By Barry (Dec 2010)
Saturday, December 14, 2013
This was in a country and time of both plenty and want. Yet, they were the only legal comfort left to a seemingly doomed indigenous people. Still too, they could smile just before and after the tears.
Hermann Von Puclker-Muskau, a travel writer from Germany visiting Ireland in 1828, and between famines then, wrote the following observations:
"Our driver blew his horn, as in Germany, a signal from the mail-coach to get out of its way. However, the sound was so distorted and pathetic that everyone burst into laughter.
"A pretty 12-year-old lad, who looked like joy personified, though almost naked, let out a mischievous cheer, and called after the driver in his impotent rage: 'Hey you! Your trumpet must have a dose of the sniffles, it's as hoarse as me auld grandmother. Give it a drop of the craythur or it'll die of consumption before ye reach Galway!'
"A crowd of men were working on the road. They had heard the feeble sound from the horn, and all laughed and cheered as the coach went by.
"'There you are, that's our people for you,' said my companion. 'Starvation and laughter – that is their lot. Do you suppose that even with the amount of workers and the lack of jobs that any of these earn, have enough to eat his fill? And yet each of them will put aside something to give to his priest, and when anyone enters his cabin, he will share his last potato with them and crack a joke besides.'"
Fleeting hopes abound again in the digital imagery of what life should be on every device that can talk, dance, and tell a story, and the imagination knows no bounds.
Yet it all remains so distant, as distant as if they were not a person but an observer without learning much at the end or at its beginning, becoming an instinctive ant that once thought it was more than that. It is only when they leave it all, its subservience to that dream that was fast becoming a nightmare, to be at one with what is so natural, so spiritual, was when it could be understood of why they were there, or where it was worth going. This place can only be nature.
And here in the west of Ireland, rains make hidden paths all the more hidden, melancholy bogs protected by sparse trees lie in splendid isolation and within a day all the seasons can come at once. It is here, without having to look very hard, lie angry oceans that come to perfect calm before your eyes and where to be outdoors is the only door you need to walk through. Storms can come out of nowhere and days seem to reward us now and again with sun that paints a landscape anew. It is the best place to be heard above the distant memory of the crowd.
This place and how it affects its people, and those that are new to here, to return, and yet to come, will often find the soul is soothed and a journey at its end, where the ambition is somehow to stay, for nothing will ever be the same again.
* Those of you who are unemployed, on low income, frightened, still paying or have cleared the mortgage, have a beat-up car, are low or middle working-class, non-professional and believe we are all still equal should read on.
If you thought that Jim Stafford, a Personal Insolvency Practitioner (PIP), was talking from an elitist point of view when he said professionals were cases that should be accorded a special place in society when it comes to insolvency and may need bigger houses than PAYE workers, this was no self-delusion. Apart from being on the chartered accountants' 'ethics' committee, he wrote the syllabus for the diploma for the insolvency course. He said all of this on RTE radio to Mary Wilson. Afterwards, he tried to distance himself from those comments.
"It was not my intention to offend," he said. The usual apology followed. The 'professional' government agency involved said: "The professional standing of a borrower is not expected to be a factor in this assessment." Of course it is, and it will be. Harry Slowey, a former director of the long-departed Bank of Scotland and now a PIP adviser said this: "The ability to generate work is all about perception, profile and confidence. If a partner in a top law firm is suddenly driving around in a Fiat Bambino, that will affect their work – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."
Anyone who still believes there is equal law for professionals and non-professionals should note that Stafford, finding his voice when he should have stayed quiet, said: "Personal insolvency laws do not work for people with low or no incomes."
He added that his firm turns away four out of five people hoping to settle their debts under the state system because "these people can't afford to deal with the banks". He also reserved a comment for those out of work who certainly could not afford to consult him: "People on welfare have only one option – borrow €15,000 from family and friends and try to do a deal with a lender."
