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So long, and thanks for all the fish…

 

Except Britain didn’t give the EU very much fish – the North Sea is basically fished out.

But that’s beside the point.

The point is that the Brits always said that it was the Irish who were stupid (we did give up a lot of fish, it must be said.)

I’ve not spoken about the referendum on Britain leaving the EU until now – except to say that if they left I was going to set up a Change.Org petition to get the immigrants out of Spain.

It seems a bit late to stick my oar in now.

And many would assume that since I was all for Scottish Independence, and support a referendum in Catalunya, I’m all delighted the Brits have signed out.

Well, though I have to respect their decision, I think they’re making a mistake.

I don’t believe they’ve voted for more autonomy, because they felt the EU was controlling them too much. Apart form the fact that the City of London drives many policy choices, look at Britain’s position in the EU. It didn’t join the Euro, it kept citizens of new member states out for years, and still doesn’t allow free movement of EU citizens into the country, and it’s border starts in Calais. And when it threatened this referendum, it got a sweetheart deal to stay in.

On the contrary, I think the majority voted to leave because they can’t control completely what direction the other nations are going in, and that pisses them off. They want not their own autonomy, but to be in charge again – that’s of course, ignoring the fact that many people believed the lies they were told by politicians mostly intent on improving things for their rich mates.

Look at the ages of who voted to leave.

Brexit voter ages

The youth voted to stay, the pensioners to go.

Usually it’s the old who are most conservative. And this is a pretty big change to embark on.

But do they see it as change? Or as a return to the olde status quo. They are the ones who remember the Empire.

Much as a small part of an Irishman wants to let the Brits try out their experimental isolation in a globalised world, and say good riddance, I was being facetious about making a petition to rid Spain’s health service (much better than the NHS, I reckon!) of the burden of a million non-EU immigrants, the folk here are like me – European.

They didn’t vote to leave. Many a feeling very fucking sick this morning. They signed up to the story we were told twenty years ago, about everyone in the EU being one.

We can see that in reality the politicians of the rich nations care little for the ideals of the European project – look at how they hung Greece out to dry.

But millions of us still believe in those ideas – that we’re not penned in by stupid patriotism to the extent that we hate anyone enough to go to war anymore. That we are now – or can be – truly equal as EU citizens, such that the inequalities between states can be reduced – not only to the extent that Ireland now has decent roads (hurray!) but that there is a continent-wide minimum wage, so nobody will want – or need so much – to emigrate solely on economic bases, that prices will be similar across borders and, yes, tax regimes will be run more in line with one another so companies don’t skip from country to country, blackmailing governments for special favours and it won’t matter where we live and/or work.

This, for me, is only a stepping stone towards what I see as the main goal of humanity this century (apart from avoiding the imminent ecological disasters and planetary degeneration of course… ) to make opportunity, prices, wages, etc. more equal between continents, so the economic migrants don’t have to make such treacherous journeys and were are not persuaded to buy shite trinkets or too many clothes from cut-price stores simply because they’re so cheap.

Perhaps it seems like a pipe dream, but so is rewilding Ireland, and I’ve signed up for that!

The British have voted to go back in time. For many of us, there is no going back. Brits in Europe will seek citizenship and permanent residency status – just like any African or Asian, or South American immigrant. Thousands are already seeking Irish passports.

And perhaps without Britain the European project will become more concentrated on fulfilling the ideals we were sold. Maybe soon it will be a more cohesive continent – one so good and attractive that the English (and Welsh – Scotland and Northern Ireland will break away to stay inside) will want to join up again.

 

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The Anomaly

 

We are indeed an anomaly.

That is what they will say about us. By us I mean those alive right now in the early twenty-first century.

 

don-t-keep-calm-make-change-the-earth-is-being-destroyed-by-psychopaths

When we talk about the environmental havoc humans have played with the planet, we have a tendency to say “it was the time” – in the Fifties they didn’t know any better, like they didn’t know that corporal punishment or locking up unmarried mother was barbaric or smoking, or lead, or asbestos was bad for your health, or that it was worth preserving national monuments for posterity.

They let the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger die in the 1930s because they weren’t aware there were no more left in the wild, and captive breeding programs were unheard of.

The Alhambra in Andalucia, now a huge tourist attraction, was let go to rack and ruin until the eighties. The walls of Pamplona were torn down in grand part in the early part of the twentieth century to extend the city, and now what remains is the town’s main attraction outside of San Fermines. An application as a Unesco site was denied in the eighties because the walls weren’t complete.

 

But they didn’t know any better then. Not like we do now.

Now we’d never destroy a piece of patrimony, an example of our heritage. Except Isis, the mad bastards.

