Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Moving a Nation

The genius of oratory is that it uses mere words, to inspire. It uses words to bypass the intellectual and moral sensibilities of the audience, to tap directly into its emotions. It is an art because it recognises that where an audience's 'feelings' go, their minds and bodies must surely follow. It is a daunting power; the ability to move people to action, often against their better judgement.

Pearse, Churchill, O'Connell, King, Parnell, Lincoln, rare men. For they had that power, to hold the small enraptured, and once in thrall, set them to the task of being giants. 

I distrust these demagogues. Moulding the mob is not just the preserve of the great. From Caesar to Hitler, appealing to the petty prejudices of the populace, can see the small inspired to be monsters.   

Throughout Ireland's most recent economic and social malaise, I have been gratified by the failure of anyone to emerge, who might seek to galvanise the citizens. Rather we should muddle through and trust, to blind hope, that those we elevate, don't reflect our foibles too closely.  

Then a country, a continent away, implodes. A catastrophe measured in millions. A devastation depicted with drowned babies. Military might, discredited. Economic power, diminished. Moral courage, gone. Leadership, reflecting our foibles all too well.

How does one move a nation to shame, once shame has been too long forgotten? How does one preach responsibility, solidarity and charity, to those who wear the mask of victimhood with such surly enthusiasm?

Pictures of dead babies no longer work, even when the babies have pale skin. Remembering history does not work, as we have been taught only to blame. A call for humanity, presumes a humanity.

Who can move a nation that shrugs its shoulders at the sight of dead babies? Who now has the power to communicate with the better angels of our nature? 



  

Monday, August 31, 2015

Blue Eyeshadow free for Five Days






I'm on an 'on again-off again' Twitter sabbatical as I attempt to complete my second novel, Killaspicktarvin. Progress has been slow but satisfactory. I have been wrestling with structure and structure, to my relief, has won. I am now at a point where I know how things have to be revealed. It is proving to be invigorating, mind-numbingly boring, frustrating and informative. To my embarrassment, the biggest obstacles I've encountered are laziness and vanity. Annoyingly, the laziness is easier to deal with. My vanity remains a constant thorn in my side. I daydream of success and fame. I imagine critical acclaim and other such nonsense. And when my dreams end, I am left with the reality of a rather self indulgent story, not even half finished. This leads to a spiral of doubt, self recrimination and an unattended screen. Worse, I begin to think about my next novel and how it must be better than the one I'm writing now.

And when I'm not thinking of my next novel, I'm thinking of my last one, Blue Eyeshadow. Wondering if I should go back to it. Perhaps have a go at improving it or just look for mistakes. It's almost as if I don't want to write another 60 to 80 thousands words. It's a strange bloody hobby. Not that I'm complaining, more I am attempting to distract myself by focusing, for now, on an aspect of Blue Eyeshadow I think I can improve on.

When I published the novel, last February, I wasn't very familiar with some of the features that Amazon has for self-publishers. The one I should have gotten my head around then, but have only worked out recently, is the 'special offer' function. So, as a way to train myself, in anticipation of publishing Killaspicktarvin sometime in 2016, I'm running a special offer for Blue Eyeshadow.

From Monday, August 31, to Friday September 4, inclusive, my book will be free to download to Kindle or any device with a Kindle app. I hope you'll take the opportunity to download it. If you download it, I hope you'll take the time to read it and review it. Reviews are very important to self-publishers. As is word of mouth I suppose. It has had some reviews already. (And yes, one of them is by my mother) And I carelessly lost my previous Twitter account I am currently down about 600 followers so this promotion will very much depend on ReTweets. Sorry about that.

What is Blue Eyeshadow about? Well it is a YA novel about bullying in a high school in America. It was inspired by an article I read a few years ago, about suicide clusters in some high schools in the U.S. It was homophobic bullying that was encouraged by religious bigotry. That didn't surprise me. What did surprise and appall me was the cowardice and connivance of the teachers who felt obliged to turn a blind eye in order to protect their jobs.

I wrote the novel as a way for me to try to understand something I find almost alien. By alien, I don't mean religious bigotry, I do live in Ireland after all. More, to try to understand the victims. As a straight, white man, I am privileged in having to imagine being bullied. I wanted to try and connect somehow with those who were destroyed by the actions of those who were charged with their protection. I don't know if I fully succeeded in that. But I do know I was reminded, again, how fortunate I am.

I won't say I hope you enjoy reading Blue Eyeshadow, but I do hope it proves a positive experience.


Available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com
The cover was designed by the inestimable @robyntmorton



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.