The 5th Estate

tennis_court_oath

The Tennis Court Oath, Versailles, 1789

In the traditional model of rule, dating back to feudalism, there were three powers in the realm.  These were called the “Estates General” in pre-revolutionary France.

The first, and foremost was the Lords Temporal, made up of the hereditary royalty of the realm.  In effect these were the main landowners.

The second estate was the Lords Spiritual, the Cardinals and Bishops who ruled the church and wielded the power of “God” on earth.

The third, most numerous, and also the weakest estate was traditionally made up of commoners.  This is not to say they were poor peasants.  In fact the “Commons” were merchant princes, bankers, lawyers and aldermen selected to represent the interests of the middle classes.

Three great events in the 17th and 18th Centuries changed the dynamics of the Estates General forever.

  • In 1649 the British Parliament ordered the execution of King Charles, shattering the concept of “Divine Right” to rule.
  • In 1776 13 colonies of the United States of America declared their right of self-determination, a right of the 3rd estate to be free of the rule of the 1st estate.  No taxation without representation!
  • In 1789 the French 3rd estate seized power from the 1st and 2nd estates and firmly issued in the age of enlightenment.

Never again were the 1st and 2nd estates to hold power in the Western world without the agreement of the 3rd estate.

In the midst of this redefinition of the balance of power Edmund Burke, an Irish peer, made an address to Westminster on the reporting of parliamentary business by the Press.  He pointed out that the Press represented a 4th Estate which potentially wielded more power than the 3 estates general.  It proved to be a prophetic prediction.

Today almost every coup d’état begins with the seizure of the organs of the media, the presses, the radio stations and the TV stations.  Politicians and their military arms know that the media battle is as important as any conflict of arms.  Tight autocratic rule is only possible where the rulers control the media, the 4th estate.

The concept of a 5th estate, non mainstream media, emerged in the counter cultural revolution of the 1960’s, originally as the eponymous Detroit Newspaper.  It spread to a variety of media, but was restricted by traditional constraints on output.  The odd piece of output made a splash, such as the “Anarchists Cookbook”, but most of the small publications and independent radio broadcasts were lost to tiny circulations.

Then the internet arrived.  The 5th estate has blossomed on media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and in the darkest corners of the deep web.

Despite the best efforts of autocratic regimes it is very difficult to control the 5th Estate.  China is the best example of a state that exerts tight control.  Even the great firewall of China is porous.  The regime cannot control all the information that filters in and out of the nation.  People import smartphones from abroad, or use various tricks to bypass state control of the firewalls.

The “Arab Spring” revolutions in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and the Middle East were made possible by the 5th Estate.  Rebels were able to use social media to tear apart the propaganda and lies of the ruling elite.  They then used social media to coordinate and organize protests, uprisings and even battles.

Mainstream journalists use and abuse social media to bypass super injunctions by courts to control celebrity scandals.  They breach the laws of sub judice reporting in a manner that is impossible in the 4th estate.  Whistleblowers use social media to release data into the public domain including Julian Assange, Linda Tripp, Edward Snowdon, Bradley Manning etc.

The impact of the 5th Estate on Western Democratic politics is only now beginning to crystalize.

The rules are being formed but we get an emerging sense of the landscape.
Cover-ups don’t work.
Fraud is uncovered.
Nepotism is exposed.
Secret donations do not remain secret.
Past statements of politicians are dredged up and used as a stick to beat them.

The age of the media savvy politician and his spin-doctor sidekick is over.
We are entering a new era of politics, where consistency, honesty and openness are the sine qua non of political survival.

Large central parties are fracturing and falling apart as their corrupt members are isolated and exposed.
For the individual politician loyalty to the constituency is more important than loyalty to the party.
We see this in the rise of the independents, the mavericks, those outside mainstream politics.  The Trump factor.

The new era will favour smaller groupings with tighter internal agreement on issues and higher levels of trust between members.  “Family” style groupings who share values.
Governments will be by coalitions of these small groups.
The practice of governing will become more fluid as alliances are made, broken and reformed based on prevailing economic and political priorities.

The 4th estate has been increasingly controlled by the wealthy, who can afford to buy the media, and establish editorial standards.  Would the Watergate Scandal see the light of day in the current media climate?

By contrast the 5th estate is uncontrollable.  It can be influenced by those with the largest social media followings.

