Meandering Thoughts of a Social

Democrat in HR

 What a World it could be


Terry.Connolly@gmail.com

 

 

Saturday 10th january 2009

The Reality of Belief

Previously I have explained how if a tree falls in the woods, and no one hears it, it doesn't make a noise. Well this is a somewhat similarly deep thought that has been running through my head for about a month, and is kind of related. I'd like to thank Bernard for this one, it came to me while drunkenly arguing with him over Christmas.

The first principle of this argument is this. Does belief exist? Not does god exist, or spirituality exist, but the concept of belief itself exist? Several things fall into this category; Justice,  pride, spirituality, right and wrong. Indeed Psychologist Jonathan Haidt has five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, these are: Care, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority and Purity. Not only are they the basis of our political choices, they're something we're born pre-programmed with and by offsetting each one and balancing them against other we somehow get through life.

So what has belief got to do with these concepts? Well, they are things that we hold to true, so much, that we think they exist. One of my favourite quotes is from Terry Pratchett of all people; "take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder, and sieve it through the finest sieve, and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet, you try to act as if there is some ideal order in the world. As if there is some, some rightness in the universe, by which it may be judged". They don't physically exist, yet they are so fundamental to us that we believe they must exist, we must observe them. And so comes the question of the nature of belief. These things exist because we believe them to exist, and through the strength of our belief we have made them real. Is belief itself truly real? Or do we believe it to be real? We have put a name on it, attached a word: "belief", but what is behind that word, what does it mean?

If i choose not to believe in belief i am immediately struck with a problem. To not believe in justice, or god, or even reality is quite easy, we can simply stop believing in them and continue our lives as though they do not exist. Indeed many people do! But belief? "I do not believe in belief, it does not exist, I don't believe in it" Twice in that sentence i have used belief to deny it's existance. I cannot state that belief does not exist because that requires me to admit it does so i can use it as a tool to deny it. It's circular. Can I prove that belief does not exist? No, that would require a certain amount of belief too, that the results were true, and all avenues of argument had been exhausted. I can only reach one conclusion. Belief exists. Perhaps it is the only thing that exists, at least it is the only thing we can believe exists and cannot refute it, not even in words.


So, in conclusion, if a tree falls in the woods and no one was there to hear it, it made a noise if I choose to believe it made a noise. But since I've already argued against it, i believe it doesn't make a noise so it didn't. It doesn't really matter what the answer is, it all exists in our imaginations anyway and we can have whatever answer we like. Similarly, if you believe God exists then he does, if not, then he doesn't. To bastardise Nietzsche and Schrodinger God is both alive and dead at the same time until you open the box and observe.

 

 

Monday 15th December 2008

The Recession of Choice

What's the threshold that causes a dip from boom to recession? Lets face it, things were going along just fine, we could all see the recession coming, what made us decide now was the time for it?

And it was a decision. We could have just as easily continued the delusion, but we didn't. Someone somewhere decided enough was enough, we would stop pretending everything was fine and have a good old fashioned recession. I mean why not keep going as we were? You and I could continue to spend, shares could keep their arbitrary values, pensions could remain growing and we could all live happily ever after!

But who flicked the switch? Who turned optimism into pessimism? And why? I guess who benefits from a recession? Oddly enough it's not the banking sector it seems, unless a really big bank that could survive decided it didn't want the competition, though that's a bit unlikely unless this really big bank was owned by an individual who could take that gamble. Maybe it was government, perhaps they decided we were all rich enough and some "reorganisation was needed" or maybe they wanted to take back power from the corporations, though that seems unlikely, if people lose jobs they lose their jobs, such is democracy. Maybe it was undemocratic governments, shifting enough money to devalue shares and start a crash? Though they're sitting on billions of barrels of oil in most cases, which are now worth less.....humm, maybe, just maybe it was us? Well not me personally, i don't own any shares, not even a pension, but anyone with invested money, or at least the investment companies acting on their behalf.....wait a minute! What happens to that money? Please someone correct me if I'm wrong, but if you invest €1000 that you earned making and selling bread in your little shop (if you pretend it's a retired granny it'll pull on your heart strings more) and Mr. Investor puts that money into property, or oil or health care etc. sure it grows and could be worth €1200 in 3 years, but during a recession it might suddenly be worth €700. Where did that €300 go? Of course the disclaimer is that the value of shares may rise as well as fall, but why fall below the original capital invested?

Do forgive my meandering, I'm trying to understand the whole system as I go along. In real terms growth of investments should reflect growth of the economy. If your economy grows by 2% then your investment should grow by 2%....though if your level of inflation is above that then you're screwed right? If your economy shrinks by 2% your investment should shrink by that amount too, though of course inflation usually drops during recession. But the swings we've seen lately have been much greater, this makes sense i guess, we don't invest in whole economies, we invest in profitable sectors so if construction is making a profit we invest in construction and take a share of the profits which means the growth of granny's investment stays ahead of inflation. Of course if Mr Investor put the money into childcare or something like that it may make a loss, but margins can be trimmed, subsidies put in place and our taxes take care of the non profitable things. Still though, granny's not getting enough returns to keep her in that loss making nursing home in a few years. So Mr. Investor says to himself "humm i wonder what else is a growth industry?". He looks around and sees other investment companies. There's lots of grannies putting their money into those and the number of grannies is growing, "i know!" says Mr. Investor, "I'll invest in other investors and they can invest in me".

