Send A Message To The World

A Yes vote won’t change so much. Not all Gay people will be rushing out to get married just because they can. It won’t, contrary to the fantasies of the overly religious, give them a strange new right to get babies tailor-made. And nor will it stop them being bullied in school or beaten on the streets. Life will go on about the same. So why is it so important?

Imagine you’re an ugly person. I know, it’s hard. But just picture yourself as unappealing. Possibly some sort of mutant. Even so, you might still fall in love. With someone equally hideous, presumably, but that’s life. So you’re about to get married, but suddenly your society turns around to you and says “Sorry, no. You’re… You’re just too damn ugly. We can’t be doing with that.”

Or say the objections of the religious were actually honest, and they made it the law that all infertile couples couldn’t get married. Or we had a more coldly logical regime where you can’t legally marry if you’re too poor to raise children in safety and health. Or too stupid. Or you and/or your prospective life partner are habitual drunks with a history of rage and violence. Consider a more pure and idealistic world where rich old ugly people aren’t allowed to marry poor young pretty people, where celebrities didn’t marry each other as a career move, one where you actually have to be in love before you can commit your life to someone else.

Thankfully – I think – we don’t live in any of those worlds. Destitute, ugly, drunk, diseased, violent, angry people have every right to get married – and sometimes do. In fact as long as they’re over the age of consent and aren’t siblings, it’s perfectly legal for any two people whatsoever to marry each other, however tragically unsuited.

Unless they are the same sex. It doesn’t matter how much in love you are, how long you’ve been a couple or how good you are together, you can’t marry your partner if you’re both girls or both boys. Society at large thinks you getting married is worse than drug-trafficking arms-dealing sadistic escaped war criminals settling down to raise a brood.

But you can have a sort of cut-back version called Civil Union, what’s wrong with that? Well there are some legal niceties, but the main difference is straightforward: It’s not marriage. It’s marriage-except-you’re-not-allowed-to-call-it-that.

Because-you’re-Gay.

And that’s the nub of the whole thing. When it comes down to it, Gay people aren’t allowed to marry… because they’re Gay. It’s not the marriage part that so many disapprove of. It’s the Gayness bit. This is why most of the arguments of the No side are so illogical. Marriage won’t create a right to have children by surrogacy, any more than it does for straight couples. Nor will it change the criteria that adoption services use. Yet these fervid scenarios are dragged in anyway, because they are about the only quasi-acceptable opposing arguments they can make. Their purpose is to disguise the real motivation: A refusal to accept that homosexual is just a thing that some people are, and not a terrific sin that bad people are getting up to because it’s secretly enormous crack. It’s not about the children. It’s about the religion.

We’re being asked today to stop blatantly discriminating against Gay people. It won’t, as I say, change the world. But it will send a message. It will tell people that we oppose the oppression and mistreatment of people who happen to be Gay. That we no longer demand, as we have for so long, that they hide the truth about themselves in fear and shame. That we oppose the mistreatment and discrimination, the bullying and the beatings. That we consider Gay people to be… just people, with the same possibilities and rights to respect and responsibility as anyone else. This is the message we can send by voting Yes.

And if we let the No side win, we will send precisely the opposite message.

National Drug Problem Festival

Guinnessmap
Well it’s certainly one view of the country

How many people would drink Guinness if it were not for its association with Ireland?

It might still be a known product, sure. Its following in Africa for example probably has little to do with its Irish origins. But for most people, the images of beverage and country are almost indistinguishable – despite it being owned by British-based Diageo. If you strip away the associations with Irish culture – or what people suppose to be Irish culture – what are you left with? No tradition, no fun-loving attitude, no music and mystery. Just a black drink with a bitter taste and weird texture.

Diageo should ruminate on this. Without the Irish market, there would be little enough market for Guinness.

Ironically these thoughts are prompted by an effort to regain market share in Ireland. I say share; I doubt that Guinness has declined much in total sales, but it remains associated with the more relaxed, conversational drinker. The biggest growth sector – the young, excessive drinker – prefers cider, lagers, alcopops, Buckfast. Any old shit in fact, as long as they can drink a lot of it quickly. It’s hard to drink Guinness quickly. The “Arthur’s Day” programme of concerts by fashionable and/or obscure bands is clearly aimed at attracting the younger crowd. But it threatens instead to kill the goose.

The debate continues elsewhere about what restrictions should be placed on the promotion of alcohol, whether it’s right to aim it at the young through sport or art or even entertainment. That’s not really the problem here though, so much as the sheer scale of Diageo’s vision. The original “Arthur’s Day” was a one-off celebration of the company’s product and history. No one objected to that. Where they overstepped the mark was in turning it into an annual event, virtually a national holiday. That is going a bit far now. Already they push the identification of brand and country to extremes, even to the point of using the national symbol for their company logo. But declaring a new feast day, that’s acting like they own the place.

