On homosexuality and the family.

May 17, 2011 - Leave a Response

I’m sitting here trying to compose my thoughts on this subject, in order to condense them into something that makes as much sense outside of my head as it does inside it.

I will specify from the outset that when I speak of homosexuality and the family, I am trying to be as broad-ranging as possible. The issues faced by homosexuals in striving for equal rights in family and marriage law extend to anyone who considers themselves a member of the wider LGBT community.

My personal opinion on the issue is that it really shouldn’t be an issue, much like the rejection of donor blood being based on sexual orientation. The fact that the individuals concerned are gay should be of no consequence. LGBT parents are just as fit and prepared to raise an emotionally balanced and happy child as their heteronormative counterparts. In fact, I would go even further and say that LGBT parents’ life experience as a group who remain routinely discriminated against would be an asset to them, in raising a child to deal with issues of tolerance and social equality in the most productive manner possible. I think the child of such couples, if anything, is exposed early on to the various perspectives on their parents’ orientation, and while this is frequently a painful thing, with loving parental guidance this can lead them to develop more sophisticated coping mechanisms than their more sheltered peers.

When I was a Christian, I was regularly exposed to anti-LGBT rhetoric and “apologetics”. For those of you who don’t know, “apologetics” is basically a euphemism for making the horrifically offensive and nonsensical parts of the Bible seem more palatable to the sane person. Usually by completely twisting syntax and effectively contradicting the original text. And even then, I had a problem with it. My brothers and sisters in Christ ™ would frequently say such things as “well, children couldn’t possibly be raised right by a gay couple”, “you learn different things from your father than you do from your mother”, and my personal favourite “but, who’s going to teach their daughter about periods?”

Yes. I regret to inform you that I actually heard the last one. They were basically implying that the life lessons we accumulate to form our personality and life experience come so differently from parents of opposite sex that they could not possibly be recreated in a scenario where the parents are same-sex. Like the period issue. I know that when I was 11 my mother sat me down and explained to me how pads and tampons worked and what was going to happen, but even had she not, I think I would have figured it out. It’s not rocket science. Besides, even if I had lacked the guidance of this sacred maternal menstrual mentor, I got enough information from all the other people in my life who happen to menstruate – I have a legion of aunts, female cousins, friends, I could just as easily have asked, were I overwhelmed by the magnitude of affixing a piece of absorbent plastic to my knickers. And yes, I learned different things growing up from my mother and father. I learned different things from them because they are different individuals, not because of some kind of parental yin-yang where my dad taught me “man stuff” and my mom taught me “woman stuff”. From these two individuals combined I learned such lessons as: how to ride a bike, how to fall out of a poorly-constructed treehouse, not to crash my first tricycle into the patio doors, not to ever get into a field with a bull, not to touch the cooker to see how hot it really was, and of course values like generosity, kindness, and how to deal with anger without throwing my little sister down the stairs.

If you put two separate individuals together to raise a child, their respective sexes do not matter. I. Don’t. Give. A. Single. Crap. And neither should you. What matters is that LGBT parents are grounded, caring, and sensible people who will love the child and give them the lessons that really matter.

Currently, as I understand it, lesbian couples can have a child through IVF, but this is not an option for all LGBT couples, so the adoption issue arises. As of now, LGBT couples – in most places – cannot adopt a child, and I think this is outrageous. If they have been assessed on characteristics that really matter – their ability to cope with the cost of raising a child, their behavioural histories, etc. – then it is out of the question that they should be denied the opportunity to give a loving family to a child who needs it. There are so many goddamned abandoned children in this world, and yet we insist on restricting the pool of suitable, loving parents for them based on the fact that some of those parents are LGBT? Fuck off.

It’s ridiculous. And if you want to know how I feel about gay marriage? My response will be pretty much the same as it was to the adoption issue. Sexual orientation should not be an obstacle to being legally married to the person you love. I mean, we’re OK to let the LGBT community have sex with each other, but god, we don’t want them to get all loved-up. We want them to live out their romantic lives in the closet – invisible, ignored. If we let them marry, we might have to acknowledge them, and if we acknowledge them we acknowledge our own discrimination against them, and that it’s wrong.

I say marry whoever the fuck you want, the rest of the world be damned.

Irish Catholicism still Alive!… with bullshit. Part 1 of 2

April 19, 2011 - 7 Responses

I love the free newsletter published by St. Mary’s Priory – a Catholic newspaper, effectively, going by the name of “Alive!” presumably either a reference to the resurrection of Christ, or the adrenaline rush you get from reading it and marvelling at how much horseshit they manage to cram into less than 20 pages. I don’t know, it makes me feel alive anyway. Alive, and perturbed. On the upside, it’s fantastic for when you need a good chuckle and/or run out of papers for rolling joints.

It’s an interesting mix of bullshit from cover to cover, ranging from amusing little nuggets of naiveté and misinformation, to trundling behemoth-type lies. Seriously, it’s the kind of deliberately hysterical propaganda even Ann Coulter could be proud of. I actually have no idea of the kind of numbers that read this newsletter, much less how many of them actually pay attention to what it says. The front cover  proudly declares that there are “380,000 copies nationwide”, but seeing as a) it’s free, and b) it’s frequently shoved through peoples’ letterboxes, that number is thankfully not indicative of the number of gullible freaks in Ireland.

I apologise to anyone who takes offence at that. As you’ve probably gathered by now, there’s no particular love lost between myself and the Catholic church. I have, however, known a few Catholics for whom I have great personal respect, and I am not saying that you have to be a gullible freak in order to be Catholic. But you do have to be a gullible freak to take anything printed in Alive! seriously. It is so full of it, I’m going to have to break it down per article into little bitesize chunks.