But we still do.

The wooden road discovered in Ireland which is a millennium older than any Roman roads and which is right now being shredded for sale as peat moss is just an example. The people in control just don’t give a fuck, simple as that. Same now as it ever was.

 

We hear about the dangers of cigarette smoking and asbestos and lead all the time. The companies peddling or using them knew a hell of a lot longer than the general public, though. However, they’d never endanger public health with those things now.

 

Oh yes they would, and oh yes they do.

 

They still use asbestos in developing countries to build houses. They still sell cigarettes to people and pressurise, or sue, governments to allow them do so in the way they want. A look at the headlines tells us all we need to know about what they think about saving money to keep kids away from being poisoned by lead in their environment.

 

Despite the horror show awaiting us at the hands of global warming, companies like VW and Exxon keep on trucking the same way they want to and fuck us and our flimsy attempts to use the law to keep us safe.

 

It seems we humans are intent on keeping on destroying things until they’re gone. Then we will try to rebuild the treasure we have ruined, like they rebuilt the Liceu opera house in Barcelona when it burnt down. Hey, there’s money in construction… like there’s money in war. Better build up Miami Beach than slow down the submerging…

Easier to rebuild the walls of Pamplona, or of Rome, than the kind of treasures we are letting die out around us. A Tasmanian tiger is a loss, but so much more is the Sumatran, the Siberian, the Bengal.

 

They call it business as usual. But it’s not. It’s only been like that for a very short time. And it will only last a little bit more, no matter what we do in the next few years and decades. It’s only a blip on human history, never mind geological time.

Afterward, when we all – what’s left of us – will live a very different kind of life; one more in tune with the planet, more in line with its resources.

 

The great pity – though only one of the pities – is that if we went now towards the way we must all live, it would be so much easier, so much better for us and the world around us.

Like getting by without asbestos is better than having to remove it, and preventing illness is better than paying the healthcare costs of those affected, or letting them die, as many are.

This radio show about life expectancy says that of American Whites is declining, and that of Hispanics much higher than expected simply because of the difference in smoking rates between these two groups. John Oliver’s very informative and funny show about lead says that every dollar spent in lead abatement brings back seventeen in savings of special education, healthcare and crime effects of lead poisoning.

Think of how much better things would have been if those bastards running those lobbies didn’t do their jobs so well and we had stopped using them way back when they figured out they were dangerous.

 

I know it sounds pessimistic, but I really think we’ll be living very different lives sooner than we think. We won’t be driving the cars we are now for one. We will all go to solar electricity and drive cars that don’t contaminate. It’s the only way forward, because of what economists pretend we don’t know – that finite resources thingy.

 

Most of these vehicles will go a little slower than your average Audi. And that’s okay. I mean, why do we need to have cars now that can go so fast? It’s not as if they can do that on city streets more accelerate to the next red light. Why do we need cars that can go double the speed limit so smoothly that we hardly notice we’re endangering ourselves and others and are surprised when we get the speeding ticket? We’ve seen that they can’t do this without producing a shit load of pollution, and so called efficiency in engines has been mere illegal IT trickery and pollution control fraud (for which I can’t see anyone in jail yet).

 

So why not start now? Why not stop making cars which are so fast? Especially since it seems basically impossible to make them both fast and as efficient as they are legally supposed to.

 

What’s the point in one generation having the experience of super gas guzzling cars – which never see their full potential on our roads –  when every other generation in the future will have to get by with a the equivalent of a Prius?

 

If we don’t stop this short aberration of extreme greed – for we’re all greedy, but usually our peers slap us around the head and tell us to get a grip on ourselves when we go too far. This has not unfortunately happened to CEOs and hedge fund managers yet (who sometimes get billions of dollars a year – I mean, like, what the actual fuck? They could pay for lead abatement out of their back pockets, they could fucking buy Sumatra to make a tiger reserve…) Unless we slap the hands of those holding the reins, we’re liable to ruin the little wonder we have left around us in this anomaly of idiocy.

 

People post quaint photos on social media and ask if you could stay in a cabin in the woods and live a simple life. Many say no. Not me. I’d love it. But even I would say no if there was no woods around the cabin. That’s the simplified future we could be facing, though.

 

 

 

 

Human Kind and Baboons – The Death of the Alpha Male

Baboon baby

(photo copyright: babies-dangerous-wild-animals.blogspot.com)

I watched this video a while ago. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYG0ZuTv5rs)  It’s very interesting. It’s about stress and how it can kill you. If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, don’t worry. That’s not really the point of this post.

