Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Wasteland

The coastal route between the towns of Balbriggan and Skerries in Fingal County provides a delightful walk for lovers of sea and shore. I walked this route recently on a glorious Tuesday morning in mid-November. The morning was calm, slightly chilly and refreshing. Soon after leaving Balbriggan, the vista of Skerries Bay opened before me. The sea mirrored the clear blue sky, giving an azure sheen to the water, more reminiscent of the Mediterranean seascapes with which I am familiar. In the distance, the Rockabill lighthouse could be seen clearly, standing guard over its treacherous twin rocks.

Proceeding towards Skerries, the narrow coastal fields to my left gave way to a stone wall at the “Lady’s Stairs.” From here to Barnageera, the wall guards against a steep drop of some forty feet down to the seashore below. It drops progressively from there to my destination in the quaint harbour of Skerries. Beneath the wall lies the alternating sand and shingle of the shore, with rocky outcrops that are only visible at low tide.

Redshanks, curlews, oystercatchers, herring gulls and greater black backed gulls teemed along the coastline while solitary dunlin scavenged for food among the rocks. Cormorants dried their wings on perches in the bay and herons, stiff and stoop-necked, stood sentry along the entire coastline. A short distance out in the water, small fishing boats putt-putted from buoy to buoy setting lobster pots, watched by the ever-present grey seals that live in the harbour. A few sailors practiced their manoeuvres in the safety of the calm bay. In the far distance, the curvature of the horizon was perfectly profiled in the sharp winter light.

To walk on such a day and in such a place is to walk in Heaven. Cares are lifted; worries fade; troubles diminish in significance and, for a brief while, one is transfixed by the beauty of one’s surroundings. Even the noisy traffic that passes within an inch of the traveller cannot break Neptune’s embrace. The siren call of the sea is too powerful for any man-made distraction.

As I walked along, the views and wildlife were so magnificent that I was compelled to stop regularly to absorb the beauty before me. I leaned over the wall to take my ease and rest momentarily on my journey to Skerries. But as I leaned on the wall and cast my eyes downward rather than outward a different spectacle greeted me. A sordid, ugly and defiled landscape lay below.

The five kilometre length of the coastline was strewn with litter of every kind. Washing machines, dishwashers, carpets, beds, mattresses, ceramic tiles, an old radiator, household refuse in plastic sacks, plastic bottles, beer cans, a shopping trolley and much more lay strewn across this heavenly setting. An occasional condom gave testament to other human activities played out in this virtual wilderness.

My heart sank heavily as I beheld this destruction of land and sea. Every last vantage point where, in the dead of night, a vehicle could stop secretly and unnoticed for a few moments was a dumping point for rubbish. Hardly any place that afforded access to the coastline was free of filth and debris.

People who, like me, walk and drive this beautiful stretch of coastline, did this. I gazed in revulsion and cursed the vileness of these creatures of the dark; night raiders who spurn the sun and suck the lifeblood of Mother Nature. They skulk in the shadows, eschewing the light, waiting to dispense their detritus on a defenceless, exposed landscape.

To destroy beauty diminishes and demeans us all. To destroy our environment is to destroy life itself. Some, like me, abhor such actions, while others, long past caring about their responsibilities in a fragile world, see no harm in adding more to the burden that we ask the earth to carry. They should be ashamed, but they are not; they should cry for mother earth, but they do not; they should care about the land that their children will inherit, but no such troubles bother them.

I curse and spurn them and their deeds. If I could I would expose these vampires to the light and let them feel the silver sword of justice piercing their wasted, empty hearts. May their reward be to dwell for eternity in the filth and squalor with which they burden their fellow citizens. May they be called some day to account to their children and to their children’s children for the poison and death they have left behind. And may they never be at peace while one scrap of their waste lies on the earth.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The myth of rip-off Ireland?

Ireland’s Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism, Mr. John O’Donoghue, speaking in Killarney on Thursday 4 November 2004, is reported (Irish Times 6 November 2004) to have called for an end to “the myth of rip-off Ireland.” Sorry, Minister, it is not a myth; it is a reality. And the sooner you face up to it the better.

This recent experience of mine is, I am sure, typical of many people’s experience in Ireland. On Monday 8 November 2004, I stopped in the Castle Arms Hotel, Durrow, Co. Laois, on the way to a business meeting in Co. Tipperary. The hotel is a very ordinary, characterless establishment; in many ways, a typical midlands hotel. It was just after lunch, about 2.30 p.m. when I arrived. The hotel was very quiet, with a handful of customers finishing lunch and only one man drinking a pint at the bar.

