What The Hell Is Wrong With Us?

Front Page of the german Newspaper Süddeutsche...
Front Page of the german Newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung 2009/05/20 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you care – or are just curious – about what’s happening in Ireland now, economically and politically, you could do a lot worse than ask a German. Not any German of course, certainly not Angela Merkel, but one Christian Zaschke, who wrote an article for the Süddeutsche Zeitung aptly titled “Conned“. (Translated and republished here by the Irish Times.)

In it he makes a clear connection between Ireland’s erstwhile banking and future oil wealth. One has the potential to provide a solution to the problems created by the other, but it’s likely to be stolen from us just as the first was, and by the same route: Corruption. More precisely, our strange pervading acceptance of that corruption.

Is this over-simplistic? No, it’s just refreshingly direct. We may wish to say in reply that it’s more complicated. We may be deeply intellectually concerned here with the reasons behind why we are so supine in the face of corruption: colonialism, Catholicism, conformity, clientelism, Celticness, corporate capitalism – that’s just the Cs – but it really doesn’t matter what the cause is. The important thing is that we are being supine in the face of corruption. We need to stop.

Creeplove Salvation

Captured from Twitter:

CreeploveSalvation

Love it. It neatly captures the Catholic Church’s schizophrenic morality. Insinuating itself into public and private life, offering its creeplove salvation.

The “Sindo” by the way is the Sunday Independent newspaper. They like to run polls. I seem to have voted in one just now by clicking on a link in fact. At least it thanked me for voting – I still don’t know what the question was. So I wouldn’t give too much weight to the results, I don’t think 22% of people today would really prefer a woman to die than have an abortion.

I wish I could be sure though.

Creeplove Salvation

Captured from Twitter:

CreeploveSalvation

Love it. It neatly captures the Catholic Church’s schizophrenic morality. Insinuating itself into public and private life, offering its creeplove salvation.

The “Sindo” by the way is the Sunday Independent newspaper. They like to run polls. I seem to have voted in one just now by clicking on a link in fact. At least it thanked me for voting – I still don’t know what the question was. So I wouldn’t give too much weight to the results, I don’t think 22% of people today would really prefer a woman to die than have an abortion.

I wish I could be sure though.

EU To Ban Crucifixions – Ben Dunne

It’s now got worse, they want us to do away with crucifixions, they want us to deny we are Christians publicly.

Ben Dunne either advertising his chain of gyms or his contempt for democracy. Possibly both.

So said Ben Dunne, in a bizarre tirade to a radio chat show. The paper corrects him to ‘crucifixes’, sadly, but the rest of his wild and weird inaccuracies – that the EU wants Ireland to stop playing the Angelus bell on public radio, or Christianity is being banned and that European money is somehow contingent on this – still stand.

Of course, most of you don’t know who Ben Dunne is. Time to put on your safety harness, we’re off on a brief, scary ride through the dark side of Irish politics.

A former tycoon, famous for lavishing gifts of money on politicians, more famous for an embarrassingly public cocaine-and-hooker freakout in an Orlando hotel (my favourite response: A t-shirt with a map of Florida, a line of coke, and the legend “Ben There, Dunne That”), most famous now for his part in business dealings described by a public judicial investigation as, “profoundly corrupt to a degree that was nothing short of breathtaking”. Yet there he was on the radio, ranting – even raving – in defence of his religion.

Pretty sure his religion was wishing he’d shut the hell up.

Before the last Lisbon Treaty, one of the things I got a commitment from senior people in politics about was that the Angelus wouldn’t be done away with.

He thinks he can get politicians to change continent-wide treaties to suit his personal desires. The scary thing is, there was a time when that might not have been delusion.

Of course, the Lisbon Treaty had as much to do with broadcasting the Angelus as it did with tourist visas for mermaids. Opposition to Ireland’s national broadcaster playing one religion’s chimes every day doesn’t come from the European Union. It comes from Irish people who want the separation of church and state to actually mean something. Anything.

