Archive for July 2012
Reading the piece in the Journal today regarding Monsignor William J Lynn being found guilty of covering up sexual abuse by priests in America, brings Cardinal Sean Brady to mind. In America dogged prosecutors armed with the law pushed to have the Monsignor convicted of what to any thinking person is a crime.
In Ireland a few years back, we had Mr Brady coming on TV with not a single hint of remorse claiming it was the ‘times’ so therefore I’ve done nothing wrong. The Irish state has not bothered to even attempt to prosecute him.
Let me remind you what Mr Brady did; he made two young children sign some archaic Latin documents forcing them into silence and a lifetime of hell after they told him of the horrific abuse they had suffered at the hands of a fellow priest, and never informed the police.
Not informing the police meant a sexual predator was able to continue raping children for many years to come. Silencing the children guaranteed a lifetime of suffering and anguish. No thinking moral human being could possibly defend these actions. Unless of course you happen to be a priest attached to one of worlds most morally bankrupt organisations.
Ask yourself this – Were a teacher to have been found to have forced two school children into silence after they informed on their abuser and he then told his principal who then decided not to tell the police. What do you think would happen? Do you think as a society we would be happy to accept the same defence from the hypothetical teacher as we did from the very real Mr Brady?
Of course not. They would be prosecuted and vilified in the press. Why has this not happened to Brady? I honestly don’t know. If it’s some cultural hangover or a lack of political will due to some childhood fear of the church still lingering in the older politicians, I can’t say.
All I know is it’s wrong and that every time Brady opens his mouth and spews some arrogant bile from the pulpit or in front of the TV, he should be treated with the contempt he deserves.
I’ve been re-reading some of my travel mails and writing from a few years back and I’ve always liked this one, so I decided to share. Being much younger my writing was very different and not so good, but other than cleaning up a few mistakes I’ve left it as is. My younger self deserves I think to have it left alone. Enjoy.
So there I was, walking towards the monastery wondering to myself, ‘will I be able to float after this?’ I mean meditation does give one strange and wonderful powers, does it not?. I was heading up the very steep road to a Buddhist monastery in northern Thailand to spend 10 days learning to meditate. Clearing my mind, embracing the oneness of the universe and finding inner peace along with an understanding of the nature of the cosmos; or so I thought.
I meet my teacher, a monk called Ajan Southep, inside the main hall of a very beautiful monastery sitting at the top of cone-shaped hill with views looking out over a verdant Thai plane. The Dali Lama himself thinks my teacher may have reached enlightenment. This is a man who for all intents and purposes has found ultimate insight and peace. He has gazed into the centre of existence and understands why the meaning to everything is 42. He was very small. I stood looking at this modern-day hobbit, all eyes and feet. His huge eyes peered intently at me through the double glazing of his spectacles. He turned and pointed at a long mat and said “lets walk”
And did I walk. I walked 6 steps forward, then clicked my hills like Dorothy but I wasn’t going home. No I was going inward. Then 6 steps back. Repeat, for hours on end. I was thought to meditate in the lotus position and movements that went with it. I was thought to find the truth,confirm it,accept it and then just to be happy with it.
But there was a flaw in all this. I had stopped smoking. The monks weren’t nicotine friendly and I felt it was a good place to stop. Bad move. Three days into my climbing of the spiritual mountain that is meditation I was walking towards the kitchen for my lunch and last meal of the day. Wrapped in solitude and stillness I focused only on the movement of my feet. A sound permeated my emptiness and I looked up. Approaching me was a monk, saffron robes draped carelessly about him, his head clearly unshaven for a few days and a cigarette hanging from his mouth. I almost stumbled in shock. As he passed me in slow motion, a cloud of smoke billowed from between his lips. He looked me in the eyes and inhaled again. A deep slow inhalation of pure toxic joy. I could see the serenity in his eyes as he smiled at me saying nothing and disappeared around a corner.
That evening my mind went from glacial to chaos. All I could hear was the call of nicotine. I fought it trying everything in my power to focus on my movements. “He couldn’t have been a monk.I must have been hallucinating due to lack of sleep and all the meditation. No he was a karma thief assuming the identity of a monk and sent there to purloin all their hard-earned karma”. My mind whirled with thoughts and I snapped. I ran from my hut and into the night not sure where I was going but I was going to get cigarettes.