I dropped in to prepare for my meeting and to have a non-alcoholic beverage. I went to the bar and waited almost five minutes for anybody to appear to serve me. Eventually, a woman arrived. She didn’t greet me at all – no “hello there, how are you today? Nice day, isn’t it? What can I get you?” No, it was just a bit of a grunt of enquiry as to what I wanted. I must have been interrupting something far more important that she had to do because she still had her overcoat on as she went about her business behind the bar.

I asked for a 7Up, which is a white lemonade of sorts, but tastes basically like sugary water. I was presented with a small bottle of 7Up, about 33cl. I proffered a 5 euro note for this beverage and was handed my change. Still no cordial or friendly exchange, no “Ireland of the welcomes” or “Cead Mile Fáilte” here! Just an empty transaction that reminded me of Yeat’s reference in his poem, 'The Circus Animals' Desertion', to “that raving slut who keeps the till.”

I went to one of the many empty seats – a double seater couch – that was to be found in the very ordinary lounge. Although the table was clean, I could not help noticing the large number of crumbs and other bits of food scattered on the couch as I sat down. I brushed the crumbs away from where I sat and, when I left some 30 minutes later, they were still there.

Checking the change I received, I counted 2 euros and 20 cents remaining of out of my 5 euros! I could not believe it! I had been charged 2 euros and 80 cents for the 7Up! That’s about $3.60 or Stg. £2.00! I can buy a 500 cl can of this stuff in my local shop for about 35 or 40 cents!! 2 euro 80 for this!! The liquid almost stuck in my craw as I lowered it. Was I getting anything special for this outrageous cost? Nothing that I could see - and certainly not a warm Irish welcome.

I left after my drink, vowing never to return to that establishment again. Rip-off Ireland a myth? I don’t think so, Minister. But then, in your fancy state-funded and provided car and with your expense account, you probably don’t have to worry too much about the cost of a 7Up in a midlands hotel.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Kerry Bushwhacked by God

What a pity that we will have to endure four more years of that insufferable twit, George Bush, in the White House. If he wasn’t so dangerous, it would be laughable. Different reasons are being cited for his election and for Kerry’s defeat. Bush was decisive, a war president, a religious man, a conservative and people felt safer with him as president. Kerry, on the other hand was a ditherer, a flip-flopper, lacked vision, didn’t connect well with the people and did not deal effectively with the Swift Boat Veterans. Sadly, many more Democrats lost out to conservative Republicans around the country.

The real winners are, of course, big oil, big business, big construction, big pharmaceuticals, big arms, big aerospace and the military. The losers will include many of those who voted for Bush, as well as the poor, the dispossessed, the sick, the elderly, and, sadly, the environment.

With Bush’s victory, America is literally split down the middle with a Republican heartland stretching north to south and Democratic coasts east and west. I am happy that I live in a country – Ireland – where the citizens have the good sense to protect their democracy through a system of proportional representation. The American and British systems of first-past-the-post breed division and exclusion.

God seems to have done very well in this US election; though if your God is Allah and not Jesus (or if you don’t believe in him at all), I am not so sure. And where did God stand? In what district? Was he Republican or Democrat? Did he run TV ads? Did he have election workers? Did he put up stickers and posters? And now that he seems to be elected, can we expect to see policies being implemented that are in conformity with his manifesto, the Bible.

I know that God doesn’t like abortion and is probably not too keen on stem cell research. He probably would not be too keen on gay marriage either. So, I can see where George is coming from when he brings God along on the hustings. But I can’t, for the life of me, find support anywhere in God’s manifesto for bombing innocent women and children; invading countries you have no quarrel with; lying to millions of people and scaring the shit out of them so they will volunteer or be duped into travelling thousands of miles away to invade foreign lands by might of arms. I can’t find anywhere in his Bible that God condones humiliating and beating prisoners; or illegally taking people from their homes and keeping them locked up all day every day in foreign jails in third countries without access to legal advice or support. Jesus, God, will you show me where that is in the small print of your manifesto!

There is some similarity between Bush junior and God junior (Jesus to you and me) alright, now that I come to think of it. They were both sent by their fathers. They both liked to surround themselves with friends and allies; mostly men, but a few women as well, like Mary Magdalene and Condalesa Rice. But hold on a minute! All Jesus’ mates were poor – or if they were rich he told them to give away everything they had to the poor. They went around in rags with no shoes on their feet and lived at the hands of their benefactors. All Bush’s friends, on the other hand, are really rich; or if they aren’t rich, he makes them rich. And if they are really rich, he makes them really richer still.

