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Make the Economy Better – Abolish Zero-Hour Contracts

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Minister Ged Nash launched an investigation into the extent of zero and low-hour contracts in the labour market.  This is most welcome – we need this information which is not available in official surveys (though it should be noted that the investigation into low-hour contracts could be extremely limited as they are only examining eight hour or less contracts – whereas low-hour contracts can go as high as 20 hours).

But what would be even more welcome would be an announcement that zero-hour contracts will be abolished.

I will refer to zero and low hours contracts as precarious contracts.  These contracts require employees to be available for a certain number of hours per week, or when required, or a combination of both – but without any guarantee of work.

Under Irish law, if the employee gets no work, then the compensation should be either 25% of the possible available hours or for 15 hours – whichever is less. If the employee gets some work, they should be compensated to bring them up to 25% of the possible available hours.   Here are a couple of examples:

  • Janet is required to be available for work for 20 hours a week.   She gets no work.  She must be paid, nonetheless, for 25 percent of the available hours – five hours (this is less than 15 hours).
  • Bob is, also, required to be available for work for 20 hours a week.  He gets four hours’ work.  Since he is entitled to five hours payment (25 percent of his work availability), he get an extra hour payment.

I don’t intend to list all the negative impact of precarious hour contracts on workers.  Suffice this piece from Paul Mills writing in the Examiner:

‘The ‘employee’ is effectively reduced to a commodity like a tin of beans on a shelf waiting until someone comes to pick him or her up. It is not sustainable and is effectively immoral.

This type of contract means that the employee has no guaranteed hours or roster but must be available for work.

Whilst the system is undoubtedly beneficial to the employer, it puts the ‘employee’ at a serious disadvantage. It means there is no sick pay, only limited holiday pay, and getting a loan or a mortgage is impossible. In fact there is no guarantee of any work, so no guarantee of any pay and all that leads from that.

It takes us back to the days when fruit pickers, dock workers, farm labourers and general workers stood at a designated corner and waited for an employer to come by in the hope of being selected to work that day.’

Well put.

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a2ot

From Alpha to Omega Podcast #56: Essence and the Philosophy of Science

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This week I am delighted to welcome Thom Workman to the show, Professor of Political Science at the University of New Brunswick. Thom’s research explores the philosophical and sociological critiques of modernity, especially as these have developed over the post-Enlightenment era. In this episode we discuss the history of the Philosophy of Science, Marx’s understanding of science at the time of writing ‘Das Kapital’, Postmodernism, and how this notion of science has come under attack over the years, from various quarters, both from outside and within Marxism itself.

Thom has also published a number of books, his latest called: ‘If You’re in My Way, I’m Walking: The Assault on Working People since 1970’.

http://fernwoodpublishing.ca/book/if-youre-in-my-way-im-walking.

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1_t

Progressive Film Club: Films on Conflict Around the World

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Films on Conflict Around the World

Saturday 29th November 3.00 pm

The New Theatre 43 East Essex Street, Dublin 2

Admission Free

www.progressivefilmclub.ie

  • “Mi Fink”: Make it happen – 3.00 pm
  • Road to Revolution – 3.30 pm

“Mi Fink”: Make it happen – 3.00 pm

“Mi Fink”-Make it happen! shows the process of community organization and resistance. This participatory action arose in the face of vulnerability to losing the land: one of the few things that keep the community united and free. Since the abolition of slavery in Colombia, the land has sustained the food supply and the economy of the Afrodescendant people of Villa Rica. Today the sugar companies dominate the area, planting sugar cane as a monoculture, thereby forcing out the traditional small farms of the region. Some families are resisting this eviction and the loss of their livelihoods. As a result, the life of Jota, one of the community leaders,is being threatend.

