Ask not what your elected reps can do for you…

Ten sleeps till election day in Norn Iron and I’m losing little over my decision to sit this one out. The only backlash I feared was my Mother’s threat of a clip round the ear for refusing to exercise a privilege for which many fought hard. She didn’t disappoint. So indelible are the stains of struggle on the ballot box that any attempt to ignore them is construed as casually ducking out of the generational relay race of responsibility. Point taken. As a woman (allegedly), the perceived betrayal induces an uncompromising wrath.

Clipped tones and appendages aside, I welcomed an opportunity for my decision to be given a good kicking. It’s still standing, if slightly hunched over with a black eye. Kneecaps intact though.

“A penalty for not participating in politics is to be governed by your inferiors.” 

That punch thrown by Plato, delivered through those given power of attorney on Earth – Twitter users.

It’s doubtful Plato had a pre-determined Assembly structure designed to safeguard the Green/Orange configuration in mind when he uttered that assertion. Were he around now, he might be tempted to add: “unless you live in Northern Ireland, where an out-dated parliamentary configuration ensures inferior governance for all”.  For we are not dealing with a regular democracy, if such a system ever existed in the first place.

But you already knew that. And that is precisely why it is imperative that my fellow citizens and I in this septic statelet must ensure peace is protected at all costs! By casting our vote! Peace must hold! Or we’ll bring it down! That would be the same peace brokered twenty years ago when the IRA graciously laid down their arms following  periods of intransigence and indifference from politicians North, South and Westminster. The same peace under mythical threat if the precious ‘centre’ is pulled out from under it.

“Ok-so how did the people effect the ushering in of peace? Surely influence on the IRA & 2 governments = politics. Democracy means voting.”

I wouldn’t like to underestimate the commitment and sacrifices made by politicians, nor can I indulge in the mawkish glorification of them in recent years. No-one is better at congratulating Sinn Fein than Sinn Fein. It conveniently obscures the people’s demands for ‘no more’, which triggered the threat of political expediency that eventually backed all shades into a corner with no option but to negotiate a way out. Ordinary people’s movements don’t make into official history books, nor into revisonist views of it.

“They brought us here well esp John Hume in 1998. Early problems aside-Trimble dancing re Drumcree the 2017”

“They” being the nationalist SDLP and Ulster Unionist parties, respectively. The current pact both are pushing the electorate to support as a ‘radical’ alternative to the deteriorating marriage of Sinn Fein and DUP. The latter workable only because one side’s constituency was not under threat by vote-hunters from the other; and ultimately unworkable because the Party First Mentality resulted in treating the livelihood of the broad electorate with wilful contempt.

The whatboutery of the SF/DUP breakdown is for other hair-splitters to rant about. In some ways, it has everything and nothing to do with my opting out. Blind a fresh Troubles-free young generation with a dam-burst of bitterness about the past, then force them to referee their petulant elders. Arrogantly lean on an increasingly diverse collection of greying heads to lead by example. Force them to compromise their personal  and moral convictions to prop up those incapable of doing the same. Ideals inconsistent with two church-deferring anti-choice parties with a lethargic attitude to integrated education. The balance of responsibilities has tipped further back onto the lap of an electorate expected to do most of the heavy lifting.

Others have attracted consternation for canvassing on “single issues” with some commentators deeming it “selfish”. As if issues of poverty, education, welfare reform, equality, the environment, health, reproductive rights and so on bear no relationship to each other, they are dismissed by the compulsion to protect the ragbag of Orange and Green ‘cultural’ sensitivities. Hasn’t that been the problem? A faulty formula meant for a short-term period of political transition, which, 20 years on, is an instrument for the abuse and suffocation of integration.  The pressure to balance the needs of all (with no consensus on what that is) with personal integrity is unrealistic. It would not be unlike asking pro-choice activists to vote Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to prevent them from huffing with each other. An ostensibly mellower Assembly might appear reachable from here, but it won’t usher any radical challenge to the status quo. The structure is set-up to safeguard it.

If you believe the ballot box is as sacred as it always was, your irritation with those leaving it to the pall-bearing few to carry is understandable.

“Nobody counts “didn’t vote” or “spoiled vote”. The notion that non/spoiled votes are effective protest is wrong.”

But I don’t claim my not-arsedness as a protest move, not in the respectable definition of the term. All things considered and chin-stroked over, I couldn’t vote for any of the candidates on offer in my area. Moreover, the ballot box is not the sacred, exclusive means of engaging in political action it once was. As an apparatus of democracy it is at best constrained, and at worst illusionary. Pissed on. Neither is it the only method to register dissent or participate in politics. You probably noticed that, too.