And so they did. People making profit for the grannies of the world invested in themselves because they were the most profitable sector. Anyone else see the problem? Granny Smith's money grows because Granny Jones is investing in her investment company, similarly Granny Jones' money is growing because Granny Smith is investing in hers...except...well where is the money going to come from when both of them want to cash in their investments? I know, Granny Murphy, who hasn't cashed in her money yet, we'll take that, and when she wants hers, well we'll take it from the next granny who is too slow to sell.

So again, Who chose the recession? Because if no one chose it, is the world financial market a beast beyond the control of those who created it to serve a purpose? Or do we control it? I hope so, in which case we chose the recession because Granny knew it was going to collapse, as we all knew, but it was the Granny's who got there first that benefited. The market never grew, everyone just poured money into it in the hope that they could take it out again faster than everyone else and make a profit....or in reality, steal from those who were too slow. Thing is, the number of people who were too slow, vastly out number the people who got there first. The stock market is a gamble, the global economy is like a poker table.....but really, what is the difference between gambling and stealing? Now we're getting into morality, and that's very uncomfortable isn't it?

 

 

Saturday 2nd August 2008

The Greatest Generation

We are the greatest generation to have ever been born, we just don't know it yet. But we will. One would hope to live until at least 2050, thats at least another 42 years away and in that time there's a rough idea of what we will face. We will be the greatest generation because we face challenges that no previous generations have faced, and it is in facing those challanges that our names will go down in history.

 

We face overpopulation, food shortages, collapsing markets, global warming, inequality, environmental destruction, drug resistant disease and an end to the oil age. Almost depressing isn't it? And it's already begun, it isn't going to end. Oil cannot be remade, a method of rapid population reduction is unthinkable, new bacteria  and viral strains will not devolve, CO2 cannot be magically removed from the air and developing nations cannot be told to simply stop developing.

 

But our great generation already has already created the tools to tackle all these problems. We have the mass communication of individuals and the swapping of ideas across the globe through the Internet. These are problems that no one individual can tackle, they rely on global action by all individuals. And the internet as a tool for information transfer and idea sharing means that no one can live in ignorance of these problems, or in ignorance of action that needs to be taken. Previous generations had the excuse of ignorance to justify their inaction, we do not.

 

But the sharing of information alone cannot change anything, all change comes through action. It is not enough to know that we need to halt population growth, we need to actually halt it, and for that we need all 6.7 billion of us to stop, think, and keep our families small. This is another factor that makes us great. While previous generations could reproduce without thinking, we have a moral and social obligation not to have large families.

 

That's fine for those of us in developed nations. But what about the populations of developing countries? An impovrished family cannot afford to buy a device to access the Internet when they cannot afford to eat. Also, parents cannot afford to have a small family, a large family is necessary to supply labour and wage earners to keep parents comfortable and family business/farms running as the parents get older. In the west we have the luxury of pensions and state welfare, they do not.

 

This is why inequality is such an issue. Ending it is to only way, that in the long term, the spiral of overpopulation can be stopped. And we have the tool to do this also. Education. And unlike previous generations ours has a major advantage. At our fingertips lies all the knowledge we possess. The printing press allowed the protestant movement to spread it's word, make people think, and challenge power. Knowledge and it's distribution was the key to change. Similarly, the ideas of Marx and Engles were printed and distributed, the words of Ghandi and Martin Luther King too. Now we live an age where the cost of ink and paper is no longer a stumbling block, we can just type and hit send. We no longer need books to educate. All we need to do is provide people with the tools to educate themselves, how to read, how to write, and a tool with which they can access our collective knowledge. Thankfully we're doing this through the One Laptop per Child program but it needs to move faster, it need to be invested in, and the stumbling blocks it faces need to be overcome. Of course it also need to be able to translate the information into the thousands of languages we speak, but several companies are working on this, including google, it just needs a little improvement. 

 

So see? Our great generation is already on it. If we can remove inequality then we can increase the living standards of billions of people, we can increase their access to information on family planning and we can give them the freedom to decide how many children they can have out of want rather than necessity.

 

With a stable global population we can then strike another problem off our list; food shortages. The problem is not that there is not enough food, it's that there are too many people to feed. The type of high intensity food production that we currently practice creates it's own problems. The pollution of fresh water, the clearance of forest and the emission of CO2. We're literally poisoning the air we breathe while we remove our lungs and contaminate the water we drink just so we can eat. Some of us are even eating so much we've created new problems such as an increase in diabetes and heart disease which puts pressure on our health services. Why should someone in sub Saharan Africa starve to death while we eat ourselves into an early grave? Yes the problems of food shortages are not entirely related to overpopulation, there is a massive distribution problem. But our great generation can solve this and must. Sure we feel sad when we watch a youtube video of a malnourished child....imagine how angry that child would feel watching a youtube video of us stuffing our faces like pigs. Again information leads to change. A different perspective leads to revolutionary action.

 

Surely the second greatest challenge we face is global warming. Halting overpopulation is one way to slow the problem, but here's the catch 22. As I explained the most effective way to reduce population is through ending inequality and less people means less CO2 emission which means a slowdown to green house effect. But to give others our way of life they need electricity, transport, communications networks, roads, rail etc. and all this costs energy. Previous generations took this energy from coal and oil, giving our generation the problem that we face. Our generation has to think ahead, developing countries can't be held back by cost, they have the right to improve their lives also. Unfortunately it's still cheaper to use oil and coal than other alternatives. But even oil is becoming too expensive, and most coal has been depleted. So our great generation has no choice but to use alternative forms of energy production (better late than never). And their use is growing, faster and faster. And our great generation is on the case, there's even a road map : JREC

 

As for market collapse, well lets face it, our generation has bigger problems to deal with, and until we do a recession is the least of our worries. In fact a clean, educated and equal world will be less prone to them then a dying, poverty rife and overpopulated one.