This article summarises the most interesting part for now…. (http://www.upworthy.com/something-fascinating-happened-after-these-male-baboons-died-men-should-keep-this-in-mind?c=ufb1)

Basically, the dominant baboons in a troop, which was being studied to investigate stress, died of TB. Half of all males died from the disease, which they’d contracted from infected meat in a dump they’d taken to foraging from – the head honchos took more meat than their subordinates.

When they died, the surviving males down the totem pole didn’t become the bastards their predecessors were. They remained chilled, and were nice to the females (who now outnumbered them two to one) and young. And everything was rosy for them from then on.

Seems only a few baboons are assholes (though the guy researching them does describe them as backstabbing Machiavellian bastards that hurt each other) but they control the situation in most troops. This sends their shittiness down the pipeline. As the narrator says in Snow White and the Huntsman said, the queen’s “reign was so poisonous…. that people turned on each other.”

But new males joining this troop learn that being a wanker is not allowed. They chill out and groom instead of harassing others.

I was reminded of the baboons when I read George Monbiot’s recent article about Human Kindness. He points out that we are in general, good folk, who are nice than we assume when we glance about us on the train home from that shit job where your boss sucks the life out of you. In fact, we’re innately good.

But it’s something we usually aren’t aware of, this fellow kindness. All those videos of people ignoring homeless people etc. you see on the Internet doesn’t help with our own image, either (nor the videos of kids beating up one another).

And this other recent article about Twitter becoming just a forum for abuse indicates that we’re all participating in being assholes, or at least letting them rule our conversations.

It points the blame at the fact that our lives are an abuse, where we are put to work by the those holding the reins:

“We have created an abusive society. We have normalized, regularized, and routinized abuse. We are abused at work, by the very rules, norms, and expectations of our jobs, at which we are merely “human resources”, to be utilized, allocated, depleted. We are abused at play, by industries that seek to prey on our innocence and literally “target” our human weaknessses.” (https://medium.com/bad-words/why-twitter-s-dying-and-what-you-can-learn-from-it-9ed233e37974#.68hxb243u)

We are acting like assholes because the assholes are creating the rules. Just like most baboons farther down the hierarchy get abused by those above just because those just above have gotten shit from their own superiors. And they have highly stressed lives, which lead to illness, obesity and earlier deaths.

So how do we get rid of the asshole baboons who are ruining life for the rest of us?

This is the problem. They’re not going to die of a disease we all avoid – they eat and drink only the best of food, taste wise and health wise. They also can afford access to healthcare that most can only dream of. Even their excesses can be solved by buying a heart or a liver when their own break down.

We might need to rely on the old adage – “they got the guns but we got the numbers.”

When I wrote a blog post about us humans allowing our own extinction in the imminent ecological collapse, I had thought to include those instances when people stand around and “let” people get attacked without either trying to stop it, or even calling the cops. They’re not bad folk – they just assume someone else is going to do it. Our current situation is more akin to allowing the assailants to beat us up without raising our hands to protect our face.

For ourselves, our fellow non-assholes, and for the planet, we have to start fighting back. I’m not saying we become as violent as these Alpha males who would continue their abuse.  As Russell Brand suggests in his book Revolution, we just band together, walk up to them and take their weapons away (their weapon is money, by the way). Because those asshole baboons have to go.

The Catalan Question; The Answer is Yes

Almost exactly a year ago I suggested the Scots take their chance at independence like a wide receiver clutches an American football to his chest and legs it.

I stand by that.

At the moment, the Catalans – the people of the region of Cataluña or Catalonia in the North east of what we call Spain – are pondering a similar question.

mapa-cataluna
Here’s a map for those who’ve never heard of the place – I should add that Barcelona is the capital of the region; might jog the memory..

It’s not quite the same because there will be no referendum.

The right wing government in Madrid are insisting such a referendum would be illegal, clinging to a constitution made when everyone was not quite sure some follower of Franco wouldn’t take over and return the country to Fascism for another forty years, so it was best not to ask for too much. They tried, actually, not many years later, on February 23rd 1981 (I know that because my daughter was born on the 23rd of February and everybody makes a comment; not far from the mind of people even now).

So the pro-independence parties of Catalonia have decided that if they get a broad support from the populace in their regional elections this month, they’ll go ahead and announce independence anyway, to come in after eighteen months of negotiations and preparations.

The answer is the same. Yes.

I fully expect them to get the support they want. If there had been a referendum, I reckon the Catalans would have voted to stay inside a federal Spain, albeit with more autonomy. But they weren’t given that option, and when some powerful fucker from somewhere else says you can’t have something, then it’s not too uncommon for the common folk to say, fuck you, I’m going to take it.