“Sarkozy: Christian faith made us who we are”

Wham! Straight off the bat, they practically plank you in the face with a fistful of crap. One of the first articles in the latest copy is entitled “Sarkozy: Christian faith made us who we are”. Take a moment to delight in the wonderfully exclusionary nature of even the title. Imagine, ye Frenchmen, that it is specifically the Christian faith that has made you all who you are. Even if you’re an atheist or non-religious… like the vast majority of French people I’ve ever met. Sarkozy allegedly made this rather bold statement recently in Puy-en-Valay. He is quoted as saying that “protecting the heritage of France is to defend the most tangible signs of our identity. I often recall Levi Strauss: Identity is not a pathology”. No, monsieur Sarkozy, it’s not, but deporting thousands upon thousands of Roma gypsies out of little more than poorly-veiled xenophobia almost certainly is. Surprisingly the article doesn’t *mention* the fact that Sarkozy is widely regarded as one of Europe’s most prominent thundering racists, and as such is not really an authority on what constitutes “national identity”. I also personally find it rather amusing that Sarkozy urged the French public to assume Christianity’s heritage “without false modesty”. There are many things of which Sarkozy and his ilk can be accused of, but modesty – false or otherwise – is not one of them.

When you consider the amount of money the French economy siphons out of pilgrims flocking to its’ major Christian shrines, cathedrals and holy sites, it becomes even more obvious that Sarkozy’s comments are not exactly motivated by religiosity. If Christianity made France “what it is”, what he probably meant  by “it” is rolling in money.

“Starving sheep won’t survive”

I fucking well hope not, if by “survive” you mean remain Catholic. This delicious article is about a visit paid to a Galway convent school by Senator David Norris, to speak to the teenage pupils about homophobia. I love, in particular, the fact that the article itself places inverted commas around the word homophobia (“homophobia”), as if to imply that no such bigotry actually exists and teh gayz are just making it all up.

This “special feature” is special, alright, but I mean of the more “special education” variety. Gerard Murphy laments the fact that many Catholic schools “no longer even know how to be Catholic” and that the aforementioned school “must have known that… Sen. Norris has campaigned for many years to have homosexual behaviour accepted into Irish society”. No shit, Sherlock. I’d imagine that was probably the idea behind asking him to speak to them about homophobia. This particular article annoys me because I have a tremendous soft spot for Sen. Norris. I have great respect for his contribution to the Irish political sphere, and have had the great pleasure of meeting him in person. He’s a wonderful man, and to have him singled out as some kind of dangerous threat to the religious integrity of Catholic school pupils makes me want to bring the pain to someone. I went to a Catholic school myself – I had long since abandoned any sort of personal link to the Catholic faith, as had the vast majority of my peers. The majority of schools in Ireland are Catholic, and I think it’s safe to say that most Irish parents don’t really give two fucks about a schools’ religious ethos as long as  it isn’t shoved down their kids’ throats.

Needless to say, I also have a problem with the Churches’ opposition to gay marriage to begin with, but the tone of this piece irked me in particular.

Rejection of Christian faith destroying Europe – Brady

Here, we find a stronghold of Christian “journalism” that I find particularly entertaining – the persecution complex. Any of you who have been privy to Christian magazines, of almost any denomination, will be familiar with this. It is practically a stalwart of the Christian faith to perceive any form of opposition or dissent as “being persecuted”. Needless to say, they do not refer to it as persecution when they do it to anyone else.

“Cardinal Séan Brady has called on Catholics to recognise that a cultural war is raging in Ireland as elsewhere in Europe, with the Christian foundations of Western culture under on-going attack from nihilists with no belief in god”. Allow me to rephrase that:

Apostate Angelica calls on people of all faiths and none to recognise that after many centuries of a dichotomous religious landscape in Europe, of mainstream Protestantism and Catholicism, people are becoming increasingly disillusioned with organised religion as a whole. Since culture is at the best of times a fluid concept, this is changing the social and political arenas of Europe in a profound way as the church, after many years of corrupt autocracy, is finally becoming less and less of a moral authority… and rightly so.

I don’t know about you, but I think my version is more accurate. I personally find it disturbing that Catholics are here being taught to envision any kind of deviation from the Vatican’s dogma as being an “attack” on their faith, as though people cannot disagree on matters of faith without it being construed as a personal offence. This is a major problem I have with much of the religious rhetoric I have encountered – it seems to create this perception of the universe essentially revolving around you, and your faith. At this juncture I am sure a religious person would counter that their faith in fact places god  at the centre of everything, but I don’t believe that is the truth, in practice. The assumption that people whose opinions differ from your own, are personally attacking your faith – or even that they give a crap about your faith to begin with – is inherently self-absorbed. I’m not saying that individual atheists and secularists cannot be asshats – that would be foolish – but in my experience, they do not have the same propensity to view acts contrary to their own belief system as inherently threatening. An atheist can, generally, see a person pray without leaping wildly to the conclusion that this person is trying to infringe on their own secularist integrity.

I also find it hysterical that the Bishop then goes on to suggest that this decline in Europe’s “failure to warmly embrace its Christian heritage” – whatever the fuck that means – is causing it to decline in political and economic significance. This exquisite piece of “logic” has more holes in it than a fucking pasta strainer. Brady actually goes on to argue that Christian morality is in some way correlated to levels of development. Wow, man… way to forget about the fucking Dark Ages. Yeah, I’m pretty sure Galileo Galilei would have something to say about your religion = progress hypothesis. Like Galileo in his day, I have personally found through both observation and research that if anything, there is an inversely proportionate relationship between the religiosity of a population, and levels of socio-economic development. In simple terms, the most devout nations are overwhelmingly the poorest, while the vast majority of the most successful economies *tips hat to Norway* are overwhelmingly secularised, with high proportions of their residents self-identifying as atheist or non-religious. So, eh… no.