Alone in the dark I stopped wondering what the hell I was doing when the sound of the lawnmower engine of a moped came sauntering through the night towards me. The bike stopped beside me and the happy face of a Thai man whom I recognized as the monastery handy man stared at me clearly wondering what this deranged man was doing in the middle of the road late at night. He said hello to me in Thai. I shouted “Marlboro Lights” at him. He jumped off the bike spoke rapidly in Thai pointing to bike and then off into the distance. Ah! He was giving me his bike. I was almost on it and gone before I realized I wasn’t sure where I was going and if I would survive traveling at night on a moped in Thailand. I explained to him through gestures that all I wanted was a lift. He understood. Huzzah for international sign language.
So off we went stuttering into the night. It wasn’t until we hit the first bend that I noticed the lights on the bike were starting to dim and then they died. My driver, continued onward ignoring our lack of illumination, all the while singing at the top of his voice. “Stop! You can’t see where your going!” He ignored me and sang on. Clinging to the back of the bike fear and adrenalin coursing through me. I zoned in on the singing. I swear to you I was convinced he was singing highway to hell in Thai.
Some how we survived and managed to make it back up to the monastery, with of course my smokes. I never saw the Karma thief again.
I did however manage to survive my time in the monastery and learn to meditate to a certain degree. I even achieved total emptiness at ones stage. It was quite the experience. Ajan,my teacher became more and more fascinating as I got to know him. The more time I spent in his presence the more time I started to believe that the man may indeed be enlightened. I wanted to ask him could he float? But I always got side tracked trying to figure out his metaphors about pools with the fish of truth, the peelings of an orange and a blind man with no walking stick.
So it seems the debate about the proper attire to wear when one is a parliamentarian rages on in old Hibernia.
Since the beginnings of the state politicians from all parts of Ireland have been trying heroically to seem more bourgeois than their proletarian roots would otherwise suggest, by stuffing themselves into off the rack suits; the odd fashionista may even have purchased a Louis Copeland special.
But since the general election, t-shirt wearing independents have been popping up in the back benches like irreverent weeds and no matter how many time the Ceann Comhairle waves his gavel and demands they respect the sobriety of the surroundings and have a little decorum, they just keep coming back.
Today in The Journal we have pictures of Luke Ming Flanagan wearing a bright orange Oscar the grouch t-shirt, standing up talking to the chamber. To my surprise, in the comments section under the piece raged a fierce debate on the issue. The surprise being that so many people cared enough about such a non-issue they felt an irresistible desire to comment on it.
Honestly when it’s the politicians shouting at each other saying, “my suit is better than your t-shirt” one despairs for the complexity of our political discourse. When the plebs get arguing about it,well then I know we’re fucked.
Limerick TD and Fianna Fail attack dog, Willie O’Dea has according to the Irish Examiner claimed that Minister for Defence, Alan Shatter is “prejudiced against Catholics” because he refused to allow the army to provide a guard of honour for a procession at the recent International Eucharistic Congress.
How this amounts to prejudice is beyond me since I don’t see why the army has to or should provide any form of escort in a religious ceremony that has nothing to do with the state. Not to mind the waste of taxpayers money and that the army has better things to be doing.
Since Mr Shatter is Jewish, I also have to wonder would O’Dea have called a Catholic Minister for Defence prejudiced for making a similar decision. When looked at from this angle it adds a darker hue the O’Dea’s reasoning and should be viewed with the contempt it deserves.
O’Dea has spent his entire career turning up at bars and funerals in Limerick and doing very little else for the city. This smacks of an irrelevant politician from a dying party trying to court the Peoples Front of Judea.
However he wouldn’t be the first religious person in the country to shout prejudice now that the Government has realised we live in a multicultural state and has made moves towards a more secular republic, albeit slowly.
David Quinn, head of Iona Institute and regular contributor to the Independent, has made a career out of shrill warnings that the end is nigh because of the secularisation of the state and left-wing conspiracy. The slow demise and relevance of the Catholic Church in Ireland has the religious right clutching their rosary beads praying for a return to the good old days.
While it is easy to laugh at O’Dea and his ilk we shouldn’t forget that they represent two of the major hurdles Ireland has faced in becoming a modern secular republic. Parish pump politics and Religion. It should also remind us that neither has gone away.