So, rightly or wrongly, I’m bowing out of the ballot box on this occasion. Not as an act of protest, or civil ‘disobedience’, but as a right. Politics is a broad term. Day-to-day community life is where it’s at for me. The ordinary people in Norn Iron have always been ahead of state politics, anyway. When it mattered most.

march

A legitimate protest, hi

Advertisements

In tomorrow’s Weekend Supplement

Parental Controls. Our experts take a look at other experts to expertly debunk their expert advice without any expertise.

Baked Aghasta! Our special 10 page pull-out section featuring recipes with approximately eight ingredients you don’t have, two you can’t pronounce, one you’ll try to convince yourself you can substitute with tomato puree, and half a Nevin Maguire from the waist up.

This! Thread! Yes!  We ask our writers if emojis are being displaced by the return of words. And when is a thread not a thread but a belligerent and tedious attack on a former novel?

Inferior interiors: Revamp all your en-suites with less than a tenth of the cheapest item we usually feature on this page.

Also, gardening tips and other stuff you ignore like our ocean of adverts for cruises that cost the equivalent of several internal organs on the black market, and reviews of mapped obscure walking routes for people you have every intention of avoiding and, with any luck, never becoming.

Plus our regular columnist Donald Larkin will be on the back page with at least one word you won’t admit to having to look up.

Don’t just open your mind, torment it.

table

Just a regular Saturday morning round our gaff

 

Children of the revolution

“Participants in last week’s pro-choice march hang signs around children’s necks proclaiming, “I was a chosen child.” The implications are chilling. “Chosen” has surface connotations of being special, but also the cold wind whispering in your ear: you could have just as easily not been chosen. Your siblings, your flesh and blood, may not have been chosen and therefore are absent forever from your life. Such a slogan screams that adults are all-powerful. They have the right to exclude others from even being defined as human.”

Breda O’Brien, Irish Times Sat 1/10/16

I wondered when the subject of children on protest marches would arise. More specifically, the subjective value-judgements commentators inevitably attach to it. Breda might’ve been left cold by the perceived connotations of the gesture, as is her wont; I just thought it was extraordinarily naff. But I’m sure she’d expect nothing less from an irresponsible pro-choicer like myself who brought her own daughter on the march last year.

She continues…

“Children cannot rationalise abortion in the way adults can. They cannot rationalise taking away a life as a solution.”

As statements of fact, the first will likely be met with broad agreement by anyone who has ever spent a few minutes of their lifetime dabbling in logic. The second will prompt many to ask for clarifications on the meaning of life, whether that includes the life of a sentient woman, the solution to what exactly, and other plentiful well-worn question marks frequently posed by my 4 year-old and her mates over play-doh.

Breda’s contention is not that children shouldn’t be brought on marches  – she brought her own on pro-life rallies – it’s that pro-choice marches are essentially an exercise in compromising the emotional security of those children attending. Where the use of such slogans as ‘chosen child’ is an unequivocal demonstration of how their mother’s love is conditional, and there but for the almighty power of her (presumably) blithe judgement, their own lives might very well have been taken away before they began.

Tell me about it, Breda. Sure our wee one has been milking that one for years, and will continue to do so until it dawns on her around 13 that she didn’t actually ask to be born.

“No parent loves perfectly, but babies bring out a fierce protectiveness in us. The urge to protect the weakest and most helpless is primal. Or at least it used to be.” 

Or at least it is for us pro-life parents, in short. As a pro-life protesting parent, Breda is satisfied with the phased exposure to the principles of the pro-life movement undertaken with her own children. Pro-life protestors, it would seem, have a monopoly on ensuring responsible engagement of children in forms of protest.

“I told them that abortion was a word that they had to trust me to worry about and not to explain until they were much older. “

I’m not sure I feel so confident. When it comes to protecting the innocence of my own girl, and balancing that with the cultivation of a sense of justice and an incremental introduction to the complexities and messiness of life, there is much I won’t be able to guard her from. But such is life.

In time, she will come to learn there are few areas in life that can be unequivocally defined by a single moral perspective. That those holding competing views will always be the last to see their own hypocrisy. And, just as Breda marches alongside children brandishing placards showing foetal remains; the rest of us take our place next to our own diversity of bedfellows and march onward in the hope of reaching a fair destination.

For now, I’m reasonably certain that instilling an awareness of the existence of public disgruntlement, unhappiness among women about the rules that govern them, and their corresponding entitlement to use the public highway to highlight that, will not compromise our girl’s sense of security. She’s been doing it effectively in the hallway since the time she could walk.

children-marching

What do we want?

Our mothers to be trusted

When do we want it?

Er can we have our crisps now?

Rose of Tralee: Are we missing the point?