 Slaughter welcomes abortion group

This shit just gets better and better.

This particular piece is a demonstration of the fact that Alive! doesn’t even pretend to be objective or professional in its’ reporting. The way they word this is extraordinary, so allow me to quote:

“Liz McManus, former deputy leader of the Labour Party, and Niall Behan of the Family Planning Association were among a  group of campaigners who recently sought US political pressure to have the killing of unborn children legalised in Ireland. They were received in the US by the appropriately named Democrat politician, Ms. Louise Slaughter.” [emphasis mine]

To start off, it’s important to point out that the Catholic church is not exactly a stranger to lobbying or exercising political influence themselves, so to start off this piece by suggesting that McManus and Behans’ doing so was somehow cynical is just… the kind of hypocrisy I can’t even fathom. I mean, instead of seeking political pressure to legalise the killing of unborn children, the church routinely exercised its’ own political pressure to shelter priests who raped children who had been born. Yeah… that’s way more acceptable, you fucking munters.

And of course, it’s not “abortion”, it’s “the killing of unborn children”.  I am personally kind of on the fence on the whole abortion issue, but this is just such a flagrant attempt to use terminology to sway the reader it makes my forehead want to explode. And I especially love the little jab at Ms. Slaughter about her name. Just really adds a little extra class to the piece, if indeed any was needed.

Now that’s not all, by any means. In my next post, you will get to enjoy the Catholic perspective on the AIDS pandemic in Africa. Yay!!

What a beautiful day to be Irish.

April 11, 2011 - 2 Responses

No… not St. Patrick’s Day. Today.

The absence of a sarcasm font is unfortunate, because if such a font existed it would have been very heavily employed in the above title. I am, actually, rather ambivalent towards my Irishness most of the time, but every now and again I’ll be reminded of all of the injustice and pervasive apathy in this country and get a surge of frustration with the state of things here.

For those of you who read this who are Irish, you will have heard by now of the Corrib tapes, where three Gardaí, including a Sargeant, were caught on tape “joking” about raping and deporting two female detainees. I use inverted commas in this case because to be quite frank, I don’t see it as joke in the least. For a more detailed explanation of the context within which these comments were made, see this excellent article by the Worker’s Solidarity Movement. The most famous quote from the entire exchange is “give me your name and address or I’ll rape you”. This was not said to the women directly, but in an alleged private exchange between Gardaí. This is, I presume, supposed to make us feel better.

Personally, I don’t know which I am more angry about – the appalling fucking behaviour of the Gardaí in question, or the pathetic, limp-wristed response from the majority of Irish people, particularly men. If you are highly averse to strong language I suggest you not read any further. And please understand that I am not trying to crucify either the Gardaí or Irish men in general, I’m just sick up to my fucking back teeth of apologising profusely for pointing out glaring inadequacies where I see them. This is not the first time I have been exposed to the shittastic clusterfuck that is An Garda Síochána. They have proven to me personally, time and again, that particularly in the instance of sexual and gender-based violence they are about as useful as an ashtray on a fucking motorbike. I will, however, attempt to stay on point and focus only on this one incident.

The primary debate seems to revolve around the most appropriate sanctions for the Gardaí involved, which – depending on who you ask – can vary from relegating them to office duty, to firing them altogether and/or pressing criminal charges. I would fall strongly on the side of the latter, and be inclined to make an example of them. Irish people, on the whole, are relatively good-natured, but my major gripe with my fellow countryfolk is that it’s impossible, or close to, to make them take anything fucking seriously. Those of you outside of Ireland have probably some experience of the stereotypes that exist about Irish people – humourous, usually drunk, easygoing… I don’t know exactly. Perhaps it varies from place to place, but there is an element of truth to most of these preconceptions. Normally, this is not a bad thing, but when it comes to issues like sexual violence, you kinda fucking need a bit of seriousness. And do you know when you especially need to take sexual violence seriously? When it’s your job, as mandated by the state, to protect and serve the interests of those who have been subjected to such violence.

Some Irish people – again, primarily men I’m afraid – have argued that while the comments by the three Gardaí are unacceptable, they’re not *that* bad because, you know, everyone makes mistakes, and sure we all laugh at things we maybe shouldn’t now and again. This is one of those times where I can see where a person is coming from, yet still disagree wildly… and possibly want to dispense a few dick punches. It makes me apoplectic with rage that I even have to explain to people who consider themselves educated and/or reasonable why it is utterly unacceptable for members of a national police force to even joke about abusing their publicly mandated power in such a way. To begin with, as grotesque as I find rape jokes in even the most innoccuous of surroundings, within the ranks of an Garda Síochána it takes on a whole other layer of menace. When you enter such a profession, you knowingly take on the mantle of state-sanctioned power – now, whether or not I find that morally sound is another matter – but you do, realistically. You are given a certain amount of authority and power, and as I believe the philosopher Spiderman once said, “with power comes responsibility”. I never thought I’d use Spiderman as a source of ethical rhetoric, but there you go. When you accept that power, you are also given a correspondingly increased responsibility – to use your power in the manner in which you are supposed to, and not to abuse or otherwise harm those in your charge. You have a responsibility to embody the kind of altruism and respect for others you are trying to engender in the populus at large. And as such, I have no sympathy whatsoever for Gardaí caught making such “jokes”, if indeed jokes they are.