Apart from the fact that most people can't afford Stafford or Slowey, how can professional people afford them? After all, they're supposed to be insolvent. One thing Slowey did say that summed up the Celtic Tiger debacle was: "The ability to generate work is about perception, profile and confidence." It was never about real work in the end, only about that perception, profile and confidence – and being a professional.
In more innocent times in 1991, Bishop Brendan Comiskey of the Diocese of Ferns in Ireland, said this about the Irish Government: "It is economically and morally bankrupt." What did they do, rape children? No, Bishop Comiskey was complaining about proposed legislation to make contraceptives available to anyone over the age of 16 years.
In 2002, Bertie Ahern was asked about child rape with regard to clergy in the same diocese of Ferns. His reply was this: "I have not been following it at all. It's really a matter for the church; it's not a matter for the politicians. I'm not going to cross politics and religion."
Brian Cowen said this in 2010 about the rape of children and the cover-up by the church: "The leadership I am giving is that clearly it is important that the State maintains its base and the church maintains its base -- it's not a question for the State to get involved in church matters nor the church to get involved in state matters."
The last Pope, Benedict, said this about the rape of children in 2010: "Paedophilia wasn't considered an absolute evil as recently as the 1970s. In the 1970s paedophilia was theorised as something fully in conformity with man and even with children. Child pornography was increasingly considered 'normal' by society."
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said this about the Catholic Church and the cover-up yet again of child rape by clerics on July 20, 2011: "This is the republic of Ireland 2011. A republic of laws, of rights and responsibilities, of proper civic order, where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular kind of 'morality' will no longer be tolerated or ignored. Where the law -- their law -- as citizens of this country, will always supersede canon laws that have neither legitimacy nor place in the affairs of this country."
Enda Kenny, I thank you.Barry Clifford
When a private debt is handed to a nation that had no part in its preparation and no say regarding its right of responsibility, then we have not a democracy left. The fact is since this nation became a republic it has never been a full democracy but instead embraced a theocracy and a 'cute hoor culture', where brown envelopes were the norm and, to be honest, was just not normal.
It is all perhaps best explained by Cicero, ethical philosopher and Roman statesman in 42 BC:
"A nation can survive its fools and even the ambitious but not treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable for he is known and carries his banner openly.
"But the traitor moves against those within the gates freely, his sly whispers rustling through the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.
"He appears not as a traitor and speaks in accents familiar to his victims and wears their face and their arguments; he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of men. He rots the soul of a nation. He works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city and infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear."
Since 1922, the Irish Republic has not had a foreign enemy except its home-grown ones; and these ones have never been brought to account or even spent one night in jail.
Even as the nation rots and tethers on the brink of insolvency; where the elderly, its children and its sick lie with rising fear and lower services, not one treasonous politician, corrupt developer, and greedy banker has seen justice. In fact, the opposite has happened: they have been rewarded with pensions and even more jobs as the nation creaks and groans under the combined weight of their deeds. This enemy and traitor within thrives again and again as a nation dies and our sense of outrage dies with it.
David McWilliams summed up what many banks actually are when he wrote, "some of the banks were exposed as little more than Ponzi-scheme operators" (Irish Independent, 29 August 2012 ).
What is left of our economy now is the end-game of what was a giant Ponzi scheme once heralded as 'the Celtic Tiger'. The country keeps borrowing more money that it can't pay back, putting off the date of the end-game. Meanwhile, the Government arrogantly penalises yet again the most vulnerable of our society: the elderly, the sick, and the dying. Next will be the unemployed, education, and homeownership.
This is a form of appeasement to bondholders, institutional corruption, the banks and the IMF.
For now, higher up the food chain, there are little or no reductions in minister's salaries, or in the pay of public servants
in our health and education systems. They number in the tens of thousands and their salaries and pensions combined are in the tens of millions.
The Sligo county manager whose salary is €136,000 per annum, replied dryly to the assertion that he was being paid €30,000 more than the Spanish prime minister: "I am surprised that the Spanish prime minister earns so little."Barry Clifford
• The comments "this is a history of failure" were spoken by Che Guevara, a self-proclaimed humanist, on his attempts to lead yet another 'rebellion' in the Congo. In many ways it is about himself too, and the blood-thirsty killer and hypocrite he morphed into.
