Avoid the Papers.

The general reaction here to Trump and Brexit is one of shock, especially among the middle-class who can’t understand how it has all come about.  Hypocrisy reigns.  When it’s not ranting hysterically about the state of things, the establishment is keen to prostrate itself – ostensibly on behalf of the Irish population – in front of the demagogues.
Talk of the usual bowl of shamrock for Trump from Enda Kenny and an invitation to Ireland. In Europe and the US, the collapse of the so-called centre and the resulting re-emergence of the left, has been met with the reaction of the far-right (or alt-right as those pseudo-fascists are now being called – euphemism also reigns.  Newspeak.  Alt-truth, post-truth, ‘Ignorance is strength’).  The liberals seem to detest Trump, but they despise Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour and the socialist movements even more, whom they ridicule when they’re not ignoring.  They use every method to undermine sincere alternatives that threaten their status-quo, even moderate alternatives like Bernie Sanders.  The Irish Examiner has published articles claiming the threat to Irish democracy comes from the left and not the far-right.  Other papers have written virtually the same.  Why analyse politics properly when two ideas can be portrayed as two sides of the same coin.  Ignorance is strength.  Evidence is not needed for their purpose.  The liberal part of the establishment, once again it seems, will sacrifice all social progress and reform for the sake of maintaining economic class divisions and their privileged part within those classes, just as it did in the early 20th-century with Spain and Germany.  ‘History repeats itself, first as tragedy…’
I wrote to my expatriate father:
It’s all quite surreal at times.  Orwellian.  It may be best to avoid the papers. 

American Presidents

From the two most prominent runners for US President, we could perceive that “anyone can be President – even one of these two”.   You may understand where this kind of argument comes from.  The fact that Trump and Clinton are the forerunners for the Oval Office is surely a perversion of the concept of American freedom?  Hasn’t this concept become stretched and twisted and distorted?  It is surely positive that anyone can campaign to be President, but these two, making it all the way through that great American democratic system?  Surely this is a sick joke taken too far?  Is this an absurd level of democracy?  Too much democracy?  Are we to blame, or is it the stupid half of the country?  America, the land where anyone can be President – it’s the American Dream, right?  And it is reality for Clinton and Trump, in front of us now, in its fantastical magnitude.

Conversely, this so-called race between Clinton and Trump is an example of how unlikely it is for anyone to become President, let alone be able to campaign for election.

Poor people, ordinary working people, and even moderates who fight for the needs of ordinary people may find it nigh impossible to campaign effectively for Presidency.  Even the mildly left-wing Bernie Sanders was swimming against the much stronger establishment current; With all that has happened to the US and its economy in the past few years, the establishment still had no appetite for Sanders.  Of course, millions of people actively supported Sanders in a movement not seen in the US in recent history, but the lives of those activists and supporters, their needs, ideas and voices are of little concern, and the media did not air them.

The central point here is that although anyone can run for President, the main discriminating factors are not intelligence, truth, ethics; They are wealth, power, and ruthlessness, with a dedication and loyalty only to people and institutions who share these traits and the system which encourages it.  Anyone who does even slightly differently, like Sanders, is instinctively expelled by the system itself.

Alas, Sanders was betrayed by his own party whose interests are always corporate, and thus, were choking politically and financially on the very moderate policies Sanders espoused.  He should have known – others did.  Sanders was as bad for the Democratic Party as Trump was for the Republican Party, even if it was for opposite beliefs.  Better, then, for the media to portray him as a crazed radical (or,at least, misguided, during kinder moments) who may have had good intentions, but was not the sensible choice.  Ordinary Sanders voters were not coaxed though.  Unlike Sanders in his defeat, his movement of followers remain convinced that Clinton is not a genuine alternative.  Her being the lesser-evil to Trump is not a point the many newly politically mobilised people find endearing .  They can think for themselves – now more politically sophisticated and experienced than ever.  And they’re talking to each other and convincing each other.  Many thousands of them actually transferred their allegiance from the Democratic Party to Jil Stein and her Green Party.