 

So you see, we will be the greatest generation. We will solve the problems our parents and grandparents created and we will be remembered for thousands of years as the generation who collectively brought humanity back from the brink of it's own destruction.

 

 

 

Tuesday 13th May 2008

Back to Basics: Money

Does capitalism, in it’s broadest sense, actually have any foundations in reality? Since the emergence of markets we have placed unwavering faith in the value of money. It’s often said that only a fool knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, what I want to question here is the value of money.

 

Once upon a time (and thankfully yet again to an extent due to the emergence of social networking and online trade) we used to trade goods for goods. If I wanted grain I would trade what I thought was a fair quantity of equivalent goods due to my needs to gain it. As some pre monetary farmer I might trade a cow for certain amount, or some milk etc. At this point in our history goods had a real value as expressed by what you were willing to trade. Several millennia on we should be, in theory, applying the same principles. If I pay $120 for a barrel of oil on an international market in the morning, I should be able to trade it for something else worth $120 and that way my needs can be met through trade.

 

There is of course one major difference between these systems, money. It’s existence as a method of valuation calls into question a number of things, firstly what is its purpose? Who does its existence benefit? And who sets the price? Money’s purpose is to make the trade easier, it also allows a facile means to compare what you are paying to what others are paying so that you can rest assured you’re getting the correct price. It allows you to easily measure profit, and of course it allows you to buy a bag of crisps without having to carry a chicken around in your pocket. However since we are now in the age of electronic payment the convenience of coins are no longer a real issue. So, who does money benefit? The state naturally, most things have a value added tax that we’re all familiar with, and it’s easier to take 20% of $120 than to chop 20% off a cow and deposit it at the tax office. Setting the value of money gives rise to an incredibly complex system. Once upon a time you kept gold reserves so that the cash in your pocket had real tangible value. Again this was the responsibility of the state. Now of course currencies are valued against each other, the economic growth of a country, it’s production etc. An interesting question is this, if every country in the world used the same currency how would you give it value? For example Zimbabwe couldn’t have 1000% inflation if it used a currency tied to every other world economy. Or would it? In the Eurozone different rates of inflation exist in different states despite the fact that we have one currency. Even inside national borders inflation differs between city and countryside why?

 

The reason I’m looking at inflation like this is that inflation implies a change in value of an object. Eg a house is more desirable in the city due to competition for space hence its price rises faster. But, does it actually have that value in the first place? The construction industry certainly makes a profit so in terms of materials and labour you’re already paying more than it actually cost to build. So where is the value? Simply it lies in the demand. At least 30% of the price comes from a valueless intangible desire. And this doesn’t just apply to houses, the Dutch famously did it with tulip bulbs, we all do it with designer goods, a bag made for €1 in China should not cost €500 because someone put their initials on it.

 

This is the difference between “primitive” markets and ours. In primitive markets things had real visible value, in our modern markets value is not based on goods, it is based on desire. Hence my original question, does capitalism have a foundation in reality? No is the answer. Retail outlets (designer goods), banks (mortgages), currency exchange, automobiles (your car price drops 10k as soon as you drive it out of the show room), the advertising industry, etc. etc. all have no basis in reality, the products they sell have an actual material value far below their actual price. And ultimately, who loses out? Go home, look at your car, your house, your designer clothes and ask yourself, if I strip away the want, did I actually need this? And if I needed this, after all the hours I put in at work, all the saving and all the missed nights out, after all that, did I pay it’s true value?

 

 

Wednesday March 12th 2008

Some Metaphysical Meanderings

Over the last few months I've been exploring my own identity, the identity of the world around me and how the two identitys relate to each other. This has resulted in some quite positive personal development and some wanderings of mine into the ideas of life, they universe and everything.

Yesterday with a friend of mine I discussed the age old question; "if a tree falls in the wood, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a noise?" The answer is both No and Yes. The case for No is as follows: sound needs to be percieved, if no one is there to hear it then no one is there to percieve the sound hence some air be displaced, some branches might break but a sound persay is not observed therefore no it does not make a noise. The case for Yes relies on your defination of an observer. If a bird or squirrell is present then at what level of consciousness or intelligence does that animal become an observer. Is the ability to hear enough to define an observer? Or does an event have to be understood before it can be said to have happened. To that question the answer must be no, it the falling tree squishes a beetle on the ground, the beetle isn't going to understand whats happening, yet the event is happening none the less. As the beetle cannot hear then to it the tree does not make a noise. To the squirrel then yes the tree falling does make a noise.

The bigger question is this, if no one observed it, did the tree fall? This is Schroedingers cat in a box experiment for cat lovers. Bare with me for a moment on this one! You are walking through the woods. We shall assume in this case that you at a level of consciousness and understanding to be considered an observer. You come accross a tree that has fallen. Assuming you are the first observer to witness the tree lying on the ground you have the effect of "opening the box" causing the various probabilities determining the event to sum up with the resulting effect that the tree has fallen. Working backwards, if the tree is now observed to have fallen then at some point in the past it fell and at that time any animals in the vacinity would have heard a noise. Therefore if you observe a fallen tree, then through your observation it retrospectively makes a noise in the past.

