Tuesday, August 19, 2014

If not the Eighth, then perhaps this?

I don’t yet fully know how I feel about a rape victim being forced to continue with a pregnancy until a caesarean birth was imposed. That this victim of rape, pregnancy and birth was abused by legislation I supported, makes sorting out my feelings that bit more difficult. 

During the fraught passage of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, I opined that no one with suicidal thoughts should go near this legislation. What I failed to understand, was that poor women, girls in the care of the State and those mired in the asylum-seeking system, would have no choice but subject themselves to the vicious clauses of this law. A law I supported. 

Now that this glaring inadequacy has been revealed in its nasty imposition, I am left hoping that this government, this government which I support, will do something. I am left hoping that a class of men and women, defined by cowardice and an aversion to controversy, will ameliorate the fully realised implications of this law. 

It is not that this law denies choice, it is that this law only denies choice to the poorest and most vulnerable. A law I supported. Does this mean that I'm urging our politicians to finally grasp the nettle of the Eight Amendment?

No. I may as well urge a leopard to change its spots. The government I support will not risk the ire of those who now applaud forced pregnancies. I can understand why. It will only lose votes in this. Principles are of no use in opposition or worse, when one is without a seat. 

But there is a way to demonstrate some kind of recognisable morality, while maintaining the sick practice of out-sourcing Irish abortions to the UK, but that also keeps the forced births brigade almost quiescent. All this government must do, this government I support, is pass legislation which recognises and ensures all women, whatever their circumstances, financial, legal, nationality, mental state or age, have an equal right to access reproductive services in the UK.

There will be dramatic consequences to this I know. Children accompanied by carers, women in handcuffs, women being means-tested, all accessing abortion paid for by Irish taxpayers. It’ll mean expediting all requests by asylum-seekers to prevent the risk of forced births. It might even go as far as requiring the State to purchase a clinic in the UK, for the sole purpose of providing abortions for women being supported by this State. 

I would prefer living in a reality where our politicians thought to ask the people their opinion on the Eighth Amendment. I would support asking that question. I just don’t see it happening before more women are forced to continue with unwanted pregnancies for no other reason than a lack of funds or the freedom travel routinely between EU States. 

In the absence of principle and backbone, I would be more than happy to support our politicians throwing money at this problem. It is a temporary solution (though politicians may think otherwise), but it is at least more realistic, for now.

Monday, August 18, 2014

It is a sandal, no it is a shoe, follow the gourd...

What is true for religion is true for nationalism. Example, the recent controversy (well one of the controversies anyway) sparked by the fabulously pensioned, John Bruton. He suggested that the Rising of 1916 may have been ill-advised. Further, he expressed a wish to see the centenary of the passage of the Third Home Rule Bill commemorated. 

He was attacked by idealists of all hues. Even historians tried to suggest that they know what would have happened if the Rising hadn’t occurred.

Let’s deal with the historians first. No one knows what would’ve happened if the Rising hadn’t occurred. We can be certain of one thing only, in the short term, many innocent civilians would not have lost their lives in the cross fire. Would a future conflagration have engulfed Dublin, even more destructive than the Rising? Your guess is as good as that of any historian. The amount of variables involved make speculation nothing more than an idle past time. Any claim to certainty is a nonsense, a nonsense motivated by idealism.

As for idealism. This is all about people saying who did Irishing better back then and who is doing Irishing better today. Or bollox for short.  

Full disclosure, my position on the 1916 Rising. I would have preferred it hadn’t taken place, but for no other reason than a curiosity to see if the subsequent history would have been less mediocre than the current reality.

I am not a nationalist, I regard nationalism as an intellectual disease, but I do think a government in Dublin was necessary. Not for any ideological reasons or cultural chauvinism, but because if there’s one thing we can be certain of, London governments are not great at governing areas outside London.  

Despite our Dublin governments having been spectacularly disappointing, it is at least reasonable to guess, that having so greedily imbibed the poison of nationalism, we are a more content country as it is Irish people misruling us rather than English people.  

So I am, at most, a separatist (and even then, not an enthusiastic one).

What would I have been a century ago? That is a stupid question. But it is a question that gets to the heart of why John Bruton’s words provoked such a backlash, from both other nationalists and idealists. 

All sides claim to be the best at Irishing and to understand Irishing the best and they think themselves best able to lead everyone in that Irishing. 

To some, being a Redmonite is the best form of Irishing, to others Redmond was a treacherous representative of exploitative capitalism. He could have been a Martian, but all that really matters is what we choose to project onto him.