In the next 20 years you will see attempts by the wealthy to influence the 5th estate by buying influence.  Anyone who is seen as “bought” will rapidly lose traction.

King Canute (or Cnut) is famous for trying to hold back the tide.
In fact he was criticizing sycophantic nobles who accorded him divine powers.
He demonstrated that for all his power he was unable to order the tides.
Canute would understand just how uncontrollable is the 5th Estate.

king canute on the beach

Canute holds back the tide

 

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For Posterity

I am recording these figures, because I know that when the projects are finished they will cost multiples of the nonsense trotted out to a gullible public and unquestioning journalists.

Simon Harris, minister for health in the Fine Gael led minority government tells us that the National Children’s Hospital in St James’s will cost €1 Billion to build.  He also tells us that the National Maternity Hospital at St Vincent’s will cost €300 million.

I would love to know who is the official responsible for publishing these figures, and who are the project managers who are charged with bringing these projects in, on time, and on budget?  In the absence of these names I hold Simon Harris accountable.

 

Bucket List #5

Renault4

This is not a photo of my first car, but it is a photo of a beige Renault 4 with a sunroof.  My first car was a beige Renault 4 with a sunroof, but it also had matching dents on each front corner, and a chiaroscuro quality imparted by the proliferation of rust.

How does it qualify for my bucket list?  Well, it was a rust-bucket!

My Renault 4 came to me by way of my Sister, Síle, who decorated it with the two matching dents by knocking down first one pillar and then the other on the driveway of her house in Newbridge.  She bought the car second hand from the Burkes, who owned a garage in Tipperary.  That might explain why a Renault 4 came to be fitted with a sunroof.  It also had a go-fast stripe, and I suspect they did something to the engine to give it a bit of power, but maybe that was just an illusion imparted by the stripe.

There is a magic and a nostalgia associated with your first car.  It is usually a piece of rubbish, but it is a very important piece of rubbish.  Your first car is probably the most expensive and most important thing you have ever owned up to the point where you get your second car, or a house, or an engagement ring.

Your first car represents your freedom as a young adult.  Your ability to strike out at great distances without begging rides from parents or siblings, without the need to rely on public transport.

It is a space of your own.  If you have a car you can take a girlfriend for a date in said car.  Louise learned how to drive in it, and there was no worry that she might scrape a door or a wing as there might have been with later cars, of which we will say nothing.  Before you know what is happening a girlfriend can become a wife, much to the confusion of her brothers who would not be caught dead in a car like that!

You could bring friends to rugby matches as far afield as Malahide, Greystones, Clonskeagh and Churchtown.  You could give rides to Glénans trainees for holidays in Bere Island, Baltimore or Collanmore Island, instead of having to hitch rides from other members.

When the last exams finished you were able to bring a gang of friends to Rutland Island in Donegal for a week in Murf’s holiday home.  They could then have a great laugh about the acceleration qualities of a Renault 4 engine going uphill in a headwind with five big lads on board.

You could nip up the Wicklow mountains for Sunday hikes, or head off to Dingle or Glenbeigh for a rainy Irish summer holiday.  The possibilities were endless.

It was a gateway to adventures.  My Renault 4 carried dinghies, ribs  and sailboards on the roof.  It had a great cargo space, especially when you dropped the back seats.  It held lots of sailing equipment, hiking equipment, camping gear, washing machines and plenty of second hand furniture.  When we bought a house it was furnished with bits and pieces of second hand furniture bought from the small ads in the Irish Press and carted back in or on the Renault 4.

Because it was rusty and a bit battered there was none of the concern that you might scratch it, or leave a stain on the seats, or get a chip in the paintwork.  I didn’t worry that the seawater would add more rust.  I didn’t mind if puppies shat or puked in the back.  It was a workhorse, not an ornament.  It enabled my adventures rather than decorating my existence.

In its final years the rust holes became larger and larger.  On rainy days it was advisable to wear plastic bags on your feet because of the spray coming up through the floor.

Then one day it stopped.  Dead.

A friend of my Sister came up from Kildare and towed it away to see service in its final days as a hen house.

When I look back at the sum of my experiences in that battered old rust bucket I pity any teenager or 20-something who is gifted a brand new vehicle as their first car.  You will never understand the unadulterated joy to be had from owning a total piece of crap, bought and paid for with your own money.