He considered in the early days that "the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love". Gandhi he was not, for this was to change.
Later he said that "a revolutionary must become a cold-killing machine motivated by pure hate". He added, later: "Crazy with fury, I will stain my rifle red slaughtering any enemy that falls into my hands."
Some that did fall into his hands included his own men, murdered without even the benefit of a kangaroo trial after being deemed defectors or deserters. A frustrated Guevara, impatient with Russia during the Cuban Missile Crisis, said this: "If the missiles had been under Cuban control, they would have been fired off."
This was not just hyperbole. In reference to it shortly thereafter, he added: "And it would have been worth the possibility of millions of atomic war victims."
His links to Galway, where I live, is nothing that I wish to brag about. A proposal to erect a monument to him is a joke and would be better served to honour John Hume, former leader of the SDLP, who has been already honoured here with the freedom of the city.
His was a peaceful legacy tempered with a wish for peace, understanding and reconciliation underlined with these words: "When people are divided the only solution is agreement." John Hume never owned a gun.
• "We can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over . . . we are so young. We can't, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility, because in the end it is all we have." That was written by 22-year-old Marina Keegan, an aspiring writer in New York, who recently died in a car crash less than three days after writing it.
Those words in many ways sum up the possibilities of life as young adults. When I was 16, I worked alongside someone who seemed ancient to me at 24. He had done everything right: no sex before his impending marriage after a four-year courtship, no partying, no swearing at football matches, even when he was playing, no late Mass on Sunday and never missed work on a Monday.
He tried to impress on me that there is nothing beyond the crossroads that is not already here. I had escaped from an industrial school and had yet to find my parents who had abandoned me over a decade earlier.
I wanted to believe that there was much more to life than what I already had, which was just shy of nothing, and that he was wrong.
Life turned out to be a compromise for us both as I reached my middle years. He had settled for stability rather than happiness. He carries regrets. So do I.
I should have been more sensible about money and partying. But I was never going to grow old, which was a mathematical certainty back then. I should have listened to him but instead, became even bolder. The only real regret now is that I wish I could do it all over again within the same limitless boundaries that youth has to offer.
There are risks, but the passivity of safety leaves no story to tell. That is, if you get the chance to tell your story at all.
This day in Oughterard I was fortunate enough that all the seasons seemed aligned, all shadows perfectly cast, when an overwhelming feeling of spirituality came over me. That was when I took this photograph from where I stood. My mind then remembered without invitation the lines of a poem that a poet called Padraic Pearse wrote on the evening before his execution in 1916, and what he meant like never before his love of life and being happy.
The beauty of the world has made me sad. This beauty that will pass. Sometimes my heart has shaken with great joy to see a leaping squirrel on a tree or a red ladybird upon a stalk.
Or little rabbits, in a field at evening lit by a slanted sun.
Or some green hill, where shadows drifted by, some quiet hill, where mountainy man has sown, and soon will reap, near to the gate of heaven.
Or little children with bare feet upon the sands of some ebbed sea, or playing in the streets of little towns in Connacht.
Things young and happy.
And then my heart has told me - these will pass, will pass and change, will die and be no more.
Things bright, and green. Things young, and happy.
And I have gone upon my way, sorrowful.
I asked a 7 years old girl what are parents for. She replied: “To take care of children.” Then I asked her what are children supposed to do for their parents, she replied just as evenly: “To have fun.” This had me thinking what other nuggets of wisdom do children have and here are just a few I found.
