Saturday, July 4, 2015

Kerryman Letter re The Angelus

As appeared in Letters - The Kerryman - 1 July 2015 edition

There has been talk about RTE changing or indeed replacing the Angelus. This has caused some upset and, surprisingly that upset is shared by those most attached to the Angelus and those most keen to see it changed.

It may seem a strange issue to be concerned by. The Angelus, on RTE, is a decades old tradition. It has become a part of the fabric of Irish culture. It harms no one and is dearly loved by many. What sort of joyless character would demand it ends? Those of us who are irked by RTE broadcasting, twice daily, a Roman Catholic call to prayer, must come across as arrogant barbarians.

Most atheists and secularists in my experience, however, do not give the Angelus a second thought. Any concerns we may have on the subject are simply resolved by switching the channel. Out of sight, out of mind.

Within the atheist and secularist communities, there are two ways of looking at this issue. There are those who see the Angelus as 'low hanging fruit' on the road to a more inclusive Ireland. Then there are those who see this as an unnecessary and potentially harmful distraction on the road to a more inclusive Ireland.

What does unite the atheist and secularist communities, is our segregated education system. A problem most keenly felt by those of us in rural counties like Kerry. That our children's access to education is hampered by religious segregation is something we will not stop highlighting and campaigning about.

Personally, I don't care about the Angelus. If it changes or stays the same, it will not impact on me. What I do care about is our Constitution, our education system and our health system, continuing to discriminate against anyone who isn't a Roman Catholic.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Kerryman Letter re Liberalism

As appeared in Letters - The Kerryman - 17 June 2015 edition

It was with some amusement that I read J. O'Donaghue's (June 3) attack on liberalism. 

Mr O’Donaghue appears to have missed the irony of his position. That he was allowed to write to a newspaper, with the expectation that his opinions would be published, is a gift of liberalism. That he (or any of us) is even able to write is again, another advancement that can be credited to liberalism.

Of course we could return to the pre-Enlightenment utopia of Judeo-Christian 'humanism.' Those were the days of burning uppity women at the stake, the Divine Right of Kings to rule, slavery and torture. Liberal progress towards universal health care, education and suffrage came later.

The passing of the Marriage Equality Referendum was not a victory for the LGBT Community or unsupported feelings. It was more a realisation that our enmity towards that community was based on ideas not backed by facts. It was an enmity that was illogical. It was nothing more than a prejudice, maintained by emotion and tradition.

Yes, liberalism is messy. It lacks a holy book of instruction. And it has a lot of blood on its hands. Some of that blood being members of the LGBT Community.

But it is an ideology that learns. Slowly, often painfully slowly, but it does, by freeing the individual, encourage and promote progress. Though the greatest strength of liberalism, is that beyond a firm belief in personal freedom, you can't get two liberals to agree on anything. That's probably why conservatives, Roman Catholics and Marxists hate it so much. It is a very human idealism.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Leaving Twitter (again)

I'm sure I've said it before, but it bears repeating, I love Twitter. I really do. There is no way, in real life, I could have met the huge number of interesting people, that Twitter has allowed me meet. I even met my wife there. The problem I have, is that I like it too much. And with Twitter, as with much of the rest of my life, I don't do moderation. I lack the discipline and maturity to have one chocolate biscuit, when there is a whole packet there.

This wouldn't ordinarily be a problem. It's just that I have in my profile, ‘almost a writer.’ It's there because I do want to be a writer. To date I've published four different items on Amazon. They have largely been ignored. That's ok. If they had deserved more attention, they would have gotten it. But I still don't feel able to change my profile to writer.

What I need to do, is write more and to be able to do that, I need to read more and to be able to do that, I need to spend more time 'not' on Twitter. And as I can't regulate my time like an adult should, my only option is to leave Twitter. Again.

The last time I did that, I wrote a whole novel. A whole novel! And a collection of short stories. And I read actual books. Now I have a rather developed idea for a new novel. I've managed 4000 words, though it's been on my mind for several months. So I'm going to have to leave Twitter.

I don't like the idea of leaving. The last time I left, I missed Twitter changing. It became a harsher place where everyone favourites everything. It was unsettling returning to such a changed atmosphere. This time I'm deactivating rather than throwing my account off a cliff. Every 26 to 28 days I'll reactive for a day. I'll say hello, tart whatever wears I'm tarting then deactivate. Hopefully this will allow me the required boredom to write.

My target for finishing this novel is six to nine months, with an estimated 12 month margin for error. Hopefully I can use the lessons I learned writing my previous novel to make this a better one.

The strange thing is, I don't actually enjoy writing. Every time I try to create in words, the images in my head, I am disappointed, but the need to tell the stories I want to tell is overwhelming. I already know I will be writing a novella after this novel, followed by YA fantasy novel. Added to this, I’m now trying my hand at standup comedy. That also requires writing.