Road to Revolution 3.30 pm

Taking off from Istanbul, the “Road to Revolution” crosses some of the most tense territories on the planet – Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Tiago Carrasco, João Henriques and João Fontes will be determined to find out more about the lifestyle, culture and beliefs in those territories. Three journalists travel 15.000 kilometers and 10 countries in the Maghreb & Middle Eastern region, following the path of the Arab Spring.

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rp_irishwaterprotest1Nov.jpg

We Won’t Back Down: Statement from Communities Against Water Charges

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Statement from Communities Against Water Charges

We Won’t Back Down

On Monday the 24 November 2014 we expect four of our friends and neighbors to be committed to prison for exercising their right to peaceful protest. They are to be punished for failing to abide by a High Court injunction granted to GMC Sierra which requires them (and any other protester) to, among other things, remain at least 20 meters away from workers installing unwanted water meters.

This injunction, in spite of the High Court Judges claims to the contrary, obliterates any meaningful right to protest against the installation of water meters. For that reason protesters throughout Dublin, and the rest of the country, have rejected this illegitimate interference with their right to protest, and have continued their dignified resistance to the installation of water meters, and the water charges regime.

This injunction, and the expected imprisonment of our friends and neighbors on Monday, represents another attack on the people of this country, and on the right to peacefully resist and oppose the unjust policies of an unrepresentative government. In the coming weeks and months, we expect the establishment to engage in many more attacks on our movement, using the law as one of its main instruments.

For this reason, we have been working with groups around the country on building legal defence funds: this is a collective struggle for our basic rights and a better future. For that reason, any person that ends up in court for resisting this illegitimate tax and attempt to commodify the most basic of necessities, needs to know that they will not be alone, and we will stand with them. We therefore call on the Right2Water Campaign, it’s affiliated unions and the political parties that have stated their opposition to the water charges, to contribute what they can to the Peoples Defence Funds.

If, as feared, our friends are imprisoned on Monday we are calling for a mass, silent candlelight vigil outside of the prison they are committed to (most likely Mountjoy Prison in Dublin).

As the struggle against this unjust double-tax enters a new phase, and a beleaguered government begins to lash out with all of the means at its disposal, we will make it abundantly clear that fear will not carry the day in this contest, and that nobody who stands against this injustice will stand alone.

Communities Against Water Charges

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Guaranteeing Recidivism

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This article originally appeared in Irish Left Review, Issue 2, Vol 1., published in November 2013. 

Recidivism (from recidive and ism, from Latin recidivus “recurring”, from re- “back” and cado “I fall”) is the act of a person repeating an undesirable behaviour after he/she has either experienced negative consequences of that behavior, or has been treated or trained to extinguish that behavior.

In June 2013, the ongoing rumblings of discontent at the blanket guarantee decision exploded on to the front pages with the publishing of the ‘Anglo Tapes’ recordings by the Irish Independent. After three bank inquires of a sort, through the Nyberg Report, the Honohan Report and the Public Accounts Committee Inquiry, the remaining fog around the events leading up to the guarantee and what happened on the night and early morning of 29th and 30th of September 2008 was such that it only took the selective leaking of a fraction of the tapes held by the ongoing criminal investigation to stoke up public rage and renew calls for a proper inquiry or tribunal[i].

This continuing fog and the far reaching consequence of the decision have led many to reach all sorts of conclusions about who ultimately was responsible. In 2013 commentators like Fintan O’Toole[ii] and Stephen Donnelly TD appear to think that the protection of Irish banks provided by the 2008 guarantee was so devastating for the Irish economy that it must have been insisted upon by the ECB.

More often than not, however, this regularly repeated belief is a conflation of the 2008 guarantee with what Brian Lenihan, and later Michael Noonan, suggested was the insistence of the ECB that unguaranteed senior debt must be paid back after the 2010 bailout.

There is no indication of ECB involvement in the 2008 decision despite Brian Lenihan’s retrospective claim in 2010 that it was impelled by Jean Claude Trichet’s voicemail directive in 2008 to ‘save our banks at all cost’[iii]. On the contrary there is plenty of evidence that there was widespread surprise and anger in Europe at the ‘unilateral’ move and the problems it created, as well as pressure to change it.