Never trust a dog to watch your food. Patrick age 10
When Dad is mad and asks, “Do I look stupid,” don’t answer, Michael 10
If you want a kitten, ask for a horse. Naomi 15
The best nugget of wisdom I thought was found in the quest to find a caring child. There was a 4 year old child whose neighbor was a man that had recently lost his beloved wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy crossed over to his yard, climbed unto his lap and just sat there for a long time with him. When his mother asked what he had said to the man, the little boy replied, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”
Friday, December 13, 2013
Under any political system equality does not exist and Ireland is no different. One of the first places we go to source any kind of equality in law when we feel aggrieved is the law courts. It is also the place where you will least find it. In Ireland, convicted paedophiles can get off with a fine while people who did not have a television license have found themselves in prison. The only thing that is fair and balanced about law is a very healthy bank balance. This country now sits in eerily silent contempt at whatever concepts of fairness in law we had before and watch it fast disappear with only one person being convicted of corruption in the entire history of this state; a conviction that is now on appeal.
Elitism dominates universities, politics, old boy networks, religious groups, and medicine, with the pursuit of money and property ensuring their survival in the best and worst of times. Our Seanad, or upper house of parliament, is entirely operated on this basis, as are all professorships and the hiring of judges. The citizen does not enter here. The manipulation of law is the glue that holds it all together. If you do not have the money to challenge this status quo then try to sell truth, morals, and integrity somewhere else.
Most people think that a particular law is sacrosanct when it is in fact based almost entirely on precedent, which is an opinion of one person or small grouping and is used when necessary to circumvent law therefore being stronger than law itself.
There is no clear definition of important laws either for there are clearly meant to deceive. The most punitive ones are for disorder against the system itself; a legal minefield against those that seek accountability. Make legal mumbo jumbo otherwise or even legible and there would be no need for lawyers, just someone with a good command of the written word.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
It is often that the hurry we are in lets go unnoticed the beauty that is there. Nature smiled this November 2013 as I drove between Oughterard and Clifden and managed to get this photograph.
• One morning I set out at the break of dawn at a time when it was rush hour in the cities and entered a world I had not seen before, to a place of extraordinary beauty which can only be found in the country.
A world where birds' voices just rise above a humming silence before the new dawn and morning mists move back their veils to an audience of one, when as a child I became enchanted by its spell.
Shimmering droplets of dew covered spider webs that cloaked the yellow sage which was everywhere, creating a beautiful alien landscape.
By mid-morning, summer lambs played in the grass while their mothers looked on in lazy boredom; they had seen it all before.
A mare looked proud and magnificent as she lovingly nudged at her sleeping foal.
In the shadows behind me lay a cluster of trees guarding a small pond so still it mirrored their image.
In the distance, ancient walls cast their mysteries around the ruins of an old castle, its battles and troubles long since carried off into the tunnels of time.
Chiseled stone was all that was left in tribute to remind us of their being here at all; a lasting footprint of a place now walked only by their ghosts.
The castle's high walls cast shadows over a river bank that still served up the odd unwary salmon to the old man of the cottage nearby; a cottage built more recently of that same stone carved by those men over a thousand years before.
These were sights I could not write about unless I was there, and their smells today are always with me.
And when the world seems a little crazy now and then, I go there once again in my mind to remind myself that heaven is not beyond the clouds; it is for us to find right here.
• The fickle fortunes of timeless ancestry all settles down to a few seconds of body chemistry driven by passion or duty. It may have been your time that night that brought you here and consigned all those other potential relations that kept on going to a 'never to exist plain'.
Painless as it was for them and unconscious of regret, your journey though had begun. Is there a plan, a meaning, a future? Depends on what your point of view is.
Downloaded from the moment of your arrival with other opinions from the 'practical' laws of natural survival like crying, tantrums, and bullying, you soon learnt independence. Alas, this was not to last. You found quickly as you aged that you had to fit in or be left out; that your opinion did not count for much unless you did.
Was it true you were just a geographical accident when it came to religion as well, and the only evidence you had for it was tradition itself?
You joined clubs, associations, political parties, and any other party in town. Slowly you started to decipher what was really going on in this world but by then time had landed you in middle age. A restless, hurried anxiety made your search more frantic. There were new regrets: The need to remind others to not waste time; to be independent and an individual. They were not listening for they were younger and in a hurry too.
