datbeardyman

Less about the world, more about me.

Category: Stuff (page 1 of 5)

My Privileges

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Of my many privileges, missing the experience of the Repeal campaign is possibly my most noxious. I will often have a wistful reminisce about that heady time. Then, I’ll catch myself and administer a firm admonishment. Win or lose last year, exactly zero percent of my body was on the line. That bears repeating, zero percent of my body, my freedom, my rights, was at stake. I can miss it because the price of failure would not have been paid by me.

But I miss it. I miss the commitment. I miss the focus. I miss the gravity of what I was engaged in. And I miss the people. Oh, how I miss the people. I was fortunate enough to have been there when Kerry for Choice was formed. I got to attend the first meeting. And a great many subsequent meetings. I was there when it, temporarily, morphed into Kerry Together for Yes. I was there for the campaign. I was there for the count. I’ve been there watching Paula recover from the ordeal of that campaign. But I miss it.

I have never been so involved in something so momentous. Not even close. Never given so much and been rewarded so lavishly. It was important. So much at stake. The consequence of failure so cruel (but not for me). I miss it. I long for those months.

I asked Paula if she could imagine a future campaign that would demand so much of her, that she’d willingly pay the price? She couldn’t.

We tried imagining an issue that would have my body and my rights at stake. The best we could come up with is some dystopian regression where the death penalty is somehow back on the agenda. But the path to that nightmare would have seen the erosion of so many other rights that we’d both probably be in prison and thus unable to campaign.

The right the die may at some point gain enough traction that knocking on doors is required. I hope that happens. That I could get behind. It is a particular concern as I can’t help thinking myself more than halfway there at this point.

The environment concerns me. Of course it does. But there’s a part of me that’s so fascinated by our species’ under-reaction, I’m curious to see how we behave when we realise it’s too late to do anything.

The Repeal campaign presented one with a binary choice, repeal or don’t repeal. Yes or no. We knocked on as many doors and spoke to as many people as we could to explain this choice. To convince them of the necessity. It wasn’t complicated. Made easier by the religious conviction of the anti-choice side that the only way was, never.

Day after day, door after door, estate after estate. It was simple. It was all consuming. And whatever happened I’d be ok. I miss it. So much noxious privilege. The most important thing I’ve ever done and likely will ever do, but it was a free hit for me. So much noxious privilege that even combined with Paula’s intellect and imagination, we can’t envisage a realistic scenario where I’d have to knock on doors begging for control of my own body.

I’m not stupid enough to want to experience what women endured last year. Or stupid enough to want to endure what the LGBTQ+ community was put through three years before. But I do want something to care about to the extent I cared last year. One would think, in this increasingly stupid world where our species insists on self-immolation, l could find something to invest in. I can’t. I have a secret hope, it’s that I’m still recovering from last year’s effort. But I doubt it. You see my body wasn’t at stake.

I think I’ll eventually become involved in climate activism. Weirdly, a lot of the anti-choicers in Kerry don’t agree with the scientific fact of climate change. Which is good for me because I hate learning new names. But again, even if I somehow rekindle my energy of last year, I still won’t have skin in the game. I’m 45 and don’t have children. Noxious privilege to the very end.

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Fighting, Fucking and Foraging

The problem with being a cis straight white man is only being allowed to have authoritative opinions on cis straight white man things. Or more accurately the expertise I have on everything, due to being a cis straight white man, is no longer valued by society. The PC hegemony has relegated me from first place in society to a slightly different version of first place in society. It’s a dreadful waste of my talents. I know just enough about absolutely everything to have an opinion on absolutely everything. And the confidence to inform all of that opinion. I can even use ‘hegemony’ in a sentence. But no, the illiberal war on mansplaining—what was once called civilisation— means I have to hold my tongue. The dreadful penalty for transgressing this new shibboleth? There may be eye-rolling, head shaking and even the occasional look of disappointment on a friend’s face.

I’m expected, nay threatened with many rolling eyes, to confine the expression of my genius to cis straight white man things. This is not only frustrating, it is immensely boring. So very boring. It is boring because keeping my opinions to cis straight white man things alone, is the entirety of the cis straight white man’s burden.

Instead of historical oppression, I have not getting the ride as much as I’d like. Instead of finding solidarity in resisting oppression, I have why don’t people fear me like they used to? Even then, as I’m old, riding is a fun activity which is better imagined than practised. And I’m oblivious to other people so I don’t notice the lack of fear.

This oppressive thwarting of a cis straight white man’s inherent genius has consequences. The time you are wasting reading this is but one of them. Others include, hating the wrong people. And that’s about it really. But taking away the expectation that we’ll always be the most important person in any given situation will provoke a backlash.

No one, who isn’t a cis straight white man, can comprehend what it is like to be under the thumb of those rolling eyes. No one, who isn’t a cis straight white man, can know what it is to be a victim of consequence free disapproval. It’s dreadful. You are now reaping the fruit of our enraged resistance to this slight discomfort. This is war. And war is what we excel at. Well, we excel at everything, but we really excel at war. It’s like we invented it or something.

