Monthly Archives: April 2015

Voting Yes for marriage equality in Ireland.

vote yes

A few months back, I talked about voting YES in a referendum. Now I’m back doing the same. Different topic, different country, but strangely, I can’t actually vote myself in this one, either.
Even though it’s an Irish referendum, and I’m obviously Irish.
Once you leave the island, you may as well not exist for the Irish government and civil service. They probably want people to leave so they have fewer people to canvas for votes.
I have missed a good many votes since I left home.
Some of them I wish I could have been there for. This is definitely one of them. There have been significant changes to our constitution before. This is no less important. It is more so, in fact. It proposes that we, the Irish, change our constitution to make it possible for anyone to marry anyone else. And to have a family the way they see fit.
It is apparently the first time in history an entire nation has had the opportunity to do this. Other countries with free marriage changed their laws in parliament.
Ireland has a well-written and strong constitution. We the people have a lot of power. Luckily, given the shower of gombeens that usually “leads” us.
This May 22nd, we can show the world that the Irish are indeed, an independent nation. Nearly a hundred years after our attempts to overthrow the heavy jackboot of a foreign invader, we can demonstrate a different type of independence. We are at last free from the shadow of a false morality, the lying claims of a moral superiority that locked up unmarried mothers, that made grandmothers pretend to have infants in their forties, that forced a lot of good people to do a lot of stupid and awful things. One of which was hide their true selves from the world – from their own friends and family.
I had a long facebook discussion with someone who was worried about the effects of this law on children. Not on the direct impact of having a gay parent, but of having to deal with bullies who might make fun of a child with gay parents. The person had witnessed a child in the nineties being made fun of because her parents had split up (yes, Ireland was that closed minded still then: at least some were)
No matter how I explained that this person was actually arguing against their own logic, the fear of children suffering because we haven’t changed the world to perfect yet led her to believe we should wait until the world is perfect before we change it.
I think this person is just not used to the world the way it is now, is afraid of change to the way things always were in Ireland way back then. I’ve since learned that the No campaign have purposefully brought children into the picture to muddy the waters…
I was thinking about old people today, as I cycled along a busy main street. A handful of pensioners were on the side of the road, about five feet from the edge, ready to make a break between cars. I wondered how they could be in such a rush as to endanger themselves. But they probably don’t see it that way. They have always jaywalked, and they’re not going to stop now. It’s why old people are the ones who don’t wear seatbelts – they’re used to the old ways. And they want the old ways to stay, sometimes. No matter how much pain and suffering and often death the old ways caused, and knowing in their heart of hearts that the new way is probably better. It’s why I don’t wear a bike helmet in the city (for the record, bike helmets are like low energy light bulbs: not the best solution to the problem at all – slow the cars down, make them a bit more respectful of cyclists and 90% of all serious accidents would disappear. In most car incidents, having a helmet doesn’t save the cyclists anyway). It’s why I as fast as I always did in my teens though I’m forty-one. But my daughter doesn’t complain about the helmet, nor do I feel quite right in a car unless I have my seatbelt on.
We accept the world we are born into.
That’s why we have to change the world now for our kids to accept the new reality as they grow up. They won’t make fun of the children of gay couples if they see that their parents don’t, or don’t allow it, if they live in a society where gay parents are accepted as just as normal as anyone else’s parents. I touched on this when I was talking about how Clarkson is a relic of an old world we don’t accept anymore.
Such changes can come quickly. Spain has had gay marriage for 8 years. It has only had democracy for 40. When I was born it was still a fascist dictatorship. Ireland has been a republic for 90 years. In some aspects we’re only catching up with the rest of Europe. But we’re finally here now.
We don’t frown on unmarried mothers or make unhappy couples stay together for life, or prevent them finding happiness with someone else. We frown upon counties who still restrict their citizens’ freedoms in ways we no longer do.
When the results of this referendum are out, we will be able to hold our heads high and claim a real moral high ground.
Show the world we’re grown up. Vote Yes.

#Read about Guest #Author David J.O’Brien

#Read about Guest #Author David J.O’Brien.