“The annual Rose of Tralee brings with it a slew of disdainful articles, all predictable and totally missing the point! ”

Well, there you have it. A comment in response to today’s Journal.ie’s opinion piece on that most divisive of pageants: The Rose of Tralee. Joining Lorraine Courtney in the condemnation corner is Louise O’Neill in The Examiner. Both allude to the anachronistic nature of the event: the casual objectification of women (albeit without the bikini round); the ethnically homogenous participants; and the less-than-subtle assumptions on sexuality with the safeguarding of an exclusively male line-up of chaperones. Because, in the case of the latter, where would the ladies be without one? Getting sick sideways out the tour-bus window no doubt. If only.

Like any cultural phenomenon, the spectacle shouldn’t be spared a periodic good kicking to see how it stands up. Courtney is concerned with the perceived dumbing down of personalities through the banal interview that forces participants to temper their individuality via self-censorship and insipid responses. O’Neill, meanwhile, despairs that regardless of the purported elevation of brains above beauty to ensure a more respectable affair, it is the sparkly dresses and winning smiles that little girls looking on remember. The impact of the resulting absorption of such messages on female success should not be underestimated.

Like any article written on women by women, neither writer is spared the reciprocated on-line kicking. The substantive points both make are frequently overlooked by readers more concerned with pointing out their apparent uptightness and compulsion to peddle a pro-feminist message. Imagine that. The particularly enlightened commentators cite several points missed: the choice women have to participate (or not), the ‘harmlessness’ of the revenue-generating bit of fun local communities depend on, and not least the professional and educational status of the wimmin. What’s all the whinging for?

“Some of the most accomplished women have taken part in the Rose of the Tralee and last years winner is a medical student and as a cancer survivor will I believe, go on to be a fine doctor.” (sic)

Indeed. And this is perhaps what makes it a uniquely Irish Festival of Respectability: the degree and the big job. The ultimate status symbols. That most beloved of combos after low-esteem and big ego. Which to this reluctant spectator, is what has helped contributed to the event’s durability.

Louise O’Neill asks when the last time a woman of colour entered? While this is a fair question, so dominated has identity politics become by issues of gender and sexuality that the most glaring issue of inequality that encompasses many women irrespective of ethnicity appears to go unchallenged: that of class. When is the last time a woman without the mandatory third level education and impenetrable job title entered?

“Of course no mention that the majority of these women are all ready successful in there lives much more successful then the women that complain and want to stop them from doing this.”

Another Journal commentator roundly telling the critics off.

There is just one thorny problem with that analysis however: people are born with conventional beauty (or pay for it), but it is privilege that awards them ‘brains’.  In the common Irish sense. The Rose of Tralee sense. The status and respectability sense. The national middle-class definition of success sense.

The centrality of women’s education in combating global inequality and access to the labour market is a given. Ambition and determination are not to be sniffed at either. But they are not the preserve of the formally educated who have benefitted from the opportunity to have their ‘brains’ nurtured. A degree and companion ‘profession’ isn’t a pre-requisite for contributing to keeping society successfully on its axis, nor an accurate measure of ‘intelligence’; and the meaning of ‘success’ goes beyond what’s reflected back at us from our job titles and pay-cheques.

When I watch the conga of lovely girls sashaying on to the stage, it is not exposure to identikit glamour and bad jokes I fear most for my own girl. It is the stark class divisions and national obsession with defining success according to a system of inequality that leaves the bitterest after-taste. The narrow definition of success. The one-track route to worthiness. Will the unconscious absorption of the message on ‘success’ stalk her throughout her life? In choosing to go to college or not. In adjusting aspirations and priorities if children enter the fray (if she wants them, and lucky to have them). If they don’t, will she be shunted into that limiting corner where her worth must proved by workplace success? Will jettisoning the big job and opportunities result in itchy feelings of failure? Will having the benefit of a formal education (if lucky to receive it) for life and knowledge be sufficient?

Modern mainstream musings on women are freighted with these anxieties, and written mostly by ‘successful’ women. Valid though they be, they have, in the main, become an issue of entitlement for the already entitled. With scant attention given to equality of access to education, and the merits of it remaining the chief determinant for just about every ‘respectable’ job going. And we don’t need to re-open any discussion here on the lack of respect afforded to predominantly female areas of work.

Even if it were to leave out ‘beauty’, The Rose of Tralee would still be left with the worrying problem of ‘brains’. So why bother with either?

rose of tralee

You’ve No degree? What kind of degree is that? Begorrah

Lorraine Courtney’s article: http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/rose-of-tralee-outdated-lorraine-courtney-2935105-Aug2016/

Louise O’Neill’s article: http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/columnists/louise-oneill/to-be-a-rose-was-to-have-made-it-in-life-416879.html

Una Mullally, sexual consent classes, and dissent

I’m not on Twitter, but my fella is; so I’m obliged to annoyingly look over his shoulder occasionally to sneer at something. Anything.

