti-choicers won’t dare suggest a travel ban on pregnant women, by repealing the 13th Amendment. No anti-choicer would dare suggest that women returning from the UK be charged with procuring an abortion.

Middle Ireland knows that abortion is a daily reality for Irish women. They know it is commonplace. Many of them have taken the plane themselves for each and every reason that women choose to have abortions. From the nice and acceptably tragic to the ones they don’t like to hear about, women choosing to have sex. But they want their hands held. Spoken to gently. Told that their prejudices and hypocrisy are values and morals that deserve respect.

This can never be a rerun of the marriage equality campaign. Grannies could have their hands held. Their clean cut, middle class, gay grandsons could appear on posters. Marriage equality was zero-sum. Winners takes all. No reruns. It wasn’t some gay people, in certain circumstances, if they met the standard of Middle Ireland respectability, that could get married.

It’s taken decades to get to a point where pro-choice campaign groups can see the possibility of some sort of a referendum on some aspect of the Eighth Amendment. We’ve gone from being a country where Middle Ireland locked up pregnant women and sold their babies, to a country where abortion rights are debated daily. This is progress. Slow, painful and frustrating, but progress.

If the Eighth Amendment was repealed tomorrow and the right to free, safe and legal abortions was inserted into the constitution, the campaign for abortion rights would still not be finished. Those who hate women, particularly women who have sex, will never stop. So, we can never stop. And you can fuck off if you think we are going to start being polite to those misogynistic shits.

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Learning Shame

I still remember my skin crawling when Tony Blair apologised for the Great Famine. Now, as then, I could not help but feel the act to be mawkish symbolism. Though I am in the minority. It was a well received apology. The devastation of that famine cannot be overstated. And that efforts to ameliorate were minimal is uncontested. Blair was head of the government of the nation who had to power to relieve, but chose not to. That the famine occurred over 150 years ago, is considered immaterial as the entity known as the UK still exists.

That is how we look at the world. We have divided ourselves into nations. And there are rules to being a nation. Everything your nation has ever done, is doing or will ever do is your responsibility. Everything our nation does is our business and we’ll only take responsibility for those acts we choose to take responsibility for. We expect and demand shame and pleas of contrition from others. We carefully educate our young to only see what is commendable about us.

In the last few years the head of government in our nation has had to make various apologies for how our nation treated its most vulnerable citizens. It is the closest we’ve gotten to admitting that the imagined nation created for the consumption and indoctrination of our children is wildly different from the nation that exists in reality.

We only exist as this nation because we have taught our children that this nation exists. We only exist because for generations we have taught our children that we exist. And this belief is bone deep. It is unshakable. It is an integral part of our core identity. We are Irish. We exist because we have always existed. We exist because being Irish is better than not being Irish. We are Irish because our ancestors are Irish. We are Irish and proud to be Irish. We exist because we have taught ourselves to exist. We are this nation and no other. We are this nation because we are proud to be this nation.

How then do we integrate shame into this self-perpetuating identity of exceptionalism and pride? The dead generations (and not so dead generations) that took a nation and forged from it a state, stand now accused and found guilty of callous cruelty. Not the personal cruelty, confined to home and hearth, but a cruelty made into custom and law. A cruelty of intellectual and material poverty. A cruelty of devotion to virginity and faith. A cruelty of rigid conformity and hypocrisy. A cruelty of gender and class.

A cruelty that only idealism and patriotism can fester.

How do we weld shame onto pride? How do we conjoin identity and reality?

And worse, so much worse, is the money. We might forgive the dead and not so dead generations for their wanton obedience to a vicious ideology. We could patronise them for their naivety and simplicity. Even excuse them for being in the inescapable clutches of an all pervading custom of hate. But the money.

This was not simple idealism. This was profit. This was not punishment and rehabilitation and salutary lesson. This was profit. Babies were sold. Hair was sold. Labour was sold. This was profit.