And what’s the first rule of war? There isn’t one, but as a cis straight white man if I say something with confidence it becomes the truth. For the purposes of this point, the first rule of war is making ersatz copies of the enemy’s weapons. In this case, their language.

Oh yes, the resistance has become au fait with terms like; marginalised, identity, no one wants my dick, solidarity, no really not a single person wants my dick, misandry, it’s not even a joke anymore my dick is simply dying of boredom, reverse sexism, reverse racism, it can’t be my fault so it must be the fault of every woman on the planet and triggering. And while it’s fun to speak among ourselves (for a while) about non sport things, the whole point of our existence is to be living our best lives, oblivious to the price everyone else pays. So we have to deploy these terms.

We men, we band of straight white brothers, are lost. We were grand with being oppressed and abused by our brothers. We would cope by directing our rage and inadequacy onto anyone who wasn’t a cis straight white man. We could punch down and punch down and keep punching down until we didn’t feel entirely powerless. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it worked. For us.

Then those who were being punched began punching back. And those punches landed. We had to begin watching our manners. Because our brothers who oppress us have sided with those we’d been lording it over. There’s money in it you see.

Now I know what you’re thinking; why don’t we make common cause with those we’d been abusing, against the brothers who oppress everyone? Take on those who destroy our jobs and even the illusion of dignity that kept us in our places? And I say to that, fuck off you commie nerd. Don’t you oppress me. Thor is a man, a straight white man, and always has been.

Cis straight white men were designed for fucking, fighting and foraging. And of course, being in charge. We do not have the capacity for not being in charge. Or the inclination to change. That’s science that is. We cis straight white men will, from now on, actively seek to distort reality in the pursuit of our mythic rights. We do this in self-serving tribute to our dead brothers. The cis straight white men we didn’t support, don’t care about and secretly despise. For they represent the change we refuse to embrace.

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This Title Challenge

I realised something recently. I’m not enjoying Liverpool’s title challenge. This is clearly a ridiculous situation. Winning shit, or the possibility of winning shit, is a huge part of supporting a sports team at doing sports. When one follows a team as storied as Liverpool, one gets to presume that shit will be won. And won often. But, as everyone knows, Liverpool are approaching 30 years without winning the only title that really matters, the Championship. Or the Premiership as it is now known. That’s how long we’ve waited, the name of the title has changed.

In that time I’ve fallen out of and back in love with football. I even began playing again. I’ve been to college. I’ve gotten married. Grown a beard. Bought a house. Gotten fat. Got a dog. Written a book that no one read. Grown an even bigger beard. I fell truly madly deeply for Messi. He was my gateway drug back into football. Football brought me back to Liverpool.

I’m not Scouse. My grandfather was. His ashes are interred at Anfield. I like boasting about that. It confers a certain ‘legitimacy’ on my fandom. It is of course, bollox. I didn’t choose Liverpool because of my grandfather. I was born in Solihull. My father, a Kerry man, supports West Brom. I grew up in rural Kerry with Man United supporting uncles and friends. I chose Liverpool. I don’t remember why. But I did and as is the way with football one doesn’t get to change one’s mind. Not that I would anyway, but it is one of the rules. Whatever your team, that’s your team for life. I love Barcelona. But they are not my team. I’ll probably fall out of love with them once Messi hangs up his boots. Love is fleeting. One’s team is one’s team. Forever!

I’d moved away from football. I never stopped looking to see how Liverpool were doing. Football stopped being important. I’m still surprised I went years not really caring. I think my life was too busy. Working, drinking, girlfriends etc. The stuff grown-ups do, if one is willing to call people in their twenties, grown-ups. Then I saw Messi play. Saw him do things I knew to be divine.

I began to play seven-a-side. I was never any good at football but when I was young, I was fit, fast and tall. Those qualities made up for, to a certain extent, my clueless clumsiness. When I began playing again, in my late thirties, I had one advantage over my faster and fitter younger self, I understood why I was shit and what I could do to minimise my shitness.

I watched Barcelona. I read about Barcelona. Football doesn’t simply happen. It is created, with tools and imagination. Then one adds the divine spark of a Messi and something truly beautiful is born. But Barcelona are not my team.

My team is Liverpool. Even when they are shit. Even when their owners are shit. Even if they go decades without that title, they are my team. I’d fallen back in love with football and I could not escape Liverpool. They are my team.

Football is watched on two levels. There is the aesthetic appreciation. A combination of beauty, style, technique and tactics. Then there is your team. Your team can be stuffed with long-ball merchants with a penchant for ugly and miserly play, but they are your team.

But what does your team mean? A silly game played by monosyllabic millionaires really shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t, but oh my, it really does. This seemingly irrational commitment matters. The outsourcing of one’s emotions to a bunch of rich strangers is important. It matters in so many ways.

