Saturday, April 26, 2014
Ireland today is not the country many migrants left behind, and not the one an Irish American might come to expect in coming here for the first time. It is as cosmopolitan as any other westernised country today and that is a good thing.
Apart from the gene pool being stirred up a bit the economy has not only got a much needed shot in the arm, it has sustainability just to survive, for without people there is no economy. My accountant pointed out to me a few years ago that the collapse of the Celtic tiger would have been much worse had these immigrants left these shores with the Irish ones. Immigrants: sure who would want them?
Well, whether we want them or not, we most certainly need them. There is more. They buy Irish goods, sustain Irish jobs, and accept democracy, as flawed as it is here, as the best democracy that many of them have ever enjoyed, especially if you had come from Romania.
The way it was in any country is always subject to change and here is no different. Celtic tiger days aside, and those who never went beyond the crossroads of their town or village, this country still enjoys a general feeling of well being that is not just a state of mind. I have seen other immigrant people, who, when they came here first, were highly suspicious and wary of what this country was about; a couple of years later those same people had adopted many of the same mannerisms and behaviour that has marked the Irish here and abroad: easy going, decent, with a sense of mischief and fun. It is what sells the country in the first place despite scenery that would melt any hardened soul. In the end, most people are generally good and just want to get along and take care of their families.
The other reality: there is no one distinctly Irish now or ever really was, and that terms of reference applies to all countries. Historical gene pool statistic’s in the round will trace us right back to mainland Europe, Asia and Africa before that. In the last thousand years alone, we have been invaded by the Vikings, the Normans, and the British and a few minor others here and there. Some left but more stayed and that is as uniquely Irish as we were ever going to get.
Now, we have Irish Polish accents with all the others and some the other way round. All of their children though will think Irish first with a hurley in one hand and a shamrock in the other. Some will leave again but many will stay and then it starts all over again.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus,(61-113AD) usually known as Pliny the Younger, was born at Como in 61 A.D. He was only eight years old when his father, Caecilius, died, and he was adopted by his uncle, Pliny the Elder, author of the "Natural History." He was carefully educated, studying rhetoric under Quintilian and other famous teachers, and he became one of the most eloquent lawyers of his time. While still young he served as military tribune in Syria. On his return he entered politics under the Emperor Domitian, and in the year 100 A.D. was appointed consul by Trajan. Later, he was governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor. He belonged to the senatorial order, the highest social class.
To Acilius; The atrocious treatment that Largius Macedo, a man of praetorian rank, lately received at the hands of his slaves is so extremely tragic that it deserves a place rather in public history than in a private letter; though it must at the same time be acknowledged there was a haughtiness and severity in his behaviour towards them which showed that he little remembered, indeed almost entirely forgot, the fact that his own father had once been a slave himself. Macedo was bathing at his Formian Villa, when he found himself suddenly surrounded by his slaves; one seizes him by the throat, another strikes him on the mouth, whilst others trampled upon his breast, stomach, and even other parts which I need not mention. When they thought the breath must be quite out of his body, they threw him down upon the heated pavement of the bath, to try whether he were still alive, where he lay outstretched and motionless, either really insensible or only feigning to be so, upon which they concluded him to be actually dead. In this condition they brought him out, pretending that he had got suffocated by the heat of the bath. Some of his more trusty servants received him, and his mistresses came about him shrieking and lamenting. The noise of their cries and the fresh air, together, brought him a little to himself; he opened his eyes, moved his body, and showed them (as he now safely might) that he was not quite dead. The murderers immediately made their escape; but most of them have been caught again, and they are after the rest. He was with great difficulty kept alive for a few days, and then expired, having, however, the satisfaction of finding himself as amply revenged in his lifetime as he would have been after his death. Thus you see to what affronts, indignities, and dangers we are exposed. Lenity and kind treatment are no safeguard; for it is malice and not reflection that arms such ruffians against their masters.
To Marcellinus: I write this to you in the deepest sorrow: the youngest daughter of my friend Fundanus is dead! I have never seen a more cheerful and more lovable girl, or one who better deserved to have enjoyed a long, I had almost said an immortal, life! She was scarcely fourteen, and yet there was in her a wisdom far beyond her years, a matronly gravity united with girlish sweetness and virgin bashfulness. With what an endearing fondness did she hang on her father's neck! How affectionately and modestly she used to greet us, his friends! With what a tender and deferential regard she used to treat her nurses, tutors, teachers, each in their respective offices! What an eager, industrious, intelligent reader she was! She took few amusements, and those with caution. How self-controlled, how patient, how brave she was under her last illness! She complied with all the directions of her physicians; she spoke cheerful, comforting words to her sister and her father; and when all her bodily strength was exhausted, the vigor of her mind sustained her. That indeed continued even to her last moments, unbroken by the pain of a long illness, or the terrors of approaching death; and it is a reflection which makes us miss her, and grieve that she has gone from us, the more. Oh, melancholy, untimely loss, too truly! She was engaged to an excellent young man; the wedding-day was fixed, and we were all invited. How our joy has been turned into sorrow! I cannot express in words the inward pain I felt when I heard Fundanus himself (as grief is ever finding out fresh circumstances to aggravate its affliction) ordering the money he had intended laying out upon clothes, pearls, and jewels for her marriage, to be employed in frankincense, ointments, and perfumes for her funeral.