The resultant argument and movement against voting for the “lesser evil” is the most pervasive I have yet witnessed from the US, and it may not merely be because of visibility on social media (though social media likely helps); In 2008 social media was awash with support for Obama, including from my naive self – there was very little talk then of a third alternative to combat capitalistic trends; Now, social media is awash with confusion and enlightenment in equal quantities firing off in every direction.  This (like everything) is of course potentially very good and bad, and contains the ingredients for social effusion; Disillusion; Revolution; Reaction. Let’s wait and… no.  Let’s discuss, and read, and write, and protest, and see.

 

Adolescent America 

If we were to generalise  the American middle class, we could say that it behaves in a way such as a spoilt teenager might, who causes their parents grief because they do not get their own way all of the time.  The fact that global warming is a major concern for the whole planet, or that poverty and inequality increase as a result of current and past American economic policy, shouldn’t get in the way of a middle-class American’s pursuit of wealth, or, indeed, of their delusion of being able to become wealthy.  And utlimately, that’s what it all is, delusion.  Any scientific findings that contradict their illogical perceptions and dreams, are to be ruthlessly fought and suppressed.

“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires”.

That quote may have been erroneously attributed to Steinbeck, but there is nonetheless an element of truth to it. Its truth increases if you replace “poor” with “middle-class”.  Some of the American petit-bourgeoisie sure do “love that smell of the emissions”,  as Sarah Palin once so bluntly put it.  “Adolescent America” is now personified through awful Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton – their vacuous bickering, throughout what is supposed to be the highest forum for debate in the US, the Presidential Elections – is starting to look like the last great tantrum of the bourgeois baby boomers.  The politics of American capitalism has certainly reached its crisis.

Credit must be paid, though, to the American working class, who have fought as tirelessly and as determinedly as any working class around the world. They backed Bernie Sanders, and fought for him against all the odds, and although Sanders capitulated to Clinton in the end, that hasn’t caused the core of the  American working-class (educated and energised as it is) to capitulate to the promises of Clinton nor the rhetoric of Trump.

A Terrifying Thought

A thought terrifies me.  There is a person standing in front of me, and I’m desperate to make him understand.  I’m vulnerable, and I am dependent on his mercy.  He doesn’t know me, and his attitude and actions towards me are compelled by a system, by society, by his own preconceptions, or a mixture of the above. I don’t want to cause harm, I just want to live quietly and get along like everybody else.  Whether I can or not, is up to him.


It is awful to think that people can become so anonymous to each other.  Ordinary individuals, with all of their aspirations, can care so little for other individuals in our everyday environment.  Through various forces, otherwise decent, ordinary people have been led to believe that vulnerable people are the problem, and not the powerful few who egg us on.

It can happen to any of us, that we suddenly find ourselves at the mercy of others due to circumstances beyond our control.

Many of us experience relatively minor forms of bureaucracy which frustrate our everyday lives; the clerks at the banks, post office, welfare office, the hospitals, insurance company workers, solicitors, politicians, HR managers, and, perhaps most often, our bosses and colleagues at work.

But what about more extreme forms?  Refugees fleeing war, innocent children whose homes are bombed, homeless people searching for shelter to sleep and money for food –  what happens when these innocent people come up against the “rules” of an apathetic all-powerful system perpetrated and perpetuated by us on behalf of the powerful and privileged?  For the victims, these “rules” take the human form of a customs official, an airforce pilot, a police officer.  Pervading bigotry among other ordinary people, encouraged by the media and the economic-political system at large, exacerbates the whole mindless situation and intensifies the horrible downward spiral.

Leo Tolstoy wrote on this subject regarding a character who was faced with the prospect of execution before firing squad:

…obsessed with a single thought, a simple question: who had condemned him to death?  Who was it?

It wasn’t the men who had interrogated him at the first session; clearly none of them had wanted to, or had the authority… who was it, then, who was punishing him, killing him, taking his life… with all his memories, yearnings, hopes and ideas?  Who was doing this?  And [he] felt he knew the answer: no one was.