You embraced new challenges that lay ahead even as the old ones were still left undone. Then you became elderly, if not mature. It was as good as you thought it was going to get. You were wrong.
You had shown care and concern and knowledge of self; you tried to help others and wished to enact change. And somewhere out there today, in just a few seconds, the fickle fortunes of timeless ancestry all settles down to a few seconds of body chemist-ry driven by passion or duty.
A small exercise given to me by a friend helped to show my perceptions of truth against solid facts. It is how politicians work: on a need-to-know basis. The "truths" they tell are belied by omission of certain facts. It is always too late when you know the difference as we have discovered to our cost in the not-so-distant past. Anyway, three men are running for political office and the following were the facts given to me by my friend about their character to help me decide on my vote. The first candidate was responsible for the imprisonment of 120,000 citizens without trial. He was also a prolific liar while cheating on his wife for over 20 years with his long-term mistress.
Number two candidate was a chronic alcoholic who polished off more than a half bottle of whiskey a day; also a chain smoker who struggled with his obesity. This was not helped by the fact that he never rose out of bed before noon every day.
The third candidate did not drink or smoke, save for an occasional glass of wine. Courage and determination were his trademarks and he was also awarded a medal of honour for both after saving an officer from certain death under a hail of gunfire during battle. He was married just the once and never had a mistress.
My decision had to be made on the information given so far.
It came as a shock to know that the first candidate was three-time president and most beloved leader of the US, President Franklin D Roosevelt.
The second was Winston Churchill.
The third was Adolf Hitler.
I came away promising myself to be careful what I wished for, who I vote for, and what I believe in. For me, the truth is still out there.
Mayor: How do you know he intended to commit rape?
Harry: When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher's knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn't out collecting for the Red Cross
Andre Wyke: On the morning of his execution, King Charles the First put on two shirts. 'If I tremble with the cold,' he said, 'my enemies will say it was from fear. I will not expose myself to such reproaches.' We must also attempt this dignity as you mount the scaffold.
12 Angry Men
Juror 3: Aah. When he was nine years old he ran away from a fight. I saw it; I was so embarrassed I almost threw up. I said, "I'm gonna make a man outta you if I have to break you in two tryin'". And I made a man out of him. When he was sixteen, we had a fight. Hit me in the jaw - a big kid. Haven't seen him for two years. Kids... work your heart out...
Schofield Kid: [after killing a man for the first time] It don't seem real... how he ain't gonna never breathe again, ever... how he's dead. And the other one too. All on account of pulling a trigger.
Will Munny: It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have.
Schofield Kid: Yeah, well, I guess they had it coming.
Will Munny: We all got it coming, kid.
ABOUT A BOY
(Will, after being asked to be a godfather for a baby girl)
I couldn't possibly think of a worse godfather for Imogene. You know me. I'll drop her at her christening. I'll forget her birthdays until her 18th, when I'll take her out and get her drunk and possibly, let's face it, you know, try and shag her. I mean, seriously, it's a very, very bad choice.
DEATH OF A SALESMAN
Willy Loman: It's a measly manner of existence. To get on that subway on the hot mornings in summer. To devote your whole life to keeping stock, or making phone calls, or selling or buying. To suffer fifty weeks of the year for a two week vacation, when all you really desire is to be outdoors, with your shirt off. And still-that's how you build a future.”
AS GOOD AS IT GETS
Melvin Udall: I might be the only person on the face of the earth that knows you're the greatest woman on earth. I might be the only one who appreciates how amazing you are in every single thing that you do, and how you are with Spencer, "Spence," and in every single thought that you have, and how you say what you mean, and how you almost always mean something that's all about being straight and good. I think most people miss that about you, and I watch them, wondering how they can watch you bring their food, and clear their tables and never get that they just met the greatest woman alive. And the fact that I get it makes me feel good, about me.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
(Villagers tell Chris they collected anything of value, which is some beads and a cheap watch, in order to pay him to protect their village from bandits, and tell him it is everything that they have got.)