It is important to understand that the original guarantee was an Irish decision alone, without any outside involvement, because it helps us dissect the nature of power and class in Ireland. The facts need to be separated from the myths in order to appreciate how decisions like it continue to determine the shape of the economy and the nature of Irish society.

The action in September 2008 is an illustration too of how a type of ‘rentier’ class in Ireland are able to exploit Ireland’s resources without consideration of the consequences for wider society. These rentier capitalists benefit from the managing of assets, whether through financial services, the movement of corporate profits tax-free or investment property. Their interests are boosted by the state leading to the side-lining of productive capital and the continually undermining of labour’s position[iv].

The guarantee was not put in place simply to maintain liquidity to Irish banks. Officials and politicians knew enough to be aware that the problems at Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide were far greater than one of a temporary lack of liquidity due to a crisis elsewhere. Funds from the Central Bank of Ireland had been provided to Irish banks through unprecedented quantities of Emergency Liquidity Assistance. Banks in other countries were experiencing similar problems and received extraordinary quantities of emergency funding from their central bank during the crisis in September. Yet, significantly, no other EU country provided an unlimited guarantee.

In Ireland’s case the problem was twofold. One, to keep cheap interbank lending available to Irish banks, they needed a guarantee that would remove the sense that Irish banks were increasingly high risk because of their over-exposure to collapsing property markets.

Two, in order to keep the level of emergency liquidity available to ensure that Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide remained open they needed a guarantee that would make an insolvent bank ‘solvent’. The dangers of this approach were clearly outlined before the decision was taken, yet we are still asking ‘why did they do it?’

To try and answer that question we have to go back to the last time the Irish government provided an unlimited guarantee to the banks to enable them extract themselves from a speculative fiasco even though there was incredible risks to the wider economy by doing so.

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bogco

The Blue Moon Women

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Sing bog cotton carols, speak
in soft whisperings,
blow cool wind  to calm summer’s  heat,
clawing gloopy smells of faded day.
 f
Their suitcases laughing,
filled with cruciform spinning tops
songs and incantations
a flock of giggling  goats.
 f
They frighten  indoctrinated bombosities
shiny political pomposities
yellow beasts wandering
whose  paws choke the night
 f
To de-indoctrinate them
from that cronied  sycophant in them
they’re impaled on Celtic Crosses
and left swirling on the bog.
 f
The Blue Moon Women sing to them
soft and sweet they sing to them
and the goats circle round
nibbling at their toes.
 f
Till they squeal out all their vanity
return to normal sanity
and serve the people properly
walking humbly down the roads

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road

The Road To Ireland & The Water Thief

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I would like to live in the West, at the edge

of the world, on a small holding,

walk my cow each day to the milk shed

and see which hen I am beholding to

s

for laying an egg. I would change

wheat into loaves, fill my plate from the field,

stack turf like gold bars for the kitchen range,

and conceal my distillery in creels.

s

Instead, I have stood at the town’s crossroads

and listened to who is ‘Wanted’ across the border,

who is being adulterous on the old bog roads

and who sprayed ‘Ireland is out of order!’

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crisis_dt

The Crisis of Irish Democracy

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The current crisis of Irish democracy is not the one currently being given space in the nation’s mainstream media outlets. Ungovernability is supposedly just around the corner according to some. A “sinister fringe” is engaging in acts of violence. “Marxist-Leninists” are standing in the way of the government and its wishes. Michael Noonan is on record as saying that he and his government “govern for the reasonable people,” and not the sinister fringe of ungovernable Marxist-Leninists in our midst. Reading this, one would imagine that the Red Army of old is engaging in ideological, and very physical, warfare on Ireland. Of course this is sheer nonsense, but the ghost of the “Dreaded Red” is well risen from its grave, courtesy of the necromancers currently inhabiting Dáil Éireann. Such propaganda is a reaction to the citizens of Ireland having had enough of years of austerity measures.