The question you might perhaps be asking is if I just last week said it was time to get past this silly notion of nationality, how can I suddenly support the separation of a part of a state from the rest based on that same idea?

I implied patriotism for a place that is just as good as any other place, with people who are just as good, and bad as (equal to, in fact) you and me is a load of wank, there to empower only a few dodgy politicians.

And I stand by that.

And the Catalan question involves a fair few politician of the distinctly dodgy persuasion, who have thus far got fairly rich (actually very fucking rich) off their positions, and a decent handful of whom are being investigated for fraud and corruption and all that good stuff, while they all touted how bad they and their fellow Catalans were being treated by the big bad government in Madrid.

Because the shittiness of their politicians does not negate the Catalan’s right to self-determination. They deserve to decide if they will be a separate country, and they deserve to determine how that country will be run; if it will involve the same kind of structures used up to now or if they’ll try out a whole different thing – or even return to the way things were done during the heady days of 1936 when George Orwell was marvelling at the anarchists of Barcelona, before the war was taken out of their hands by the Nazis and Stalinists.

The patriotism of the Catalans is not better or worse on its face than that of Americans or Afghans. But in the greater scheme of things it will be more positive if we end up with a situation where people are able to run their own small patch of land. I don’t want to say that they’re governed by people closer to them, because I don’t think they should be governed necessarily – I prefer to see politicians as citizen representatives than leaders; which they jolly well should be, to put it nicely.

If the world, or in this case, Europe, was broken up into smaller and smaller pieces then people would have more control over their politicians, would be able to keep closer tabs on them, and make them do what they are supposed to (forward the good of their fellow citizens and the area as a whole) rather than get rich helping out big corporations. Iceland got itself out of debt because the politicians could not hide from the population, and had to do what the citizens said – which in this case was don’t pay those fucking leech banks. Ireland didn’t do the same because our politicians are separated, just a little bit too much, from their constituents, and because they know we’ll vote them back in in four or eight years because we’ve short memories and we’re a little stupid at times, and since we had our independence and a civil war we’re reluctant to go on the rampage again (by we I mean those still keeping their heads above water by keeping their heads down, to mix a metaphor).

Even though Ireland is run by a bunch of arseholes, they haven’t fleeced us as much as the corrupt pigs in Spain have, simply because they couldn’t get away with such opulence if they took all they could. We’d notice if they suddenly had their own helicopters and yachts and private islands. The Spanish have been used to rich nobility for ages, what with that old woman who’d more titles than the queen of England. There is a social circle to which the politicians can aspire, which is kind of lacking in Ireland. Saying that, we did have Charlie Haughey in Ireland, who had his own private island and boat and all that gear, and it took us a long time to ask the question, “how the fuck is he able to afford race horses and the like, and just why is our prime minister called Champagne fucking Charlie anyway?”

But that’s the Irish for ye.

Back to the point.
If Europe is a band of tiny nations, it’s less likely that one arsehole can just do that the hell he wants. Putin rules one huge country, and as such, has power. If we could knock Russia back into a plethora of small principalities (not calling them that, though, since we’d rather not have any princes running them) then he’d only be in charge of one.

It’s hard to do with Russia, but the nationalistic movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that unified Germany and Italy, and Spain and France, too, can be turned back now. It was all well and good (actually, it was shit, cos it caused two fucking world wars) for a while, but we’ve gone beyond that now – we have a unification of Germany WITH Italy and Spain and France into mother Europe, and so it’s fine to go back to having Bavaria and Prussia and Lombardy and Galicia, etc. If Mrs Merkel was the leader of just one Germanic region (not sure where she’s from), then she’d not be able to frog march us all into eternal debt. She’d have to find consensus. And that would be harder to find (a consensus that we all pay back huge banks money they don’t deserve and we didn’t lose) when every other leader had to answer to a population he or she was forced to live closely among.

The smaller the country, the more accountable are the representatives.

And the more necessary for such small nations to band together to pursue common goals.

And those common goals are less likely to be sucking the bell ends of banks and corporations.

So go for it, Cataluña. What have you got to lose? EU membership? Nah. They need you more than they need the Greeks, or the Irish for that matter. Just come back in under better terms.

The future of nations when the current refugee crisis is only a sample of what is to come.

Europe is in crisis. Again. For a better reason this time than most times. At least this is something serious, with people who really need help (sorry, the Greeks did/do need help, but it seems these guys are more photogenic). But seems like there’s less political will to spend money on helping people fleeing war zones than bankers fleeing bad loans.