Phew! to draw this out even further if you then leave the woods and do not tell anyone you saw a fallen tree does it go back into a state of uncertainty until someone else observes the fallen tree? Schroedingers cat relies on a final result of alive or dead, 1 or 0.  Thing is, if you stop observing the position of an electron it goes back to being undefined, if you close the box again does the cat come back to life? If you're not looking at the fallen tree anymore, is it still on the ground? Are we quite sure that trees fall? Yes, we are. Why? because of entropy; times arrow. Trees fall because they get old, they die and time moves on. Time appears to be the process by which probability remains in a final state, a 1 or a 0, and cannot be reversed as the instant (perhaps the Planck instant) an event occurs it creates the basis from which new events occur and once these new events occur the previous event cannot be erased.

So, in conclusion, if a tree falls in the woods, and no one (not even a squirrell or a bird) is there to hear it, it does NOT make a noise. If an observer with the ability to hear is present then YES it does make a noise. And all that stuff about Schroedingers cat?? Well it doesn't really matter, the tree can't retrospectively make a noise unless it's making of the noise does not have an effect on events that have occured afterwards and which have been observed to have happened. And finally, No, once you've observed the tree on the ground, it has fallen, and will remain on the ground until such time as it rots or is removed.

 

 

Wednesday October 24th 2007

Historical Revisionism

On Tuesday the 23rd (last night) a documentary aired on RTE1 about the shooting of the Pearson brothers in Coolacrease, Cadamstown, Co. Offaly. I had a somewhat personal interest in this documentary as my Grandfather, Cmmdnt Joe Connolly, apparently commanded the unit that day. I say apparently as i have learned that this case is surrounded in half truths and opinions and i have yet to see documentary evidence that he was involved. Also, he led Unit 3 of the offaly brigade, the shootings were carried out by unit 2. That said i still need to ask a few people some more questions before i know if he was there or not.

 

That aside, i will first give my opinion of Niamh Sammons documentary. I actually thought that overall it was fair. Niamh did show something i kept coming across when i was doing my own bit of research: complete polarization. Harris represents one side, the side that claims that the Pearsons could do no wrong and that they were innocent victims of a land grab carried out by selfish IRA scum. On the other side we have Philip McConway who sees the Pearsons as traitors and a treat to the idealism of an independent Ireland who deserved to die. As with all such arguments the truth is usually forgotten about in the middle somewhere.

 

There is one aspect of the Coolacrease killings that was particularly gruesome, it was botched. Again we see the polarization coming into play, one side closing their eyes to this aspect as it does not fit into their argument, the other side modifying it to suit themselves. The nationalist side basically pushed the gruesome details conveniently to one side, it took them 7 and 14 hours to bleed to death. On the other side it is claimed that they were shot in the genitals as a clear sign of ethnic cleansing. Dr. Woods report at the time says there were some wounds to the groin, buttocks and back. Basically they were shot by unprofessional soldiers who messed it up, there's nothing to suggest purposeful targeting of the genitals. Yet such minor facts are irrelevant when you're trying to stir up feeling. 

 

The revisionism aspect of all this is what has made it both frustrating and eye opening. Niamh Sammon opened a can of worms. For the last number of years some books and articles have been emerging talking about the shootings, from both sides. This documentary brought both sides face to face. But is was a little more than that, it was a battle between new revisionism and old revisionism. Old revisionism happened after the war of independence, fact recorded with a hint of justification and propaganda. No one is to be condemned for this as it is a feature of most nations following war. New revisionism challenges this, but is equally incorrect as it comes long after the facts have been forgotten and is just as reliant on opinion and righteousness.

 

The Hidden Histories documentary looked at another long forgotten side, the families of those involved. The Pearsons moved to Australia, the IRA members remained, yet both tried to forget what happened. This raises the question as to whether some histories should remain hidden. There is always the "least we forget" argument, and indeed this is a noble and necessary principle for large scale atrocities, however is always a danger of history becoming a tool to punish. No one is alive today that does not have an ancestor who killed someone, some just killed more recently than others. In the early 20th century most of the world was at war of some kind, the war of independence and the subsequent civil war were ours. War does not allow for justice, it never has, we should not expect ours to be any different. For fear of justifying death, i don't agree with what happened, in an ideal world neighbours would not turn on neighbours, friends on friends but in 1921, Ireland was a long way from an ideal world. The Pearsons did not deserve to die, no one did, but it happened. So rather than dishonouring their deaths with squabbles over half facts and opinion, lets get to grips to the fact that history is history, it is 20% fact, 80% opinion.

 

 

Friday September 14th 2007

How did I end up behind a desk?

Last night I went to see a most fabulous show with my most fabulous housemate, it was called Le Clique, and is part of the Dublin Fringe festival. The best way to describe it is as a circus for adults with a little cabaret. One thing i wondered about before i went to it, was repeated at the end of the show by Captain Frodo one of the performers, who said "you can be whatever you want". Which was true once, why isn't it true now?

My frustration is this, I know I am capable of being much more than I actually am. This isn't one of those silly modern notions of ambition that have been encouraged by the meritocracy, i'm well aware that constant striving for something you're not capable of only leads to unhappiness, my frustration lies in conformity. I pride myself on my difference, I am quiet a unique person, and maybe it's snobbery but i look down on people that I see as sheep. Yet somehow, despite my differences, I am turning into a sheep. I already sit behind a desk, i wear a suit every day except "casual Friday" and i run with the rat race every morning and evening. I have become what i have always dreaded, a cog in the machine, turning, with no purpose other than to keep bigger and smaller cogs turning. Why am i not an actor, a trapese artist, a cabaret act, a drag act, a writer, a hermit, a gardner, a painter, a poet, a designer, a dancer?