This is the Best Bit…

A person wrote a question on a FB writers group the other day, asking what people do to celebrate finishing writing a book.
Most people said start the next one. I concurred. I do also allow myself the luxury of going off the deep end into a new TV series, or season I’m already addicted to.
Or a big novel, like The Count of Monte Cristo last year when I finished the first draft of The Ecology of Lonesomeness.
But it’s only the first draft. And I certainly don’t do anything like buy something to celebrate, or take my wife out to dinner. I don’t take her out to dinner to celebrate her own achievements, and they are much more impressive than mine, so why would I do it to celebrate what’s not an achievement, but more like a milestone on a journey, albeit a very significant milestone?
I do celebrate when the book is published. I splashed out on a bottle of scotch to celebrate Leaving the Pack, and bought myself a cool pen for the publication of Five Days on Ballyboy Beach. Absinthe seemed appropriate for JD Martins’ novella One Night in Madrid. For The Ecology of Lonesomeness another bottle of scotch is on the cards – but a better one, and for The Soul of Adam Short, I’ve no idea. I don’t need much (apart from lots of liquor, it seems).
That’s not the most important part of the process for me, though.
Framing a copy of the cover is special.
But not nearly so rewarding, really, as starting a new outline, a set of frantically scribbled notes as a new story unfolds in my head, complete with all it’s attendant glorious absence of logic.
But the best bit of all? That’s what I just did this week: signing a contract and getting to write the back cover blurb, the dedication and the acknowledgments.
I usually have a rough draft of the blurb written. If I didn’t, I couldn’t send submissions in the first place. But the dedication I get to do from scratch. I never write that until a book has somewhere to go. And I probably never will.
Each of my books, with one exception, is dedicated to someone different. I like to find someone appropriate given the theme of the story. My parents and my family are thus yet to see a dedication. But theirs is coming. I hope.
As for acknowledgments, I delight in writing those, too.
Writing is a lonely business. It has always been for me. I never got much in the way of encouragement from my close family or friends (some, I suspect, are merely putting up with me until I make some money at this game… but don’t tell her I told you so). The people who do lend me a hand, therefore, even when I have had to nearly wrench it off their shoulders in the first place, well deserve their mention.

Time to Globalise Facebook?

This might sound like one of those “first world problems.” But in fact I think it’s fairly global.
facbklogo

Like around another billion people, Facebook is pissing me off…
I posted something on my author page, and I got a message from Facebook, informing me that my post “was served” to, I dunno, thirty people. What the fuck is that? “Served?” Thirty out of the one hundred and fifty or so who were following the page then? What’s the point of following someone if you can’t see what they say?
What does that say about their algorithm?
It says exactly what it seems. They have it rigged so that if you want to talk to your followers, you have to pay.
They ask straight away if you want to boost the post to reach more people: that means pay for Facebook to do what Facebook is supposed to do…
I say they, but I mean Mark Zuckerberg.

How much money does one man want? Can we make a plea to this man to do the right thing and hand over Facebook to the people for the good of mankind?
He was in the press not long ago, talking at the Mobile World Congress, “discussing Facebook’s Internet.org project, an attempt to spread affordable internet access across the globe.

But that’s just minor shit. Window dressing. Garnish.
And I remember Ben Elton talking about garnish in the 90s…(look it up on Youtube. I’m sure it’s there, along with the after-dinner mint on your pillow…)

Facebook has the opportunity to become the platform for the democracy of the future. It can be the way people communicate. It has the potential to grow into a branch of the Internet and email revolution that ultimately becomes bigger than the trunk.

If Mark Zuckerberg just let it go now, he could end up like the great people we look up to in history – Jonas Salk (that’s the guy who invented the polio vaccine and decided not to patent it), the creators of wikipedia (admit it, you couldn’t have impressed anyone you fancied with your breadth of knowledge without it), Alexander Fleming (penicillin, dude) even guys like Bob Geldof (before he went a bit batshit, but life did kind of take a dump on him) or Keanu Reeves: people who put the world before themselves, or at least a few others before money.

Mark is famous now, he’s richer than fuck… but is he liked? Less than universally, let’s say. Yet he could get adulation, worship.

If he doesn’t give it away, the government could take it off him (Yeah, I know: I said could). It could decide that it’s more important to the greater good that it be taken off his hands. It would be like when the government makes you sell them your land for a railway line, or a country nationalises an oil company or a copper mine (yeah, I know that is frowned upon by some, but if you’re going to have to work in a copper mine, at least the profits should be going towards paying your future health needs…). “It’s for the people, Mark.”

They might not give him all the money it’s worth (that’s a certainty, actually, since no government has that cash lying around), and I know he’s in it for the money, and that’s all right… but right now he already has more money than many countries. Why does he need any more?
The man can never spend the money he has. Well, he can, but only by doing some extravagant shit like buying the Amazon rain forest (to save, Mark, not to make more profit) or employing the entire population of Rwanda to protect the mountain gorilla.

I’m not suggesting he needs to do either of those specifically, but he totally should give 95% of it to charity (keeping a few million for expenses like visiting the wildlife reserves he could create).

But first he should give Facebook to the people.

The End is Nigh

That feeling you get when you’re writing a novel and you finally get to the point where you can see your way out of the middle of the book and know there is an ending….

You’ve been trashing around the marsh that is the book’s middle for weeks and now, though you’re covered in mud and still have a slog through boot-sucking bog holes ahead, at least you know what direction you’re going, where the dry land is ahead, and that glimmer of hope you held for so long turns to confidence you’re not, in fact, going to sink into the middle of all this shit without even a story to show for it.

I got that today.

That means I deserve to start outlining the next project, right? Right? Oh…. oh well…

let me just get this boot back on…

 

Meanwhile, here are a couple of poems: one for easter, the other for spring. Yes, already distracted…

 

A Watcher on Calvary

 

A man named Barabbas was once heard sighing,

From an alley on the path to Calvary, upon spying

A raucous crowd, carrying crosses to the top, go by,

And saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

 

Spring Unfolds

 

Lured, like a bee to the bloom,

The scent of narcissus arrests my senses,

Dancing swallows draw eye away

From swirling script, distracted by the act;

Evening singing wins me over,

Dawn chorus charms me from my slumber,

Calling cuckoos invade my concentration.