So I call myself a Redmonite. I do so for no other reason than he currently represents a parliamentary tradition of debate and compromise and spreading the disappointment around. That may change but I will always choose the label means I’m on the side that is the least rabidly nationalistic. Even if that means I must share a label with someone as odious as John Bruton. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Some writing stuff and an announcement.

It’s a weird self-inflicted tension to feel overwhelmed by the number and scope of writing projects one is facing, yet be an amateur writer. But here I am. Beholden to nothing and no one, but worried. I’m some eejit. Worse, I am writing a blog post about all the writing I ‘need’ to get done, instead of just writing. 

For the past few weeks I have been struggling with two blog posts. One about Israel and the other on John Bruton. The difficulty is that I need them to be comprehensive as I find I am on Israel and John Bruton’s sides. Sort of. They need to be comprehensive as both detail my most fundamental ideals and the inconsistencies in those ideals. Inconsistencies I’m comfortable with, but I wish to explain them correctly. So there’s that. 

It’s also my intention to attempt a big change in what I blog about. I want to try writing even more introspective pieces. I find that I enjoy blogging most when I’m trying to explain to myself what I think and why I think it. It may fall on its arse after one or two posts, but I’m curious to see where it goes. And it isn’t as if the internet isn’t already replete with opinionators.

At the same time I’m trying to edit my novel. Based on this short story. Finishing and then refinishing my first novel is one of the top items on my ‘turning 40 Bucket List.’ I’ve been given great help with this, from multiple sources, but it remains so much like hard work. It’s hard and it’s scary. I dearly wish to just put it on Amazon as is. Wash my hands of it as it were. Fortunately my partner is having none of it. 

While Amazon is frustrating as almost no one has read what I’ve already published there, it still feels like ‘almost’ being a professional writer. However my ‘bucket list’ requires me to send it to some publishers. 

I was confident that any rejections would be taken as the normal course of a writer’s career. But the closer I get, the more scared I am. I’m an arrogant prick but gatekeepers are gatekeepers for a reason. Despite my misgivings, I will get this finished and sent off. Eventually. Hopefully. I think. 

The downside to this prevarication is that I feel prevented from any further creative writing. I managed to finish a 4000 word story, but that’s it. I’ve begun two other stories and a novel. I just can’t focus as I have this manuscript that needs finishing. Two days ago I made the decision (post this novel) to write four short stories and to edit and publish them by March 2015. I will reward myself with a new tattoo (something from Lord of the Rings) and even more importantly, I will begin my new novel. A novel that has been aching to get out for some time. 

The last project pressing on me, is another item from my ‘bucket list.’ I am going to be a stand-up comedian. For seven minutes that is. On Tuesday November 4, I will be appearing in the Ha’penny Bridge Inn at 9.30pm (€5 entry fee if you mention my name at the door. Hint! Hint!) and trying to make a bunch of strangers laugh. I am terrified. So terrified that my usual way of dealing with stress has kicked in, I’m refusing to think about it. Kinda making preparing any material almost impossible. It’s a ludicrous ambition, but turning 40 was the scariest thing I’ve done thus far (which reflects poorly on me to be honest) plus I love stand-up so I need to try it once. Even if I ‘die’ I will always have the experience of trying, but obviously I want to kill. 

So that’s where I am at the moment. Hoist by my own over-ambition. In saying that, I like my novel. I think it has some merit. I just have to keep telling myself that as I flounder around trying to move on from it. I so need to write another one so it stops being such a huge deal to me.  

Anyway, thank you for enduring this self-indulgence.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Irish identity and the religious clause

A few things happened recently to remind me that Irish identity in Ireland, is defined very narrowly by some. The first was news that Kerry and Limerick County Councillors wished to promote and proclaim their Christian identity to the exclusion of all others. Then I was called to jury duty and was the only person out of two dozen not to hold the bible. 

Kerry County Council now has a crucifix hanging over its door. I listened to and participated in radio debates about this and the one comment often repeated, was that this is a Christian/Catholic country. That Ireland is a Catholic country. 

The overwhelming majority of people in this country do certainly identify as Roman Catholic. Does that make Ireland a Catholic country or does that make Ireland a country with a lot of Catholics in it? 

I have to hope it is the latter because I am neither a Roman Catholic nor a Christian. Am I less Irish than my friends, family and neighbours, many of whom are Catholic? If you prick me, do I not bleed? If you pay me, must I not pay taxes? If you call an election am I not allowed to vote?  

When I was called for jury duty, I thought about finding an excuse not to go. After those few seconds I sighed and accepted my fate like a hero of old, determined to do my duty i.e. sit, wait and be bored for several hours. 