How does Bush work this miracle? Is it like the loaves and the fishes trick that Jesus did? Well, not really. Because Jesus did his miracle by simply turning what he had into enough for everybody; he didn’t take from other people. Bush, on the other hand, takes from the poor to give to the rich. He gives big government contracts to his buddies and some of them (a bit like the apostles, I suppose) are even with him in government. Bush is real close mates with Chief Executives who robbed millions from their companies and shareholders.

So there is a difference … God wants us to protect and nourish the poor and to love our enemies; Bush wants to protect and nurture the rich and to bomb the shit out of his enemies. And if people don’t agree with you: say, they elect a government that you don’t like, well you just get some of your buddies to go in and kill them (or get your buddies’ buddies to do it). And wreck their country. And then get your friends to go in and fix it up, provided that the bad bold country pays you and gives you all their assets for eternity.

Ah – there is another way that Bush is like God (this is becoming too easy). Jesus loved and valued his friends and, when one of them, Judas, betrayed him, Jesus forgave him immediately and defended him against Jesus’ other friends. Well, George did much the same. When his and his father’s close Saudi Arabian friends, the Bin Laden’s, were responsible for attacking and bombing them, he made sure that they were protected from his own lawmen and, almost miraculously, spirited them out of the country to a safe place. That showed the love and concern that God reminds us we must all show.

But later, George sent hundreds of thousands of his soldiers to far away countries to bomb innocent people just in the vain hope that he might hit the one or two baddies who were probably hiding there. Jaysus, he wrecked the places! Everywhere he went, he left a trail of destruction to show how much he loved them and to give them freedom and democracy.

“Freedom is on the march,” he told them.

And as they were looking for their blown off legs and arms, or bits of their starving bellies that had been ripped out by cluster bombs, as they gazed in amazement at their razed homes, as they buried bits of their children (some of them even had the cheek to cry and wail) and looked for their mammies and daddies, they knew and could see that freedom was on the march ... all over them and all over the oil fields of the Middle East.

Jesus spoke of love – the greatest virtue of all. George, on the other hand spends a lot of time speaking of fear. Imagine a man who can bomb, kill, invade at will, imprison, deport, starve people to death and deny them medicines being afraid of anyone! Jesus, I’d hate to be George. I’d hate to be that afraid. Aw, poor George. Poor America.

But, hold on, what are they really afraid of? Ah come on now … tell me … go on … tell me … ok … I’m listening. Huh? Yeah, just as I thought, they are afraid of having no gas for their 4x4s and their bombers. I knew that oil had something to do with it all along.

Four more years … USA … four more years … USA … four more years … Cal . if . or .ni .ay … Eh, Arnie, are you there?


Sunday, October 31, 2004

Halloween

Why do so many people wish others a "Happy Halloween"? What's the big deal? Outside my houses right now, even though I am several miles from the nearest town, it looks and sounds like Fallujah under attack by some murderous band of American marauders intent on destruction and mayhem. Fireworks are exploding everywhere, the sky is lit up with flares, bonfires burn brightly and there is a general air of disorder. Never mind the disturbance to householders, animals and the general community, not to mention the extra pressure put on the emergency services. I hate this night.

Lord Kinnock de "Deux-Face"?

Accolade of “hypocrite of the week” must surely go to Neil Kinnock for accepting a seat in the British House of Lords. David’s Frosts sycophantic interview on BBC TV this morning with the former Labour party leader and their mutually self-congratulatory valediction to “Lord Kinnock” from “Sir David” was truly stomach-churning.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

This one is especially for you, Shin Bear

Hi Shin Bear. I know it can get a bit lonely living away from home in Denmark. We miss you as much as you miss us. Love you, darling.

Get lost, George

I am watching a programme on TV about that cretin, George Bush and his belief in god. It is some of the scariest stuff I have ever seen. Let's hope this idiot and his cohort of warmongering imperialist goons and puppets of big business are drummed out of the White House next week. If they aren't, the world will be a much more dangerous place.

George tells us: "Freedom is on the march." I say: "And it is wearing jackboots."

And, George, why are you blocking access to your web site from outside the USA? What are you so afraid of? I know you are afraid of the world outside - you live on fear and engender it in your people - but isn't this going a bit too far? What about all those good citizens of the USA living abroad? What about your soldiers and hired guns who are invading several countries around the world at present in your "War Of Terror"? Don't they have a right to know what you are saying about your re-election campaign?

I hope you get to see your god some day soon, George, real soon, as you descend to the fires of hell, and I hope it is wearing a turban.