After a couple of weeks of wringing hands (and lots of xenophobia, as you do) a few governments are willing to actually accept the idea of accepting “their fair share” of refugees from Syria.

It’s hard to figure out exactly what we should do, though we know what we should not do. We should not leave people in the position they are currently in.
One thing is clear, however; it is time to re-evaluate Europe.

We can see that the idea of Europe, a European Union, as touted to us all those years ago is bullshit. As someone who lives as a European – i.e. out of his own country in a new one with a different language (an “ex-pat,” don’t you know) and a child (and one on the way) who’s got two nationalities, I really think it’s time to do away with the whole idea of nationality, or at least try to. Doing away with religion would also be a big fucking step, of course, but that’s going to take a bit longer.

I am “proud” to be Irish. I mean, I know where I am from. If I could transport myself via google maps to the hills of Wicklow I’d smile and take a nap, knowing I’m home.

But I don’t feel the need for an Irish football jersey or anything of the sort. Never have.

And I certainly don’t feel the need to protect Ireland from infiltration by others (it would be a bit hypocritical if I did, I know). Any man or woman, of any colour or creed can stand on Djouce or Lugnaquilla and say, with the same feelings as I (of the clan O’Brien, don’t you know), “I fucking love this landscape (despite it’s ecological failings and my avocation of complete transformation via rewilding…).”

Patriotism
The above image, posted on the Irish Worker’s Solidarity Movement facebook page, is completely right.

I pondered the future of these nations, our worries that our cultures might disappear under the weight of numbers somewhat facetiously, in my short story, The Bottleneck (soon to be published in my first collection).

The current spate of stupid posters and photos on the internet saying we should look after our own before we look after refugees (well, they don’t call them refugees, but other names like “illegals,”) are an embarrassment to any person of any nationality. Let’s be clear – the fact that our own homeless are not being taken care of is down to the pack of wankers called politicians supposedly running the country (any country, not just Eire. I admit I don’t know the leaders of all nations, but the four I know fairly well – Ireland, Great Britain, America and Spain are all the same; filled with the kind of creeps you wouldn’t let into a career guidance seminar at your kids school. Of the English-speaking countries, Australia seems to be in a league of its own when it comes to being run by dickheads, as far as I can see, but Hungary is around about there) who don’t give a fuck about our (their?) own. They don’t give a fuck about us, you and me, never mind the homeless, and certainly not the refugees. They are the only ones who really stand to gain from this clinging to “our own” and our nationalities.

If the nations of the earth were merged, who would need all these assholes? We’d get by with a hugely reduced set of assholes, like when two companies merge.
Why is this merging of nations, or blurring of nations, or complete rubbing out of nations necessary?

Because this crisis our leaders are wringing their hands about is only one country, one war we are kindasorta responsible for (yes, all of us westerners), and there are so many more.

Let’s skip over the fact for the moment that people have been drowning in the Mediterranean for years (talked a little about that a few months back) and Europe has done fuck all but hand-wring and the citizens weren’t quite as mobilised till a fairly pale-skinned child was washed up (no disrespect to the child or his family, and I know that sometimes we (humans) need an image we can actually get our heads around rather than statistics to really understand how fucked up shit is). The Syrians and Afghans have been able to trek on foot to the “Doors of Europe.” Those who tried our shores instead of doors are still ignored, at least here in Spain, where they were shot at to keep them in the sea just a couple of years ago.

Africans have been making a trek from equally war-torn and dangerous places for years. And most of those wars have to do with drought and famine caused by climate change.

What will our glorious leaders do when faced with actual “hordes” (yes, I used that word, because we need to visualise the reality, not a few thousand people in Calais, but hundreds of thousands and millions of people on the move, with no home to go back to even if these constant wars stop) made homeless by global warming (also caused kindasorta buy us westerners) make their way to our little fake continent?

They will find out that their charade can’t continue. There can be no us and them on a planet sinking into meltdown. The only us and them that actually exists – no the ones propagated in this look after our own before we look after them nonsense – is the us who are poor and the them who control the resources of this planet until we take it back from them.

When the real exodus arrives, we (Europeans) will either spend more money than we spent on the banks trying to close a border that will not be closed, to a mass of humanity that will not be stopped, or we will welcome these fellow humans in to our lands (the part not also swamped by rising sea levels) where they can seek a better life.
Perhaps in the process, our lives will become less rosy and super-eiderdown-duvet comfortable, but there can be no equality without us stepping down off our velvet seats, since the planet can’t sustain our level of bullshit in any case.

Writing Women as a Man; are all writers equal?