In this more enlightened age we understand the power of faith. It can animate those in its power to acts of unimaginable callousness. Many of those who imprisoned pregnant women, took their children and forced them to work probably believed that this was the right thing to do. I imagine it is easy to hate women, especially sexually active women, if one is taught to hate women, especially sexually active women and with a particular vehemence, sexually active women who aren’t married. And why would one even ask about the boys and men who got these women pregnant when one is taught to hate sexually women and only sexually active women?

With the correct interventions and therapies, one could possibly counsel this hate away. One could learn to forgive these poor souls lost in their hateful faith. But the money. The money. The money. They sold babies, hair and other people’s labour.

How do teach ourselves the shame we expect other nations, other states, to feel? Do we just leave it to the Taoiseach du jour to apologise and the taxpayer to give inadequate compensation? How do we teach the shame of our nation colluding in the kidnapping and selling of babies?

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Shamrock In The White House

I have a sneaky regard for Enda Kenny. He’s the kind of bland politician I like to see in my democracy. He entered the Dáil just one year after I was born. I have a grey beard, so that tells you how long he’s been a public representative. And in all that time he hasn’t said or done anything that could be remembered the next day, never mind ten years from now. He has the charisma of magnolia paint and the searing oratory of an awkward father of the bride. He is, to belabour the point, bland.

He probably has some ideological convictions. I’m not sure what they are because he has the decency to say nothing that could be construed as a guiding value. Yet one does get the impression, that while his primary focus is keeping his constituency sweet, he would like to see Ireland do well. If whether he can distinguish between the people who live here and the corporate entity known as Ireland, I have no idea. But I’m almost certain he knows that if his legacy is to be more than being Taoiseach for longer than expected, Ireland (or the people who live here) will have to feel (and feel is more important than reality) that things are better because of him.

Retaining his seat for so long has taught him some kind of electoral cunning. Or has he won that often because he is cunning? I don’t know, but he knows his people, especially if they are Mayo people. He may not wear his values on his sleeve but he knows what values are continually winning him re-election. And he knows what he thinks is best for Ireland Inc. So, when he happens upon a moral pickle he’ll do the math and act accordingly. He may not do it consciously. I’m sure that being a politician this long means it takes no more than split second to decide what to do.

For example, should he go to Washington, cap in hand, bowl of shamrock in the other, and prostrate himself before the Orange Monster now stinking out the White House? Let’s look at the math. The Bigly Bigot has targeted Muslims. How does that impact on Ireland and the people who live here? It has certainly generated a lot of outrage but mostly among people who wouldn’t vote for Enda anyway. Will Ireland Inc. be tainted by this crawl to the Big House? Possibly, but weigh that against the risk of US companies being directed by the thin-skinned buffoon to divest.

Do we really care that much about Ireland’s reputation that we’d risk some sort of economic pain for taking a moral stand? A moral stand for Muslims? A moral stand for refugees we don’t really want to help either? Yes, we have a history of fleeing our nation and seeking salvation in the US but that only happened in history books so it doesn’t count. So, the math is simple, Enda will certainly go to the US and kiss the ring on those tiny orange fingers.

Those of us who think this an embarrassing endorsement of sectarian populism have to do our own math. Enda won’t lose a single vote for playing the peasant supplicant for Ireland. Many among our families, friends and neighbours don’t see how a US ban that targets Muslims makes the world a less safe place. I’m not talking about the common or garden bigots who laud the Orange Monster’s actions, but the majority who don’t see why Ireland should care about what the US does to Muslims as long as they invest in our little country and look after our relations who are in the US illegally.

Outrage at being associated with our Bland Supreme being photographed with President Bigot is not much use. Attempting conversations with those who don’t see the vicious stupidity (and the immorality if you’re feeling up to it) that President Bigot is cultivating and unleashing is now our only option. Conversations with people who vote for Enda. Not conversations with the racists but with those who don’t understand that silence is the same as complicity.