Instead I first spent years as a scientist, analysing, deducing and in it's own way it was creative, but restrictive, so stifeling and grey that I ran away from it. To this day i don't regret that decision, I escaped from something that wasn't me. I have however fallen into a quandry! Now I am a recruitment consulant. I like what I do, I deal with other people and try to find work for them. However i don't love what I do; it's for profit, i can only help those who are qualified, and i'm behind a desk all day checking emails and updating profiles.  I can't find the quote online so forgive me if it's incorrect, but i think it was Wilde who said "to find a job you like and make money is  clever, to find a job you love and make money is genius".  I do like money and it's not something the artistic professions generally have, but i also hate it because happiness does have a price.

I have this dream, a day dream, and I imagine it's not that uncommon. Every morning the air coach passes me on the way to work, it's a bus that takes people to the airport. I imagine just getting on it then and there. Going to the airport and getting on a plane to start a new life and a new job somewhere else. What stops me from doing this? The Following:

*Who would organise the rent and bills, they're in my name? and I couldn't leave my housemates without finding someone else for the room.

*What about my family, am i supposed to just phone them up from abroad? And what would they think at work?

*What about the cause, i'd be one less person fighting for socialism in Ireland, would It make me a hypocrite to leave it behind to live elsewhere?

*And what would i do when i get there, i have no money, a months wages max but i'd need a deposit on an appartment, the language barrier would be such a problem, and i'd have to get a job asap, but what would i do, what if i couldn't find anything and ended up on the street? What if i find it too difficult to make new friends?

The funny thing about all this is that i realised most of the same thoughts (bar the last one) went through my head when i thought about what would happen if i got killed by said bus. The rent and bills could organise themselves, work would get over it, life would go on and the world would keep turning. So they are just excuses. It's the last reson(s), the fear, fear of the unknown, that's what stops me getting on that bus.

So why this story? Well the excuses I use to not change career are exactly the same, as is the fear of the unknown. "Conventional wisdom" sees giving it all up to join the circus as foolish, an interesting story. It's much more than that, it's bravery on a level most of us wish we could achieve! It is in me to make that change? Who knows, maybe next week, next month or even tomorrow I'll get on that bus, and next week, next month or even tomorrow I'll be something else.

 

 

Tuesday the 28th August 2007

Hand in Hand- How can we be seen when we try to hide?

I've been on the scene in a few other European capitals this year and everytime I come home my gut wrenches and a part of me is left behind in each of these cities. I just hope that i'm bringing something back . In other European cities, not much larger than ours and indeed some smaller, when I walk down the street i see same sex couples hand in hand, arm in arm, heart to heart. I see people proud to express their love of each other, in fact they're probably not even proud, they just are! Society around them accepts them because they are visible.

I've recently read a number of articles and opinions written by fellow members of the community which call for a "normalisation" of Irish homosexuality. They describe dark rooms, gaydar, sex shops, drag queens, saunas, cruising etc. with utter contempt and use them to attack Pride, "what have we to be proud of?" or attack ourselves. They tell us this is the reson we don't have same-sex marriage, this is why we can never adopt, because we're not acceptable enough to Irish society and unless we're squeeky clean, live in surburbia and hold sweet little dinner parties for our heterosexual neighbours, we will never be equal!

BULLSHIT!!!

Walk the streets of Luthern Amsterdam hand in hand and visit thier saunas and sex clubs, cruise in their parks, and then tell me "cleaning up our act" was a pre-requesite there. Walk the streets of Franco's Catholic Madrid and tell me "dinner parties with the neighbours" had anything to do with their huge gay scene, same sex marriage and full adoption rights? In Berlin, Paris, Stockholm, Brussels,  same-sex couples walk down the street hand in hand, in your face and with all the legal protection and recognition of anyone else on that street.

By hiding who we are we are killing our community, open your eyes and see that it's almost dead! What does good 'ol conservative Ireland want us to be? gone, out of sight and out of mind. What are trying to do? Keep them happy by disappearing. Every bar that closes and has it's pride flag removed is a victory for those who want us to disappear. Why are  thousands of Irish men on gaydar everynight instead of out actually talking and meeting other people, supporting smaller bars? We have no dark rooms, one sauna and the few sex shops that cater for us are under attack from the "moral majority". The same "moral majority" that have swing parties, cocaine fests, underage pregnancy and prostitution. These are people we are trying to keep happy by keeping our heads down and being ashamed of ourselves. Well guess what, we have sex too! having sex has, to my knowledge, never had a bearing on anyones ability to be a parent or part of a couple. Indeed, according to some heterosexuals it a necessity that only they have a right to. Why then must we apologise for being different?

We must be loud and proud. No this doesn't mean we have to start wearing butt plugs to work every day (you can if you want to though!), but it means holding hands on the street, and not just the short walk from the Flounge to the G, but whenever we feel like holding hands. It means wearing what you want to, it means holding our heads up and apologising to no one. I did not ask anyones permission to be gay, why should I ask for someones permission to remain gay? In fact I love being gay, it's much better then being straight, why on earth would i try to be like one? Equality is not about everyone being the same, it's about accepting everyones differences. If we try to the be the same then there is no need to make us equal, but if we are honest with ourselves, and embrace our differences then we cannot be brushed under the carpet because we will be visible.