If one lives in or is from the vicinity of a club, then that tribal affiliation makes a certain sense. Ties to a local team are understood. Proximity is a justification. When those ties move into the realm of identity (and when those doing the identifying are from thousands of miles away) things get confusing.

When speaking of Liverpool I tend to say, we. Imagine that. I’ve been in Liverpool exactly one time. We! I know I’m not the only one. We are all in this, we, we call Liverpool.

It’s the identifying with, or possibly the over identifying, that causes the addiction. And the addiction is the emotional rollercoaster we are choosing to pretend is unavoidable. What those men do on a pitch causes exquisite highs and even more exquisite lows. Oh the lows. It is the heartache of grief. The fury of quashed hope. The pain of despair. It is a stinging lash that tells you that you are alive. That you are alive. That you feel. That you are a part of something bigger. There is more than this mundane plodding from cradle to grave.

Pain, or the possibility of pain, is a huge part of supporting a sports team at sports. Yes, the highs are amazing. Istanbul. Istanbul. Istanbul. But it’s a cup. Great to win. Good for the bank balance. Good for catching the roving eyes of success hungry footballers. Losing in a final hurts. It really hurt to lose to that cock Ramos. To that uber cock Ronaldo. But Liverpool do success in Europe on the regular. And it’s a cup. One is insulated from the true depths by the knowledge that a cup requires luck. The best team doesn’t always win. It is far from a lottery, but it isn’t a league.

38 games. Home and away. Perhaps once in a generation the vagaries align to allow a Leicester to win but no more than that. Since we last won, we’ve had a few good sides. A few sides that could mount a challenge. But even with Suarez I never truly believed we would finally end the wait.

I’m not enjoying this title run because for the first time in my adult life I believe we are good enough. It terrifies me. At the time of writing, there are eleven games to go. Three months. We are top of the table. I have hope. I fear the disappointment. Will this be our last opportunity for another few decades? Will Klopp keep this team together? Will the owners keep supporting him? Will a meteor shower end all life on Earth? I support a big club, but I suffer with a small club mentality. We should be winning a couple of titles every decade. All signs point to us returning to that level. But it has been so long! I don’t know how to enjoy a race that we could win, but might not win. I support a big club, but I have a small club mentality. I have genuine hope based on facts. But nothing puts one in the way of hurt like hope. I am not enjoying this title run because I have an idea of how bad I’ll feel if we fail. I have no idea what happens if we win.

 

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My Experience of the Referendum

I thought this blog post would be a necessary purge of anger and frustration. Win or lose, I expected to experience the referendum campaign as something toxic. I assumed I’d need this therapeutic outlet for the scars endured. I remember feeling angry and bitter after the Marriage Equality Referendum, but I can no longer remember why. I don’t even care to know why.

That is not to say that the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment was all sweetness and light. It certainly wasn’t that, but as I sit here trying to write this post, I feel little else but loss. It is a selfish reaction, but I can not deny it. The experience was immersive. It was positive. It was belonging. It was an extended experience of being and feeling worthwhile. It was immersive. It was meaningful.

I was an integral member of a community that was welded together by a single and singular purpose; asking strangers to recognise a woman’s equality. And we won. If I live to be a hundred, I know I will never again feel this active belonging. That is the loss.

For the duration of the campaign I held the lofty title of, Canvass Coordinator of All Kerry (I may have added the ‘all’ part for effect). In reality, I was responsible for Tralee and the north of the county. Someone else (Lisa, a hero) looked after the Dingle peninsula and another person (Fionnuala, a god of the old school) dealt with the south of the county.

I assumed we’d have very few canvassers, and most of them novices. I hoped we’d reach 40% yes and I expected the abuse to be constant and wearing. I was confident the country would vote yes but I wanted to ensure the ‘no’ majority in Kerry was not overwhelming.

The core group in Kerry was tiny, formed around Kerry for Choice, but I knew they were all in. They could be relied on, though it numbered less than ten people. I expected that we could double that group. Twenty canvassers was a realistic ambition. We wouldn’t get close to knocking on even half the doors in Kerry but the towns, at least, would be made aware of our presence.

Paula, as is her want, looked after all the details of transitioning us from an ARC group to being, Kerry Together for Yes. She made sure we had access to the requisite training, supports and messaging. And we began preparing people for canvassing. The training took approximately two hours (in the beginning). And to my surprise, people began to show up. I hadn’t realised that Paula was maintaining a network of interested individuals, all over Kerry, who’d been waiting for this referendum to be called. I had been labouring under the misapprehension that our Kerry for Choice meetings included everyone in the county who cared about the issue. I’m never not amazed about how wrong I am about most things.

Our training was simple. Always be polite, don’t argue with a committed anti, close the gate after you and whatever your misgivings, sell the 12 weeks.

Besides canvassing there were two other planks to our campaign, the media and the information stalls. Paula and I were Kerry’s spokespeople. She did interviews and press releases and I did debates. I love being on the radio, I love seeing my name in a newspaper, but to be honest, we could have entirely ignored the papers and the radio because the stalls were, unexpectedly to me, our silver bullet.