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Trump Coming To Kerry

I have some sympathy for Kerry County Councillor Thomas McEllistrim’s (Fianna Fáil, natch) call for a formal invitation to be extended to Donald Trump to visit our beautiful Kingdom. Whatever misgivings we snowflakes may have about this orange menace, Councillor McEllistrim is doing his job.

He is a county councillor. A county councillor has two areas of responsibility.

The first is to protect his positon. And protecting means ensuring re-election. The councillor must keep a weather eye on his municipal rivals both from within and without his party. But ultimately, he looks to his advancement within the ranks so that one day he may leave the Council behind for the real money of a TDship.

To this end all efforts must be directed to promoting Brand McEllistrim. In inviting President Pond Scum, McEllistrim has ensured not only local coverage but national attention. His already high brand recognition is now at TD level. And as an election may be called at any moment he must be congratulated on this coup.

His second area of responsibility is the promotion and protection of this county’s best interests. This is a straightforward proposition as long as one doesn’t think about it for more than a split second. What are Kerry’s best interests? For a long time, we’ve been taught that this is merely a financial consideration. President Bigot visiting our golf courses will obviously have an impact on tourism. With tourism comes more jobs and more money and all is right with our tiny corner of the world.

How could anyone, but a snowflake, or a woman, question this logic? There is no way to put right and wrong into a graph with arrows going up or down, measuring what is in essence, nebulous. We know that President Sexual Assault is a bigot, a racist, a hypocrite, a liar, a misogynist, a threat to world security, a narcissist and too thin skinned to be believed, but does any of that matter?

In what measurable way does fawning at the feet of this worthless piece of shit impact negatively on the people of Kerry? Our Kerry politicians kissing his tiny orange toes will attract money. That he is a slimy, vindictive, divisive and self-aggrandising mess of a barely human male thing, should not detract from the money that Councillor McEllistrim rightly assumes will follow in his wake if he was to pollute our Kingdom with is vicious presence.

We can’t just make the leap to insisting that someone who boasts about sexually assaulting women being lauded by our public representatives is an explicit or even a tacit endorsement of sexual assault. It’s logically true, but you just can’t say it. They are our public representatives and that would be like saying that Kerry endorses sexual assault. So we can’t say that. We must just think of the jobs.

We can’t assume that just because he equates the actions of a minority of Muslims with all Muslims that Kerry also accepts bigotry as our county hobby. That we might have our own experiences of being assumed terrorists makes us impervious to such bigotry even if we embrace the most powerful bigot on the planet. For the jobs.

Yes he mocked a disabled man. It’s on tape, but he denied it so we have an out. We are not saying it’s ok to mock people with physical disabilities, we just want the jobs. It’s on tape, but he denied it. Jobs.

Doffing the cap, with our hands held out, to a mean little man doesn’t make us mean little people. Well obviously it does, but that isn’t the point, jobs. This clown and his circus of sycophants and psychopaths, will bring the world’s attention to our golf courses. And isn’t all that really matters?

 

 

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Another Day, Another Lecture

another-day-another-lecture

Another day another incident of ‘friendly fire’ from erstwhile allies. The presumption to lecture the pro-choice movement on how to pro-choice better has become more than tiresome. How can people who are paid to write columns continually demonstrate a complete ignorance of what the pro-choice movement is? Why do I never see ARC mentioned in the ‘helpful tips for pro-choicers’ moan de jure? And where does this expectation of politeness being thrust upon pro-choicers come from?

What is the pro-choice movement? It is an amalgam of dozens of organisations and thousands of individuals. At the moment almost all these disparate parts can be found under the banner of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth. And disparate they are. It encompasses groups from all points on the political spectrum and groups that choose to be neutral. It has organisations that view abortion as part of their human rights, feminist and equality activities and others whose sole focus is abortion. It has regional, professional and sectoral groups. It is the largest civil society alliance in the history of the State. And this Coalition is also its individuals. Thousands and thousands, be they part of one or more of the various groups or who use their access to various media to support the cause in their own way. In its size and scope, it represents the opinions of the vast majority of the Irish people who want increased access to abortion in this country.