I got a review of my novel The Ecology of Lonesomeness the other day. It was good: five stars. I was delighted. This paragraph struck me: “I’ll be honest, too, that I don’t think a lot of books by men in the romance genre really and truly portray women correctly. But, this author manages to do that with Jessie very well. She is a complicated character and she manages to be complicated without being whiney or annoying – which is always a plus!”
I don’t know why this is; I mean, why a lot of books by men don’t portray women correctly, or that complicated characters would be whiney.
I do know that most romantic writers are women, or at least have female pen names, and most male writers don’t write romance – under their own name, at least.
There is definitely an expectation of this – no, a surprise I’ve experienced when I have been interviewed about my romance novels. Which, in my view and that of their publisher, are contemporary novels with romance, more than straight romance. The surprise that I write such romance as I do under my own name; excluding my J.D. Martins novellas, which are romance.
And I hope that readers aren’t very prejudicial against male writers that they’d pass one over in favour of a female name.
Why should male writers “normally” write female characters and points of view badly? After all, the opposite is rarely commented upon. Nobody said JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter, or Ron, or Dumbledore all wrong (though she did use an ambiguous name to publish under). And surely there are male points of view in many romance novels (don’t read too many, myself, I admit).
I wrote Jessie from The Ecology of Lonesomeness, and Susan in Leaving the Pack (and Cora in the sequels), and Julie in The Soul of Adam Short, as people first, and female second. The sex (if there is any, depends on the book) might be a bit different, but the need for, and capacity for, love is the same. And every other desire and motivation is also equal between the genders. At least as far as I am concerned.
Perhaps I’m different. I suppose I am, though I don’t feel much different. However, I don’t think it hard to get into the mind of a female character, if you consider women your equal. Many men don’t. But that’s a problem of their own emotional growth, or lack of it. Many men are so obsessed with their own inadequacies that they fear women – or fear strong women (strong means equal here, in case you missed it).
Luckily, male writers are not usually like that. Their inadequacies are firmly sitting in their literary challenges. Their relationships may or may not be great, but they know they are in a business where (and I know the inequality exists even if I believe it is more in the readers’ minds) women are just as proficient as they are – if not more so, to be honest.
All writers are not equal, but the division is not based on gender.
So give a male writer a chance. You might be surprised as so many other readers.

Why We Write

As you know, we just voted for equal marriage in Ireland.

I posted and shared and liked a lot of stuff on my facebook page recently regarding that vote. I also wrote a blog post and even reposted it the day before the referendum.

As an author, perhaps I shouldn’t put such political or religious sensitive material things out there. I’ve been told to be careful. There can be a backlash against it, and it can hurt your career as an author. I learned this from the experience of another author who I follow on facebook. Someone didn’t like the author’s opinion in regarding the Irish vote for Equal Marriage. And they lowered themselves to dirty tricks.

Which is very sad.

Do we always have to care what people think to respect their work?

I mean, I don’t like Tom Cruise much as a personality, but I think he’s a great actor and I watch his movies – ditto for Mel Gibson.

Of course, in my own case, I believe I am on the right side of the arguments, and hope it will make people more receptive to my writing, in the end.

Because why do I write?

Let me say first, in answer to my own question, that I don’t care much about an author’s opinions.

I follow Anne Rice on facebook. I love that she’s cool, and that she replied to my email when I pointed out a typo in one of her books. But I read her books before I found out she was cool, and would have kept reading, despite her political views. I have rarely looked up information on the authors whose books I have read. I don’t think many people do. Even vegans read The Old Man and the Sea and see the quality of the book.

But many readers do care about the writers. They want to like the author.

I hope that these readers don’t hate my books (or pretend to hate them because they don’t like me).

I am sure, on the contrary, that if they hate what I say then they will hate what I write.

For what are my books if not attempts to tell a story at the same time as awaken consciousness, make the reader aware of a topic, make them think, change them a little, for the better, for having read them? (High aspirations, I know, but we must try. If we don’t try save the planet we are certainly doomed.)

As an example, a post I wrote about farmers illegally burning land in Ireland got much more coverage than most of my musings and was sent around facebook quite a bit (to my amazement). I looked through a few comments (Okay, all of them) and found nothing but agreement, even with my use of bad words.

Every author, I think, tries to change their reader.

And to a certain extent, we have a responsibility to do so. Just this week, George Monbiot took a children’s author to task for contributing to the whitewashing of the realities of intensive farming for food and milk production.

There are some who write just to thrill, to scare, for the enjoyment of making the reader have an emotion.

I do too. But I also want the reader to pause, to learn a little.

