Newspaper Shift

1st July,  6:30 a.m.  A golden Saturday morning.  Back in work.  Newspapers.

The sun flows westward across the carpark.  Darkness is dispersed and seeks its last sanctuary behind any object.

I clock in.  

A mellow warmth already.  Bails of papers, basking in the morning sun, form a pile at the front entrance.  They’re on time today – that helps.  On weekday’s there’s enough room in a trolley to bring all the papers in with one run.  Today, I make three runs – it’s a Saturday, and the bourgeoisie must have their weekend supplements.  Out and in, and out and in, and out and in from the shop to the car park where they were left by suppliers.  ‘Supplier’ is a kind of euphemism for delivery driver.  Those guys have it tough.

American Pie is piped across the shop speakers; croissants and baguettes come piping from the bakery ovens.  “This’ll be the day that I die”. I hope I don’t die today.  Still, I’m “lucky to have a job”.

And I am lucky, even if I only make €10 an hour from the profits we make them.  The company is doing increasingly good business.  I am surviving.  I still exist.  My circumstances are relatively fortunate.

But just as a body in physics contains potential energy by its existence, I have potential, but I’m not in motion.  How can I make an impact?  What will happen to that potential?  If science, history, or sociology teaches us anything, it is that huge quantities of energy and potential are wasted, lost.  It is more likely that we’ll come out on the losing end, no matter what your parents say.  Entropy and economics ensure that.

However, I am lucky.  And that’s part of what is so infuriating, so frustrating.  Should one’s survival and position in life be determined merely by luck?  And of those who are deemed lucky – should we rightly consider that to be “the end of the matter”?  It is illogical to me that being allowed to work is “lucky”.  Merely being lucky is hardly good enough?  Apart from gamblers, few people strive to be lucky. Surely, we strive for more.

Some may convince us to be satisfied and happy.  They display a resigned contentment at being just a mile from heaven, whilst we are but a step outside hell.  Still, we are lucky, regardless, to be the dry ones, safe on the banks of the Styx.

Why all the hate? 

​Yes, we do live in an Orwellian society – increasingly so. In the final analysis, all this trouble, uncertainty, fear, hate, has been caused by inequality,  poverty and class division. How?  Sections of the middle-class see their world and position threatened and crumbling,  and are fearful of it; the society which once served them so well is now failing; they ask “who is to blame?”,  “what is to be done?”. The wealthy corporate class suggests “if only taxes were lowered, we could create more jobs, and our wealth would eventually trickle down to ordinary people”.  The Government asks itself, “but where shall we collect the revenue needed if we have to reduce corporate taxes? – We’ll cut welfare and public service spending, we’ll increase taxes on ordinary people”. Many middle-class people are hit harder and working-class people suffer even more. The working-class proclaim they have nothing more to give, they have nothing to lose. This system offers them nothing. The middle-class, angry, demands that more power is given to the powerful in order to maintain the system which has given them, so-far, a comfortable living. The powerful then target those they are threatened by – the working-class, feminists and minorities who have begun to fight back and stand up for their rights. More extreme candidates, like Trump, stand forward on behalf of the powerful, gain political power, and begin to enforce the reaction,  to create the kind of society Orwell wrote about and fought against.  

Catastrophe in Syria and Irish Media

Disclaimer: Friends, this is a quick piece on my personal observation and contact with media reportage in Ireland over the past few months regarding Syria.  I am open to criticisms here (as always), but I’m fairly sure I’ve got it somewhat right – in the ballpark – though obviously, my references are not as thorough as I would like.  I wrote this on the spur this evening in regard to some contradictory comments I saw, coming from people of the same political background. 

Some socialists and leftists on Facebook are saying that the media has ignored the catastrophe in Syria, to report instead on the catastrophe in Gaza, other leftists (in my feed, literally the very next person) saying the exact opposite – that the media have ignored catastrophe in Gaza to report on Syria. One leftist claimed the lack of reporting on Syria is because the “wrong side” is winning there – Russia. Comments on the situation hardly get more confused or sickening than that.  A bomb coming through a family’s home is a bomb, whether it’s delivered with compliments and best intentions from Russia, the US, al-Assad, or ISIS.

