Monday, April 30, 2007

Election, Smelection

Okay so Bertie's named the day and in 3 and a half weeks time we'll all know which combination of knaves, charlatans and mountebanks will be leading the political shaft-fest for the coming 5 years. I'll say no more about it other than point out that, given the gathering clouds on the economic horizon, it boils down to little more than a choice between two fatal diseases; one that kills you in a week and that kills you in a fortnight.

Some of you may have already noticed that there is a far more significant election going on, the effects of which will remain with us long after the government in waiting has packed up its stall and moved on to take the shears to a new flock of sheep.

With almost clairvoyant timing, the lads from Hasbro down in Waterford have come up with one of the most bizarre marketing ideas of the present century. They want to launch an All-Ireland version of Monopoly. It says here that politicians, county councillors and Monopoly lovers are being asked 'to rally their county’s population to vote in a bid to ensure that their county features on the board'.

According to Hasbro’s National Sales Manager, Anne Dermody:
We have always been amazed at the level of interest and passion that surrounds Monopoly. Now it’s up to the people of Ireland to have their say and to ensure that their county is included on the new board. Those who don’t vote will find that their county will be left out.

You don't say, Annie, me darling.

The training ground of many an Irish property magnate, Monopoly is a game best remembered from my childhood as the cause of annual bouts of sibling rivalry and internecine warfare that lasted from St Stephen's Day until well into the new year. I still have a scar on me napper caused by a Matchbox edition Pickford's furniture removal truck (lots of sharp corners them pantechnicons) thrown by my sister as a response to the rents on my extensive developments in Mayfair and Park Lane (that's Shrewsbury and Aylesbury Roads to you indigenes).

As a good Marxist, when playing the game thereafter I set up housing co-ops and not-for-profit community businesses, nationalised transport and utilities and distributed my profits amongst the other players. I never won again but neither did I require further stitches below the hairline.

But I digress. Apart from the logical problem arising from the fact that there are 32 Counties and only 22 properties on the board which makes an 'All-Ireland' Monopoly board an impossible dream (pretty much like the real thing), Hasbro's plebiscite will leave the nation worse off than Michael Collins and Lord Birkenhead did between them in 1922. And we all know the trouble that caused.

Sociologically, the current state of the leaderboard is interesting. Poised to occupy the prime site that was once Shrewsbury Road is Co Roscommon with 3500-odd votes. Donegal and Leitrim lie in 2nd and 3rd positions respectively. As counties that benefited least from the Celtic Tiger, I guess it's a case of if you can't get in reality,you'll settle for the fantasy, eh?

Five of the six Northern Irish counties are in there, but Sinn Féin need to get their lads with the camáns out on the doorsteps of Fermanagh. They're currently at the foot of the poll with a miserly 633 votes. Bobby Sands must be turning in his grave with the shame of it.

Anyway so, the polls close on May 25th. As they say in the North, often without a wry grin, 'Vote early and vote often.'

Sunday, April 29, 2007

We don't have class in Ireland

I was recently much engaged by a discussion over on Bock the Robber's blog regarding the notion of class in Ireland. It brought back a number of memories for me from around the time I began to associate with middle class Irish people for the first time.

Now as any Marxist schoolboy knows, class is not an attribute of an individual. It is a social relationship to the means of production through which we live our lives. In the most broad and abstract Marxist terms, if you operate the means of production you are working class, if you own them, you are middle class. But even old Charlie recognised that there were more than two classes in society at any given time and that the subjective experience of class varied considerably.

The problem of revolution often boiled down to how you got working class people to recognise their common relationship to the means of production under capitalism and unite as a means of changing that relationship. This is sometime referred to as the problem of 'false consciousness'.

In the industrialised societies of the 19th Century it was relatively easy for workers to recognise their common experience. They were all pretty much treated like shit, excluded from political power, education and the other trappings of citizenship we nowadays take for granted. With the top down reforms that came from the end of the 19th Century and continued during the 20th Century as a means of heading the revolution off at the pass, it became harder and harder to consider class in this clear cut kind of way. So much so that by the 1960s some deeply confused and ideologically motivated sociologists were talking about the 'end of class.'