 

The flowering pulls me from my room;

Sucking from the soil such beauty,

So I wish to sit before them, soaking

All they display, watching every form unfold.

 

 

 

 

The Wind has Changed

So my old mate Dave – that’s Sir David Attenborough to you lot – has come out.

Out of a slightly different kind of closet to the one you’re thinking of.

He’s said it.

He sees no reason not to reintroduce wolves to Scotland.

And at first I didn’t realise anything was out of the ordinary.

I mean, why wouldn’t he?

Well, there are some reasons.

But the times have changed. So quickly it’s rather astounding.

Suddenly rewilding is happening.

And it’s a little akin to our changing attitudes towards being gay, actually.

I’m forty, and I remember when I was in my twenties that coming out was an ordeal for most men, and women.

Lots of them didn’t, until they’d left university (with doctorates, not just bachelor degrees), until they’d left Ireland.

The idea of gay marriage was in the same category as human missions to Mars – some crazy fools were saying it would happen some day but most of us were fairly (but not rightfully) sceptical.

Well, maybe not in the same category as going to Mars – one is a worthwhile step forward for humanity, the other is just some geeks spending money making the masses wonder if perhaps we can survive without Earth.

Anyway, here we are : suddenly the right for gay people to marry is common fucking sense. People wonder why it’s taken us so long to cop on to the fact.

Even in middle America (as traditional as middle Earth in many aspects: Americans sometimes think they’re immune from the general rule that people in the centre of large land masses – like central Asia, the outback of Australia, WestMeath – are slow to change and often reluctant to keep up with the rest of the world. But they’re not) state after state is changing the law.

 

A lot of this is due to the direct action of brave citizens:: something rewilding advocate George Monbiot, and his new mate Russell Brand advocate for in lots of situations.

Wild boar were released (accidentally, in some cases) in several locations, in Britain and Ireland. At least in Britain, they were let live and the sky didn’t fall.

The Scottish government had a small experimental reintroduction of beavers, which they might recapture once their data is in… Meanwhile, beaver were released in another location in Scotland, and also in England, and suddenly people want them to stay.

The MFI millionaire who wants to have wolves on his estate also wants lynx. And now the path for at least a small lynx reintroduction is being laid (in birch tree plantings).

David Attenborough reckons a fence around those Allandale wolves is necessary.

But he never said that before.

All those years of wildlife work and I don’t recall him advocating wolf reintroduction to Britain once.

Why not?

Because it wasn’t a serious suggestion for a respected biologist to make.

I remember when I started my PhD thesis, on deer population biology and management. Twenty years ago now, too.

I was told there was a government scientist who worked on the deer in the same area (he actually ended up being my external examiner) who the hunting community disliked. Mostly they just thought he was an idiot for having voiced the opinion that wolves should be reintroduced to Ireland.

They called him “the wolfman.” Yeah, clever lads the Irish.

So I never voiced the opinion that I agreed.

I worked with those hunters on my project, and since in different ways (hunting myself, of course).

Wolf reintroduction was not something I ever mentioned to anyone but close friends.

Just over a year ago, I wrote an article for the Irish Wildlife Trust about deer management in Ireland (the link has since been removed when they rejigged their website. I must post the original here).

I didn’t mention wolves.

But then they asked me to.

So I did.

Not that enthusiastically.

I reckoned the readers who could have influence in implementing any change I advocated (mostly by getting more deer hunted to reduce numbers – not popular among many hunters) did not want to hear me talking shite about bring back the wolf. It was considered less than a pipedream: a sure sign of being a hippy and having taken too many drugs.

I did get some feedback from hunting organisations

But then I noticed that the wind had indeed shifted. Not much, but it wasn’t blowing my own piss back into my face.

I said in a blog post straight after, that if we didn’t start pushing now, we’d never get to realise our objective in twenty years. And it was my decision to start pushing myself.

Since then, I’ve blogged probably once a month about rewilding. And every month there are more articles about it in the newspaper.

The wind was blowing the other way.

Snowballs were rolling.

And growing.

The idea of rewilding Ireland, and Britain, has snowballed so big that the most influential biologist on the planet now thinks that the time has come, that the public can get their minds around it.

(Just to be clear: I’m sure Sir David always would have liked to see it. Now he feels he can say it. He’s lots more to lose than me. Well, the planet has more to lose, since Sir David has the standing to influence other places on the planet where protection and extinction prevention is paramount.)

There is nothing that can stop it, now.

Just like gay marriage, even in dear old quaint little ultra catholic Ireland where until after I was born unmarried mothers were living as slaves in state-sponsored laundries….

I only hope that things have changed so fast that we can have wild wolves not in twenty years, but two. And that Sir David can narrate the first documentary about their release.

 

 

 

The Demise of the Pig-Tailed Squirrel Monkey

The Demise of the Pig-Tailed Squirrel Monkey.