That it has so many groups under the one umbrella is wonderful. Few people now doubt that the Eighth Amendment is under serious threat. But as to what comes after that repeal, this cannot be the responsibility of the Coalition to decide.

I personally don’t care what legislation is promised to convince people to repeal the Eighth. Whatever it is, however conservative, it would be impossible to be as restrictive as the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. All that matters is that abortion is taken out of the Constitution. But if you’re interested here’s an example of proposed legislation.

What must be remembered is that whatever happens, post repeal a woman’s right to abortion will be left in the uncertain care of representative democracy. Chilling, I know, that the extent of a woman’s physical autonomy will be in the hands of politicians whose primary concern is being re-elected rather than vindicating the rights of over half the population. But short of a Constitutional Amendment that guarantees a woman’s right to choose, we are left with that den of mediocrity that is our Dáil. This unimpressive bunch will have to grasp the nettle and make the decision as to how much freedom women will have. They will have to decide that if a dozen women going to the UK every day for an abortion is too many, is ten ok, or five or two. However, no matter how badly they mess up, legislation can be replaced by legislation.

And this is where ARC must get a mention. They are the Abortion Rights Campaign. They organised the March for Choice that got anywhere between 30,000 and eleventy billion people to march in the rain during a bus strike. They formed in 2012 and currently have 17 regional groups working all across the country for abortion rights. They do all this yet never get name checked when advice is being proffered. It’s almost as if these allies in the media have never heard of them.

What does the Abortion Rights Campaign want? They want the number of women who have to travel to the UK for an abortion to be zero. They want abortions to be free, safe and legal. Post repeal that is what they will be campaigning for. And they won’t be wasting their time or resources battling the anti-choicers. They will be taking on many of their coalition partners who genuinely believe less than a dozen is good but zero is unachievable and/or unacceptable. In that struggle I hope a degree of respectful disagreement can be maintained.

But for now, in the realm of pro-choicers versus anti-choicers, there can be no respectful debate. Yes, when there are appearances in the media, affecting a calm demeanour is tactically important. Outside of that environment, it’s altogether too fundamental. It can be no other way. When women are routinely called murderers, Nazis, evil and whores, then you know, fuck that noise. Yet those who are targeted, more often than not, manage to maintain a dignity and poise that astounds me. If I was in their shoes, I’d have gone postal by now. But despite the distress and harm they’ve experienced, for sharing their stories, they persevere. And please stop with the Marriage Equality comparisons. Behind the positivity and success, real damage was done to members of the LGBTQ+ community. Asking for equality means someone gets media time to say no and explain why you don’t deserve that equality.

Yet women do continue to put their heads above parapet to a chorus of abuse, while keeping their cool. Abuse from randomers on Twitter, official spokespeople, clerics and politicians. And I think I know why pro-choice women are expected to be polite when asking for their rights, rather than being shrill and uppity. It’s not entirely down to sexism. It’s not entirely down to the hypocrisy of our establishment. It’s because these women have begun to successfully reframe the debate in a way that is more humane and respectful of women. But abortion is still seen by many, as at best, a necessary evil. Too many people manage to see past the misogyny and bile of the anti-choicers and sympathise with their horror of a ‘baby being killed.’ It is this perception that allows such a small group (though with a lot of American money, a supine media and a still all pervasive Church) to wield such moral weight.

The thing is, their horror at abortion is the same horror I feel when a woman is forced to continue with a pregnancy against her will. That is a violation I find monstrous, even though it is something I will never directly experience. Yet this dread is supposed to be expressed with politeness and detailed legislation that decides which women get to experience that horror and which don’t.

Perhaps not everyone on the pro-choice side feels this depth of disgust. And that’s ok. But tone-policing those who do experience this as a fundamental violation is far from ok. Insisting on niceness from women who are abused daily is perverse. Insisting on a uniformity of purpose and strategy from a coalition that is united on one issue alone, repealing the Eighth, is frankly ridiculous. Demanding volunteer organisations produce legislation is as lazy as it is insulting.