Since entering my 40s, I’ve become acutely aware that my time for fucking around is getting shorter. Every day I don't write, I get a tad more paranoid that I won't get to amend my Twitter profile before I die. Though, 'almost writer' as an epitaph, would certainly shift some units. See you in a month.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Still Angry

I've been angry for about a month. It is anger I've tried hard to contain, even convert it into energy. But it remains, despite this wonderful victory. Despite my own village saying yes, despite seeing the tears of joy at the Count Centre in Tralee, I'm still angry. 

I would have liked to vent some of that anger on Twitter, but social media was part of the campaign. We had to be somewhat circumspect. Instead I had to squash that anger into a little ball, push it down into my stomach and knock on strangers' doors. I had to smile and say sir or ma'am and apologise for disturbing them, but would they ever consider letting some people get married.  

And if they said no, no matter how they said no, no matter the look of appalled horror on their faces or in their voices, I had to smile, thank them for their time and apologise for wasting that precious time. Then I had to knock on the next door, smile, apologise, ask and then smile again when their eyes glazed over with utter boredom. I had to smile and knock and walk away when these strangers offered abuse. I had to smile and smile because the homophobes these days are terribly thin skinned, lawyered up and endlessly cynical. 

But my anger isn't just reserved for the anti-equality side. My side, my supposed side, were as provoking. In my part of the world, politicians were conspicuous by their absence, both TDs and councillors. We got reports that they canvassed in Dublin and in Carlow- Kilkenny. The tiny few of us, in our tiny team, who are political, won't forget that. 

I'm angry that our team was so small. Yes we achieved 55%, in our Kerry North/West Limerick constituency, but with more people knocking on doors, handing out leaflets, having conversations, we could've got 60%, maybe even 65%. None of us could go to West Limerick, and the tallies showed that failure. I could only do one day in my own village. We carried it by 40 votes. A second day might have doubled that. 

On the day of the vote, I'd have settled for mid 40s, with the hope that the cities would carry us over the line. Despite the positive responses I was getting on the doors of Listowel, I didn't believe for a second Kerry would say yes and I was terrified that the cities might not vote in large enough numbers to make up the difference. I was scared every day, and that made me angry.  

I was so angry at the lies, treated as truth, that I had to stop watching the debates. Again and again, I had to explain to people that we don't have surrogacy laws to change. That gay people are successfully raising children and will continue to do so, whatever the result. I had to explain the adoption process. I had to explain why Civil Partnership isn't a Marriage. And I had to smile. 

I'm angry that my wife, who is bisexual, had to spend weeks in the rain, begging equality for gays and lesbians, while having her own sexuality virtually erased. I can see why the campaign went for gay and lesbian rather than LGBT, but fuck me, it angered me to watch her pretend be okay with that. 

There is nothing useful I can do with this anger. I cried when every box in Listowel went yes. There is ego in that I know, but fuck it, it helped. I cried when Lixnaw went yes, but not for pride, but because then and only then, I knew there was no way this referendum was going to be lost. 

I have a bad habit of holding onto grudges and while this anger will eventually dissipate, the grudge will remain. That the LGBT community in general, my friends in particular, but especially Paula, had to politely smile as they were lied about and insulted, or simply sidelined, is something I will never let go of. I expected nothing but the spite dished out by the homophobes, but I had not expected the media to facilitate them or for so many politicians to sit on the fence, doing nothing to counter them. There can be no forgiveness for those who chose to look away. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I want to be a Celebrity Blogger

I wish the referendum, to lower the age one can be President, was a stand alone event. It's not that it's important or even distracting from the much more relevant Marriage Equality referendum, but it could've been interesting. 

Now I'm voting, yes. I think a 21 year old has as much right to be the Head of State as a 91 year old does. And because I want to be a celebrity blogger I'd have really enjoyed the opportunity to go on TV and explain why I'm right and why the No side is oppressing me. Or at least oppressing the 21 year old me, of 19 years ago. Which is still me, so by the transitive property, I'm actually being oppressed. Not that I'd want to be the President, it's a nonsense job. 

But anyway, ageism is a real thing. It's why we don't allow children to vote, get married or have sex and why we don't allow old people on television. It's why a government will not cut the Old Age Pension, but will cut the Social Welfare of young people and tell them to fuck off to Australia, you lazy non-voting shits.   

As hard as I try, I can't think of a downside to voting yes. Well, except perhaps one day a 21 year becoming President. Though I say downside, I couldn't care less. Especially as the chance of a 21 year old, not only getting nominated, but actually getting elected, is as unlikely as me becoming President. More oppression there. 

If however, some likely Irish lad or lass wins the Eurovison Factor Or Britain's Got X Voice, and decides retiring to the Aras could shift some product, we might have a problem. If by problem one means, a young person spending an inordinate amount of time speaking to selfie taking Councillors and still failing to get nominated. 

