To poets: Learn to sail!

Good poet, bad sailor Percy Bysshe Shelley was born August 4th in 1792 and died a month short of his 30th birthday leaving a stunning legacy of poetry.  How much richer would the world have been had he practiced decent seamanship?

The Gulf of La Spezia is known locally as the Golfo dei poeti in commemoration of the disaster.

Rusticated is an obscure word used almost exclusively in Oxford and Cambridge universities.  It means to be expelled, or “sent down” from the college.  There is no higher accolade for a great artist, to break free of the bounds of established academia and be expelled for radicalism.  In Shelley’s case it was for publication of a pamphlet on Atheism.  If you look up a definition of the word “Rusticate” it almost invariably comes with an example which references the expulsion of Shelley.  In a sense he is responsible for the preservation of that meaning of the word.

From The Arabic, An Imitation :by Percy Bysshe Shelley

M.pngy faint spirit was sitting in the light
of thy looks, my love;
It panted for thee like the hind at noon
for the brooks, my love.
Thy barb, whose hoofs outspeed the tempest’s flight,
bore thee far from me;
my heart, for my weak feet were weary soon,
did companion thee.

Ah! fleeter far than fleetest storm or steed,
or the death they bear,
the heart which tender thought clothes like a dove
with the wings of care;
in the battle, in the darkness, in the need,
shall mine cling to thee,
nor claim one smile for all the comfort, love,
it may bring to thee.

 

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Happy birthday Vikram Seth

Vikram_Seth,_in_Oxfordshire

On a day when US policy comes to the fore for stripping refugee children from their parents this poem seems appropriate.  Any country that makes a business of incarceration is on a wrong path.  Nobody should ever profit from locking someone away.

In the past, in Ireland, we paid the Church to lock away our fallen women, to take their children and to sell them into adoption.  The Church made sure we shamed generations of pregnant girls into a life of slavery.  We paid the Church to lock away our insane, and they found more insane here than in any other country.  We paid the Church to lock up rowdy boys who got in a bit of trouble with the law.  Those boys were abused both physically and sexually.

Locking people away should be a costly and painful exercise.  It should not be easy.  It should never be a norm.  Prisons create crime as much as crime fills prisons.

 

All you who sleep tonight: by Vikram Seth

All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love,
No hand to left or right
And emptiness above –

Know that you aren’t alone
The whole world shares your tears,
Some for two nights or one,
And some for all their years.

Happy Birthday Dambudzo Marechera

marechera-660x330

 

I think I am the doppelganger whom, until I appeared, African literature had not yet met” said Dambudzo Marechera of himself.

His troubled life was variously described as being due to bad muti, schizophrenia, culture shock or the displacement of growing up in highly racist Southern Rhodesia and living through the rebellion that ultimately created Zimbabwe.

Marechera has the distinction of being sent down from Oxford, one of the greatest plaudits a true artist can have.  He rejected the brainwashing of the syllabus and tried to set the university on fire because he claimed the were “mentally raping” him.

In his short life he reached great heights, winning the Guardian Fiction prize and he was appointed writer in residence by Leeds university.  He returned to Zimbabwe where he died aged only 35 from AIDS, the plague that is tearing the heart out of Africa.

I used to like tomatoes: by Dambudzo Marechera

I used to like tomatoes
I get tired of the blood
and the coughing
and more blood
I get out of that flat real fast
to some cool quarrelling bar
and talk big to bigger comrades
washing down the blood with Castle an’ Label
shaking hands about Tsitsi bombed to heaven
trying to forget I don’t like cooking in dead people’s
pots and pans
I don’t like wearing and looking smart-arse in dead
people’s shirts an’ pants
(They said yoh mama an’ bra been for you
said these are your inheritance)
I’m soon tight as a drum can’t drink no more
It’s back at the flat on my back
swallowing it all red back hard down
I woke up too tired to break out so bright red a bubble.

 

Now for Rónán Mullen

Yes

 

I voted against the 8th referendum in 1983.  I was in the minority and it passed.  I was 20 years old and I felt out of touch with my own country.  I could not understand how the holy Joe brigade won on that day.

I clearly remember them handing out lapel badges with tiny feet on them, to represent the feet of foetuses.  I remember the praying women, bearing their crosses and their rosary beads, marching up and down the central reservation in O’Connell Street, saying the rosary.

I remember the convents being cleared out on the polling day to make sure that nuns who had not been outside their walls in decades were engaged to cast their votes.

Thirty years on the climate has changed in Ireland.  The winds from Rome have weakened considerably.  They iron hard grip of the church on society has slackened.  The hand of the church is liver spotted, wrinkled, veined and atrophied.  The church has failed to move with the times and faces dissolution.  It is losing control of its two strongest bastions, education and health.  Ireland is well on its way to becoming a fully secular nation.