Nonetheless, the basic principle of seeing class as a social relationship rather than a characteristic or attribute of the individual is as true now as it was in the mid-19th Century. Understanding class in this way is less a matter of what you work at, what you own, or how you label yourself in the here and now than how you experience the world and act in it in largely unconscious ways learned very early on in life. As Anthony Wilden once said 'Class is something you don't grow out of.'

When we start to think about it as an attribute of individuals, the problems and confusions around the concept really begin to escalate because, again as any Marxist schoolboy knows, we are confronted by a series of contradictions and misrecognitions about social relationships that as human beings we don't handle very well. They make us feel uncomfortable and uneasy when we experience them.

The situation becomes even more complicated and contradictory in colonised and post-colonial societies because class relationships typically get obliterated by national ones. The nationalist middle class typically horizontalizes the class structure and induces people to think of themselves as, say, Irish first and everything else second, if at all.

The Irish political structure, the practices of clientilism, stroke politics and the high degree of centralised control and localised surveillance, not to mention emigration, kept people toeing the national line and made the Irish ruling class probably the most successful in Europe at maintaining control over its people. Paradoxically, it made Irishness and the concept of identity amongst Irish people a very fragile and inward looking thing indeed.

Anyway, I digress. Until I went to work at the Institute of Irish Studies in Liverpool I had never met middle class (as defined by occupational status, access to education, and income) Irish people. My day to day experience of Irish-born people was pretty much restricted to folks from the same background as me and my parents (manual workers from Coronation St neighbourhoods) and relatives from similar backgrounds in Belfast and Dublin. The issue of class was a non-issue in such company because it was patently obvious what class we came from, raised no contradictions and therefore needed no discussion.

However, in the more socially rarified environment of the Institute I began to meet people who became increasingly agitated when I raised the issue of class politics in an Irish context. Seemingly intelligent people such as academics, journalists, diplomats, artists, and other professionals would have coniptions when Liam the Red introduced a class dimension to the discussion of phenomena relating to contemporary Irish society and culture.

They would almost inevitably and invariably resolve their unease with the same phrase: 'Ah now, Liam, you can tell you're not Irish. Everyone knows we don't have class in Ireland.' After a while I gave up trying to argue with this apparent truism in the spirit of rational debate and would simply resort to saying something like: 'Perhaps you'd be kind enough to inform my cousins in Ballyfermot and Ballymun of that next time you're passing that way, assuming you know how to find your way there.'

The illusion of the absence of class and class relationships in Ireland is precisely that, an illusion. What's more it is an illusion historically maintained by the privileged as a means of maintaining their privilege. If you speak out about it you run the risk of losing your claim to Irishness altogether, letting the side down, or otherwise being less than a credit to your race. This is a very powerful means of ideological control in a post-colonial society and when it's backed up by the sanctions of social exclusion and the threat of the emigrant boat, it doesn't take long for most folk to get on the programme.

Anyway, that's the sociology rant over. If anyone still doesn't believe me then I suggest they take this little test from the English Daily Torygraph. If the results can be relied upon, I'm expecting my invitation to the Duchess of Devonshire's next 'at home' to arrive any day now.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sarky bastards with Telecasters or Rickenbackers or something

While preparing myself emotionally for the upcoming Jesse Malin gig at the Irish Music Centre next week I came across these guys:-

They're called Butch Walker and the Let's Go Out Tonites. I'd never heard of them before. Kind of wish I had.

A special note for Is it just me. You might find this track interesting or amusing

Friday, April 27, 2007

Back on the blogbeat

Apologies to regular readers for the relative absence of activity on Where Angels Fear of late. I know how much you miss me, darlings. Important affairs of state and matters of national security have had me back and forth between here and the motherland on the mainland for the past couple of weeks. A full report of my activities in foreign climes will appear in due course, but for now security clearance at the highest levels is still pending.

Anyway the image below appeared in my mailbox this afternoon and I couldn't resist the temptation to chance the ire of my Limerick compatriots. You know who you are, Bock. (Many congrats on the Scunnies promotion by the way, but did it have to be at Tranmere Rovers' expense?)