But what if those publicity whores do give our erstwhile wanna be semi-retired starlet a nomination? His or her publicity firm will have to spend untold amounts of money on posters and leaflets. And worse, allow their client be interviewed by a sneering Vinny Browne et al. 

Come Election Day, our karaoke aficionado will discover that the demographic that thinks he or she is like so hot and relevant, don't actually vote. Some because they are children (ageism) and others because they simply don't vote (so have their dole and college grants cut (ageism and smart politics)). Democracy will have won. We'll have recognised the right of smelly yoots to apply for a Public Office, but ensured they go no further than stand (ageism and god given good sense. Here Here)

But what kind of constitutional crisis would a 21 year old President cause? If we can't ensure the President is some ancient receptacle of gravitas, what use is the Presidency? Might we be forced to consider abolishing this largely ceremonial nonsense? We have a Dáil, a Seanad (fuck me that thing still exist), a Council of State (no honest atheists allowed), a Supreme Court (no honest atheists allowed) and a Constitution. Why retain the Office of Chief Ribbon Cutter and Welcomer of Foreign Types? 

In Kerry we have our own way of choosing a Ceremonial Head of State. We go up a mountain and capture an unsuspecting goat and suspend him (sexist) from a crane. He doesn't even get a say in his own coronation (not sure what ism that is). And all he costs is a bit of hay. 

But seriously, vote yes and put me on TV, if you don't, you're definitely guilty of some sort of ism. Also, I can change my views or exaggerate them, if the TV viewers require it.   


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Kerryman Letter re Marriage Equality

As appeared in Letters - The Kerryman - 29 April 2015 edition

It’s difficult to steer any conversation about Marriage Equality away from a discussion about children. This can be frustrating for those of us who support Marriage Equality, as it’s obvious only adults can get married. Truth be told however, those of us who support equality, have more than a passing concern for children and how they will be affected by this referendum.

We are concerned about those thousands of gay and lesbian children watching this campaign unfold. Watching as their desires and aspirations to one day marry and perhaps have children, are compared with incest, child abuse and bestiality. Hearing calls that they submit to a life of pitiful chastity. Being further reminded, that to many they are, and should remain, second class citizens.

We are concerned about the thousands of children who are being raised by a gay parent or parents. As they hear their parents described as unworthy and unsuitable for marriage. As they hear their families described as inferior. As they hear themselves described as disadvantaged. This, despite all the scientific evidence available, which shows their families to be the equal of all others.

We are concerned about all those gay children who are being raised in a nation that stigmatises homosexuality to the extent that gay and lesbian children experience self-harm, suicide, mental-illness, homelessness, poor education, substance abuse and unemployment to a much higher degree than their straight brothers and sisters.

We are concerned about all the straight children being brought up to see their gay and lesbian peers as deviant and lesser. All those straight teens experiencing the confusion of puberty, who are given licence to shield their fears by attacking anyone different.

We are very concerned about children. We would see them shielded from the ugliness of this campaign. But we know, and it breaks our hearts that we know, the vile things being said in opposition to Marriage Equality, are the daily experiences of many gay and lesbian children. So yes, Marriage Equality is about children. It is but a small step towards the creation of a country that values gay and lesbian children as much as it does straight children.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Kerryman Letter re Marriage Equality

As appeared in Letters - The Kerryman - 15 April 2015 edition

We are being asked to decide if gay and lesbian citizens should have the same right to marry as the rest of us. It's remarkable we've got to this point. Homosexual acts were illegal in this country up to 1993. And now, a few short decades later, the LGBT community is on the cusp of equality. In the US, slaves were freed in 1863 but it took a full century for the government to begin passing legislation that granted African-Americans actual equality. Here, criminal class to near equality, in twenty years. Remarkable.

Off course, equality will be denied, unless a lot of straight people make the effort to get out and vote on May 22. And getting people to vote in referendums is becoming increasingly difficult. The country is in the state it's in and we've lost faith in our politicians, so fewer of us feel any enthusiasm for the political process. And it's hard to feel sympathy for others when paying bills, missing relatives who've emigrated and struggling to find a job is the overwhelming reality for so many of us now.

Add that to the distaste generations of us have been taught to feel towards gay people, especially gay men, and the temptation is certainly to sit this one out. Sure no one will be harmed. It's not my fight. And aren't there plenty of them in the Dáil now anyway.

It's a strong temptation. How do I convince a middle aged man, his daughter having gone to Australia to find work, and him dodging phone calls from his Bank Manager because he can't pay his mortgage, that his vote matters to a bunch of people he's never met?

There are no magic words. I have no way of making his life better. So all I can do, is ask him to  consider the opportunity this referendum affords him and so many people like him. By simply voting yes, he will, with no more cost than a bit of time, help make the lives of thousands of men, women and children, that bit better. It's an opportunity I hope we all grasp.