Monday, April 21, 2014
The ancient Stoic philosopher Seneca (4 BC-AD65) answers the question of why we should study things we already know and often to remind ourselves of advice that the less wise dismiss as merely common sense.
From “On the Value of Advice” Letter 94, Moral Letters to Lucilius By Seneca
People say: “What good does it do to point out the obvious?” A great deal of good; for we sometimes know facts without paying attention to them. Advice is not teaching; it merely engages the attention and rouses us, and concentrates the memory, and keeps it from losing grip. We miss much that is set before our very eyes. Advice is, in fact, a sort of exhortation.The mind often tries not to notice even that which lies before our eyes; we must therefore force upon it the knowledge of things that are perfectly well known.
You know that friendship should be scrupulously honored, and yet you do not hold it in honor. You know that a man does wrong in requiring chastity of his wife while he himself is intriguing with the wives of other men; you know that, as your wife should have no dealings with a lover, neither should you yourself with a mistress; and yet you do not act accordingly. Hence, you must be continually brought to remember these facts; for they should not be in storage, but ready for use. And whatever is wholesome should be often discussed and often brought before the mind, so that it may be not only familiar to us, but also ready at hand. And remember, too, that in this way what is clear often becomes clearer.
Precepts which are given are of great weight in themselves, whether they be woven into the fabric of song, or condensed into prose proverbs, like the famous Wisdom of Cato: “Buy not what you need, but what you must have. That which you do not need, is dear even at a farthing.” Or those oracular or oracular-like replies, such as: “Be thrifty with time!” “Know thyself!” Shall you need to be told the meaning when someone repeats to you lines like these: Forgetting trouble is the way to cure it or fortune favours the brave, but the coward is foiled by his faint heart
Such maxims need no special pleader; they go straight to our emotions, and help us simply because Nature is exercising her proper function. The soul carries within itself the seed of everything that is honorable, and this seed is stirred to growth by advice, as a spark that is fanned by a gentle breeze develops its natural fire. Virtue is aroused by a touch, a shock. Moreover, there are certain things which, though in the mind, yet are not ready at hand but begin to function easily as soon as they are put into words. Certain things lie scattered about in various places, and it is impossible for the unpracticed mind to arrange them in order. Therefore, we should bring them into unity, and join them, so that they may be more powerful and more of an uplift to the soul.
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Does it really matter what happens if a million children die in their world of starvation every couple of months, or that the aid destined for them fills some despots corrupt and deep pockets helped by his paid henchmen and mercenaries? Does it matter, though I believe in charity, I do not believe in charities, swayed by a growing indifference encouraged by the knowledge that less than 2% of any donations ever makes the conversion from hard currency to food to feed the wrinkled bellies of those children? Does it matter or make any difference that I now may find indifference easier to live with that continue to fight that which is wrong, not only in matters of corruption but on national and international laws that are plain wrong, immoral, and unjust. Yet, all life is local. But can I afford to be indifferent?
If a field or river is left polluted then future generations will never grow the wheat from the soil or fish the water to have the sustinance and giver of life from both. My indifference, if allowed to fester and mature, may not matter enough on it’s own, but matters a great deal if they are one two many that feels the same way. On a purely selfish note, it matters, for who comes after me will not survive or be given the wisdom to know the difference. For like corruption, if wrong becomes more acceptable than right, or where doing the right thing will have many wondering too hard is there something wrong with that person, then the lines of truth and justice are well and truly blurred and in danger of been erased altogether. My indifference too would amount to being little more than an appeaser
hoping that I woud be eaten last when all that mattered was eaten before me or after me that would effect my loved ones when I was gone.
As democracy falters and struggles along it will not be a foreign enemy that will destroy what free people have died for but the twin enemy from within led by the lack of transparency and accountability that has already and still is overseeing our economic destruction; these terrible twins too are what shields corruption.
Whether I want to be indifferent or not I simply cannot afford to be in the end despite all life being local. Small towns and villages die because of it and cities do too. Take Flint in Michigen; a town much larger and more industrialized that Galway and Limerick combined. But it was not just the fleeing automobiles giants that was it’s death kneel, it was aided and abetted by it’s own indifference.
On the deathly suffering of others, I can only relate this cautionary note from Martin Niemoller (1892-1984)
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the trade Unionoists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out- because I was not a jew.
Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me.
Caring is more than sharing; it can be survival itself and a hell of a nice feeling to boot.
By Barry Clifford