 

 

Friday 3rd August 2007

Class: Money or a State of Mind

I've been arguing recently as to the nature of Class structures, what defines class. So far my socialist friends have pretty much replied "Career and Money" and it is the primary definition of class. But i've been thinking and I don't believe this.  I think career and money are a symptom of class, not the cause. These are my resons:

Historical Hierachy

Several hundred thousand years ago primates, our ancestors, lived in groups with an alpha male (we're assuming this as none of these ancestors survived so we must draw comparisons with our closest living relatives). Around this alpha male there was a Hierachy, the males favourites would eat any spoils of hunting first and so the class structure continued down to the lowest primates in the group who ate last. This is common behaviour amongst pack animals.

Around ten thousand years ago humans began to differentiate themselves by creating towns, farms, writing and culture. What facilitated this was the creation of civilisation and society. Mutal cooperation for the greater good and by extension for the good of the individual. An important point is that "careers"and money were only coming into being at this stage, class had existed before. But what was a civilisation, a society; only an extension of the primate troop. Bigger primate groupings able to use it's collective force to defeat smaller primate groups with whom they were compeating for resources. This is true to this day. And what was done with these resources once obtained? The Hierachy distributed them, the alpha male (king or often queen) ate of the spoils first, then the court, then the traders and farmers, then the poor who'd probably done the fighting in the first place.

Modern Hierachy

This is all to familiar. Lets look at George Bush, alpha primate, conquers Iraq, divides up it's contracts between his friends and administration (court) and depending on your closeness to the alpha pimate the more you got. This can be extended to Blair and honours, Berite and Seanad seats (eg. Eoin Harris) or places in the tent at the galway races, or planning permission/land rezoning. The Hierachy of the ape is alive and Well and thriving in Ireland.

So where to corporations fit into this? As entities they shouldn't logically exist in this system as they shouldn't have a role, they are troopless/tribeless so to speak, they cross borders and bear no loyalty to any King or President, they are loyal only to their shareholders and ultimately only serve them. They are another symptom of the Hierachy and the class system, and they depend on it for survival. Internally the class structure keeps them supported; the directors and CEO's feed first, followed my middle managment, followed by the workers, a veritable beehive of class structures. And this is why they cross borders, they are a mobile societal structure, not dependent on a nation or common history, but solely the acquisition of resources and wealth, something which from 100,000 years ago we were programmed to do and keep doing despite the fact there is now enough resources to go around. We now seek power for powers sake through the corporation.

Social Democracy and Hierachy

Society is the result of Hierachy and it's ralationship to resource acquisition. As such Society reinforces the Hierachy. I despair terribly when i think that humanity will always be ruled by it's base animal instincts, but there is hope. The Hierachys biggest flaw is the society it created to support it. It has been shown that by changing society to a more equatable system, to break down class boundaries, ultimately weakens the ruling class and empowers the working class and so everyone meets in the middle...more or less. There will always be a residue of the old ways, the behaviour of millenia takes a few generations to change. In some areas a hierachy will still exist, the corporation for example, but once it is based on experience and ability then it is healthy, instead of who knows who, what gender you are, or which college you went to, ie equality. The destruction of the class system cannot occur without the reinforcement of equality. With equality comes true power, respect for each other and a fair distribution of resources. With equality comes peace and with peace come prosperity and learning. How? Wars are waged for resources, the excuse is difference.  It's easy to fight someone you don't see as an equal, as a lower class.

The New International Class System and how to Replace it.

Once class existed within the boundaries of nation states, now, thanks to the corporation it exists accross continents. The CEO's and directors live in the first world, as do the shareholders it ultimately serves, the workers live in impovrished, generally ununionised nations. There is a solution to this, International socialism to counter act international capitolism. We're starting late, but most of western Europe have healthy social democracys, and latin America has not only gotten it's act together, it's surging ahead. Greater cooperation between these socialist/democratic socialist blocks through fair trade and shared social values could create a new alternative to globalisation, a classless globalisation. Ireland needs to be part of this, but we cannot when our economy both depends on and actively supports the corporate globalised world. We are part of the primitive structure, the Hierachy. We need a new system, a new way of living if we want to want to become a part of the international socialist world. We need social democracy.

Destiny of the Irish Ape Man

Through globalisation we have created a wealthy country with low unemployment. This is where the money or state of mind bit comes in. Because the system we have used to generate our wealth is dependent on the class system. We have been victims of it for generations. Take your rural village where the local politician, priest, publican are the ruling class, the workers are the middle class and the shunned are the lower class. Piety and politics which encourage their own class structures. When we were a poor country the currency was moral, those who has unplanned pregnancy, lived in squalor or simply didn't mix were shunned by a class system convinced of it's own importance and rightesousness. 20 years later we are a wealthy nation and still this system exists subtley. Women have not broken through the glass ceiling, 95% of rape goes unreported, 6,000 women leave our shores every year for abortion and return to shame and silence, homosexuals cannot wed or even sit beside their loved one in hospital without permission from their partners family, immigrants are stuffed into our new ghettos, travellers only live to be 65 due to appauling conditions. There is a myth (or at least i believe it to be a myth) that equality comes with prosperity, if so, where is it here? 80% of people live in the new middle class, but still they find someone to look down on in their own communities.