In short: If, as a member of the police force, you cannot take sexual violence seriously enough to not make jokes about it in your spare time, you are in the wrong line of work. End. Of. Story.

These Gardaí should, 110%, be fired. That shouldn’t even be in question. Even if such threats were indeed a joke, that makes it no less disgusting. An Garda Síochána, if it ever expects to be taken seriously, needs to make it clear by swift and decisive sanctions against those responsible, that this horrific example of sexist “humour” is not representative of the force as a whole. As a nation, the Irish are slow to react. When revelations of clerical sexual abuse against children first started coming to light in Ireland, the reaction of the institution responsible – the Catholic church – was similarly lethargic. Instead of dealing legitimately with offending priests, they simply shifted them around between parishes in an attempt to brush the whole fiasco under the carpet. And look how well it worked for them [/sarcasm]. Let us, please, not make the same with an Garda Síochána. These three are plainly bad eggs, to put it mildly, and I have absolutely zero sympathy for them. For those of you who think I should: too freaking bad. My sympathy has been all used up on the people I know who have been through the horror of sexual violence, and subsequent painstaking recovery. It it NOT something to make light of. It is NOT something to joke about. I… I just can’t even fathom how some people struggle to grasp this.

The Gardaí are supposed to be a safe haven for those who have been sexually abused, and come to them as victims. Even for those who come to them as perpetrators of crime in some way, be it protesting or violent crime, they should under no circumstances suffer beatings or other mistreatment while in custody. The Gardaí are charged with the efficient enforcement of public law – no more, no less. They are not vigilantes, who can use their power as they see fit, to ends which they determine personally to be worthwhile. They have a very specific role, and their delightful notions of “humour” demonstrate that the Gardaí concerned are unfit for this role.

Fire them, I say. And treat the rape “jokes” exactly as you would if someone on the street joked about raping you – as a fucking threat, and prosecute accordingly.

Fucking pricks.

Any vote for the Labour Party is a vote for abortion… apparently

February 24, 2011 - 5 Responses

Folly, thy name is David Quinn.

As some of you will know, it is currently election open season in Ireland. Polling day is tomorrow, and I know who’s getting my vote. Labour. And, apparently, abortion. [sarcasm] I just hate foetuses that much – it’s the only reason I vote. To kill babies. [/sarcasm]

Anywho – political commentary in Ireland has a tragic tendency to descend into utter nonsense and mudslinging. I find it painful to watch political debates here – it appears to be a contest of whoever can shout their points the loudest, wins. Because if you say it louder, it makes it right. Compared to similar debates in, say, continental Europe, Irish politicians look uncouth and ignorant, at best. They look uncouth and ignorant because they frequently are. The calibre of candidates being put to us is, well… let’s just say “poor” is being very generous. It is also rather dichotomous – carbon copies of the kind of politicians who swindled and bankrupted our country to begin with, or left-wing Che Guevara wannabes who have better ideas but absolutely no political experience with which to effectively implement them. Labour, in my view, is by far the best compromise between the two.

It is within this environment that the aforementioned Mr. Quinn has crawled out of the woodwork. He wrote an article there about two weeks ago in the Irish Independent entitled “Any vote for the Labour Party is a vote for abortion”. It was photocopied and stuffed through my parents’ letterbox, doubtless by some charming pro-life activist. While I appreciate their enthusiasm for their cause, the entire piece reads – to me – as an incentive to vote for Labour. So well done to whichever bright spark brought this piece of philosophical gold to my attention. Here is the article online, should you wish to read it, but I warn those of you with triple-digit IQs that it will likely only serve to raise your blood pressure:

Any vote for the Labour Party is a vote for abortion

I have so many problems with this article I scarcely know where to begin. But firstly, he commences the piece by noting that he saw a Labour canvasser outside mass on Sunday, and he thought it was particularly “cynical” because the Labour Party’s policy was at odds with the values of “serious-minded practising Catholics”. Now, let’s have a look at that for a second – for starters, I love how he considers it cynical for Labour to canvass Catholics. Considering the manner in which Fianna Fáil was implicit in crimes the Catholic Church committed against children throughout Ireland’s less than illustrious history, I would personally consider it far more cynical for them to canvass outside a church. Secondly, I think Mr Quinn desperately overestimates the number of “serious-minded practising Catholics” there actually are in Ireland. Religious believers of any description have to engage a certain amount of cognitive dissonance in order to function in a modern society anyway, because the values of their church are completely at odds with that of their society, and usually their own also. Any Catholic who adheres completely to the dictates of the Vatican would not only be unequivocally against abortion, but also homosexuality (teh gayz!!!), contraception, and sex before marriage. My grandmother was 95 when she passed last year, and even she was more progressive than the description just given. In Ireland, about 90% of the population are Catholic – by culture, not doctrine. Fuck it, if you look at church records, I’m probably still considered Catholic, and I don’t even believe in god. My parents are Catholic, they still go to mass, but they don’t consult church doctrine when deciding how to vote. It’s just something they’ve grown up with, and it’s a part of who they are – but like most of the country, they are not Catholic-issue voters.

I also have an inherent problem with the assumption that the Catholic church is still considered a moral authority by the Irish people. It’s less than two years since one of the most major tribunals in Irish history was published, investigating clerical abuse against children in Irish schools, orphanages and institutions. It’s less than 15 years since the last Magdalene laundry was closed – where unwed mothers were sent by the Catholic church to have their children taken from them, then do slave labour as “penance” for their sins. Now tell me, why the fuck should I consider Catholic values in choosing who to vote for? They have about as much moral standing, in my eyes, as the paedophiles they sheltered.