Tralee, Listowel, Cahersiveen, Killarney, Killorglin, Kenmare and Dingle, all had stalls during the campaign. More often than not, setting up within metres of some of those stalls, would be the anti side, with their posters and leaflets. Sometimes they’d set up either side of a stall and often the adults and children they had handing out leaflets would be positioned very close to us.

Killarney had the biggest issue with antis encroaching on their patch. But on a particularly bad day a local shop owner saw what was happening and chose to stand behind our banner. In Cahersiveen, a trucker stopped opposite the stall, holding up traffic on Main Street. He came over to and took their last two Yes badges to bring back to Abbeydorney. He mentioned the Kerry Babies Case. All were struck by the symbolism.

Initially we would spread out and actively offer leaflets to people, but we observed that if we just stood at our stable, chatting and taking photos of ourselves, people came to us. More and more people. Eager for badges, eager to show their support, eager even to canvass. It began to occur to me than perhaps 40% was a little lacking in ambition. And on the day the antis unfurled one of their truly disgusting posters in the centre of Tralee, I decided that 50% was more than achievable. We couldn’t give away badges fast enough that day. Though we did have to spend time offering comfort to some very upset women. After that we rarely had less than ten activists at our Tralee table. Possibly not the most efficient use of our resources but we never again got hassle and the feedback from people was so restorative. And knowing that the south Kerry crew were holding stalls in places like Cahersiveen and Killorglin was more than encouraging. These were places I never dreamed would see activity and yet there they were, representing for Kerry Together for Yes in what were deemed to be anti-strongholds.

Paula also reached out (oh how she hates that phrase) to the political parties in Kerry to see what they were prepared to do to support us. It was important to establish Kerry Together for Yes’ leadership so that all our limited resources could be placed behind one message and that we were correctly coordinated. The response there was a little disappointing.

I’ll only mention those who helped, fuck the rest. People Before Profit placed themselves entirely at our disposal. Their activists and expertise were key to our success in Tralee. One of our most important activists and leaders is from Labour. She knows who she is. Some of us are Social Democrats. We had some support from Martin Ferris, the local Sinn Féin TD, but more importantly we had Toiréasa Ferris, a Sinn Féin councillor, canvassing with us. Taking novices under her wing, using her profile and past hard work in Tralee and Adfert to sway many undecideds and offering insights and advice at every opportunity. We even got some support from Fianna Fáil. Councillor Norma Moriarty and Senator Ned O’Sullivan publicly endorsed our campaign.

The majority of us, however, did not have political backgrounds. Most of the canvassers were young and not so young women who just knew they had to step up. They were fearful, both of the probable abuse and not knowing what they were supposed to do, but they joined up anyway. And as polling day approached more and more joined. It got to the point that canvassing training was reduced to a five-minute pep talk and an hour or so paired with an experienced canvasser. Experienced meaning, already done this for a week.

I took about a month off work so I could be out every night. I felt a responsibility to these newbies. I know how patronising that sounds. They and I were able to laugh off the abuse, but I got really angry when the old men patronised our activists. Speaking down to them. Putting hands on them to make their point. Our canvassers required neither my sense of responsibility nor my anger. Yet, I doubt I’ll never not feel both proud and protective of each and every one of them. Even of Éamonn who especially needs protecting from no one.

My focus, during the campaign, narrowed to Kerry and Kerry alone. I didn’t watch TV or read much of the national newspapers. When unchallenged lies are regarded as ‘balance’, there was little point in listening to what the media had to offer. I had to take a break from this break when I was scheduled to do a debate on Radio Kerry with a Kerry anti. As I said earlier, I love being on the radio. I am incredibly vain. Like seriously vain. But I’m not a great performer. And I am especially bad when discussing something important. My method for dealing with nerves is to not think about it and hope it all works out in the end. As you can imagine, my exam results over the years have not been great.

On this occasion however, I did my homework. My aim was not to say anything stupid and ensure the anti didn’t deliver a knockout blow. I achieved competence and that was that. I was back canvassing that evening.

Did I expect Kerry to go yes? Near the end, I did. To such a large degree? Taking Healy-Rae strongholds as well? No. Definitely no. We never did a canvass that wasn’t a majority yes. There were even several canvasses where the undecideds and noes combined were less than the yesses. Every poll had us ahead. Our stalls were a constant source of positivity. I knew we’d win, but not so overwhelmingly. Not so comprehensively. Not by so far that the antis had a meltdown on Count Day.

It was hard work, but I miss it. I have missed it every day. It was simple and it was pure. To be in a group where egos were put to one side. Political beliefs were put to one side. Where everyone was pulling in the same direction. I understood for the first time the attraction of single-issue politics. I understand its siren call.

But what I learned from speaking with so many strangers, is that I have to ignore that call. The mistrust, even hatred of women, I knew only in the abstract, was staggering. The misogyny dressed up as religion. The internalised misogyny dressed up as genuine concern. The misogyny coupled with entitlement. I miss those evenings. But I think I miss my privileged ignorance even more.