Actually, there is now quite a lot of reporting in Ireland on the disaster being caused by Russian bombing (including a front page on today’s Irish Times). The current issue of National Geographic also dedicates its cover story to Syrian refugees and others from the Middle-East. But is it the right kind of reporting? Is it clarifying things in any way beyond repeating “official reports”? That being said, Irish media has comparatively ignored the US bombing of innocent civilians in Syria (including one which killed up to 73 people and another bombing of a Medicins Sans Frontieres hospital). In truth, there is no “who is worse” argument to be made here, and this despicable

In truth, there can be no “who is worse” argument to be made here, and this despicable nationalistic type of argument should not be made. But it is nonetheless very difficult for people to understand what the hell is going on. The confusion is, if anything, worsened by Irish news reports. This is a failure of journalists in Ireland at least, in particular, RTÉ who are leaders in the obfuscation and, (one could speculate) pro-US imperialist propaganda. It seems in Ireland, if you want relatively decent news, you have to turn to Britain’s Guardian newspaper, but even that is seriously lacking. Objectivity in all of this is increasingly hard to come by, and it is a significant cause of the continuing suffering and dying.

http://www.msf.org/en/topics/kunduz-hospital-airstrike

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/20/us-airstrike-allegedly-kills-56-civilians-in-northern-syria

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/10/europe-immigration-muslim-refugees-portraits/

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/middle-east/voices-from-aleppo-this-is-a-city-that-will-die-the-world-is-watching-a-city-dying-1.2821447?__vfz=c_pages%3D11000002670848

 

Books

Books 

They’re like trophies, each one in line on the shelf marks a personal achievement; each one a destination I have reached, and I remember the experience as I glide my finger across their spines.

Well, this is how one may think of the books one has read.

The books I have yet to read are the places I have yet to visit. Theirs is a journey I have yet to embark upon.

Looking at the shelf, with its novels, compilations, philosophies, histories, short stories, I reflect on how pleased I am to have visited all these places and to have had these experiences.  Many of them have given me a view of the world that I may never have had. How would my outlook differ without the experience of even one favourite book?

Honestly, other books were not as beneficial,  but now I know what lies within them too, and that is at least worth knowing.  It’s worth knowing what is wrong as well as what is right.

Pat Hickey, and How The Media Portray Elites

One of the main issues surrounding the OCI ticket touting scandal is not whether Pat Hickey is guilty or innocent; the issue is the contrast between how a member of the establishment is portrayed and treated by the media, compared to ordinary people.  How Hickey has been portrayed contrasts starkly when compared particularly with the “Jobstown 24” who have been invariably vilified in the mainstream media, whereas the media’s focus in relation to Hickey has been the allegedly harsh treatment of him by the Brazilian authorities, and that he is an old and apparently unwell man. The story  highlights what Chomsky might describe as “worthy and unworthy victims” and it is based on classism. The media does this almost instinctively.  

The media and Government were content to let a young Irish citizen, Ibrahim Halawa, rot in Egyptian jail,  without having faced trial, almost certainly tortured, and would not have raised it had it not been for the campaigning of ordinary people on his behalf. Still no front page stories for Ibrahim though.

Sympathies for the Victims of Brussels’ Terror Attacks.

As we grapple to understand what exactly happened in Brussels, and why such horrific acts might be committed, my thoughts and sympathies go out to all of the innocent people who have been affected by this – the victims, their families and friends, and the people of Belgium, who are surely suffering from the trauma and upset which such attacks cause.  Also in my thoughts are the many people who travel to Brussels for whatever reason.  Innumerable innocent people merely going out to work and getting on with their lives.  One can only imagine the suffering and consider what the ramifications might be if a similar attack occurred in Ireland.

Why I am not Charlie

One of the finest articles I’ve read about the Charlie Hebdo murders and freedom of expression.

a paper bird

imagesThere is no “but” about what happened at Charlie Hebdo yesterday. Some people published some cartoons, and some other people killed them for it.  Words and pictures can be beautiful or vile, pleasing or enraging, inspiring or offensive; but they exist on a different plane from physical violence, whether you want to call that plane spirit or imagination or culture, and to meet them with violence is an offense against the spirit and imagination and culture that distinguish humans. Nothing mitigates this monstrosity. There will be time to analyze why the killers did it, time to parse their backgrounds, their ideologies, their beliefs, time for sociologists and psychologists to add to understanding. There will be explanations, and the explanations will be important, but explanations aren’t the same as excuses. Words don’t kill, they must not be met by killing, and they will not make the killers’ culpability go away.

To abhor what was done to the victims, though, is not…

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Everything Depends Upon The Job

‘You are free and that is why you are lost’ – Franz Kafka

Whether causal or coincidental, I have happened upon a trough of relative disillusionment and fatigue at about the same moment I endure a spell of inactivity.  I’m sure I will exit this phase, but for now my hobbies and passions are on hold, and I am existing almost without purpose.  The love of my partner is perhaps my only significant motivation.  A rather dreary opening paragraph, but never fear!