And there’s more. He goes on to say that “in Britain, abortion is permitted where a woman’s life or health is at risk. Health includes mental health. In practice, this translates to abortion-on-demand.” [emphasis mine]

No, no it fucking doesn’t. “Mental health” isn’t a buzzword, you thundering moron. And a woman’s life isn’t something to toy with, whether or not you consider the life form gestating inside her viable. I mean, what precisely is he suggesting here, that mental health not be considered by medical practitioners? If the woman kills herself your precious foetus dies anyway, so I’m afraid it’s kinda necessary. He deliberately misrepresents the nature of abortion in Britain, and if anything in this article is to be considered “cynical”, it’s that.

He goes on to draw another false correlation favoured by the pro-life movement in Ireland. That Ireland is the safest place in the world for a woman to have a baby, without abortion. Not only does this fail to qualify exactly what is meant by “safe” (from what?), but it suggests that there is a relationship between these two facts that doesn’t necessarily exist. I spent 6 months in Malawi, which is probably one of the least safe places in the world for a woman to have a baby. Their maternal and infant mortality rates are through the roof, and they have one doctor for every 200,000 people approximately. And guess what? They don’t have abortion either. Is there a relationship there, too? Of course not, because it doesn’t suit the pro-life movement’s agenda. Maternal mortality is determined by the quality of healthcare in the pre and antenatal period, not whether or not a country has abortion. Sure, abortion – like any other surgical procedure – entails a certain amount of risk due to use of anaesthesia, etc, but guess what else? So does childbirth, so that argument’s not valid either.

Of course, at this point most sane people will argue that they are not-single issue voters and that there are far more important issues at stake when selecting a government than their stance on abortion. Well, David Quinn has an answer for you here too, albeit not a very good one. Apart from his argument that no issue is more important than that of abortion (really, David? Really?!? It doesn’t matter what happens to people after they’re born?), he says that people who would vote for Labour based on their policy on issues of social justice are mistaken. Why? Because even if Labour’s policy is better than that of Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil, it doesn’t matter because the policy of the latter two parties (who are both more conservative and right-wing than Labour) don’t intentionally or deliberately harm the poor. So, basically – it doesn’t matter how shit their policies are as long as they don’t mean to be counterproductive. Solid argument you’ve got there, Mr. Quinn. Permit me an analogy here – a drunk driver doesn’t intentionally mow people down, either. That doesn’t mean I’m going to let him drive my car. FF and FG are, essentially, the drunk drivers of Irish politics.

At this stage, towards the end of the article, most readers are virtually in pain from the overdose of nonsense. He says that Labour’s strong stance on allowing homosexuals to marry and adopt is also “problematic”. So: while ensuring that all unwanted pregnancies are carried to full term, thereby presumably creating far more children being put up for adoption, he also wants to limit the pool of suitable parents by whom they can be adopted and taken care of. Because they have matching genitals. The foresight is stunning.

He ends on this: “We can argue ‘til the cows come home about which set of policies will do more harm or more good to this or that set of people. But this is a prudential judgement, not a moral one. At a minimum, neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fáil is setting out to do harm to the poor and the sick, whereas Labour’s policy on abortion would do very deliberate harm to the unborn. That is not a prudential judgement. That is a fact.”

So, the moral of the story is that David Quinn doesn’t give a shit what a party’s policies are on the treatment of the poor or the sick. As long as they don’t kill people in the womb, as far as he’s concerned it doesn’t matter if they kill them once they’re out.

Do you know what else is a fact, David Quinn? You’re a fucking idiot.

David Quinn: don't mind the poor or the sick. Just foetuses.

My very best to Lara Logan

February 20, 2011 - 4 Responses

I apologise for the delay in creating new posts. I’ve been incredibly busy the last 2 weeks or so, applying for college stuff.

One thing I will comment on, however, is all over the blogosphere, and you will more than likely have heard about it if you’ve been on the internet at all: the vicious attack by Egyptian revelers on CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan while she was documenting the day Mubarak stepped down.

Lara Logan

Ms. Logan was doing what is precisely her job – documenting an important political event that people need to know about. She was separated from her crew and surrounded by a mob, before enduring a prolonged sexual assault – from which she was thankfully rescued eventually by a group of Egyptian women and an estimated 20 soldiers.

TBH, I felt pretty sick when I heard about it. I can only imagine what she has gone through – the men who did this are monsters, and to be quite frank I can’t think of a punishment severe enough for them. I hate rape and sexual assault. It’s one of my major buttons. I haven’t been a victim of any major assault, thank god, but for some reason as a woman and a human being it affects me profoundly. It enrages me.

What has disturbed me almost as much as the assault itself, however, has been its’ handling in the blogosphere. I won’t name names, but reactions to Ms. Logan’s ordeal have been mixed among both bloggers and commentators. They have seemed to range from sympathetic, like mine, to outright victim-blaming. I’ve read comments from “stupid b*tch shouldn’t have been there” to “what did she think was going to happen?”.

Let me get this straight. The chief foreign news correspondent for a major US network, should not have been at the scene of one of the foremost political revolutions of the 21st century? Really?!? She was doing what she was paid to do – yes, she knew it was dangerous, and this wasn’t the first time her life had been threatened on the job. But Lara Logan is an incredibly courageous woman, and one of considerable integrity, and she had the gonads to work for the greater good (through information) despite the risks to her personal safety. Yes, she paid an incredibly high price for this courage – one that no-one, ever should have to pay – but women cannot stay in a tightly confined “safety zone” for fear of maybe getting raped. It seems to be an anthropological trend for women to find the confines of their allotted safe zones to shrink as soon as they accept them. In other words, the kinds of societies that tell women not to go outside for fear of their own safety, tend to be the kinds of societies that make the outside unsafe to begin with.