I know I’m not alone. Before the internet came about to let us connect to the daily musings of our favourite writers, everyone could get a sense of the writer’s opinions from their novels. I never knew anything about Rolling Stone Magazine until I read Stephen King’s Firestarter. But it gave me an insight into King that none of his shared postings on the internet have altered.

I know it’s not considered good writing to have the reader pause, to look up from the page to have to go and look up a word, or a reference. Perhaps.

But I love those kind of books. I like being immersed in a movie so much that I don’t notice two hours go by, but afterwards, I like to be able to talk about it, about the parts that I haven’t quite figured out. I love the same with books, though I can take a break in the middle rather than waiting till the end. I love spending two hours on wikipedia or youtube, filling in blanks and adding to my knowledge, like I did after I watched Pride last month.

If we writers really thought thinking was a bad thing, then why would be bother thinking up these stories?

And I have faith that thinking hasn’t gone completely out of fashion. Even though the thoughts are often depressing.

Migrants and Why They’re Dying.

Photo taken by the Guardia Civil of the boy, Abou, in the suitcase / ATLAS (The eyes are blurred because it's illegal to identify a child's face in the news in Spain)

Photo taken by the Guardia Civil of the boy, Abou, in the suitcase / ATLAS (The eyes are blurred because it’s illegal to identify a child’s face in the news in Spain)

I talked earlier this week about being an ex-pat rather than the emigrant/immigrant I’d always assumed myself to be.
The last day or so in Spain there has been a big news story about an eight year old boy, Abou, who was found in a suitcase crossing the border between Morocco and Spain.
He’d come all the way from the Ivory Coast. His father, legally residing in Spain had tried to get his family visas to join him. He was refused. Why? Because to do that he’d have to be making 1350 Euros a month. Now I know plenty of people here who don’t make that. The average wage is way lower. The father made 1300 euros a month. So for fifty quid a month, he was not allowed to have his family with him. I say made, because he’s in prison now: he could go down for human trafficking. The kid is in care, and the mother and his sister are alone waiting to see what the authorities will do.
Just one story of desperation. And the regulations seem stupid in their ability to take human needs into account.
But of course, that’s exactly how they are designed. Keep out the migrants, whatever their reason for trying to come.
I also learned a couple of weeks that reason people don’t take a plane to Europe to seek asylum, is because Europe doesn’t allow them. Not really. It makes the airlines refuse them because if they don’t, the company will have to pay for the flight back. It’s called EU directive 2001/51/EC. It’s there to stop illegal immigration of economic migrants. That’s “people looking to stay alive on more than a dollar a day in a drought-ridden country” to you and me.
It would actually be cheaper for an immigrant to buy a return ticket than pay the people smugglers, but I guess the airlines aren’t allowed do that.
So they have to sneak in, no matter where they are coming from or what they’re fleeing.
And we all know that’s some pretty bad shit there.
But they’re black, or mostly so. So they don’t matter. Their lives don’t matter, just like in the USA, but less, since they’re not even citizens. So the government of Spain can tell their police to shoot into the water to make some men drown rather than get shot instead of reaching dry land and have to be taken care of and processed, knowing few people will protest. They can take men down off the razor wire fence they’d been sitting on for hours and shove them through a gate back into Morocco without even bothering to tend their cuts, or see if they’ve stopped bleeding.
And they can wring their hands in worry at the plight of thousands drown after falling from boats designed to carry twenty weighted down with hundreds, but do nothing to make such voyages unnecessary.
The British government says they will help fish for survivors, but won’t let those they pick from the sea go anywhere near Britain.
And so we sail on.
We are currently debating marriage equality in Ireland, and in the USA. Meanwhile, inequality of application of Universal Human Rights is blatant in all our societies.
If there were true equality between people, the urge to migrate, or expatriate would vanish in 90% of the people who find themselves outside their own countries. Only those who want to live elsewhere for reasons such as my own (love!) would be bothered to move, to learn a new language, find friends and put down roots in a strange place.
But we don’t have anything near that.
Spaniards flock to Germany and England, or South America. The Irish hit the planes to America (illegally staying on past their tourist visa limits in some cases) or Australia.
And those destination countries do their best to discourage them. The only reason some can’t stop them is because of the “freedom of movement we supposedly have in Europe. If they don’t get a job, they want to send them back.
There are some countries, like Germany and England, who didn’t even allow the citizens of other European countries, like Romania and Bulgaria, to even try get a job until seven years after they’d joined our wonderful union.
All of the European Union is equal? Bollox.
The idea of a European Union is farcical until we have equality of citizens, and that means equality of employment rights and salaries. If the wages in Spain (or Bulgaria, where the minimum wage is six times lower) were the same as those in Germany – the minimum wage, if not the median – Germany would not need to worry about people going on the dole there – what they call benefits tourism and poverty migration (and when I came to Spain I had the right to the dole here). But people in rich countries like to have cheap holidays in Spain, or cheap products from counties where people have low wages. And the governments of poorer countries seem to think it’s good to have their citizens working for low wages to attract companies and tourists.
However, until we have a situation of true equality in this globalised world, there will be an unstoppable flow of lives across borders. Some to sink on the way, or die in the desert, or suffocate in the bottom of a truck or container.
But again, they’re only migrants.