It’s not a national holiday of course. It’s an enormous alcoholic drink promotion in a country that has an enormous alcoholic drink problem. Such a big event inevitably brings the issue to a head. (I’m sorry, it was unavoidable.) Guinness wants to project an image of Ireland as a land of happy drinkers, where the worst social consequences of alcohol use are perhaps a comical hangover, perhaps a jaw that aches from too much talk and laughter. And not, say, spousal abuse and suicide.

If you feel like registering your disapproval, you could visit the Boycott Arthur’s Day Facebook page.

They Found Our Cloud, Dammit

IrelandCloud
Picture whipped without any hint of permission whatsoever from Irish Weather Online – hope they don’t mind. Click image to visit their Facebook page, full of climatic gossip.

Well damn. They had to go and find it, didn’t they?

The cloud, the huge one that usually sits neatly over Ireland. They finally tracked it down yesterday – see picture – and must have dragged it back last night. Probably the farmers did it. Those thirsty, thirsty farmers.

So today was the first non-rock-splitting day for over a week. I got up early and thought it was just a morning mist, so often the harbinger of a solar barrage to come. But it never lifted.

Perhaps I should be glad. It was really hard to concentrate in the sun, and yesterday I was researching an article on Big Data and Human Resources. If that means nothing to you I won’t spoil your happy innocence for now, I’ll just say that it was a bit on the technical side, requiring more concentration than I could easily muster. In the end I gave up and switched to a job that actually required a trance-like meditative state. Until the sun went down I stayed in the garden with my shirt off doing a thorough job with an electric sander on that piece of furniture I’m restoring.

The sun meanwhile was doing a similar job on my skin. It feels leathery and itchy today, which somehow seems contradictory. Another reason why I should really be glad it’s overcast. But with the help of the cool and twelve hours of almost unbroken writing I did get my article finished.

Now night has long fallen. It’s quiet – except for a neighbour’s donkey letting out the occasional long, lonely bray. That must be about the most heartbreaking non-human sound in all the world. I’m sitting up late, upgrading a friend’s Mac. As you do. It seems to have worked – which is a relief as I went straight from Tiger to Snow Leopard without any intervening Leopard, something that’s not officially possible.

And I have all the windows open, in the hope of making more flappy friends. I think I’m getting exclusively the tiny, buzzy, feeds-on-blood kind of friend though. But it doesn’t matter, I’m doing it just for the atmosphere really. The insect-laden atmosphere. When I was a child I lived for several years in a caravan, and that made me intimately acquainted with the beasts of the rural dark. We basically couldn’t keep them out. So having them around again is just kind of nostalgic. It’s not proper night air unless it bites.

Brighter Days In Ireland

Irish tradition.Hurling
Father and child playing hurling on the beach, or uneven duel with cudgels (Photo credit: Godo-Godaj)

A hot day in Ireland – more special than Christmas. That feast arrives once a year, like it or not. Hot weather is significantly less dependable. If it comes at all, you know not the day nor the hour. Where the wind and the water currents of the Atlantic collide with land, weather is about as predictable as a fruit machine. So hot days are precious.

Which is why I gave up any idea of getting work done and went swimming. I had no choice.

It was lovely at the lake. The water hasn’t got very warm yet, but it was fine for swimming. Mostly young people there, throwing themselves and each other in. Some had brought hurls and sliotars (hurling balls) and were practising in the water. The ball landed near me at one stage and I threw it back – or tried. Ever thrown something while floating in water? It’s weird, and largely unsuccessful. I was throwing myself backwards as much as the ball forwards. Embarrassing.

I was impressed though by this positive attitude. Galway lost the Leinster Championship final yesterday, to underdogs Dublin. (No Galway isn’t in Leinster – it’s a long story.) Some might have wanted to forget about hurling for a while after that, but here these young guys were not just practising, but apparently developing an entirely new tactical approach that involves flooding the pitch to a depth of over two metres.

It may be romantic optimism brought on by the weather, but I see hope for the future in that.

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.

Is David Drumm Innocent?

Anglo Irish Bank in New York
Anglo Irish Bank in New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David Drumm, former Chief Executive of Anglo Irish Bank, still protests that there was no deliberate misleading of the government. In this interesting interview with Irish Central he claims the bank was not trying to hook the State into open-ended support, despite what the tapes may have suggested. And by suggested I mean “said aloud”. What’s surprising is that he actually does come across as innocent.

And by innocent I mean “having the intellectual capacities of a child”.

He claims that all Anglo ever wanted from the government during the market storm that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers was a single little shot of €7 billion to keep it liquid – I quote – “assuming the financial markets crisis returned to normal at some point in the near future”.

We do all know of course that this storm was the financial markets returning to normal. The period before that, when banks like his made billions simply by driving up the price of houses and pouring massive piles of credit onto anyone who stood still long enough, that was the abnormality. The cash equivalent of a screaming drunken spree with an open bottle of whiskey in each hand is the normality he is referring to here.

Anglo, he’s saying, just needed a few billion to tide it over until things became unsustainable again. He cannot of course have been stupid enough to believe that was in any way realistic; it was just the line of bullshit that they had to take in a desperate bid to survive. What surprises me is that he’s stupid enough to think we’re stupid enough to think he really believed it.