I spotted this gem earlier from some bloke re-tweeted by Róisín Ingle:

“any1 justifying why they don’t need to attend a sexual consent workshop NEEDS to go 2 1 ASAP”

An obvious reference to the dissent greeting Una Mullally’s piece in the Irish Times’ today instructing readers on why we need “a solid framework of education around sex and consent”, which apparently amounts to compulsory sexual consent classes due to be introduced for freshers to Trinity in the coming year.

Mullally makes no reference to proven models of good practice that exist within youth work provision; the comparatively higher success in exploring these issues at a younger age in a non-formal educational setting in which young people are facilitated to explore the responsibilities that come with sexual development along with their peers rather than top-down instruction; and the on-going cuts to the sector that attack this vital function.

Instead, the reader is treated to a blunt defence of the approach, and a neat comparison of these classes with the similarly necessary imposition of breathalyser tests, and other put-’em-up tactics designed to undermine the legitimacy of any chin-stroking or reservations about the move. The limits to the elasticity of consent in the context of debate are seemingly off-limits. And that might well be the most annoying sentence I’ve ever written, but let me not interrupt my own righteousness any further…

The problem with reserving the right to reflect on the issues a little longer than the length of an opinion column and its umpteen curled lips, is that one is obliged to share question marks with strange bedfellows. By strange, I mean bonkers, as a cursory read of the regular commentariat below the line of columns on the Irish Times website will confirm.

Similarly, the problem with having a left-leaning feminist outlook is that that broad value system is shared with what appears to be an increasingly bug-bite ridden band of bed-fellows intent on knocking themselves (and the validity of their own argument) out with spectacular feats of intolerance. Shutting down the need for all ideas to be given a good kicking appears very much at odds with their own philosophy.

The quality of the debate is one thing, but the rush to paralyse it with such thoughtful and insightful comments as the tweet above is further evidence that elements of both the Bonkers and the Left are becoming indistinguishable. Or as my new best friends over at the Irish Times’ comments section would put it – what a load of shite.

For a more rounded, open-ended, view on the issue that treats the reader as an adult, have a read at Fionola Meredith’s take from the same paper. Or as my new best enemies over at the Irish Times’ comment section would put it – what a load of shite.

And your Ma smells of wee.

Remembering… Mary Raftery

“The Church thinks in centuries, do you think your paper has the resources to take that on?”

Stanley Tucci’s pithy lawyer puts it up to Mark Ruffalo’s investigative reporter early on in Spotlight, the deft dramatisation of The Boston Globe’s incendiary exposure of the systemic cover-up of widespread child abuse by the clerical elite. For decades. Sound familiar?

Hollywood thinks in blockbusters, but did it have the resources to take it on? Whatever about the availability of budgets, its success is due in no small part to an experienced cast willing to resist any scenery-chewing righteousness. The ever reliable Ruffalo captures the tenacity and flightiness of a truth vigilante on the verge of something big; but it takes Michael Keaton’s restrained editor to reign him in, having at one time been too eager to get over the finish-line himself. There’s big. But there’s bigger.

“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one”

Sound familiar? The axis of blind eyes and indifference kept on turning. Tucci can be trusted to deliver another unequivocal truth.

The audience of the Dublin cinema I’m in knows where the conclusion is headed. As does the rest of the Western world familiar with the story of Vatican corruption. Despite the multitude of spoiler alerts revealed over recent years, a reminder can still leave them sitting silent until the last of the credits roll. After the written updates on what happened next disappear; and the flashing lists of destinations revealed as locations where clerical child abuse investigations have taken place.

Ferns, Ireland. Gortahork, Ireland. And the rest. Counties are an irrelevancy.

RTÉ deals in small investigative departments, but did it have the resources to take it on? It had Mary Raftery.

“Mary was best known for her 1999 ground-breaking “States of Fear” documentaries. They revealed the extent of abuse suffered by children in Irish industrial schools and institutions managed by religious orders. It led to taoiseach Bertie Ahern apologising on behalf of the state.

Her work also led to the setting up of the Ryan Commission, which reported in May 2009, and to the setting up of a confidential committee which heard the stories of victims of institutional abuse.

Speaking about her findings to the BBC in 2009, Mary Raftery said: “There was widespread sexual abuse, particularly in the boys’ institutions.

“Extremely vicious and sadistic physical abuse, way off the scale, and horrific emotional abuse, designed to break the children.

“We had people talk to us about hearing screams… the screams of children in the night coming from these buildings and really not knowing what to do.

“They didn’t know to whom they could complain because the power in the town was the religious order running the institution.”

Following the documentaries, the government set up the Residential Institutions Redress Board which has compensated about 14,000 people”  Source: The BBC

mary raftery

Mary Raftery

Spotlight is a reminder of the power of Mary Raftery’s investigative journalism, and her fearless tenacity that served the village truth in the face of wilful blindness. In an era in which RTÉ doesn’t appear to be over-endowed with such resources, her contribution, and premature death, still has the power to pin the viewer to the seat for just a few seconds more.