If allies want to actually help secure women the right to an abortion in this country maybe donate some money, or time or their columns to the Coalition or to any of its member groups. At least from the inside your contribution won’t be tone-policing, it’ll be tone-setting.

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Repealers Doing It Wrong

repealers-doing-it-wrong

There are times when I read something that is so wrong I just shrug my shoulders and fling it from my mind. Sometimes it’s so bad I draw attention to it so other people can share in my disdain. Then there are pieces of writing that are so woeful I feel the need to dive in and swim in the noxiousness of it, so I can fully understand it. This is one of those times.

Donal Lynch has written something I can’t turn away from. It’s just too egregious. He describes himself as supporting the repeal of the eighth amendment and in favour of a woman’s right to choose, but thinks every other pro-choicer is doing it wrong.

This is a link to the original article, from which I will be liberally quoting.

“…that I felt the pro-choice movement consistently fails to deal with the central argument of the other side – that abortion ends a life.” The pro-choice side ceaselessly deals with the fact that an abortion ends a life. Unfortunately, the complexity of this issue does not lend itself to soundbites. Nor does our media allow for uncontested examinations of an issue so steeped in philosophical, ethical and moral ambiguity. And in a campaign where our opponents are allowed to fill their 50% of allotted time with lies, an in-depth discussion of this issue is impossible. How does one, in sixty seconds or less, explain that yes an abortion ends a life but what exactly is that life? What value do we put on that life and how exactly does that that value alter over time?

Yet we, as a movement, are successfully encompassing so many different groups and women who have varying experiences of, and attitudes to, abortion. There are women that mourn the loss of their babies (aborted due to fatal foetal abnormalities). Women who had abortions to protect their own health, women who had abortions because the time wasn’t right for them to be mothers or never want to be mothers and others who have never had an abortion and would never have one, but feel it important for women to have the right. The continued existence of this incredibly broad coalition speaks to an understanding that abortion ends a life but that the meaning of this is ambiguous. Why not use your 1500 words in a national newspaper to tease this issue out rather than harangue campaigners who get abused for their efforts?

“I get the argument that “demand” makes it sound like a consumerist whim, but doesn’t the phrase “on request” sound like a timid plea by comparison?” Pro-choicers do want abortion on demand. Many others within the coalition want abortion to be limited to certain circumstances. Either way, the phrase has been poisoned by anti-choicers. As a soundbite it is used as a stick to beat women who experience crisis pregnancies. Perhaps one day the phrase will be reclaimed by pro-chociers, but someone who writes for a national newspaper should know, that at this point in time, ‘on-demand’ has been shaped to evoke images of wanton women who want abortions instead of keeping their knees together.

“For the shrill Repeal sisterhood, it’s not enough to want the same thing, we have to want it for the right reasons.” In my experience, people who generalise about women using epitaphs like ‘shrill’ tend to be tiny brained and tiny dicked man-children. But I don’t have the peer reviewed studies to back up what is essentially anecdotal evidence, so I must just leave this as an opinion.

“the least successful abortion-rights movement in Europe is finally getting its act together.” This is a statement that rings true as long as one doesn’t actually, you know, look at the facts. In 1983, Ireland was a fundamentally different place than it is today, and even then, the eighth amendment passed with just 35.9% of the electorate. Since then, there have been four referendums related to abortion, and the anti-choicers lost them all.

This current phase of campaigning is relatively new and despite the overwhelming conservatism of our politicians, some progress has been made. Why Ireland is one of the few nations in Europe to so oppress women is worthy of sociological, demographic and cultural study. All wonderfully rich topics someone with access to a national newspaper could delve into. Though not as easy as tossing insults at people who brave abuse as they campaign for abortion rights.