I am not anti-christian.  I actually think the Christian church was in its day the greatest force for positive change on the planet.  The preaching of a message of peace and love was a giant leap forward from some truly awful religions.  The breaking of bread and the drinking of wine as votive rites are much more civilised than chaining virgin girls to rocks, stoning sinners to death or slitting the throats of sheep and goats.

My issue is not so much with Christianity as it is with organised religion.  My position is summed up by a speech from the film “Kingdom of Heaven” where the Hospitaller knight says to Balian:

 I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of God. Holiness is in right action and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness. What God desires is here [points to head] and here [points to heart] and what you decide to do every day, you will be a good man – or not.

In summary:  Regardless of your intentions, we are what we do.

In the Repeal the 8th campaign we saw, yet again, what the Religions Right actually do.  They lie.  They cheat.  They bully.

These are people who hold themselves up as the model of morality in our society.  Their intentions are all good.  But their actions are a disgrace.  They intentionally distort facts to make their point.  Sometimes they lie through omission and they have been caught in outright overt lies.  When they are called to account on their lies they employ the tactics of “Deny, Delay, Defend”.

Uniquely in this campaign the social media giants like Facebook and Google decided they would not accept political campaign postings in the lead up to the vote.  OK this is anecdotal but I did notice a fall off in “Repeal” material on my social network feeds.  On the eve of the election I was still seeing “Vote NO” material.  The no campaign exploited every loophole they could find to keep their campaign going.  I classify this as cheating.

The bullying was overt throughout the campaign.  Removal of Repeal posters.  Attacking campaigners in the streets.  Toppling their tables.  Throwing their leaflets to the ground.  Shouting down debaters in public discussion.  It was all ugly behaviour and none of it was reflective of what I think of as the Christian ethos.

These are people who took the lesson of Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers in the Temple, and use it as a model for how to wage every campaign.  They weaponize religion.

They lost this campaign.  They lost the same sex marriage referendum.  They lost the right to travel referendum.  They lost the divorce referendum.  But every loss makes them smaller, tighter, closer and more and more fanatical.

Rónán Mullen is the tip of this spear.  Elected by my own Seanad constituency.  Who, who, who is voting for this Smeagol, this Gollum, this hobgoblin.  Out, out, out I say.  This must not stand.

 

Work of a lifetime

Martin-mcguinness.jpg

Born in 1950 in Derry, Northern Ireland,  Martin McGuinness grew up in the worst era for Catholics in Northern Ireland.  They were discriminated against so badly in Protestant Northern Ireland that they emulated Black Americans such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. in setting up non-violent civil rights protests against the regime.

Through the 1960’s just as in America, the ruling class escalated the use of violence to break the protests.  McGuinness joined the IRA and was, at only 21 years of age, the second in command of the Derry Provisional IRA when British Paratroopers murdered 14 civil rights protesters in Bloody Sunday.

He was imprisoned, treated as a terrorist by a British Regime under Maggie Thatcher.  A British Government that seemed hell bent on destroying the nationalist cause by violence, intolerance and general all round hatefulness.

Elected to Stormont in 1982 in the wake of the hunger strikes and the death of Bobby Sands he, like all Sinn Féin, did not take his seat.

McGuinness went on to become the chief negotiator of the Good Friday Agreement and he took personal responsibility for disarming the IRA.

On this day, his birthday, in 1998 the people of Northern Ireland voted on the Agreement in a referendum.  75% of the people of Northern Ireland voted for peace.

Think about that.  25% of the Northern Irish wanted to continue the violence, the death and destruction.  Who are these people?

McGuinness was cast by his enemies as a villain and a terrorist.  But this is a man who worked tirelessly for peace all his life.  A short life in the end.  He passed away last year aged only 66.

Martin lived to see his life’s work come to fruition.  Northern Ireland is not a finished object and there is a long road to go to reconciliation.  That 25% of nay sayers is still up there looking to bring the whole thing crashing down about our ears.  Don’t let them.

 

70th Birthday Party

Gaza

On Saturday Israel won the Eurovision song contest for the fourth time, despite not actually being in Europe.

Today is the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.  To mark the occasion the US are moving their embassy from Tel Aviv, where most nations have their embassy, for political reasons, into Jerusalem.

When the state of Israel was created the City of Jerusalem and the town of Bethlehem were supposed to remain outside the politics of Palestine and Israel as a “Free City”.  Any movement of political influence into Jerusalem carries very weighty connotations for all sides.

The announcement that the Eurovision 2019 will be in Jerusalem is a further turn of the screw for hardline Jewish nationalism.  Strangely so because the real hardline ultra orthodox Jews absolutely hate the Eurovision, which is the greatest outpouring of gayness of the year for the European LGBT community.