They have taken to the streets, engaged in peaceful protest, and civil disobedience, in order to show their contempt for their treatment by the government. Compared to other European countries over the last few years, Ireland has been relatively quiet on the protest front. The planned introduction of water charges has changed all that. And now, the government and the Irish media, are panicking. A citizenry of a Western and ostensibly democratic state is not supposed to be actively engaged in the democratic process. To do so is to cause a “crisis of democracy”. This is nothing remotely new. During the 1960s and 1970s, people on both sides of the Atlantic demanded equal rights, an end to war, and generally demanded social change from their leaders whom they considered to have failed in their duty to create an equal society in the post-war years. To that end, they engaged in massive demonstrations and civil disobedience in order to achieve their aims. Such activity on the part of the wider citizenry frightened the leaders of the Western world, so much so that it became the basis of a report by the Trilateral Commission.

Published in 1975, The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, examined in some detail the causes and effects of the active citizenry that emerged in the 1960s and early 1970s in Europe, the United States, and Japan. Written by three leading academics for the NGO, it is premised on the idea that a previously apathetic citizenry became more active and therefore undermined the credibility and functioning of democracy. Although the introduction states that the report is “designed to make democracy stronger”, the definition of democracy being worked off is a top-down approach to governance in which the population is preferably apathetic, passive, and stratified. All three authors wondered how to make democracy not more democratic or effective in the popular understanding of the term, but how to enable a return to the previous state of affairs of an apathetic, passive, and stratified citizenry.

A “crisis of democracy” was “a breakdown of traditional means of social control, a delegitimation of political and other forms of authority, and an overload of demands on government, exceeding its capacity to respond.” An “increase of social interaction” resulted in the breakdown of the means of “traditional social control imposed upon the individual by collective authorities, especially the state, and by hierarchical religious institutions.” In turn, this meant that citizens “resist any kind of social control that is associated with the hierarchical values they have learned to discard and reject.” Individuality was seen to have usurped traditional civic values and stratification, and therefore people were more free than ever to choose their jobs, friends, partners, and general future, as they saw fit. At the very least, the wider population had decided that they could make those decisions for themselves without government interference.

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joan

A Brief History of Those Who Made Their Point Politely And Then Went Home

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this poem is rededicated to the protesters in Jobstown, Sligo and elsewhere

On this day of tear-gas in Seoul
and windows broken at Dickins & Jones,
I can’t help wondering why a history
of those, who made their point politely
and then went home, has never been written.

Those who, in the heat of the moment,
never dislodged a policeman’s helmet,
never blocked the traffic or held the country to ransom.
Someone should ask them: “Was it all worth it?”

All those proud men and women, who never
had the National Guard sent in against them;
who left everything exactly as they found it,
without adding as much as a scratch to the paintwork;
who no-one bothered asking: “Are you or have you ever been?”,
because we all knew damn well they never ever were.

KEVIN HIGGINS

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tap

The Government U-turns itself into a Home Tax

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Let’s recap.  The Government has been forced to:

  • Stop Irish Water’s access to PPS numbers
  • Provide certainty to household payments
  • Reverse the sanction of reducing water flow to a trickle for non-payers
  • Provide new statutory guarantees to keep water service under public control
  • Scrap the system of social protection subsidies and tax breaks which would still leave hundreds of thousands of people in work without financial support
  • Delay the introduction of bills
  • Increase the cap from nine months to at least four years
  • Make the roll-out of water meters redundant in the medium-term
  • Introduce new governance measures (probably when the Evira/Irish Water boards are reviewed in a few months’ time)

The Government has u-turned so much it doesn’t know which direction it is going (if there are other u-turns and cul-de-sacs please let me know).

And now the Government looks to u-turn itself back into re-introducing the household charge – that pathetic, fiscally useless, regressive tax.