“nobody is silencing women” Are you fucking kidding me? Is your head entirely up your arse? Did it occur to you to ask any of the women who spoke about their abortions about the abuse they’ve experiences from anti-choicers?

“They have always won.” No they haven’t. Remember the 12th, 13th, 14th and 25th amendments? Remember the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. Do your bloody research.

“The most basic question of all is, of course, the actual death of the foetus. Just as the pro-life brigade never fully engage with the experience of the woman, so pro-choice activists ignore the idea of the unborn child.” I refer you to my response to your first quote with an addendum. More people in Ireland want increased access to abortion than realise that to get increased access we need to repeal the eighth amendment. And if the eight amendment was repealed tomorrow, access to abortion in this country wouldn’t change. Have you noticed yet how complicated this is? Engaging with the pricks with the placards is less important than explaining to as many people as possible that nothing can change before the eight is repealed and when it is repealed a whole new campaign must begin.

“So how does the average person reconcile this vista and the knowledge that, hairsplitting aside, something with a heartbeat and a face must be a living thing, with support for abortions for those who want them? The answer might be in the last place the Repealers would think to look: in the idea of redemption and atonement.” Do you really want the 95% of women who have an abortion and don’t regret it, to begin to feel guilty just so you can be taken seriously by the shrill sisterhood? Are you that needy? And again I refer you to the first quote.

“And as for God – whose presence and attitude she frequently considered during this time – she was convinced that if he really did exist, that he must have the compassion to understand.” Here you quote from a story to make a point about guilt. NO! STOP IT! The shrill sisterhood is done with religious guilt. That day has passed. It’s up to you to adjust to that, not for them to get back on their knees.

“And perhaps like a lot of Irish people, we simply yearn for a proper language for the moral struggle around abortion.” Why oh why is it important for you that women feel guilty or just plain bad for having an abortion? Why must they experience emotional pain just so you can feel better about them having an abortion? Have you any idea how sick and creepy that is? Cop the fuck on.

“There is a spiritual vacuum at the heart of Irish life. We have rejected the old Church – for good reasons – but in doing so, we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.” Really? You thought this phrase was a good idea?

“Paradoxically, this has caused retrenchment to a rigid morality that has made us the odd man out in Europe for abortion rights.” Malta? Poland? Northern Ireland?

“Abortion is a complex issue that affects at least three living beings in every case – the mother, the father and the foetus. It is about pain and death – this needs to acknowledged – and there needs to be a language of grief and respect around it.” Wow, you really can’t let go of the idea that women need to suffer for you to allow them have abortions. You can’t get your head around the idea that for every one hundred women who have an abortion there are one hundred different experiences. They range from relief all the way to regret with a multitude of other emotions mixed in. However, for the vast majority, the experience is a positive one.

“But acknowledging these issues not only shows respect for the terrible responsibility of the woman (her ‘choice’), it takes on the pro-life lobby on their own spiritual turf. It beats them with their own crucifix.” I can only guess here that you mean anti-choicers will stop hating women who have abortions if they say how horrible having an abortion was and how bad they will feel for the rest of their lives? Perhaps if every woman who has ever had an abortion came out tomorrow saying it was the worst thing they could have ever done, we will have abortion on demand the day after?

“It’s often presumed that if the Eighth Amendment were removed that we would eventually get what they have in England – where there are roughly 200,000 abortions a year and the procedure is basically used like a contraceptive (over one-third of UK abortions are for women who have previously had one).” And 66% of women who have abortions in the UK were using contraception at the time and over half of women who had abortions were already mothers. I hope they all felt bad about it too.

“Women, and sometimes men, come to stand before these mystical monuments to express their grief, sadness, confusions and hopes of forgiveness.” Your guilt fetish is beginning to scare me now.

“They will never acknowledge that, at the heart of abortion, is the fact that it is one life for another, an impossible decision – different for every woman – that must somehow be made.” Impossible decision? But these guilt free Irish harlots are having over 4000 abortions a year? It’s not impossible, it’s not even improbable. It’s basic health care.