The fact is, dangerous jobs need to be done – by both men and women. Lara Logan does a dangerous job, and this time she got very badly hurt. I’m not entirely sure what I want the reader to take from this post, apart from compassion. If you take anything from this post, let it be this: rape is a choice on the part of the rapist. In the absence of severe mental illness (which is very seldom the case), rape and sexual assault is a very conscious decision made on the part of the perpetrator. Regardless of where the victim was, what they were wearing, what they were doing, who they were… at the end of the day, you can dress it up however you want. People are only responsible for what they can control – the choices they make – and as such the full responsibility lies with the rapist. Do not fall into the trap of ever blaming the victim. God knows, they have enough to deal with as it is.

Lara Logan, I commend you, and I hope you know that the thoughts and very best wishes of a great many people are with you. You are a brave an wonderful woman, and I thank you for doing your job despite the risk. I wish you every support, and much love, in your recovery. Whether or not you decide to ever return to the job you loved, I support you.

Dogma is abuse

February 7, 2011 - 3 Responses

This is an old post from April of last year that I copied from an older blog. I think it’s still pretty relevant, and it kind of encapsulates the reason I abandoned organised religion:

I had reason, recently, to deal with my old church group again, under the worst possible circumstance – the funeral of a very young woman who had died suddenly without prior medical problems. It was a heartbreaking service, and I personally was distraught at her death. I left the church, and the faith, with far more regard and affection for some who remained behind than others, and this particular woman was decidedly one of the former. She encapsulated all that I admire in a person – kind-hearted, generous, compassionate, funny, and optimistic. One of the major fallacies I see in the reason some people have given me for why I left the church, in that I must have been hurt by somebody and therefore be throwing the baby out with the bathwater – is that if a few measly “Christians” behaving badly and being hypocritical was enough to make me leave the church, people like this woman should have been enough to make me stay. She was, if you’ll forgive the cliché, an angel. I was honestly mad about her and I feel such a sense of sudden, violent loss that I scarcely know what to do with myself. It scares me a little, admittedly, that I now no longer have the certainty I once did pertaining to the afterlife. I hope, for my friends’ sake, that there is something after death, as the part of me that requires justice likes to think that there is something out there to reward her for being such a stellar example of a human being. However, she left behind two small boys and a husband, so I think there are some very pressing, practical things we left behind might do to pay homage to her memory.

As usual with this sort of thing, of course, it got me to thinking. It aroused some very conflicting feelings in me. The removal and funeral services were conducted by the church group to which we had both belonged, and naturally there was much reference made to my friend’s strong faith in Jesus, etc. etc. It made me very uncomfortable, and at first I couldn’t put my finger on why. I realised afterwards that I felt I was almost betraying my friend by not holding that faith which she understood to be of paramount importance. I felt almost that I should have been able to force myself to believe as she did, and that that is what she would have wanted. Because outside of that faith, there would be a barrier between us, limiting the depth of our friendship because I was no longer a “buhleeva” – I would be an outsider. And as we all know – or at least those of us who have been members of an evangelical/pentecostal church know – we are nothing without Jesus.

The way they spoke about it at the funeral – it was almost as if this faith was the single most positive, admirable aspect of my friend’s life and person. Her faith was what defined her, and it was presented as her main redeeming facet. The thing is, though, that it wasn’t. My friend was the best kind of human being, with or without Jesus (although I know she would have contended that herself). I listed just a few of her beautiful characteristics before. She had enough going for her sans Jesus to be worthy of our love and admiration. The fact that we now had different belief systems should never have been an issue. People – friends – differ on things all the time, without allowing it to form some cataclysmic rift between them. I think what I am trying to get at is that Christianity uses belief in Jesus Christ as a marker of your humanity, basically – it sorts the human race in all of its beauty and complexity into two very crude categories. Saved, and unsaved -those who are something (because they have Jesus), and those who are – literally – nothing (because they do not have Jesus). It’s that simple. The Bible frequently makes reference to our worthlessness and inherent evil without the intervention of the divine – in other words he who possess the ability to redeem us, and save us from our own depravity, our own thorough uselessness. Outside of the Almighty, we can do nothing. This was an integral part of church rhetoric when I was there – “without Jesus, I am nothing”, “I used to be *insert repulsive term here*, but then I got saved”, “without god, I’d be dead now”, “I could never have done this myself, it’s all god”, “Jesus saved my life, I couldn’t live without him”, “without Jesus my life would be meaningless/empty/without purpose”. I am guilty of saying these things myself, in the past. I have been thinking about it, more and more, and the more thought I give to it the more this particular aspect disturbs me greatly.

It encourages us, both as written in scripture and as used incessantly as a mantra within the group itself, to regard Jesus as our saviour and the source of all that is good in life, and ourselves as incapable of operating satisfactorily without clinging desperately to him. Without Jesus, life is empty and desolate. We might even die, and if we die without Jesus we will be abandoned forever – because without Jesus we cannot be acceptable to god. Even though, he made us to begin with. Even though he made us exactly to his will because he is omnipotent, and to a flawless design because he is omniscient, we disgust him without his son – who is actually himself – to defend our right to exist and be happy to him. There’s a headscratcher for you. I know people will make the argument of free will at this point, and I accept that some people use that free will to be fairly shitty specimens of human beings – but the fact is, not all do. My late friend is an example, and I hope I am too. Some people use that free will to make enormous sacrifices for their fellow man, and are compassionate and good and tolerant. I try to do and be these things myself, and I refuse to be held accountable for original sin. Original sin = bullshit. I am not Eve, so anyone who wants to hold me responsible for her listening to a talking snake, in a scenario that clearly never happened anyway, can fuck right off.