On the Gaza strip Hammas have been leading assaults on the Israeli border all week.  The death toll in clashes with the Israeli military have doubled in one day today.  Tomorrow is the anniversary of the catastrophe, Nakba, when the Palestinians fled their homes, taking the keys they still hold today as symbols of their right to return.  As I have remarked before the Palestinian leaders love to squander the lives of their children in futile gestures because they are bought heavily into the martyr culture.  They fight a propaganda war with the blood of brainwashed innocents.

Keys

The Israeli military are as bad as the Hammas terrorists.  It would be possible to diffuse tensions with non-lethal interventions, but the hawks in the Israeli military like to make their points with unnecessary force.  It is a modus operandi born of too many years living in the shadow of dictatorial Islamic regimes who want to wipe you from the earth.  The truth today is that Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq are no longer a de-facto threat.  Palestinians are a paper tiger, armed with rockets by Iran and Saudi money, but rockets that are barely more than toys.

This birthday party is not a celebration for anyone in the region.  It is like a funeral in a dysfunctional family where everyone is trying not to be the one who starts the fist fight in the carpark, but secretly wants someone else to be that person.

Will the 100th birthday be any different?  Will it be any better?  Are people content to spend the next 30 years doing what they are doing today?

With everything going on in Israel/Palestine the least strange thing has to be an Israeli woman dressed in a Kimono in front of waving Chinese cats singing a song supporting the #MeToo movement.  Sing more, fight less.  The symbol of the Eurovision…a heart!

Eurovision

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuff and nonsense!

Lear

Born May 12th in 1812 Edward Lear he was.  Born in a war between Britain and France, born in a War with the USA when the guns roared out for all the day, and the great flag flew despite rockets and bombs, still flew in the morning inspiring a song that the Nation still sings today.

Famous for writing “nonsense poetry”.  But when I read his poems I see in them a pretty good description of democratic parliamentary business the world over.

“How wise we are! though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long, yet we never can think we were rash or wrong, while round in our Sieve we spin!”

Of course, one of the greatest features of democracy is that we can openly criticize our governments.  It is only in repressive regimes that the populace fear to criticize the glorious leader.

The Jumblies; by Edward Lear

They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,

in a Sieve they went to sea:

in spite of all their friends could say,

on a winter’s morn, on a stormy day,

in a Sieve they went to sea!

And when the Sieve turned round and round,

and every one cried, `You’ll all be drowned!’

they called aloud, `Our Sieve ain’t big,

but we don’t care a button! we don’t care a fig!

in a Sieve we’ll go to sea!’

Far and few, far and few,

are the lands where the Jumblies live;

their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

and they went to sea in a Sieve.

They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,

in a Sieve they sailed so fast,

with only a beautiful pea-green veil

tied with a riband by way of a sail,

to a small tobacco-pipe mast;

and every one said, who saw them go,

`O won’t they be soon upset, you know!

For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,

and happen what may, it’s extremely wrong

in a Sieve to sail so fast!’

Far and few, far and few,

are the lands where the Jumblies live;

their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

and they went to sea in a Sieve.

The water it soon came in, it did,

the water it soon came in;

so to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet

in a pinky paper all folded neat,

and they fastened it down with a pin.

and they passed the night in a crockery-jar,

and each of them said, `How wise we are!

though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,

yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,

while round in our Sieve we spin!’

Far and few, far and few,

are the lands where the Jumblies live;

their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

and they went to sea in a Sieve.

And all night long they sailed away;

and when the sun went down,

they whistled and warbled a moony song

to the echoing sound of a coppery gong,

in the shade of the mountains brown.

`O Timballo! How happy we are,

when we live in a Sieve and a crockery-jar,

and all night long in the moonlight pale,

we sail away with a pea-green sail,

in the shade of the mountains brown!’

Far and few, far and few,

are the lands where the Jumblies live;

their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

and they went to sea in a Sieve.

They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,

to a land all covered with trees,

and they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,

and a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,

and a hive of silvery Bees.

And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,

and a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,

and forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,

and no end of Stilton Cheese.

Far and few, far and few,

are the lands where the Jumblies live;

their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

and they went to sea in a Sieve.

And in twenty years they all came back,

In twenty years or more,

And every one said, `How tall they’ve grown!

for they’ve been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,

and the hills of the Chankly Bore!’

And they drank their health, and gave them a feast

of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;

and every one said, `If we only live,

we too will go to sea in a Sieve,—

to the hills of the Chankly Bore!’

Far and few, far and few,

are the lands where the Jumblies live;

their heads are green, and their hands are blue,

and they went to sea in a Sieve.