Chris Adams:I have been offered a lot for my work, but never everything.
There came a politician to bring change to a country weary from corruption, a country called Ireland. He stood out. Aging rock star face topped by white long hair, casually attired in blue telling the common people he is one of them. He reached out with manicured fingernails and tanned toned skin to tell his Waterford disciples that they too could be just like him. They hung on to his every biblical intonation of how to begin that task when he at last spoke as the crying of the mob died down:
"First, the people must not know the truth only a convenient one." A silent understanding swept the crowd. "Then, they must be giving apologies when there are no lies left to tell. Forgiveness is the first step to your redemption." No one moved in the crowd, the only sound left was a sparodic cough or someone breaking wind.
The new messiah continued: "To the more stubborn holdouts, they must see a shaking lip with barely controlled tears. To do this: think of a lost pet when you were a child and always carry an onion in your pocket. For all those you cheated on before, including taxes, tell them you were that sinner and throw yourself at their mercy. They now for a brief moment are in control but this is thankfully very fleeting for truly they are sheep. Tell them that over the hill is the promised land." The crowd roared back. He was one of them and now they wanted to be part of him, to share his breath, his spit (gross!) They clung on to the hem of his coat, others touched a lock of his hair that he openly displayed in a casket for those who could not get near him. Then he was gone.
Later, after a few traditional music sessions down in the pub, copious amounts of Guinness with Brian Cowen, and misty eyed video re- runs of the almost ran, Sean Gallagher, the last of the crowd went home at last. They were now the converted that someday it could be one of them leading the country into broad sunlit valleys and open highlands where leprechauns really do exist; where they really are virgins and no taxes; where a lie is the truth and the truth is a lie.
Then suddenly, I was awake and thought: "Barry, it was only a nightmare." I believed it until I picked up the Irish Independent newspaper this morning, 6 Sept 2012, which carried a photo of a white haired politician in casual attired in blue and something about him being a tax cheat and other such goings on.
Back in August of this year 2013, in England, a farmer admitted that pollution from dirty water, that came from his property, was responsible for thousands of fish dying in the Enler River near Comber. Mind you he gave a ‘total apology’ on the matter. Here in Ireland, pollution is a permanent problem and farming is always at the forefront of that, from a practical sense as well as the perception of it.
Farming land is not outside environmental law but a law that is very hard to implement. There are some farmers attitude that it is their land alone, believing it to be unfettered and immune to outsiders concerns. This is only in their heads, thankfully; much like some Catholic priests believing that cannon law is above civil law. Like everything else, it is just a question of belief. Facts offer a different and harsh reality from a ribbon dressed useless opinion.
I live in Connemara. Here, overgrazing by sheep has stripped mountains bare while also polluting the tributaries that joins the rivers that run into the Corrib. Land pesticides everywhere is still one of the biggest killers of fish, wildlife, insects, and more importantly bees. It isn’t just farmers. There is the run off from septic tanks and ageing local authority water plants, and litter thugs. Of course farmers and politicians will point to this survey and that one, trying to tell us how it is all improving. The reality is social fishermen come here in lesser numbers now and the gathering white foam that I see in the river right in front of my house coincides with the timing ritual of pesticides spread by farmers every year. I also wish I had a bee on my bonnet for there are so few of them around here lately that I can count the ones that are. In fact it is the bees or lack off asks all the other questions: Will the greed instinct outweigh our survival one?
Without pollination, the rich and diverse make up of flowers, forests, fruit and vegetation will end any survey or discussion on the matter decisively. The Honey Bee, so aptly named, is more than that. That cute insect needs a lot of loving more than ever in order to survive so that we can. They say no man is an Island, it is more than a truism. We are all connected to the land and water and every species in it. If the ongoing pollution and un-replenished destruction of our resources of the land, the sea, and rivers continues, we will not be standing long as we try to finish that what we started. To bee or not to bee is more than a question now.