I was part of a grassroots, feminist, women-led movement that changed the world. These shrill, hair dyed, nose pierced, professors, mothers, unemployed and student women changed the world. I know this because I saw it happen. They may be written out of the official histories, but I saw it happen and I had the great good fortune of being part of it. And I miss it. I miss it. It is a selfish emotion, I know. This result will save lives. This result pushes women closer to true equality. This was a battle, not the war. And tomorrow I will argue that the legislation does not go far enough. But I will always remember this battle won. And the people I fought beside, laughed beside and got tanned beside. I will always remember those wonderful wonderful people.

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When Did I Know?

Sometimes it isn’t obvious. I overtook a truck on a dangerous hill, between two bends. There was an oncoming car that flashed its lights at me. I felt nothing. No fear, no embarrassment. Just noted that had happened. My wife told me she had a pain that may be a reoccurrence of a kidney issue. I felt nothing. Perhaps some mild irritation at the possible inconvenience. I stopped watching TV programmes where I’d built up an attachment to the characters. Their drama was too much. The tightness in my belly left. The scary tightness in my chest stopped. I stopped reading. I stopped writing. I stopped imagining. I stopped being able to do my job properly. My libido disappeared. My ability to sleep through an entire night, gone. My routine is now one of gentle chaos. I eat as if I’m not a middle-aged man whose cholesterol has almost doubled in a year. Showering is a chore. Brushing my teeth an achievement. I play computer games at the easiest level but couldn’t be arsed finishing a single game. I thought about suicide because my therapist asked about it at every session, but I’m not in pain. He said I was depressed. That felt good for a few days. I’ve been that before. It passes. The absence of pain was a bit confusing though. I stopped seeing him. The absence of pain is confusing. A month passes and it hits me. This isn’t passing. This isn’t like anything I’ve ever experienced. There is no drama. No tears. No despair. No trajectory I can recognise and pin my hopes to. It is an ever-unfolding numbness. An absence. Without tears and pain, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t know how to get better. There is no movement. Pain, tears and despair I understand. Symptoms that need managing as I talk my way to recovery. For the first time in my life I went to the doctor and asked for medication. I have always taken a secret and not so intelligent pride in rarely requiring meds for anything. I think I can remember every prescription I’ve had in my 25 years of adulthood. She wrote the prescription. I knew then for sure. I could see the sadness, I could see the need to cry, but they were a distant event. I could not feel them. I could not experience them. So I need medication to feel again, even to feel pain.

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Weekly Links #29

Oops, a day late, sorry about that. Seven links and I think them an interesting and an eclectic mix. From the history of the anti-choice movement in Ireland to why someone condemns yoga as being unchristian to a critique of indemtity politics to even more history. I hope you enjoy. Also consider following this blog and looking up some of the stuff I have on offer at Amazon.

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“In the late 1970s, one medical clinic in South County Dublin did a roaring trade in pencils. But, as with so many things in Ireland at the time, this was not what it appeared. The pencils were colour-coded and depending on the particular pencil a customer bought, they would receive a certain contraceptive. Condoms were one colour, caps another and so on. But attitudes in Ireland were changing in the 1970s and the influence of the UK and America on Ireland was felt in fashion, music and in one other area that made members of Irish conservative society anxious: sexual liberation.” Story of the 8th: how right-wing Catholic groups staged a remarkable political coup

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“You can find the word yoga and the basic concept in Hindu texts dating back thousands of years. It’s true that the modern western version is not entirely the same as its traditional form, but I do not see that as a mark in its favor. After all, it’s no coincidence that it was exported to the West hand-in-hand with the philosophy of the “universality” of all religions, and it finally began to explode in popularity with the counter-culture movement of the sixties. Hindus had their spiritual purposes for yoga, we have ours. Neither purpose seems at all compatible with Christianity.” Yoga Is A Pagan Ritual. Maybe Christians Should Find A Different Workout Routine.

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“This is the electoral challenge of the extreme right in the west: to find a plausible balance between how racist it actually is, in its policies, and how racist it can appear to be in its pronouncements. Its raison d’etre is to promote and project a mythical sense of national and racial purity; its conundrum is how to simultaneously attract racists and xenophobes to that project while denouncing racism and xenophobia.” How the far right has perfected the art of deniable racism

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“In the worlds of politics and nonprofits intersectionality has become a sneaky substitute for the traditional left notion of solidarity developed in the process of ongoing collective struggle against the class enemy. Intersectionality doesn’t deny the existence of class struggle, it just rhetorically demotes it to something co-equal with the fights against ableism and ageism and speciesism, against white supremacy, against gender oppression, and a long elastic list of others.” Intersectionality is a Hole. Afro-Pessimism is a Shovel. We Need to Stop Digging.