That’s right, fuck off. But only if you think I’m responsible for the actions of a mythical woman.

It makes me wonder what kept me buying this crap for so long. Since I’ve left the church, not only has my life not fallen apart, but I feel more self-sufficient and capable than ever before. My life is not empty and desperate, quite the contrary. I’m not saying I don’t face problems, but rather that refusing to rely for assistance on someone who regards me as inherently worthless has made me much stronger. I CAN do things for myself, I am a very capable woman. Sure, life is shit sometimes, but I’ll do my best, and when I can’t handle things alone there are plenty of non-deities around to help me in the form of friends and family.

But – I have a final point to make. Like I said, I wondered why I bought into this for so long when it’s so clearly a lie. But the more I consider it, the more the dynamic in this instance between “The Saviour” and “The Saved” bears a jarring resemblance to the dynamic between partners in a mentally and emotionally abusive relationship. I grew up within a highly abusive household – my mother was emotionally and mentally abusive towards myself, my father, and my brother. Quite a number of my friends have been involved in abusive relationships, and I have even read a number of testimonies of women who have escaped such relationships. So my experience of such covert abuse is pretty extensive, and now, looking on from the outside, I can see how my relationship with Jesus was like an extension of the worthlessness I was made to feel by my other abusive partner – in my case, my mother.

One of the questions most frequently asked of women – or indeed men – who have escaped abusive relationships is why they didn’t leave sooner. Why they failed to recognise the abuse for what it was immediately and up and leave. It seems so basic, so obvious, to someone looking in from the outside that anyone who makes you feel that way doesn’t deserve you. To the person on the receiving end of the abuse, though, it frequently isn’t obvious at all. Even for those who are abused physically, it often doesn’t begin that way overnight. The abusive partner will begin to gradually erode their victims’ self-esteem and self-reliance, so that when they begin to exert their control and manipulation in a more overt manner, the victim feels paralysed. They have often been isolated from outside influences and sources of support, people who may recognise the situation as abusive and encourage them to leave. They have been told they are worthless/fat/ugly/stupid/useless, and even that they “drive [the abuser] to it”, or that it’s for their own good. They have been given the impression that they cannot leave, either through direct threats of punishment (leave and I’ll kill you/I’ll take the children), or indirect threats (leave and you’ll fail/no-one will believe you/you won’t be able to manage). The victim of the abuse comes to develop a kind of domestic form of “Stockholm Syndrome”, where they engage cognitive dissonance to justify the abuser’s behaviour. They love their partner despite everything, and they do not want to accept that they need to sever ties with them. They are terrified of what will happen if they leave, and they don’t see the alternative, however unhappy they may be in their situation. They might even convince themselves that they are happy.

For me, the above paragraph has innumerable parallels to my relationship with the church/god. I was taught to distrust outside influences (the “world”), lest they corrupt me, so I was less susceptible to discerning real alternatives to the sheltered church life I was living. I was taught that I was nothing without god, I was inherently evil, and without god to redeem me I was little more than a filthy rag. To encourage this, I was taught to perceive my own natural functions – sexual urges being a prime example – as inherently “sinful” and “wrong”… rather than natural, which they actually were. I was taught that if I left I would go to hell (direct threat of punishment), and that my life would fall apart as I failed to manage without divine guidance (indirect threat). I came to love god sincerely, despite my doubts about his behaviour (Stockholm Syndrome/cognitive dissonance), and trust that he knew best, and it was for my own good, despite the fact that a part of me still felt it was nonsensical. Finally, I tried my best to stifle my doubts lest I “fall away”, and tried to convince myself that I was happy. Ultimately, I failed – thankfully – but it’s something to think about. The parallels do not reflect well on Christianity, or indeed on religious dogma as a whole.


February 7, 2011 - Leave a Response

I hate trying to think up titles. You may have noticed.

My major passion in life is for international development – I studied it in college, and I sincerely hope to make a living out of it. The usual expression I was met with when I told people what I studied was one of complete bewilderment, so for the sake of clarity I used often refer to it as “Bob Geldof studies”. I’m not even sure I like Bob Geldof, but he’s marginally more tolerable than Bono and people associate him with Live Aid, so…

It’s, as I see it, essentially the study of how to make really, really poor people not so poor. Obviously there’s a wee bit more to it than that, but when you boil it down that’s the most concise way of putting it. Since I left college I’ve had very limited opportunity to contribute to anything much in relation to it, because most jobs in the area require at least a Master’s level qualification, so I don’t quite fit the bill yet. I’m pretty much willing to do anything though, so I’ll take what work I can get. I finally got a chance this weekend.

Last year, I replaced a friend temporarily in an administrative position in a charity. It was nothing to do with international development, but hey, it was work. They do operate in developing countries though, so even though I stopped working there about 3 months ago, I was asked to participate voluntarily in some of the planning for their overseas projects. Delighted is not the word. I can’t get enough of it – I’d forgotten how much I loved this. Needless to say, up until the weekend I’d had an absolutely appalling week so this was a welcome distraction in more ways than one. I spent most of the train ride up texting my ex and trying not to cry in front of strangers, but once I got there I could forget my troubles in… well, other peoples’.