Chickencoop

Help out

Samaritans

As Easter comes to a close here is a photograph of some Samaritans on Mount Gerizim in the West Bank overlooking Nablus.  I’m not sure how you tell the good Samaritans from the other ones.  I think there is a bit of good in all of us, if we choose to root it out.  Do something good for someone today.  If it makes you feel good try it again tomorrow!

-o0o-

 

On His Blindness; by John Milton

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

 

 

 

Visions of War

Yesterday the USA dropped the largest ever non-nuclear weapon ever used, the GBU-43/B.  They dropped this massive piece of ordnance in a cave system in Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan.  The stated intent was to deny a system of caves and tunnels to ISIS fighters.  A truer intention is Donald Trump flexing his muscles for the Russians and the Chinese to show he is a serious military threat.  But that too is secondary, because his primary audience is the American people.  I’m sure the people of the USA feel a little bit safer today knowing that several miles of caves in Afghanistan have been destroyed.  (That last sentence is called sarcasm)

Today I have three images for you, all stolen from the Guardian photos of the day.  Image 1 is of US troops marching in step at a NATO rally in Poland.  Hey Mr Putin, look at those gung ho young American boys, marching in neat lines.  We have big bombs too.  Boo Yah!

BooYah

The second photograph is from further east, in the city of Mosul, Iraq.  The smart uniforms and the neat lines of troops give way to the true face of war.  A man pushing his daughter through a blasted landscape in a wheelchair.  It is pathetic.  As you sit down to your Easter Sunday dinner spare a thought for what awaits this family on their table.  What did he do to deserve this fate?

Al-Abar

The final image is of a pretty girl taking a selfie in a field of flowers.  It could almost be in Holland, with the bright blossoms in neat lines, except for the fact that the girl in question has a machine gun on her back.  Nir Yitzhak is a kibbutz on the border of Israel with the Gaza strip.  If ever there was an image of the absurdity of war this is it.  Page down to a war poem by Yeats!

Nir Yitzhak

On being asked for a War Poem : By William Butler Yeats

I think it better that in times like these
A poet’s mouth be silent, for in truth
We have no gift to set a statesman right;

He has had enough of meddling who can please
A young girl in the indolence of her youth,
Or an old man upon a winter’s night.

 

 

 

Bucket List #4

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These are the collection buckets we used to raise money for the Hope Foundation.  Gavin, Jerry, Esha and I have variously waved these buckets at the very many generous people of Cashel, Thurles and various Tipperary townlands.  We brought them to Rugby matches in Dublin and Limerick, and to Hurling games in Semple Stadium.  They have seen the warm days of summer and the cold dark days of winter.

They have earned a proud position in my “Bucket List” as they contain many great memories of a good year.

Four years ago my oldest son Jerry participated in the trip to Kolkata with Rockwell College.  He documented his journey on his blog:

https://jerrytocalcutta.wordpress.com/about/

This year it was all about my younger son, Gavin, who made his own trip, which he recorded on wordpress, twitter, snapchat, etc.  His fundraising exploits are on his  wordpress site:

https://gavinclancykolkata.wordpress.com/

PLEASE DO NOT SEND THEM MONEY.  They have finished their trips and made their visits to Kolkata.  But if you would like to support the fabulous work of the Hope Foundation feel free to do so at their site:

http://www.hopefoundation.ie/

What I like about the Hope Foundation is that it is a charity that strives to make itself useless.  What do I mean by that?

Some charities operate in a way that perpetuates dependency.  Their business is to “help” disadvantaged people.  But if they are “too successful” there will be no poor people left to help and they will effectively be out of business.  Self-perpetuating charities are not things I like, or appreciate.

I am very much of the mind to take people out of dependency.  This is where Hope operate.  They focus on educating kids to escape the cycle of slum living.  They help the parents to escape the cycle by supporting small enterprises, and by freeing up the parents to work by caring for the kids in crèches.  The greatest day for Hope Foundation will be when they can happily close down their facilities in Kolkata because their job is done.

That is not a pipedream.  It can happen.

As my son Jerry reminds me frequently “Give a man a Hamburger and he eats for a day.  Teach him to Hamburger, and that metaphor only works for Fish”.

The Fish:  by William Butler Yeats

Although you hide in the ebb and flow
Of the pale tide when the moon has set,
The people of coming days will know
About the casting out of my net,
And how you have leaped times out of mind
Over the little silver cords,
And think that you were hard and unkind,
And blame you with many bitter words.

Fish