…It was some kind of system that was killing him… taking his life, taking everything away, destroying him.

‘But who is doing it? [The soldiers of the firing squad are] all suffering like me!  Who is it? Who?’

Making Sandwiches

I Worked Hard For It All, Without Help From Anyone.

She was working from home alone and had become slightly hungry.  She thought about her options from what was available and resolved to make a ham and cheese sandwich.  All the necessary ingredients were there in her cupboards and fridge – her favourite bread, cheese, style of ham, butter, sauces etc. – and so she began preparing them.  Finally, when the sandwich was as she prefers a sandwich to be, she ate.   She made her lunch and ate it.  Following her satisfying lunch she was fuelled to do all of the other activities that she did during the day (with the aid of quite a bit of coffee).  It had fuelled her to continue to work hard and get on with her life for a little longer; fuelled her towards hitting more of those targets and the rewards promised to her for her hard and important work.  A step closer to that bonus, securing that commission and getting that new high-powered German luxury executive saloon.  But there is a background to her sandwich which has been neglected.

A few days earlier she ordered groceries online from her local grocery store (because being a busy person, she had no time to go to the shop).  Some of those groceries would become her sandwich ingredients.  A woman whom she would never meet received her order and processed it. That person gave the order, in turn, to her colleague who collected the groceries as they were listed; she spent about 40 minutes gathering them in a trolley.  Once they were all collected and verified, the order was arranged in bags and crates for delivery to the home of the sandwich loving lady.  At the appointed time, a delivery driver – one of three on duty in the shop at that moment – would lift the crates into his van and deliver them to her home.  When the customer signed for the delivery, the delivery man was the only person whom she had contact with throughout the process.

A day before the delivery, the bread, cheese, ham, butter, sauces and everything else was packaged in the facilities of the respective food companies and delivered to grocery stores all around the area.  Packaging people packaged, delivery drivers delivered to shops and supermarkets. Prior to the packaging process, bakers baked the bread (with everything that that involves), cheesemakers made the cheese (with everything that that involves), butchers – and people working for meat companies – oversaw the production of the pre-packed sliced ham, and creameries and sauce factories were filled with employees doing various things to mass-produce butter and sauce.

Prior to that, the bakery company needed to order the ingredients to bake bread, the creameries needed ingredients to create cheese and butter.  All the different producers needed the tools to make products from their ingredients, and they needed engineers, technicians, IT experts and mechanics to ensure the tools and machines continued to work efficiently.  Prior to that, countless people did countless things to make all of this happen.

How many people does it take to make a ham and cheese sandwich?

When she considered what to eat for lunch that afternoon, the process would have been more or less the same had she decided to have a salad or a chocolate bar or anything else.

invisible working classWe are all connected.  We are all part of something called society, doing something which contributes to one another’s lives.  All of what we have is only made possible due to the work of others and this simple fact is generally ignored.  The working-class, producing all of this essential stuff, receives no media coverage for their achievements and thankless drudgery, and will never experience owning that luxury executive vehicle.  None of us – however hard working – has achieved anything on our own.  It has been made possible by the efforts and struggles of countless humble people.  They carry this out daily, invisible.  The very expression of our individualism – and we are all different and unique and wonderful – is dependent on each other.

Food for thought the next time you make yourself a sandwich.

 

 

More Orwell: Dickensian Orwellian

After reading three of Mr. Arthur Blair’s books in 2015 (including a selection of essays and short stories), I thought I had finished with old George for the year in order to get on with reading other works.  Last week, however, I was given a loan of another collection of Orwell essays from a neighbour (after getting locked out of the house, they invited me in for a chat).  I feel an obligation to now finish this book so that I can return it to its enthusiastic lender.