It appears the Government will introduce a two-tier charge on all households connected to the public mains (approximately 80 percent of all households).  A charge for a one-person household will be capped at €176 per year; for a household with two or more adults will be capped at €276 per year.  All households can avail of a Department of Social Protection rebate of €100.

Let’s be clear about this:  this is a household charge (or a home tax if your will – since it won’t be confined to property-owners; it will apply to tenants as well).  This is no different to the household charge except that the charge is higher and differentiated by the number of adults in the household.

This has nothing to do with water, except that you just happen to use water.  The water allowances will remain in place.  But for all practical purposes the cap will be the effective charge.

The goal of conservation has been undermined.  A household that conserves water will be, for all practical purposes, charged the same as a household that leaves their en-suite Jacuzzi on all night. Theoretically, one could reduce their charge through conservation – but any reduction would amount to only a few cents per week, such is the impact of the cap.  The incentive is small to the point of near non-existent.  And this looks likely to remain in place until at least 2018 and maybe longer.

It is worth noting that the cap will act like a flat or fixed charge.  Prior to the local election the Labour Party made much play of the fact that they stopped the imposition of a fixed charge for water.  Now the Government has u-turned itself into just that – a fixed charge.

And the flat or fixed charge will be regressive.  We can see the trajectory of the cap as it impacts on household income.  This uses the data from the Household Budget Survey 2010.  The magnitude might be slightly different today but the distributional impact will be pretty much the same.

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minofthirst

Look How Our Leaders Tremble When They See Us Together

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Our leaders would like to inform us
that they are fine with protest
in fact they really respect us
so long as we follow their rules and do it
without any disruption of business, (preferably
at home in our own bedrooms where no one can see us,
and without any unnecessary shouting
that might upset the neighbours)
they’re fine with it then,
so they are.

Our leaders would prefer if we fought with each other
and if we absolutely have to protest in public they’d rather
we did it in the form of a strongly worded letter to the paper
or a phone call to Joe which their straw men could deal with
by saying they’ve launched an inquiry that’ll never be finished
and that they agree with us about whatever it is
that should never have happened,
haven’t they’ve always said it,
sure?

If the worst comes to the worst and, despite them warning us
that we should have due consideration
for the inevitable, unspecified but extremely sinister consequences,
we mount a demonstration against them
they’ll counter by saying that some of the people out marching
are reported to have once been spotted by someone
eating ice cream in Bangor which everyone knows
is north of the border
and you know what that means
or don’t you?

Our leaders would prefer if we’d focus our anger
on the unemployed carpenter who put up some shelves
for his mother when he knew full well that accepting
more than two biscuits counts as a nixer-
he’s the type that has ruined our country
they call him the benefit scrounger,
who was fully employed until 2009
but now has managed to squander something something million,
yes that exact figure, would you like to report him?
Click here please…
oh yes your call is important.

Our leaders would love us to whinge about the imaginary asylum seeker
who is rumoured to have left a thousand prams
at a thousand bus stops in every single city, small town and village
you know the woman? No, me neither,
because no one has ever actually met her
but it’s rumoured that her skin was darker than yours is,
or so they’ll tell us, our leaders,
because they’d love us to fight with each other
over any small difference and leave them alone while we’re doing it,

they’d love if we picked on the gays instead of the bankers
they’d love you to get riled up about Panti Bliss who wants
to come into your house and ruin your marriage instead of wondering
how the hell they themselves put us in bondage
to repay 60 billion to loan sharks we never did business with,
and they’d love if those in negative equity
squabbled with the people from council estates
and if they in turn would fight with the renters
who’d pick on with the travelers
and they’d rather you made like a fascist
and blamed the Roma who, they are happy to tell us
are the cause of the economy collapsing
and were somehow involved in causing global warming
I mean have you not spotted the sea levels rising
did you not see the floods in Cork like?
Of course you did, they won’t stand for it,
or something.