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.

Post 101: Thoughts on the future

I’ve been pondering the future over the Christmas and New Year, mostly spurred by reading that as we go into a new year we can look forward to seeing some more wildlife in some places in Europe, but others are disappearing. In light of the recent Greek election and the rise of a new political party here in Spain which seems likely to take away power from the current entrenched and corrupt parties, I wonder what the future will look like. Since I just hit 100 posts on the blog, too, I thought today a good day to splatter you with my not-very-logical array of thoughts!

 

We are a very strange species, us humans: we have the ability to ponder and understand the past and future, which is, as currently demonstrable, pretty uncommon in the animal world. We think about the future and our past so much that we often seem incapable of enjoying, or even appreciating, the present. Yet at the same time, we consider the future only in the context of our current situation, and seem incapable of avoiding the oncoming train of change.

 

This Christmas, people in Europe looked back at a moment 100 years ago when men showed their common humanity. Right now after the attacks in France, politicians are falling over themselves to declare our unity against a common enemy. Yet we are stuck in the same paradigm – our politicians can’t get past the supposedly separate destinies of each different European country. They’re kicking out emigrants now, if they don’t have a job, sending them back to their home countries despite our purported freedom of travel and working. When they wanted to create the common market, they sold us citizens a stream of shit that we’d all be equal. When I moved from Ireland to Spain I was able to collect unemployment benefit until I found a job a few weeks after arriving. That’s suddenly something they want to stop doing now, though. Imagine New York kicking out Iowans because they lost their job? Ironically, if it were a real union, then there would only be migration for cultural or personal reasons, because policies would be applied across the union and people would have equal opportunity in their own land. The citizens who upped sticks and went to a land with a different language are the ones who invested in this union, and to treat them so badly now shows that it is all a facade.

 

Looking at the past seems easier than looking forward, or even around us. We follow constitutions people wrote thirty or eighty or two hundred years ago (depending if you’re in Spain, Ireland or the US) without considering their authors wouldn’t have a clue about our modern world – and would have a thing or two to say to us on that score, into the bargain, because I’m sure our world doesn’t conform to their expectations of the future.

 

Many of us follow the teachings of a man who was alive two thousand years ago – but do we look two thousand years ahead? Or two hundred? Or eighty? Or thirty?

No; we seem locked into the idea that all will be well. 350 years after that man died, everyone presumed that the Roman Empire would continue forever, and all was well, but the dark ages came.

Are we prepared for our dark ages? We know it’s entirely possible, but seem to be incapable of getting out of the way of it – blinking at the light like deer and about to be run over by it.

 

We would like our lives to be the same in the future (more or less: not all of us live in luxury of course). We like the way we live, we like our houses. After storms we reconstruct. But we have to realize that reconstruction is not going to be an option for too much longer if we don’t change other things. We won’t be driving cars in eighty years unless we stop using all the oil.

 

Staying somewhat the same will require an effort – and in some cases a change in how we do things.

Horseshoe falls

I always remember my trip to Niagara Falls when I lived in America. I learned that during the day only half the water from the river goes over the falls: the rest is diverted. At night, just a third goes over. Not only does this produce electricity when the water is sent through the turbines rather than over the cliff, but it ensures that Niagara Falls stays in one place – right there, where they’ve built the town around it. If all the water went over the falls, it would erode it back towards the lake, and then the nice viewing platforms and lighting arrangements would have to be moved, too. People want to keep the cascade where it is, and they make sure it stays there.

Yet we want (or at least should) the temperature of the planet to stay the same, so we can remain living in the same places we are accustomed to, where the climate is just right for us. Moving would be a much greater effort than changing the way we do things so we can stay.

 

Unfortunately, not all of us can probably stay in the same houses because of the change that already faces us. But we have to find them somewhere else to stay, and that might mean allowing them into our areas where we think there are already too man people. Like the European immigration problem, though, the only way to confront the situation is from a stance of equality – and for some that will mean a lowering of our standards of living. If we don’t decide that we must band together to fight towards a common destiny, though, we’re all going to face a much bigger fight.