Included in it is an enjoyable piece about Charles Dickens and proletarian themed writing.  The essay is literally called Charles Dickens.  A point is made about the portrayal of working-class people in literature, which I agree with, and I thought it was worth sharing here:

[Dickens] was not… a ‘proletarian’ writer.  To begin with, he does not write about the proletariat, in which he merely resembles the overwhelming majority of novelists, past and present.  If you look for the working classes in fiction, and especially English fiction, all you find is a hole… a great deal has been written about criminals, derelicts… But the ordinary town proletariat, the people who make the wheels go round, have always been ignored by novelists.  When they do find their way between the covers of a book, it is nearly always as objects of pity or as comic relief.

 

Bored Games

We found ourselves in the stranger’s kitchen, playing an unfamiliar game.  We sat surrounding the table in the dim, the stranger sat at its head.  Silver cigarette smoke, monotonous music, remnants of late-night drinks and the darkness outside contributed to the bewildering atmosphere.  Innumerable pistachio shells in a bowl, no nuts left.  The beer in my half-empty glass had long-since turned warm and stale, I had had my fill earlier in the evening.

“The night is just beginning!” our host declared.  When would it end?  The rules were vague and convoluted, we lacked a clear understanding of them – our grogginess didn’t help.  However, our host knew the game well, playing it was a proud family tradition he inherited from a young age.  We followed his instructions as best we could as we went along.  He understood the rules so well he seemed to bend them to his will – such was his skill I suppose.  In him we trusted.

Enthusiastically and energetically he led by example.   Inevitably, we made novice mistakes and we were penalized as the rules dictated.  I felt I had been playing forever, and yet faring no better.  Rewards for the most cunning players were promised though they were rarely received, and rarely worth the effort.  However, if we played our cards right, we were told, success would be forthcoming.  There was plenty of opportunity for that.

The hours passed and the kitchen walls closed in.  The black world beyond is mad.  The table is the centre and extent of our universe.  Some pistachio shells now float in my beer, flicked in through moments of bored distraction.  It is very late though I am unsure of the time.  My fellow participants look tired too, although they probably did not wish to admit it.  I’m weary of this game.

I dare not open my mouth now lest I miss my turn – a missed opportunity – and I seem so near to gaining something at last.  I could give something away – some inadvertent sign.  Giving something away would be a terrible mistake at this stage.  Share nothing.  Guard jealously.  Poker faces around the table, trusting no one. Every person playing for themselves.  Just follow the stranger’s instructions.

What are the others doing?    They make such devious decisions.  A hateful bunch, differentiated only by how worse than each other they are.  I arrived here at one time with them, though I’m not sure how. Flukey bastards.

Those two made a deal.  Favouritism!  They’re plotting against me. Sabotage.  Those two were always the best friends.  There should be rules against that kind of behaviour.

All is quiet, but for the continuing explanations of our kind host, on which we depend.

Around and around we go taking turns.  There was never a chance of finishing – no one else would ever win – the enthusiastic stranger is perpetually dominant.  It could have ended.  A new game could be played tomorrow.  Oh to sleep and wake with the light of a new morning.  If only someone admitted they were tired, we would all concur and retire and dream of the prospect of a new day.  But we’re so close!  We’ve come so far.  It’s too late to change.

Interminably we continue, single-mindedly, sobering, without relief, further into the night.

It would have been rude not to.
____________________________

We’re Going To Be Okay

‘Do I know you?’ the old patient inquired.
‘You do’, she said.
‘Are we friends?’
‘We are’.

_________________________________________________

While she was at work nursing patients and helping their families, he was at home tidying and thinking about her.  He contemplated the same questions as the old man.

What is knowing someone?  You can know people and dislike them, and people change.  Friendship, love is the question.

He can spend his life trying to know her, but loving her is his motivation.  Exploring her perfections and imperfections and finding the adventure in it.  Loving the wonder of that.  Loving her change and grow, loving how they change and grow together.

He did not envision experiencing many of the grand or spectacular events enjoyed by the top of society – the cumulative of simple moments were epic enough.   It all added up.  A life of little things together.  What was the significance of parachuting from a plane compared with holding one another’s hands come what may?  Millions of moments almost indistinct from each other, embraced by each other – the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.

One day, holding hands, she quietly beseeched, ‘We’re going to be okay, aren’t we?’.