Still and all, as demeaning and unflattering such images may be to the fine city of Limerick and its people (who look a lot like Scousers in my opinion and are to be complimented for that), they are nothing to the kind of stereotyping and ridicule that the noble of folk of my own home city of Liverpool have to put up with.

In the interests of promoting best practice and anti-Scousism amongst stakeholders, users and providers connected with Where Angels Fear I reproduce a small sample of these images in the hope that they will promote understanding of the burden of prejudice that we Scousers carry on a day to day basis.

I also expect you to get behind us when we attempt to overturn a 1-0 deficit against CSKA London at Anfield next Tuesday. I promise not to break into your house and make off with your DVD player while you're down the pub giving rousing choruses Poor Tommy Scouser and You'll Never Walk Alone.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Down with that sort of thing...

Not content with saving the ecosystem, freeing the whales, and trying to get us all going about the city on rickshaws and bicycles, those tree-hugging puss-faces across in the Green Party have now decided to go one step further in their campaign to make our lives a little duller and more worthy.

Dublin City Councillor Bronwen 'I saved the planet yesterday, what did you do?' Maher intends to table a motion this month which will take deny us another piece of the precious sunshine that global warming and the decline of organised religion has brought to this grey little country in recent years.

Bronwen only wants to ban the use of glamour models in the promotion of Dublin Corpo events arguing that "We need to look at the message we are sending out to women and young girls and how that impacts on women's lives,"

Well what better message in this day and age could a young girl get than one which says that if you rub shoulders with the grey-suited men who stalk the corridors of power, show a lot of leg, teeth and cleavage, and act like an all round french fry head you'll probably never have to do a proper day's work in your life. Isn't that what girl power was all about? Have we forgotten the Spice Girls so soon? What will become of poor Katy French?

More importantly, however, is what will the lads and lasses over at Blogorrah do once they're denied the abundance of opportunities such photo opportunities lend for caption competitions and other Wildean displays of wit ?

Monday, April 09, 2007

For what seems like months now every time I turn on Channel 6 there's been this quirky black and white video of a young man with a guitar. Short of phoning up the station, I've never been been able to find out who he is until tonight. He's from Bray and his name is Fionn Regan apparently and I'd never heard of him. Which shows how uncool I've become in my latter years.

Anyway, this ain't the quirky black and white video, but it's still quirky. I commend him to you.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

High Treason
I do not love my country.
Its abstract splendour
is beyond my grasp
But (although it sounds bad) I would give my life
for ten places in it, for certain people,
seaports, pine woods, fortresses,
a run-down city, gray, grotesque,
various figures from its history,
(and three or four rivers).

This is always a difficult time of the year for me. As a devout Marxisante I'm religiously opposed to nationalism in any way, shape, or form. But as an Irishman, Easter always has significant emotional connotations for me, as it does for countless Irish people. Connotations that can't be resolved in just any old materialist dialectic.

I hate nationalism. I love my country. The sense of being Irish and proud was ingrained in me early on. When I was making myself sick on too many chocolate eggs the names of Padraig Pearse, James Connolly and the rest of the mad bastards who wandered out to take on the British Empire at Easter in 1916 would be raised as a reminder that the season was about more than a Smarties egg or some bloke in Palestine being nailed to a cross.

Nationalism represents a major dilemma because however much you try to separate your Marxist analysis from your heart, if you're an Irish Marxist there's a level at which you can't escape this historical equivalent of the club versus country debate.

So I shall do as I have done for many a year now. I shall wait until the speeches are over, the flute bands have shagged off to the pub, and the wilted Easter lilies have been put away until next year. I shall wander alone up to Kilmainham Jail and then onto Glasnevin where I shall pay my respects to a Jock, a Scouser, and a Big House toff whose legacy of struggle and inspiration was swiftly pushed aside in the rush to nationhood after 1916.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven...

Having recently revived the traditional concept of Hell, I have no doubt Pope Ratso I is currently readying a special place in the infernal depths for a certain Irish turf accountant.