That endless boredom unexpectedly ended when my name was pulled from the box. Tattooed and shaven headed, I presumed I would be objected to by one or other of the barristers. No such luck. I was going to be a jury member. The novelty banished the boredom, only for the novelty to be banished by the prospect of having to do something important, decide on a stranger’s guilt or innocence. But before all that, came the swearing in. An oath to do what a jury member must do. 

The swearing in involves having a bible thrust at you, then repeating an oath called out by the Registrar. I was tenth in line and I shook my head when the holy book was offered to me. Then came a few moments of confusion as the Registrar looked for the non-holy-book-oath. 

Then eleven and twelve held the book.   

First off, I know many jurisdictions demand that oaths be taken in court. It’s a requirement that confuses me as I do not swear an oath to drive within the speed limit or to pay my taxes. The law requires me to do these things and I am aware of the punishment if I don’t. Same as sitting on a jury or giving evidence in a trial. The law is clear so making a ‘pinkie swear’ seems superfluous to me. 

The usefulness or otherwise of the ‘oathing’ is less important than the presumption of the process. The holy book is the default. The equally valid bible promise is the obscure alternative. 

Why not simply ask the witness or prospective jury member their preferred method of making a promise to do what they are already obliged to do. Would that be so difficult? 

Of course there is a third element of a court appearance to remind the atheist that they are not really considered Irish. The presiding judge will have been obliged to take an oath to god (with no secular alternative) before assuming office.  

What is it about Irish national identity that requires so many people to include a religious clause to make it feel more valid?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Being subject to Constitutions

Two things happened recently that I think are very interesting. First was the decision by the American Supreme Court to uphold the right of anti-choice activists to harass women attending abortion clinics. The second was the highlighting of our own antiquated anti-choice laws by the United Nations Human Rights Committee

There is something truly fascinating about people who are certain things should be as they are, because of decisions made decades or centuries or even millennia ago. It is a particularly strange phenomenon in a democracy, where, through elections, we routinely change the people who make those decisions. It is even more difficult to accept, when one considers that every year, a new cohort of people get the vote. People who played no part in any decisions made up to that point. 

Possibly this is as good a reason as any to have constitutions. Create a short document that contains the essence of a nation’s values. If not that, then a long document that details the rights, privileges and responsibilities of all that nation’s citizens and interest groups. 

Of course the problem with constitutions is that almost as soon as the ink is dry, someone has to interpret what was written, and worse, interpret what the framers (long dead in many cases) may have actually meant. 

The US went the short document route. So you’d think less to interpret. Is this examination carried out in a collegial manner? No. It is a vicious partisan struggle. A vicious struggle based on the notion that what rich old white men wrote centuries ago, is ceaselessly relevant and sacrosanct. 

Thus, the First Amendment Right to free speech can and was interpreted in a way that makes the rights of women seeking medical attention secondary to the rights of those who would wish to prevent them getting that medical attention. Sadly this is not an illogical position to take. The Constitution in America is so fetishised that it is perfectly acceptable to many people to allow the harassment of women, because of something written centuries ago. 

The situation in Ireland isn’t so stark. The framers of our Constitution went the long route and it is a much younger document. And we get reasonably regular referendums to amend it. Added to this, our Supreme Court isn’t so obviously riven by ideology and we have European Law to take account of. 

All these little provisos yet this 40 year old man, has never been afforded the opportunity to vote on the reproductive rights of women. There have been little window dressing votes about information and travel etc, but not once have I been asked if I think women should be granted the basic right to reproductive independence. 

The last substantial vote on reproductive independence was in 1983, where the country voted to reduce women to the role of incubators. There was nothing unlawful or unconstitutional about this referendum. It was the overwhelming decision and right of our parents and grandparents to think so little of women.

It is a decision women continue to endure. A decision defended by many. A position regarded as questionable by our international peers. A decision that continues to force tens of thousands of women to seek expensive help outside this State. 

But because it is in the hallowed Constitution, it encourages successive politicians to be lazy cowards. Instead of allowing that massive proportion of the population who couldn’t vote in 1983, have their say today, we get apologetics and legislation so mean spirited it will penalise only the poor. 

It is fascinating the quasi-religious devotion many people have to ancient documents, but the idea that values are timeless is a dangerous nonsense. Worse, it is a moral and intellectual abdication by those who court our vote. 

To continue to subject ourselves to decisions made in 1778 is only marginally more ridiculous to allowing ourselves be hindered by rules made in 1937 or indeed in 1983. 