It was a question of love, and love is a question of asking one another ‘we’re going to be okay…?’.  To him, she came first, before any career, hobby, ideology.  They came first – their synergy.  Everything could be lost but that.  From such love, growth in all else stems.

He looked back on those short years together and found they were at just the beginning.  He looked forward too; the future seemed vast in comparison.  All the times they would ask each other, ‘We’re going to be okay, aren’t we?’, even in those future decades, after all they had been through.

He imagined how in those times, he would ask, as he does now, ‘Do I know you?’.

‘You still don’t even know what cupboard the colander is kept.  But you know me almost better than I know myself, and that’s not enough for you to know either’.

‘I have so much that I want to give you, even now.  I want to give to you forever.  I want to be able to do that, and that won’t be enough either’.

Then he asked, as he had so many times before, ‘Are we friends?’

‘We are’.

‘We’re going to be okay’.

 

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.

The World’s Most Controversial Topic – The Ordinary Life

It’s easy to confuse “what is” with “what ought to be”. Especially when “what is” has worked in your favor – Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones

What am I writing about?

Blogs today often have an “about” section.  For now, for various reasons, I am not going to have an “about” page.  Instead, I will use my early articles to give a sense of what you might expect from this blog.  This article is about what I will write about – you will obviously get a sense of who I am from it too.  To that end, it seemed appropriate for me to tell you about my some of my own influences, as I will incorporate, to an extent, a derivative of their styles (albeit, probably a poor one!).  I thought it would also be fun and indulgent.

Writers who have inspired me were concerned with more than action-packed narrative and building tension – the kinds of things that one is taught of in school.  Some of them did not use exciting first lines which would “hook the reader in“; some of them did.  Many of my favourite influences did not pander to the reader but instead demand the reader to commit to them, and you could estimate from the first line or paragraph (and the width of the book) just what kind of experience lay ahead of you either way.

All of those writers wanted to convey a message about the world in which we live.  Their message, whether literal or underlying, had a purpose they were propagating. This is an inherently political act.  The theme that many of my influences incorporated was based on the complexities of simple everyday living.  Their subject was the ordinary anonymous life.  Simply put, they were concerned with how the majority of people who live and work within a given society are affected by that society; by its mores, laws, politics, and economics.  In our epoch, this theme is inseparable from the issue of class.

what i am probably not

There is nothing wrong with escapism; secret agents desperate to avoid the next World War, superheroes with supernatural powers, or witty detectives solving crimes at bourgeois soirées.  Such larger-than-life entertainment is essential in its own way.  Nor are escapism and socio-political stories mutually exclusive categories, as Game of Thrones exemplifies, it being both an action-packed fantasy and, at times, quite an insightful social commentary, as is the brilliant V For Vendetta.  But I doubt I’ll be falling under the same categories as Agatha Christie, Frederick Forsyth or Ian Fleming, and I certainly do not have  the illustrative skills of a graphic novelist.

what i might be

I am more concerned with the theme of class – the issues that face the “99%”, the proletariat.  I don’t know if that subject invokes the same sense of escapism, excitement and sheer entertainment as the other authors I have already mentioned, but it carries a strong message, and people evidently relate to it.  I believe it has proven timeless.

If not as dramatic as other forms of fiction, discussing class issues has historically been a controversial subject, and I believe – given contemporary events around the world – it is as controversial as ever.  Many great writers have been exiled, imprisoned, assassinated, or have had publishers decline their work.  Class division is the most imposing obstacle to true equality, freedom and progress in the world today, and that makes it dangerous.

Perhaps for those reasons, stories which raise the issue of class-divisions are not necessarily ones that are propagated by the “mainstream” or encouraged by teachers in schools or writing classes.  Marx may be the world’s most referenced author, but his works are not usually stocked on the shelves of Eason.  For various reasons, discussion of such a topic is implicitly, if not openly, repressed by society.  Thus, the issue of class is not always present.  Either, we are not class-conscious, or because, in our pursuit of social advancement we are reluctant to write or say anything which might compromise our progress as individuals.