In Ireland's headlong rush towards secularisation, not to mention the never ending quest to gull the public out of its last red cent, those little devils at Paddy Power, the nation's favourite bookies, have come up with another crafty stratagem to part the punter from his hard earned mazoola.

A story in today's Irish Times reveals that Paddy the punter's friend has opened a book on the length, the theme and the audience for a sermon to be delivered at St Muredach's Cathedral, Ballina, that will be shown on RTE this coming Easter Sunday.

Responding to criticism over the wee flutter from Martin Long of the Catholic Communications Office, Paddy Power, the company's spokesman, and henceforth to be known on these shores as the depraved jism of Beelzebub, said:
I'm a Catholic myself and I fully respect the importance of Easter in the Catholic calendar. I think it is a little bit of fun. Some people would see it as an extra incentive to watch the Mass
Of course you do, Paddy me old mate, but some of the less enlightened might think there's something a tad demonic going on down in Airton House. Especially after the Last Supper billboard campaign that nobody understood but the Advertising Standards Authority got its knickers in a twist about in 2005.

Still and all, there's a lot to be said for running the book on a bit of ecclesiastical action. Apart from the fact it might finish off the handful of religious zealots still remaining on these shores in an epidemic of apoplectic seizures, the possibilities for a fortune-tempting punt are, like some sermons, apparently endless.

So much so that I'm thinking of offering odds on the following:
  • An altar-boy surviving to puberty without getting his bottom felt in the vestry;
  • An outbreak of moving statues, weeping Madonnas, and bleeding Jesuses in Mayo the next time the abortion debate comes up;
  • The discovery of a Christian Brother who didn't scar, fracture or otherwise concuss one of his charges in an Irish language class since the foundation of the state.

Any takers?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Come in to the parlour (and keep your wallet handy)

I had the good fortune to be one of an elite group of plastic paddies invited to attend a top secret conference on Ireland's attitudes to the Diaspora held at Dublin Castle yesterday.

The aim of the conference was to 're-invigorate the debate' and assess the indigenous attitude to those rats who deserted the sinking ship, sorry, unfortunates who were driven off the four green fields and scattered to the corners of the earth by the great calamity that was pre-Celtic Tiger Irish history. A fate which, it appears, was not entirely the fault of the Brits after all, but don't be after spreading that around now.

Organised by a grand bunch of lads and lasses from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the event marked the 5 years which have passed from the publication of a highly classified document referred to as the Task Force Report on Emigration, but you didn't hear about that from me.

The meeting was opened by Bertie's kid brother Dermot or Desmond or whatever his name is. He gives good speech, by the way. There were moments during his intro when I felt almost obliged to slip on me Bhoys replica shirt, pop my DJ mix of A Nation Once Again, Skibbereen and the Fields of Athenry onto the Ipod and have an auld jive around the room. Sadly it all went down hill from there.

The speakers included the head honcho from the bogball and stick-fighting posse, a bimbo from some business school named after an airline (the school, not the bimbo), Ian Paisley's family doctor who I think had been dipping into the Big Yin's medication, and some old journo whose book about deh diasporee is, like The Sun newspaper, still banned in Liverpool due to its defamatory attitude to Scousers.

Some of the brogues were a bit thick for my English educated ear, but I think I can pretty much can summarise the attitudes of the indigenes who spoke as follows:

  1. A long time ago a lot of people had to flee Mother Ireland's shores due to poverty, starvation and a surfeit of other woes, none of which can entirely be blamed on the Saxon foe good people of England. This was a pity and a great big sad lump of a thing for all concerned.
  2. On the bright side some of you did very well, especially the ones who went to Amerikay and kept the nation going with all of the postal orders you sent back.
  3. Some of you didn't do very well and didn't get as far Amerikay or the post office. These wee blackgaurds and rascals went to England on the lump and spent their money on drink instead of roof tiles in Kiltimagh and we're sorry for that. Especially because these days you're always after getting on Prime Time moidering us for hand-outs for community centres, free holidays and the like.
  4. Now we're a rich and prosperous modern European nation that doesn't rely the postal orders any more, we're ready to let bygones be bygones. And anyway, times have changed. Thanks to new technology like the interweb there are lots of ways other than postal orders you can give us a dig out should the need arise. And you don't even have to queue at the counter to do it.
  5. You can, for example, keep buying the U2 records, even though we all know that Sir Bono is a wee sleeveen, wearing the Aran knitwear and getting the lumps of gift-packaged bogland off the eee-Bay. For the right price and in the flick of a goat's tail at Puck Fair, we can have you all jabbering away as Gaeilge, playing handball, road-bowling and the bodhran (well maybe not the last).
  6. You can keep coming here summer after summer and letting us patronise the shite out of you and your wacky St Patrick's Day parades and Quiet Man shenanigans. And it doesn't matter a jot that you're not really Irish, because your Sterling, Euros and Dollars are as good as anyone else's.