There are occasions when it is an event of great tragedy, as in the case of fatal foetal abnormality. Or when the pregnancy is the result of a rape. But tragedy does not equal guilt. Women in these circumstances require support and compassion, not an expectation that they feel guilty or a requirement that they prostrate themselves at some shrine for having committed the great sin of making the best choice for them.

“This is a terrible shame. Facing up to these issues might go some way toward bringing along the ‘mushy middle’ of Irish society, who have long accepted we must change our constitution (just look at all the polls), but still can’t quite bring themselves to flag-wave for abortion.” Irish people will only repeal the eighth if women pretend they were traumatised by their abortions?

“And maybe one day, in the not-too-distant future, we principled, determined Repealers can take our own spirituality, candles and rosary beads (I have a beautiful set from my grandmother), and join the likes of Youth Defence in grieving for the dead.” You fucking clown.

Reading this I am left with the impression that Donal Lynch might actually support a woman’s right to choose but can’t get his head around the fact that women are not broken by the experience. It’s not an entirely uncommon fallacy. It’s that or he thinks women should feel broken by the experience. That’s also not an uncommon attitude. The first can, eventually, be countered by stats and women revealing more of their medical history than they should ever have to. The second, however, is a profoundly unsettling attitude that appears to animate much of the hate that emanates from the anti-choice side. That sexually active women are not penalised for being sexually active enrages anti-choice bigots beyond reason or restraint.

So swimming in this bullshit has had some benefit for me. I now understand better some of our ‘allies’ and equally I understand better some of our enemies. All we need now is for women to pretend to feel guilty and see if it helps the cause.

 

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When Politicians Talk Shite

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.

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A Few Thoughts on Brexit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A United Irish Team?

A-United-Irish-Team

There was some suggestion that the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland football teams should join together. Though as both teams have reached the knock-out phase of the tournament in France, discussion of this possibility has been muted. There is nothing like success to make the status quo seem that bit more attractive.

It is however an interesting topic. On a purely logical level it makes a great deal of sense to unite the sides. Neither jurisdiction is blessed with an abundance of players or resources, so joining together will increase the pool of players that the team could call on. Then there are the administrative costs. Instead of two Associations, with all the resulting costs, there would be one all island body. The extra money could be ploughed into the grassroots game, generating even more players that may one day represent this island. And if there is one team there might as well be one domestic league, which might even help our clubs go that little bit further in Europe.

This all Ireland team would be able to call on the resources and support of over six million people. It still wouldn’t be a heavy weight in world football but qualification for tournaments might become a lot more common. The logic of a united team is inescapable.

Of course, logic and football are rarely on speaking terms. If I was logical I would’ve stopped supporting Liverpool about twenty years ago. A football team, be it domestic or international, is less about the brain and more, so much more, about the heart.

The colour of the jersey will be easy and we could probably get away with simply calling the team Ireland. After that it gets complicated. It would have to be decided if Ireland was absorbing Northern Ireland or if this was a genuine union of two associations. To get mathematical, this is either A+B=C or A+B=A.

If it is the latter and the IFA are content with this, then no problem, but a union on the other hand poses many difficulties. Well, three in fact, anthem, flag and quotas. If two sides are combining to form a third, then all the symbolism around an international team will have to be examined. Is it appropriate for either God Save the Queen or Amhrán na bhFiann to be this new team’s anthem or should both songs be played before every game? Or should a new song be chosen? The same applies to the flags. Tricolour, Red Hand or a new flag? And finally should there be a certain minimum number of players, from each jurisdiction, on the team, so that it is truly representative of this new entity?

I suppose one could throw in location of Home games as well, Dublin or Belfast, or strict rotation? Probably less contentious than the other three as both cities are relatively close to each other.

I really don’t know how one addresses these issues, but I guess the reason no one seriously expects a united Irish team to happen is because no one else knows how to address them either. But it is interesting to think about on occasion.

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