Dunne is clearly teetering on the edge of derangement. You would feel sorry for him if it wasn’t for his egotism and bullish bluster, and for the incredibly destructive influence he has had on Irish democracy. He cannot be scapegoated for all political corruption – there’s simply far too much of it – but he is so perfectly emblematic of it. And in a way it explains his faith – or perhaps vice versa. How else could he have done all that, without an unshakeable belief in a saviour who can forgive anything?

But he is a man out of time. There were headlines when the census results were released about Ireland still being ‘overwhelmingly Catholic’ after all that has happened, but that really depends on what you mean by Catholic. Sure, 84 percent of the population identified themselves as such, but for a lot of people religious affiliation is mainly just that – a cultural, historical identity. Many assume that you are supposed to put down the religion you were born into, whatever you actually believe now.

Two thirds of those who call themselves Catholic don’t attend a weekly mass any more – and that’s according to a survey published the church (PDF). Three quarters find the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality “irrelevant”, and a similar proportion says woman should be allowed to be priests. Three in five think the Church is wrong about homosexuality. 87 percent think that priests ought to be allowed to marry.

If we define being Catholic as accepting Catholic dogma, there are almost no Catholics in Ireland at all. It’s mainly just Ben.

Catholic Koan

BaptizedRosita Boland wrote about this picture in the Irish Times the other day. It’s from a schoolbook she had as a child.

The article is well worth reading. I just wanted to add that the image has gone viral. I’d missed the story in the Times but was alerted to it by Laughing Squid, an “online resource for interesting art, culture & technology”. Shortly thereafter, a friend in the States posted it to Facebook.

People around the world are intrigued and somewhat horrified at God’s strictly hierarchical love. Myself though, I think most are missing the philosophical depth of this little puzzle. To the uninitiated it might seem obvious that the Church wants you to select the baptised baby, but the baby is not there to be encircled! Clearly Catholicism is a lot more Zen than I thought.

I think as a child I would have resolved the conundrum by drawing in the baby. Maybe that’s too linear, but I liked drawing.

I don’t know in fact if I had this actual book in school. My brain is telling me I’ve seen it before, but I don’t trust my brain. I reckon I’m older than Rosita Boland though, but much, much younger than that drawing style, so it’s theoretically possible. In my recent trawlings through the attic I did find books from the same series, one of which I now have in my hand. And here’s something interesting – they’re not from Ireland.

They were reprinted here by Fallons and, according to the flyleaf of this one at least, “edited and revised by a panel of Irish Catechists”, but they were actually written by American nuns – mainly a Sister Maria De La Cruz of an order called the Helpers of the Holy Souls – and originally published by W.H. Sadler in New York in 1969. Look at the spelling of “baptized”.

The One Cent Catechism? My world is rocked.

Good Pope Bad Pope

It’s shaping up to be a bad week all round for major religions, with the US letting its diplomatic mission be used to serve court papers on the Pope. These allege that he was involved in a conspiracy of silence over child abuse, which I think we might fairly say is about as self-evident as his Catholicism. He’ll never stand trial for it of course, but as empty gestures go it’s an impressive one.

It’s been better I suppose for the world’s second most famous head of a religion, the Dalai Lama. (Some describe Buddhism as a philosophy rather than a religion, but anything that claims you can survive death fits my definition.) Then again, is the Dalai Lama really a Buddhist leader? During his visit to Ireland we’ve had everyone from nuns to people who describe themselves as non-religious out to greet him. He is perhaps the figurehead of that fastest-growing denomination in modern society, the Not Into Organised Religion But A Spiritual Sort Of Person; people who want to believe that there is meaning to life, but are reluctant to speculate about what exactly it might be.

Of course, there is nothing vague about Buddhism. Like any religion it presents a blueprint for what it considers to be a well-ordered society. It is a set of rules, and indeed one with great emphasis on discipline. But the 14th DL is himself a likeable, diplomatic type with a reluctance to give offence, so he comes across as preaching little more than niceness. He’s become the Pope of Vague.

He does seem to be a nice person, it is true. And as nice people go, probably the one most likely to spark war between India and China.