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“Here’s an example. Should people be punished for crimes they committed in the distant past? It seems pretty obvious that we should only punish a person for a crime if we are reasonably convinced that they are the same person who committed that crime. However, on many views of personal identity, once enough time has passed between the commission of the offence and the punishment, then, even if the criminal is still alive, they will no longer be the same person that they were and so could not deserve punishment.” Why Philosophers Fail to Influence Public Debate—and How They Can Do Better

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“On January 26th, 1340, the English king Edward III stood on a platform in the marketplace of Ghent in Flanders. It was bedecked with new banners commissioned from the workshops of Antwerp, showing the arms of England quartered with those of France. And from that platform Edward declared himself King of France. A Florentine merchant who was there asked some of the locals what they thought. The better sort, he reported, thought the whole thing “puerile”. But for almost half a millennium, until 1802, the English monarchs would go on claiming to be kings of France.” Is Brexit the maddest thing England has ever done? Not quite

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“In 1824 James Mill (utilitarian, colleague of Jeremy Bentham and father of John Stuart Mill) wrote an article On Government for the Encyclopedia Britannica. In it he argued that individuals whose interests were represented by another would not be inconvenienced by being denied a vote. In this category he included children (represented by their parents) and women.” A Regency Era argument for votes for women

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Weekly Links #28

Another week another assortment of bits I’ve gleaned from the Twitterverse. An eclectic bunch, going from abortion in El Salvador,  Deep Space Nine, being gay while married to a straight woman because, god, women’s experience of pain and de Tocqueville in Ireland. I hope you enjoy.

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“As a kid, I was very concerned with being nice. It’s what was expected of me. In the culture that I come from, girls are expected to be nice and sweet (as they are in many different cultures), or to be obedient and demure. That wasn’t me, but I tried to play the part.” THE FIRST TIME I REALIZED I WAS ALLOWED TO BE ANGRY: MAJOR KIRA NERYS

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“In 1807, Britain passed a law banning the slave trade. But for three centuries, that trade had been dominated by Britain; three centuries of savage enslavement, pitiless brutality, and casual mass murder. Twelve million Africans are thought to have been transported to the Americas, half of them in the peak years of the Atlantic slave trade between 1690 and 1807. In those peak years, about half of these slaves were taken on British ships. Historians estimate that at least one in ten, and possibly one in five slaves, died on the Middle Passage, the journey from Africa to the New World. This suggests that half a million Africans may have lost their lives while being transported on British ships.” the great british empire debate

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“But here, too, doctors can be suspicious of women who live on the margins of society, of those they meet only in the emergency rooms of public hospitals.  The consequences of making abortion a crime include a pattern we’ve already seen, in the context of prosecutions of women for ingesting illicit drugs during pregnancy. These prosecutions have disproportionately targeted poor, black women, many of whom were seeking prenatal care at public hospitals. Ban abortion and that pattern will intensify. The hospital will increasingly become the site of a crime scene investigation, and poor women will be the suspects.” The Consequences of El Salvador’s Abortion Ban

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“Thus, this astute Frenchman, who had demonstrated his powers of observation and analysis in America, examined the situation in Ireland just a decade before the catastrophe of the Great Famine.” Alexis de Tocqueville in America and Ireland 1831-1835

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“Over the recent holiday season I found myself becoming nostalgic about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Maybe the mid-season break in Star Trek: Discovery made me long for Trek of some kind, and DS9was the first series that came to mind; maybe the fact that my girlfriend is re-watching Babylon 5made me think of space stations; maybe knowing that 2018 would mark DS9’s 25th anniversary heightened its importance in my subconscious; or maybe the nostalgia was brought on by inscrutable caprice that can’t be explicated.” The Most Human Star Trek is the One With the Most Aliens

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“That act of authenticity brought many of you who will read this into our lives. Finally, we were able to live authentically, instead of this life of quiet struggle we had existed in for a decade. Finally we were able to be honest with our community, our friends, our colleagues, our families about our marriage, and about me—that I am a gay man, and that Lolly and I had gotten married knowing this about me. That I always have been gay. That it was not something I had chosen—it just was— but that I loved my wife and my life.” TURNING A UNICORN INTO A BAT: THE POST IN WHICH WE ANNOUNCE THE END OF OUR MARRIAGE

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“The Aziz Ansari case hit a nerve because, as I’ve long feared, we’re only comfortable with movements like #MeToo so long as the men in question are absolute monsters we can easily separate from the pack. Once we move past the “few bad apples” argument and start to suspect that this is more a trend than a blip, our instinct is to normalize. To insist that this is is just how men are, and how sex is.” The female price of male pleasure

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Weekly Links #27

Welcome to weekly links number 27. Only the five this week but most are reads that may take more than a just few minutes. I hope you enjoy. Also consider following this blog and looking up some of the stuff I have on offer at Amazon.