And it’s nothing personal that our leaders have
against any particular ethnicity,
it just that they hate to see us united and mobilised
they are afraid we might compare notes
and realize that the same things affect us all the same way,
they’re afraid we might lose the run of ourselves
and run them the hell out of office,
and what should we tell them?

That we’re in this together?
That every person of every class, creed and race
who wants something better is welcome? Is one of us?
Or should we tell them that when 85 individuals own more
of the wealth in the world than three point five billion
the problem goes deeper than skin colour, deeper than factions
deeper than their strategies for permanent growth on one tiny planet
should we tell them that our system is broken?
Or should we just say nothing
and watch how they tremble,
when they see us all sticking together.

Sarah Clancy
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ob_so_uls_go_marchT

1916, the poppy and Ulster Unionism: A More Rounded Memory in the Decade of Centenaries

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Whether you agree with wearing a poppy or not, all Irish people who fought between 1914 and 1918 deserve to be remembered. Since the 1990s and the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, the Irish nationalists who went to fight for the British army in the Great War have re-entered the public’s historical consciousness. However, we are still slow to recognise the role that Ulster unionists played in the war.

The 1916 Easter Rising is a central event in modern Irish history, and is particularly significant in the development of Irish nationalism. Equally, the massive losses suffered by the 36th (Ulster) Division at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 were a formative event in the development of Ulster unionism. 1916 is a crucial year in history for both communities on the island of Ireland. Loyalties were consolidated and identities were crystallised in the GPO in Dublin and in the trenches at the Somme. While considerable differences existed between the two communities before 1916, the events of that year polarised them. Both nationalists and unionists would look back on the events of 1916 as moments of great sacrifice which were endured to assert the rights of their respective communities.

As Professor Keith Jeffery has convincingly argued, the First World War was the single most significant event of the Irish experience of the twentieth century. 210,000 catholic and protestant men from the island of Ireland enlisted in the British Army, 50,000 of whom were killed. Despite this, there persisted what historian F.X. Martin referred to as a ‘collective amnesia’ regarding these events in the Republic. Historical research, public discourse and political commemoration focused on the military events which happened at home during this time. The 1916 Easter Rising was regarded as more important than the experiences of Irishmen who fought in the British army on the continent between 1914 and 1918. About 2,000 rebels took part in the insurrection against British rule, while up to 105,000 Irish nationalists were fighting for Britain on the continent.

In the more inclusive atmosphere of the 1990s, fostered by the Peace Process, historians began to examine the role Irishmen played during the First World War. One fascinating aspect of the war was what it meant to the different confessional communities on the island. Nationalists were encouraged to enlist so that Home Rule would be implemented upon their return, while unionists joined up to prevent the implementation of Home Rule. There was also a new found appreciation of the difficulties faced by Irish nationalists returning home to a country where an armed rebellion against the British had taken place while they had been in Europe fighting for the King. This more inclusive analysis of the 1914-1918 period has deepened our understanding of the complexities of life and loyalties in Ireland at that time.

However, in the Republic, there is still a gap in the public understanding of the events of the period. The Ulster unionist experience of the Great War needs to be further explored and this is particularly pertinent as we approach the 100th anniversary of 1916. Less than three months after the Rising in Dublin, 5,500 men of the 36th (Ulster) Division were either killed, wounded or declared missing in the first two days of fighting at the Battle of the Somme. The 36th was drawn from the Ulster Volunteer Force, established in 1912 to prevent the imposition of Home Rule in Ireland. The wartime contribution and sacrifices made by Ulster unionists left an indelible mark upon the psyche of that community. Murals of the Somme can still be seen on Belfast gables and the battle is commemorated every year. If we are to fully grasp the dynamics and complexities of this period, it is essential that the Ulster unionist experience of the war be further explored and remembered.