Equality does not come with prosperity, equality comes with social responsibility, and social responsibility comes with Social democracy. Before the turn of the centurary the class system was at its peak in Europe and the US. Following the second world war socialism had spread, it's ideals had reached the masses, and democracy gave the people their opportunity to replace the class structure. Many countries successfully did, and as the ideas modified and grew so did equality. There is still a long way to go, but countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Germany have almost reached that goal. And is a result of equality, the freedom to work and strive for all that you can be, that has created prosperity in these countries, not the other way round.

Ireland has created prosperity, but not equality. Unless we bring about equality our prosperity is doomed. Our own greed, our own lack of social responsibility will undermine us.  How?  We will not be part of the international socialist movement, and a globalised world needs to fuel planes and ships to move resources between the developed  and the developing nations in which it's different classes are located. We live on an island after all and to survive our isolation we will need socialists who view us as equals, not investors who view us as a resource.

 

 

Thursday 26th July 2007

Senate Elections

Ivana Bacik has been elected, so to has David Norris, Dominic Hannigan and Colm O'Gorman will be appointed by the government. This is a good senate in terms of LGBT representation (Even though Ivana is not LGBT she is a wonderful supporter of LGBT rights and I always count her as an honourary Lesbian;) ) The big challange is now to get LGBT representation in the Dail and we have 5 years to do this. Of course to run a candidate on solely a LGBT platform would be foolish, we're spread accross the country and not all confined to one constituency (this is probably why David Norris does so well in Trinity) and as such future LGBT candidates need to become involved in party politics and for LGBT issues to be become a core aspect of their politics but not the only aspect. Democratic Socialism/Social Democracy has generally had a positive impact on LGBT rights, hence my membership of Labour. The PD's stance on the civil union bill recently showed that even when a right wing party claims to be Socially liberal, it will temper that liberalism in favour of economics should it see fit.  Social Democracy holds equality as a core belief, a non negotiable, and as such will not, and does not sacrafice the individual for the sake of the economy. It is ironic, that the Rights greatest criticism of socialism is that it disempowers the individual. In reality it is slavery to the economy that creates a mindless unified society intent on making money, this ultimately disempowers everyone. Capitolism and Communism are both very similar in a way, in one you work en masse for the economy and the corporations, in the other you work en masse for the State and for the commune, either way you are simply a disempowered cog in a massive machine.

Anyho, back to the Seanad. As a stepping stone to the dail it has now lined up Dominic Hannigan, Ivana Bacik and Colm O'Gorman for the next General election. The task ahead is for the LGBT community to get behind them (even Colm). The task for Labour LGBT is to get behind that candidates that will represent us, namely Dominic and Ivana, however all candidates in Labour represent us because they all believe in equality as a fundamental ideal, so the task ahead is to convince everyone else to support Labour too and maybe someday a Social Democratic Ireland will be born and we will be equal. Until this Year David Norris was the only Openly gay member of the Oireachtas, now we have three, still a pitifully low percantage and all in the relatively powerless Seanad, but we should look at it as a base to increase our representation. In society we are visible, in government we are not and it only be getting our voices heard in the Dail chambers that real change can be made. Our comrades in the European parliment, particularly the LGBT working group, will help to stop us moving backwards in terms of human rights legislation, however we must push ourselves forward with in our own country.

In terms of political parties we must be careful. I belong to Labour and should it lose it's way on the path to equality I shall do my best to nudge it back in the right direction; if it becomes a lost cause I will leave it but so far they have proven themselves. The PD's were given the opportunity to offer us equality, they gave it up for the sake of a couple of more weeks in government. FF might give us something, it won't be equality, not even close. Surprisingly FG as a christian democratic party would give us more, but again it would fall far short. SF have good intentions, and have proven themselves in the north in terms of supporting the LGBT community, however down south they still have to prove themselves. And finally the Greens? Well they've already thrown away most of their core beliefs for the sake of power, when it comes to the crunch will they throw our rights aside for Attic insulation? If each of these parties had LGBT TD's with seats and votes to keep, how quickly would they throw our rights aside?

 

 

Friday 20th July 2007

How do we achieve Social Democracy in Ireland?

Oddly enough i've been musing on this during the week and i'm going to use this space to flesh out firstly the problem and then some solutions

The Problems:

 The greatest challange to Social democracy and it's development, as I see it, is convincing a population who by all international accounts are happy with things as they are, that things could be better. We have a situation where a populist government has kept the majority blissfully enibreated on property and capitol. They opposite side of this is their constant trampling on the rights of minorities.  Labours recent slogan "but are you Happy?" backfired for several resons but mainly because the majority answered it with a resounding "Yes".  Therefore the gratest challenge is not to convince people that their unhappy, but that they could be happier and the first part of this is getting people to listen.

Another major problem is that many of us are under the impression that Ireland has always been relatively left and that the labout Movement has a strong history. We've never been in power on our own, we've never had the support. The resulting birth pains of the nation gave rise to the afterbirth of Fianna Fial (FF) and Fine Gael (FG). They capitolised on the great national question and divided the population between them. In the 2002 election we saw the near demise of FG, perhaps this is because people don't really care about the national question anymore? In which case, why haven't Labour gained as people begin to vote on real issues. FF remain because they are a party who adapt their lies to suit who's listening to them and as such most moderately left wing people believe they are a party of the Left. We must define them for their greatest strenght is also their greatest Weakness.