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“So many people are frightened by the wonder of their own presence. They are dying to tie themselves into a system, a role, or to an image, or to a predetermined identity that other people have actually settled on for them.” A Gentle Corrective for the Epidemic of Identity Politics Turning Us on Each Other and on Ourselves

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“The only surprising thing about this marriage of convenience between the most irritating rhetorical style and the dumbest possible ideology is that it took so long to come about. Whatever merits anti-theism may have with regard to social issues, humanism was never the prime mover for New Atheism’s most devout adherents.” New Atheism’s Idiot Heirs

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“What these findings show is that pride, gratitude and compassion, whether we consciously realize it or not, reduce the human mind’s tendency to discount the value of the future. In so doing, they push us not only to cooperate with other people but also to help our own future selves.” The Only Way to Keep Your Resolutions

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“Unfortunately, anti-abortion terrorism isn’t new. Those of us who provide abortion care have long faced cultural stigma, threats and violence.​ But the more they harass us, the more I want to do this work. Their determination to keep people from accessing abortion care reminds me how vitally important our work is.” Anti-Abortion Harassment Goes Way Beyond Picketing Clinics

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“It was this “civil society” strand that influenced the Irish constitution: a strand that attempted to stave off communist devaluing of the individual, corporatist flirtations with authoritarianism and fascism; and atomistic liberalism.” The Irish Constitution and the evolution of Human Rights

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Weekly Links #26

It’s been too long since I did anything on my blog. One of my New Year resolutions is to put something up here every week. Even if only this Weekly Links thingy. This ties in with another resolution, which is to actually read the hundreds of articles cluttering up my Liked folder in Twitter. Today’s articles include topics such as sex, Timbuktu and gerrymandering. I hope you find them interesting.

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“As Bradley will discover, Brexit has unsettled one of the most intangible but important features of the fraying Northern Ireland settlement: the ability of its citizens to imagine themselves into different nationalities.” It’s not just the Brexit border question that divides Ireland. It’s imagination

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“North Carolina Republicans have gotten quite good at this, as evidenced by the state’s 2016 election returns. Republican House members representing North Carolina won 53 percent of the statewide popular vote, but took 10 out of 13, or 77 percent, of the state’s congressional seats. If their seat haul had matched their popular vote total, they would have taken just seven out of 13 House seats.” Still unclear about gerrymandering? See exactly how it worked in North Carolina.

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“I once lost a friend (a really close friend) because my sex life is good. How weird is that?” No Sex Thanks, we’re Irish

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“The headlining of only one line of inquiry, coupled with the unnecessary identification of the arrested man’s nationality has resulted in a toxic discourse about migration, border security, and racism.” Sometimes less is more

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“The discussion reveals how differently we imagine white and non-white populations. Whites are seen as divided by class, non-whites as belonging to classless communities. It’s a perspective that ignores social divisions within minority groups while also racialising class distinctions.” In British education, the central issue is class, not ethnicity

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“The rhetoric of the abortion debate can trigger a range of feelings in women who have had terminations.”  Anti-choice language ‘deliberately stigmatising’

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“His humble description of Timbuktu may have disappointed some in the learned societies of 19th-century Paris and London, but modern archaeological research throughout West Africa is uncovering evidence of large urban centers, unique social and political institutions, long-distance trade networks, and powerful empires.” Digging Into the Myth of Timbuktu

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To My Hypothetical Son

I took the decision, many years ago, to not have children. Mostly because I’m a selfish pessimist who fully expects the world to end in flames and screams. But there’s another reason. The unspoken tension all prospective fathers of sons have. The conversation. That conversation.

The first issue is when. When to have that conversation. Does one decide the appropriate time based on age or size? Have you seen the size of young fellas these days? I don’t know what they’re being fed, but they are huge. Not too long ago one could wait to have that conversation late into the boy’s teens. No longer. They may not have the emotional equipment, but they have the size. And it’s the size that makes the conversation necessary.

I’ve imagined the conversation many times. Despite my surfeit of well-chosen and sensitive words, it does not go easy. I call him into my study. Yes, I have a study in this scenario. It’s a gorgeous study, all manly and booky. The desk is replete in wooded stereotypes. I love that desk as much as I love my hypothetical son.

I would have my son sit. He’ll know this is serious as I don’t usually allow him to sit. I’m surprisingly old-fashioned in hypothetical world. I watch fear and worry cross his face. What have I caught him doing? Which of his boyish schemes and misadventures is he being carpeted for? Will he finally be sent to military school? My hypothetical world does seem overly influenced by American films of an older vintage. This is very disappointing.

“Is there something amiss, Father.” Yes, he calls me father, what’s wrong with that?

I will look at him with something approaching sympathy on my face. This will confuse him as it is a look usually reserved for my dogs on those days we must visit the vet. Now he’s wondering if he’s dying. This irks me as obviously that would be a conversation his hypothetical mother would conduct.

“What age are you, Son?”

“I am thirteen, Father.” Notice he answers in full sentences. My hypothetical son is well raised.

“And what height are you?” I watch him do some mental calculations. He is of course metric while I retain my quaint reliance on imperial. It’s eccentric and endearing. I said it is eccentric and endearing.