The first stages of the Peace Process allowed for a reinterpretation of recent Irish history, resulting in a new found appreciation of the role played by Irishmen in British uniform during the First World War. But the role of Ulster unionists, their motivations for enlisting, the sacrifices they made and their commemoration of the war are aspects of the Irish experience are unknown in the south. While the 1990s provided the impetus for the exploration of the forgotten aspects of Ireland’s wartime past, this decade of centenary commemorations is the perfect opportunity to explore the Unionist experiences of the war. With the 100th year anniversary of 1916 approaching, there needs to be a greater awareness of the sacrifices made by those at the Somme. Just as the Rising was a formative event in the history of Irish nationalism, the Somme is equally important in the development of Irish unionism. A more comprehensive historical understanding of the divisive year of 1916 can foster empathy between the two communities on the island. This is critical for the development of the Peace Process.

A better understanding of the formative events in the histories of both nationalist and unionist communities is required if the Peace Process is to continue. 1916 is the fulcrum around which ideas of loyalty and badges of identity have been based. In this decade of commemorations, and as we approach the 100th year anniversary of 1916, a more rounded assessment of this period of Irish history is needed. In order to achieve this, we must – in the words of playwright Frank McGuinness – ‘Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme.’

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mustards

The Rise of Sinn Fein and the Abuse of the Past

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Speaking at a fundraising event in New York last week, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams remarked that during the War of Independence, Michael Collins had his men enter the offices of the Irish independent, hold the editor at gun point, and dismantled the printing press. This was in response to that papers accusation that Collins and his men were guilty of ‘murder most fowl.’ He went on to say ‘I’m obviously not advocating that.’[1]

Notwithstanding this qualification, Adam’s comments have been criticised by his political opponents and by the media. Such criticism is yet another example of the fear of the rise of Sinn Fein and the desire of the established parties, as well as some sections of the media to vilify the party. Opponents of Sinn Fein point to the party’s violent past in an effort to discredit its current leadership and to scare the public into thinking that Sinn Fein still advocates violent methods.

The Irish state: Born in Violence

On Easter Monday, 1916, a tiny, unrepresentative armed group, comprising of Irish Volunteers who had not gone to fight in the Great War and members of the Irish Citizens Army, affect a military insurrection which primarily took place in Dublin city.  More civilians were killed during Easter week than British soldiers or Irish rebels.

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1

No Peace in the Void

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Book Review: Absolute Recoil, Slavoj Žižek (Verso, 2014)

 

Žižek continues to fret away at the sweet-tasting bone of ontology, gnawing it from slightly new angles in the hope of stripping away any remaining morsels that will distract from savouring the pure marrow that lies within — a materialist philosophy that confronts the mystery of why there is nothing instead of something. His latest venture starts again with the dichotomy that  Kant drew between the  fundamental and allegedly unknowable nature of reality, the ‘in-itself’, and the human subject who, armed with his categories of thought like Captain America and his shield, goes out to meet and make sense of phenomenal experience.

A worthwhile materialism must go beneath, yet accommodate, the realisation that our sense of reality is governed by horizons of meaning, frames of reference, that we are born into. There is no escaping hard-wired webs of meaning — Kant’s transcendental idealism — but neither is there any breakout from the Real of a meaningless void. London Transport’s advice to mind the gap warns of the unresolved problem bequeathed to us by Kant: as passengers with mental coordinates for the lay of the land we step onto the firm ‘objective’ ground of the station platform and forget the space that is not accounted for in our conceptual maps of reality.

As ever, it is to Hegel’s ontology we must turn for understanding — a split universe of becoming, incessant movement through time in a praxis of being and nothing — and Žižek remains close to translating this ontology into the layperson’s language of quantum physics: a groundless vortex of what Badiou calls pure multiplicities, infinitely divisible and restless pluralities that contingently and finitely stabilize what is inherently opposed to the unifying power of thought. It is a universe utterly at odds with traditional notions of substantial entities bearing essential qualities independent of ourselves – in this sense it is nothing.

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