Evaluation

Regarding my lack of writing, I feel there are multiple reasons for this, a few from the top of my head are:  Lack of confidence in my ability to write knowledgeably on a given topic; Lack of a given topic in which I am currently deeply involved and that may be of interest to other people to read about; lack of energy and money; lack of structure and discipline; feeling too much pressure and trying too hard to write something that is worthwhile (this can inhibit anyone from writing anything at all); lack of a justification for spending time writing and reading when we are poor and money is not gained from such activities – and the feeling of guilt that stems from dedicating so much time to such artistic and intellectual pursuits when money is what is needed.  Time for spending with family, friends and loved ones is also in demand – how can I write when my love wants to spend time with me on her day off?  The grass needs to be cut too, and I almost always forget to hang the clothes up for drying.

I have stopped playing music.  Stopped listening to music.  Stopped learning German. Despite my socialist viewpoint, I have become less active with politics.  I have become lackadaisical with my reading, and much else.

At the moment, I am frustrated by all this, but, as yet, I am not too worried.  Firstly, I am developing my perception and approach to writing.  Ironically, this facilitates less writing as it requires more reading.  Also, I am using this period of personal uncertainty to question and re-evaluate my life-goals.

An Existensial Crisis?

Most pertinently, I am waiting to start a new job.  Hopefully, it will be the beginning of something new; I know that the recent few years have been consistently disappointing and that my jobs have not been very fulfilling, to say the least.   I have worked too hard, tried too many things, and I probably expected too much.  I put far too much effort and time into some areas, and not enough into others.  I was naive and too ambitious – if one can be too ambitious.  Perhaps my priorities were unwise, but I based my dedication upon the passion and ambition I had for different interests so that I might be successful with them – I was working towards a dream.  In that sense, I think it would be too harsh to say my priorities were completely wrong.   Nonetheless, I needed to slow down and reassess some things.

The first step in resuming activity will be Monday, the first day in the new job.  I pray it will not be as disappointing as my recent roles.  I am not so naive as to think that the disappointment of my recent jobs was not to do with the larger economic and political conditions of Ireland (and Europe) which allow for such exploitative and low-paying positions to be created by employers.  Employees suffer in uncertain and worrying limbo – I am not so naive as to think that my new position will not also be subject to external forces.  Nevertheless, I hope my next employer at least provides the foundation upon which I can begin to live my life in a more fulfilling and ambitious way again; enabled to try my best.

I’m not lost because I’m “free” – I’m not lost at all, though I may feel like that.  I’m simply trapped, grounded by very real circumstances.  It is clear what I need: reliable job, decent money, definite structure, relative security, defined purpose, hobbies, random fun and relaxation.  Society provides the means of achieving those things and can do so depending the economic and social-political conditions.  You are not lost because you are free, you believe you are “free” because you are lost.

Despite the aforementioned, one must do one’s best when the opportunity arises.  I hope that after Christmas, I will have money and that my new job is consistent and (as far as such a position can be) rewarding.  That’s step one.  Step two is establishing myself in the role and my first month’s pay.  After that, I aim to develop more structure in my life, and therefore with the life of my partner whom I love and am dedicated to.  Upon this improved structure I can build goals for my job, my career, and my hobbies.  I can develop my talents and interests further and therefore write about them.  Who knows what will happen?

But everything depends upon the job.

Yes I Know, But…

“Life in ‘property-owning democracy’ means people cease to see accommodation and shelter as a right. They cease to see it -if ever they did see it- as the condition of possibility for other rights -to health, to education, to a decent standard of living. Instead they see it as just reward for their own personal endeavour, and, ultimately, an object of competition, an asset to be traded and hence, guarded jealously. As for one’s neighbours in this regard, it becomes seldom a matter of simply wanting to live in a pleasant community, but of living in a community that can be sold as pleasant. They see this way of the world expressed by their political respresentatives in government, by newspapers, by TV programmes, by family members, work colleagues… with no other horizon.”

Cunning Hired Knaves

Knackers

What distinguishes the residents of Rockville Drive, who, in the wake of the Carrickmines fire, mounted a protest against emergency accommodation for Travellers who had been left bereaved and with nowhere to stay, from residents of other comfortable housing estates throughout Ireland?

Very little, I imagine: something similar would happen in a great many other places up and down the country. There is a generalised opposition to living beside Travellers, rooted in racism, classism (consider how the insult ‘knacker’ applies both to Travellers and to urban working class people), fears about property prices, fears about what living next to Travellers says about them. If it appears strikingly cold-hearted for residents of an area to oppose giving other human beings some temporary place of shelter, it’s only because this kind of situation doesn’t come to the fore very often in national media. The attitude is there all the time, and it…

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