A footnote in the interest of balance (and how often do you find that in satire?). The fine people at the Department of Foreign Affairs should be commended for their efforts in trying to undo the colossal bad faith of the indigenous Irish towards the diaspora for the past 85 years. Where Angels Fear says a wholehearted fair fecks to yeh lads! Especially the cute 3rd Secretary Labour.

PS Did you know that the State Apartments in Dublin Castle doesn't have toilets? It has restrooms. What does that tell you? Answers on a postcard only please.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

We're on a road to nowhere

Joan Blake, Dalkey, Co Dublin, with her new all-island free travel pass, which was launched for older people North and South yesterday by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Minister for Social Affairs Séamus Brennan. (Irish Times)

Before they start exercising their franchise in the direction of Fianna Fáil, will somebody please tell the ould ones that it's a one way trip and only goes as far as somewhere like Lea's Cross.
At the end of the day, loike

In an exclusive interview with Where Angels Fear, controversial Sunderland manager Roy Keane yesterday lashed out at his chairman's latest efforts in what is widely seen as a campaign for early canonisation.

The remarks came after the Black Cats' Chairman had paid £12,000 to taxi stranded fans back to the North East after an away game in Cardiff when they were ejected from a flight at Bristol Airport for not being proper Geordies.

Quinn has since forgiven the airline in his prayers and hopes that the staff of Easyjet will not suffer in the afterlife for their actions against the loyal disciples of soon to be St Niall.

Keane recently courted controversy when he kicked off about some of his former senior team mates in the Republic of Ireland side, including the Blessed Shay Given, regarding their willingness to collect caps for friendlies and other such insignificant matches such as the group stage of the 2002 World Cup.

The self-styled Caliph of Cork has now turned his attention to what he clearly sees as his chairman's profligate charm offensive:

All credit to Niall, but just because you paid £12,000 and organised taxis for 20 minutes you think you are a superstar or something, loike. At the end of the day, there's a fine line between loyalty and stupidity, loike, and that money should have been spent on the club, loike. That's all Oi'm saying loike. Not on a few lads who think that just because they're supporters the club owes them something. Nobody knows better than me, loike, that the club is the team and the team is me, so that money could have been better spent. That's all Oi'm saying, loike.

When our reporter suggested to the traitor of Taipan that his remarks might be ill-judged, Keane responded with his characteristic steely glare followed swiftly by a head-butt. The poor girl was escorted to a waiting ambulance (we always keep one on hand when the Cork man is interviewed). Keane was hustled from the venue by his minders, Wolf and Little Fang, muttering the following words:
At the end of the day loike, nobody knows anything better than me, loike.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Sunday Tribune apologises for April Fool's Day Debacle

The editors of the Sunday Tribune have today apologised for an April Fool's prank which went disastrously wrong .

A hoax story in yesterday's Trib that reported the intention of Fine Gael to revise the lyrics of Amhrán Na bhFiann because of its Fianna Fáil bias, suffered severe bruising after falling flat on its face when it was realised that most of the paper's readership thought that Ireland's Call was in fact the nation's anthem.

A spokesperson for the crypto-unionist rag said the editors sincerely hoped that the article had not caused offence, confusion or apoplexy amongst readers and offered to replace any kedgeree spoiled as a result of reading it.

This year's existential exam topic

1) Love is more than pulling petals from a daisy. Discuss