“I am six-foot one, Father.” He’s a fucking monster.

“Yes, you do appear to be ridiculously tall which is why we must have this conversation.” He nods as he adopts the pose of attentive and dutiful son. “What know you of women, Son?” Ha, that rattles him. He was not ready for that line of attack. Damn, I must remember this isn’t an attack. It’s an imparting values and knowledge conversation. “It’s ok, Son, I have no doubt you are conversant with the biological facts and have even begun some practical forays into that world. This more concerns your awareness of yourself.”

My hypothetical son steels himself, his openness to my words writ large on his honest face. My pride in my hypothetical Aragorn is boundless. Well that’s what I wanted to call him but his hypothetical mother shut that shit down early doors. I considered Frederick as an alternative, but I did not want a hypothetical son of mine called, Fred.

“Tell me, Son, are you aware that women are scared of men?”

“What?”

I also considered Alexander, but only in Star Trek is that name not reduced to the sobriquet, Alex. I do not like Alex.

“Yes, most women, in almost every situation are just a little sacred and sometimes a lot scared of men.”

“Why?”

I considered Edward too, but they tend towards unhappy kings. Fine name though it is. I eventually settled on Richard. It’s a fine name, Richard. And, the hypothetical mother of my hypothetical son did agree that in consideration of the proffered compromise, that she would stab anyone who dared shorten, Richard. The hypothetical mother of my hypothetical son is hard-core.

“Experience.”

Though I will let you all into a little secret, as a hypothetical father I often imagine Richard as Aragorn. I suspect that as a hypothetical father I look for vicarious glory through my hypothetical son.

“I don’t understand, Father.”

Oh, how I hate this conversation.

“Without wishing to be indelicate, I assume you have noticed the girls your age experiencing some profound physical changes in the last year or so.” He has the good grace to blush rather than demur. “Yes. And as you have noticed, so too has every man they have contact with. And this is where it gets unpleasant, Son. Many of those men will have taken the liberty to point out those changes, in lurid detail, to those girls. Men of all ages, men known to them and unknown to them, of all stations. And repeatedly.”

I watch his face, a mixture of shock, disgust and a soupcon of recognition. I must wonder what level of guilt he may share with these men of low morals. I will not ask, this is for the conscious his hypothetical mother and I have instilled in him. I must hope our hypothetical efforts are not found wanting. Who’d be a parent, even a hypothetical one?

“I ask you to further consider this; if men feel entitled to comment on the bodies of children, what leap is there to assuming a right of access to those bodies?” I watch him put his privately educated mind to work on this simple but monstrous proposition. Yes, my hypothetical son is privately educated. Come at me.

I watch horror dawn on my hypothetical son’s face. “Do all girls and women experience this?”

“It’s very ubiquity can make it seem invisible.”

“What can I do?”

My hypothetical son is an idealist. Well he’s thirteen, so I have high hopes he will grow out of it, but for now I must endure his doe-eyed belief in hope. But I tire of this conversation. I’ve alerted him to the reality he need not endure. My job is done.

“I don’t know what you can do, Son, but I will leave you with a scenario to ponder. It is dark, you are walking down a street, you notice a woman is walking several yards ahead of you. What do you?”

I move to return to my reading. We are in my study after all.

“I offer her my protection of course.”

I feel vomit in my throat. My hypothetical son is a gobshite. “Why is heaven’s name would you do that?” Oh no, there’s earnestness on his big dumb face. I’m really glad now his hypothetical mother prevented me from naming him, Aragorn. “What would possess you to approach a strange woman on a dark street and presume to speak with her? Have you not heard a single thing I’ve said?”

“But she thinks I might hurt her, I have to let her know I would rather die than hurt her. Not all men are predators.” I wonder if my hypothetical son’s hypothetical mother can be blamed for this. I quickly review my parenting over the previous thirteen years. I see him for breakfast every morning, I allow him visit my study every night before his bedtime and listen to him describe his day. He goes to a private school, paid for by his hypocritical mother, I even wear one of those silly hats at his birthday parties. No, I’ve been the perfect hypothetical dad. I even used the word ‘dad’ in my review.

But then my attitude softens. It is neither unnatural nor uncommon for little boys to want to be thought well of. That egocentric hypersensitivity is something boys do grow out of. I have no doubt that by his next birthday, and the trial of those god-awful hats, he will have realised how indescribably ignorant it is to think one’s need for approval trumps a woman’s hard earned right to fear a strange man on a dark street.

I send my hypothetical son from my study with what I think is an appropriately affectionate pat on the shoulder. I will have to write a report on the meeting for his hypothetical mother. She can be quite pedantic about my contributions to her task of raising a hypothetical son. At least now she will know that Richard (still possibly Aragorn) requires a crash course on not thinking his pathetic need for approval is of equal importance to a woman fearing an attack. I don’t know how she will do that but as I’ve already lost interest in this hypothetical son, it’s no longer my problem.

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