(Women who require an abortion but cannot afford one are supported by Abortion Support Network. Please donate what you can.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Refusing Custom

A baker in Northern Ireland has refused to prepare a cake for a customer. I’m already on the side of the baker. If I ran a business I would very much like to think I had a right to refuse service. If some KKK loon wanted me to bake them a cake with a Confederate flag on it, I want to be able to say fuck right off. I’d want to say fuck off too if I was asked to bake a cake for a bris. And I’d definitely baulk at having to adorn a cake with some anti-choice bullshit. 

The problem of course, with inventing a right to refuse and then giving me that right, is everyone else must get the right to exercise their prejudices too. 

In a perfectly atomised world, we would be able to do that, but in our increasingly cosmopolitan and tiny planet, we don’t get to hold on so tightly to our peculiarities.

At present, if I go into a shop, I don’t have to be concerned by the personal beliefs, philosophies or the political persuasions of the proprietors. I am there to engage in simple commerce. I do not look at what is on sale to establish which way they would vote in a General Election. And short of them wearing special costumes, I need never know their religion or if they even have one. 

What happens if we invent a right, which allows those in the Service Industries to put their prejudices above the rights of their customers? Think about it. A prospective customer, before even seeing what’s on offer, would have to check what prejudices that business endorses. Imagine it, NO BLACKS, NO MENSTRUATING WOMEN, NO ARSENAL SUPPORTERS AND DEFINITELY NO MENNONITES. 

Now some may argue that religious affiliations, political persuasions, race, gender, sexuality etc are all fundamentally different. That one cannot compare racism to sectarianism to sexism to homophobia to classism to voting left, right or centre. 

I’m sure someone who wishes to see gay people denied the opportunity to marry, would be very offended to be compared with a racist. Indeed, it is undeniable that, they are different prejudices.

This, however, is not about homophobia or racism, it’s about commerce. Do we want a world where all businesses have to display which customers are welcome and which customers are not? 

I’ve nothing against prejudice. I have a long list of people, ideas, things, places and beliefs that make my skin crawl. But prejudices are like hemorrhoids, it’s OK to have them as long as you don’t mention them to your customers. 

So if you are a racist, antichoice, homophobic religious nut please visit this site and give me your custom. And I will smile at you as you do so, because that is what civilised people do. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Rebellious Lung and other ailments

For approximately four seconds today, I thought I was experiencing a heart attack of some sort. I parked my car and spoke to my partner and we concluded it was probably a reaction to my medication. Not an allergic reaction, more that I should have taken my meds after my breakfast, not before and also had a more substantial meal. On top of this, I’d finished one of the medications which may also have played a part. 

It was a scary few seconds. I find I can generally cope with pain, once I know what’s causing it. 

The reason I am on medication, which requires careful calibration with food is that I have a rather rebellious lung. My right lung is taken of an infection. I am apparently quite unwell. Last week I lost my voice. I found that amusing. Then I started coughing and began to feel not my usual self. So off to the doctor I went. 

I was struck by her level of sympathy. I thought it unnecessary to be honest. Surely a simple chest infection is nothing to be concerned about. I was prescribed steroids, antibiotics, an expectorant and solpadeine. I’d never had the first or last of that list before. I was worried about the steroids, but looking forward to the solpadeine. I’d heard good things. 

I thought I was doing fine. I couldn’t sleep in my bed though, as I was coughing and I was unaccountably sweaty. Yet I felt reasonably okay. It took my partner to explain that the only reason I was upright at all, was the solpadeine and there will be a price to pay for that, tick tock, tick tock.

Even now, while I am aware of the loss of appetite, the clamminess, some light-headedness, a tiredness, a tightness around my chest and unpleasantness trying to escape my lung, I have just returned from a walk with Arwen. 

As discomforted as I am by this malaise and its potential to escalate, there is an aspect to this malady which bothers me more. This was and is an entirely self-inflicted disaster. I have been off cigarettes for well over two years, but I like to dabble. Last week I went to a school reunion and a combination of nerves and grasping at excuses led me to smoke 15 cigarettes in one night. 

It happens anytime I binge drink and I only binge when I drink, for why else drink? I do confine this behaviour to no more than four or five times a year. This however was the first time I experienced severe consequences.

I was content to never smoke again as long as one defines never smoking again, as the acceptance that there would be occasional over-indulgences mixed with alcohol and if in Amsterdam etc. 

I can actually feel my lung aching, yet my lament is for the future nonsenses I may (I certainly should) forego. 

The idea that physical decline rather than mature reflection may curb my experiences of illicit pleasures makes me sad. I know that marks me as an immature ingrate. Guilty. I am a big fat child. Always have been, had always intended being.