On August the 5th at around 10:30pm PDT, NASA’s Mars rover, Curiosity should be just about touching down on the red planet. It is the most difficult landing and mission of its type ever attempted. The Curiosity rover itself is the largest and most complex ever built. A robotic laboratory sent from planet Earth to planet Mars to investigate the possibility of life amongst many other tasks.
I’ve been following this mission for a few years now and when I think about the scope, importance and even the majesty of what NASA is attempting. I find it inspiring and uplifting. I see in it the very essence of the human condition; a never-ending desire to see beyond the next scientific horizon. An insatiable curiosity born from an unlimited imagination.
To think our species has evolved to the point where we are sending semi-autonomous robots to a distant planet in such a short period of evolutionary time is simply astounding. We may be still in the infancy of the 21st century but technologically where we stand today even when compared to the 90s is staggering.
Watching the animated simulation of Curiosity’s landing and the complexity of it leads one to contemplate where we could be in another few decades. Landing human beings on Mars? even more ambitious interstellar projects?. Look at the 100 year starship project currently underway as an example of the audacity of our thinking. This project aims to achieve interstellar travel for humankind within 100 years. It is led by an ex astronaut and backed by DARPA, America’s far out military science agency as well the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
How cool would it be?
You can follow Curiosity on Twitter @MarsCuriosity
We’ve all seen them. Newspaper headlines that catch the eye, shock us or even get us to buy a paper (becoming a rarity in these digital times). And boy do they range from the good, the bad and the ugly. But whatever they say or how good they happen to be there is no excuse for lying,rank stupidity or deliberately misleading the reader as to what the content of the main piece is going to be about.
The Irish Independent has had headlines that were demonstrably untrue or manifestly stupid.
This headline appeared on the 12th of July – ‘This verdict will tarnish island and damage tourism’, say Irish priest The readers will most likely assume that they are now going to get a quote in the first paragraph regarding the priests statement. Instead we get this.
“A 95-year-old Irish priest who has lived most of his life in Mauritius said he fears the murder of Michaela McAreavey will tarnish the holiday island’s hospitable reputation”.
So on top of the fact that the headline is a lie and has misquoted the priest, the headline writer is either not the brightest person in the world or has so little regard for readership of the Independent that she/he thinks they won’t notice that in the first paragraph of the article we’re shown that the priest said nothing at all about the verdict and was talking about the murder.
The word verdict is not to be seen anywhere in the article outside the headline. What they did was use the verdict to get people to read a page filler. A non story.
I’ll admit that the Indo is not the only paper to do this but at best it’s shoddy journalism and at worst it’s pure cynicism.
Messers Kenny and Gilmore, had a piece in the Irish Times yesterday outlining the details of the upcoming constitutional convention. 100 people in total, 60 of them random members of the public and the rest TDs and academics. All brought together to review, analyse and suggest alternatives to elements of our constitution. In essence it is an excercise to try and modernise how our political system works.
A noble endeavour, to be applauded. If of course it was going to modernise our institutions and change how politics works in Ireland. But the convention will only be discussing a limited range of issues that I would imagine almost everyone in the country already agrees on.
Are they really trying to suggest that the removal of the section in the constitution regarding women’s position in the home is something we need to discuss? or that the insane blasphemy law brought in by the monumentally corrupt and morally bankrupt Fianna Fail, is trailblazing modernising stuff?. Changing the voting age to 17 and limiting the presidential term to 5 years are all good ideas but if these are the only issues to be reviewed then it is clear that the entire convention is nothing but a sleight of hand trick to distract the masses from their increasingly vocal demands for change.
Our TDs do not legislate, they fix peoples social welfare problems and we have way too many of them for a country our size. New Zealand has 120 and we have over 166 most of whom do little or nothing except engage in the worst forms of parish pump politics. The opposition has zero influence on the government of the day and the executive essentially has no cheques and balances. We have seen the results of this in Biffos’s disastrous bank guarantee which helped sink the country into penury.
We also have a country that has a constitution riddled with references to the disgraced and medieval Catholic church. All references to Catholicism being the states main religion need to be removed and the guarantee of the separation of Church and state,religious freedom and plurality inserted in its place. This is of vital importance if we are to finally limit the power of the church in our society and create a true democratic republic.
But we now know the convention won’t even be discussing these issues, so when Kenny says that this is great opportunity for the public to get involved, he really means it’s a great opportunity for you think your involved but we’re going to pat you on the head and then head away and make only the changes we want.