With the demise of the National question, what is the new aim of Ireland? as i said people live in a bubble of blissful hallucination where money is the drug. The result of this is that Ireland no longer has an aim, no direction bar increasing economic growth next year. Surely there is more to life then this? Yet Labour campaigns and acts as though we must become part of the status quo, we must go into coalition, we must micromanage. Our new ambition seem to be Managing the nation as it is, not leading it into the future.

Finally, the fight has gone out of us. In the last election most of the far left was destroyed along with the far "economic" right the PD's. People do not see either extreme as the solution, and rightly so. This should mean they are well up for social democracy, yet they don't vote for us, maybe they believe we don't offer it?  What ever the reson, we will now have spent 3 governments in opposition, our vote wobbles around the same percentage but will not rise, our policies are genius but no one listens to us. We march and protest and campaign only to see our efforts thrown back in our faces time and time again because the population don't care. The result of this is that we feel crushed, abandoned and hopeless. It's time to pick ourselves up off the ground and die standing rather then live kneeling.

The Solutions:

1. Getting people listening:

The left must be marketed. Most people are bombarded with thousands of advertisments daily and barely have time to think, we need to shout above all of this white noise and get noticed. Our ideas and policies are well thought out, clever and provide real solutions, but there's no point in locking them in a drawer and not telling anyone about them. Now is the time to publicise them, not just before an election when we're battling with other parties for air time. In the early days of socialism propaganda machines rolled out brightly coloured posters and songs of optimism, we need to get this back. "The peoples flag is deepest red" doesn't identify with anyone outside the Parties of the left.

We've also got to get people listening by word of mouth. The day when i walk into a pub and hear two people saying "that idea the labour party have will change is country for the better" is the day we have gotten our message accross. Labour youth in Particular have a hugely important role to play in this regard. Not everyone goes to college, the message needs to be gotten out there when they're young and before the "i'll vote the way my parents did" mentality takes hold.

 

2. Defining Right and Left:

It's time to call a spade a spade and take off the red flag FF is wearing and show them to be the naked greedy corrupt party of the Right that they are. The perception only exists in peoples minds and it must be rooted out. I propose (now that the PD's are more or less gone) that we refer to both FF and FG as the right. In conversations we shouldn't call them by name or differentiate between them just refer to them as the Right. Once their true label takes hold it will become easier to associate poverty, exclusion, raceism, homophobia, sexism, corruption, religious catholic fundamentalism basically all the things they support through a mixture of collective inaction and direct action, with them. On the left we stand for equality, true equality and true socialism, that can never be taken away from us, that is why we are all in the Labour party, that is why we are all left and that is what we are all fighting for, they are not. If we can make this clear in peoples minds then we will have gotten our own definition back.

 

3. Creating an Aim for Ireland

Some people aim for socialism, i aim for Social Democracy, Ireland as a whole should aim for one of these, but we cannot expect the country to aim for it when we barely aim for it ourselves. Martin Luther King got peoples attention by having a dream. Well this is my dream and what i would like to be the dream of the Labour Party: Aged 70, when i'm retired, i'll wake up beside my partner, to whom i am married,  one morning and get up to prepare dinner for my children who are coming to visit. They will arrive via subsided public transport, possibly an underground rail network. They will have jobs, secure stable jobs with a good pension and a happy healthy working environment. They will also be well educated by the state. My grandchildren will be healthy, they have safe public spaces to play in and the air is clean. I myself will never fear getting sick as the hospitals are well funded by the state, clean and fully staffed. I feel safe when i leave my home as everyone has everything they need, clean affordable homes, employment and should the scourge of Drug addiction or poverty threaten an individual or family the support is there to nip it in the bud before someone has to turn to crime. Our jails rehabilitate rather than contain, the elderly are respected, the young enjoy themselves and my neighbours come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds all equal in the eyes of each other.

That sounds like a nice achieveable story, the reality at the moment is that i can't get married or have children in this state, public transport is expensive and practically non existant, jobs are not stable, there are very few public spaces, our carbon footprint is getting bigger, our streets arn't safe, if i go to hospital as an elderly person i'll probably catch something sitting on a trolly that will kill me, our jails reinforce drug abuse and crime rather than solve it, the elderly are shoved into nuring homes so someone can develop their property and ethnic minorities are being ghettoised.  What any person should demand as a right is simply a dream that only the very wealthy can afford. Our aim should be to make social democracy a reality, and it is, i just think people should be reminded of it both within the party and outside it.

 

4. Selling Social Democracy

Linked with solutions 1 and 3, our dream needs to be marketed, properly. People have got to want it before they will vote for it and the fact is that we know in Labour that we are the only ones that can achieve it and we need to market it that way. FF by it's very nature cannot, neither can FG, sorry, the RIGHT cannot by it's very nature achieve social democracy. We need a carrot and a stick, the dream becoming reality is the carrot, this stick is that if you don't vote for us you will never get it.

 

5. Dusting ourselves off and getting back on with it.

I know i'm feeling pretty crappy after the victory of the Right in the election, and from talking to other party members, so are they. It feels like we've spat with the wind and it changed direction and hit us in the face.  But it's time to get on with it, keep demonstrating for what we believe in, keep fighting, because if we don't our dream will never become a reality. Every day we navel gaze and wonder what happend and stare depressingly into our pints is a day more for the Right to become stronger and our dream to become further away.  If we truly believe in Socialism and/or Social Democracy then we must believe it is achieveable. It is, if i moved to Stockholm in the morning I could wake up and the dream would be reality, they have achieved it. But i want to wake up here.