Madness in Gaza


I don’t pretend to understand a fraction of what is going on in Gaza at present. Suffice to say that Israel has lost the PR war on this one. There is no redeeming feature of what the IDF is doing when viewed from outside. Noises from inside Israel suggest that there is weak support from the centre and left for the current incursions. The heavy death toll of Palestinians, especially children, cannot be justified.

Israel would do well to stand back and rethink this time. Pour some oil on troubled waters. There is a story from the Bible of a woman pouring a pint of Nard over Jesus’ feet in Bethany. Nard is a fragrant oil, probably derived from Spikenard, a plant native to Israel. The cost of a pint of the oil could have fed hundreds of poor. How many Palestinians could have been fed for the cost of munitions expended in the last Month?

Spikenard seems to be all the rage at present. Pope Francis adopted it for his papal coat of arms, as it represents Saint Joseph.

I never heard of the plant until I read the poem below!

To the Bird; Haim Nahman Bialik

Greetings on your return, lovely bird,
to my window from warmer climes—
how my soul longed to hear your voice,
in the winter when you left my dwelling.

Sing to me, tell me, dear bird
from far-off wondrous places,
there in that warm and beautiful land,
do evil events and calamities happen too?

Do you bring greetings from my fellows in Zion,
from my brothers near and far?
O happy ones! Surely they must know
that I suffer, oh, how I suffer in pain.

Do they know how great are my enemies here,
how many rise up against me?
Sing to me, my bird, of the wonders of that land
where springtime ever dwells.

Do you bring me greetings from the land’s abundance,
from vale and from mountain top?
Does God have mercy on Zion,
though she is yet left with her graves?

And the Sharon Valley and the hills of myrrh—
do they give their spikenard and spice?
Does the ancient forest, the old Lebanon,
awake from its slumber?

Does the dew fall like pearls upon Mount Hermon,
or does it descend like tears?
And how fares the Jordan and its bright waters?
And each mountain and hill?

Has the heavy cloud withdrawn from them,
that had spread pitch black darkness –
o sing to me, my bird, of the land in which
my fathers found life and death!

Are the flowers I planted yet unwithered,
while I myself am withered?
They remind me of the days in which I bloomed,
but now I am grown old, my strength has gone.

Tell me, my bird, what each tree and shrub whisper,
what do their leaves murmur to you?
Do they tell tidings of comfort for which they wait so long,
as their foliage rustles like the forests of Lebanon?

And my brothers the workers, who sowed in tears—
do they harvest their sheaves in joy?
Who will give me wings that I may fly to the land
in which the almond and date-palm bloom?

And what can I tell you, lovely bird,
what do you hope to hear from me?
From this cold and distant land you will not hear songs,
only lamentations, only weeping and wailing.

Shall I tell of the hardships which are already
well known in the lands of the living –
o who can number the troubles past
and present and yet to come?

Migrate, my bird, to your mountain, your desert!
Be happy that you have left my house;
if you dwelt with me, then you too, winged creature,
would weep bitterly over my fate.

Yet weeping and tears are not the best remedy,
they will not heal my affliction;
my eyes have already darkened, I have filled a waterskin with tears,
my heart has already dried like grass;

The tears have already reached their end—
yet there is no end to my grief.
Greetings on your return, my dear bird,
let your song give me some happiness!

Garth Brooks & the Cabinet Reshuffle


Can’t let this week go by without saying something about the vagaries of the political silly season.  When government goes on holidays every year the journalists have time to be more strategic about the issues they cover.  Instead of reacting to the hurdy gurdy of politics they can step back and analyse the direction of politics with a cold eye.

This is not good news for politicians.  In the moment the politician works hard to control the message, control the spin and manipulate events to suit their stated agenda.  If journalists step back from the day to day cut and thrust, and evaluate the last 100 days, the cracks in the spin are all to obvious.  Throw a microscope over any politicians track record and the flaws will appear.

So every year the political powers will attempt to engineer some current news story during the “silly season” to keep politicians in the here and now.  This year the government has manufactured a cabinet reshuffle, but has been handed a better distraction on a plate.  The Garth Brooks debacle is a solid gold gift for government in the height of the silly season.  The politicians can wash their hands of the affair, and throw the concert promoters, the GAA and the planning authorities to the wolves.

A lot of social media commentators have pointed out that this country has better things to focus on than the fate of a country music tour.  This is naive thinking.  Politicians can achieve nothing in the summer recess.  It is a time for holidays and for constituency relationship building.  The last thing they need is for journalism to focus on real political issues.  So Garth Brooks is manna from heaven.  They will do their level best to keep this story alive for as long as it can run.

September 1, 1939; by W. H. Auden, 1907 – 1973

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
“I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,”
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.