Despite all this, “class” is not a new theme, or an under-discussed theme; nor is it considered a strictly “mainstream” theme, although writers who have explored this subject are renowned.   Some  of these writers and books are listed below.  They have literally changed my outlook on life and have educated me profoundly.

a fun list of some of my favourites (who you should read if you haven’t done so already)

George Orwell is one of the most famous writers within this genre.  Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair), spent much of his career writing on (and fighting for) issues concerning ordinary people; his non-fiction Down and Out in Paris and London is a relevant example, as is his fictional 1984, whose protagonist, Winston Smith, is virtually anonymous in a totalitarian society; even more anonymous than Smith are the ‘proles’ whom the state hardly considers worth monitoring. (Orwell’s Politics and the English Language is an educational read for any writer who is concerned with communicating effectively and conveying an important message, as is his essay Why I Write – both of them discuss the inherently political nature of writing).  Anyway, Orwell is an influence.

Robert Tressell’s classic The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists portrays the everyday challenges of working class people from their own perspective (an achievement I have not seen any novel do as effectively since).  Tressell’s novel was published by his daughter posthumously, and it became very popular.  It has been called the socialist’s bible and is credited with “winning the 1945 general election for the Labour Party“.  Today, it is rarely discussed in the media or mentioned along other classics, but many, including myself, consider it a life changing book.  Notably, Orwell considered it a ‘book that everyone should read’, and declared that ‘a considerable novelist was lost in this young working-man whom society could not bother to keep alive’.

Not so proletarian, but relevant, is John William’s novel Stoner, which chronicles the lonely and anonymous life and death of struggling writer William Stoner – it illustrates the quiet unnoticed life many of us live, and describes the intricacies of one’s existence which can hinder fulfilment, contribution, and acknowledgement in the world.

Steinbeck’s simple folk-story The Pearlpowerfully describe the dramatic events in the lives of poor working people, as does Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea.  Both of these stories tell of humble people struggling to obtain the unobtainable in a cruel and unfair world.  In The Pearl, the chimera Kino and Juana struggled to reach for, turned out to be very monstrous indeed.  For me, these stories touched on the concept that “everyone can achieve whatever they want, if they only work hard enough”, and expose it as a delusion.

James Joyce’s novels and short-stories, such as Dubliners, were based on the intrigue, beauty and obscenity of everyday life and unknown people.  Another Dubliner, James Plunkett, wrote one of Dublin’s greatest novels Strumpet City, based on the build-up and events around the 1913 Lockout.  Plunkett’s story explores the lives of a cross-section of society; privileged middle-class landlords, clergy, struggling working class, and the completely destitute; the tramp Rashers Tierney, who is almost invisible to the world around him, is one of the most striking characters of the novel.

The list of related books, stories, authors related to such a topic goes on and on – Dostoevsky, Trotsky, Plato, Marx, Chomsky… – but I could not omit just one more of my significant influences, Victor Hugo.   Hugo had a more romantic and dramatic view on the life of the ordinary person, as he painted vividly throughout his epic Les Miserables.  That tremendous novel was written from a bourgeois point-of-view, but nevertheless, from the point-of-view of a writer who knew the value and importance of discussing topics that are a reality for the majority of people.  Hugo himself evolved over the course of his life from being a conservative royalist to a more radical republican.  He wrote Les Miserables while in exile in Guernsey.

So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless – Victor Hugo

I believe that the world can be a place where love, understanding and collaboration – not profit – are the driving forces of human progress, and I would like my writing to be indicative of that sentiment.  From what I have experienced, the proletarian life – that unacknowledged entity – is the fundamental force for creating an egalitarian and productive world, through a powerful movement of solidarity and democracy.  The working class is potentially the strongest force for change.  Class-consciousness is key to achieving that change.  What more exciting subject, or worthy subject, is there to write about?  And what more accurate and relevant perspective is there to write from? As a writer, or as a reader, why be oblivious of that great, limitless content?