Most of the planning we were doing was in relation to a youth project in Zambia. In 2009 I spent 6 months in the adjacent country of Malawi, and I’d actually been in Zambia very briefly too so I was familiar with the area. God, it made me so nostalgic! Africa is incredible in so many, many ways – both good and bad, and this meeting made me want to go back there so badly. I had forgotten some of the sights – the women in chitenje cloth skirts carrying the most incredible burdens on their head as if they weighed nothing, the filthy streets, the children with bare feet, ragged clothes, huge smiles and curious eyes, the weird assortment of dessicated fish and maize nsima porridge that people eat, and most of all the unfamiliar feeling of being a stranger in this land. Being the outsider, being looked at and evaluated by others, instead of the opposite way around. Being “the foreigner” could be both good and bad, depending on the situation – many Malawians were very deferential towards me, trying to feed me or offer me things to the point where I felt uncomfortable. Conversely,
I was also robbed more than once during my stay and made to feel like an alien.

But it didn’t put me off in the slightest – coming from a Western perspective it’s incredibly difficult to accept that there are people, families just like yours at home who are forced to live in conditions you wouldn’t subject your pet dog to – out of sheer grinding poverty. It’s tempting to ignore it simply because it’s painful to acknowledge and seems an insurmountable issue, and I can understand why people do. But someone once asked me why I worked in an area that made me confront such poverty if it was so depressing, and I had to be honest – poverty will likely never end. As long as there are human beings, there will be horrible human beings who are willing to cheat and deprive others out of greed or self interest. There will always be injustice, and corruption, and consequently human suffering. But no matter how bad things are, they would be a whole lot worse if nobody ever bothered to try to help. It’s better to do something than to do nothing at all, and I actually really enjoy working at it. I guess it’s mostly just about coming to terms with your own limitations, and being willing to work in spite of them.

There *may* be an opportunity for me to go to Zambia this summer. The charity is looking to send a couple of people over to see how some of their projects are doing and to talk to some of the participants about it, and I might just be able to go as a part of that group. I’m really excited at the thought.

Well, there he goes…

February 5, 2011 - One Response

I’ve been trying really hard to blog more frequently of late, as I’ve been trying to keep in contact with the world in general more frequently. It’s a common theme for me – I retreat into the safety of my own imagination when I’m feeling sad or upset, thereby cutting myself off from the rest of the world. It may sound counterintuitive – perhaps it is – but it gives me some solace. I am a fully paid-up introvert, highly sensitive, and I get overwhelmed fairly easily.

It doesn’t help that my boyfriend ended our year-long relationship suddenly less than two days ago, and I’m still reeling. I’ll be honest – I’m heartbroken. No matter what the circumstances, it’s incredibly difficult to open yourself to trusting someone in such a profound manner, only to have them betray that trust by leaving or cutting you off. He maintains that he still loves me, wants to be friends, and does not want to lose me (etc., etc.) but I’m not going to be naïve about it. I love him, but I suspect that there is a lot more going on than he is telling me. We’ve been long-distance since we started going out a year ago, with him going to college in one part of the country and me living my hometown about an hour’s bus ride away. I’m not sure if that constitutes long-distance – but his alleged reason for breaking up is that he cannot do long-distance any more.

I am aware, at this point in time, that this is an incredibly self-indulgent post, and I apologise. This is not going to be a running theme of the blog. I can only hope that the circumstances are sufficiently extenuating to justify it – it’s more to excuse the absence of other posts, really.

I’m still in the crying-in-the-shower, waking up in the middle of the night only to spontaneously think “what a cunt!” stage of my grieving process, so my critical faculties are dimmed to the point where it’s difficult to look at anything analytically.
But – and this is where I count my blessings – I generally rationalise things quickly, and once I’ve seen him this weekend, gone through another bout afterwards of crying loudly and eating Pringles in bed alone, I should be OK. I am also incredibly blessed in the friend department – I’m friendly towards most people so have quite a lot of acquaintances, but my closest friends are the only ones who see me at my most vulnerable, and they are amazing. At least one of them will likely read this (Garden), so to you I say – I love you to pieces. Losing a partner is difficult, but if I didn’t have the kind of friends I do it would be so much harder. You guys are so selfless and empathetic, and you make my world so much brighter.

To be honest, I’m feeling a little bit better already just thinking about them.

Finally, something to look forward to…

January 28, 2011 - One Response

2010 was somewhat of a nightmare of a year for me. That’s actually an understatement – it was without doubt the worst year of my life, by a long shot. I lot both of my grandmothers, a close friend, I broke up with my fiancé, I was kicked out of home… and I finished my degree. It was a tough one. Since I finished college I’ve been working whatever temp jobs I can find, trying to accumulate experience to make me a better candidate for a postgraduate course. And… I think I might finally have found some work. It’s voluntary, but expenses paid, so fingers crossed it goes well and I can hack it. As I type this I am just going to find out more about the position, so I’ll write more when I know more.

And later today, I’m going to dinner with some friends in beautiful West Cork, and I might even get a long-desired massage 🙂

2011, I expect you to have some awesome shit lined up for me, God knows I’ve accumulated enough karma by now.

Keep your fucking cookies. Kthxbai!

January 25, 2011 - Leave a Response

The Friendly Atheist (TFA) is one of my favourite blogs, and one of his most recent pieces was on the issue of gay marriage in Iowa. It’s currently legal as of 2009, but Republicans are currently seeking to reverse that with an amendment which would re-illegalise (is that a word?) it.

The fact that they simply cannot let things be, and allow homosexual couples the same rights their opponents take for granted, is bad enough. But what TFA pointed out, and which I find an amazing insult to add to the initial injury, is that some prominent religious apologists have come out to demonstrate their dubious sympathy with the homosexual community by… wait for it… giving them cookies. While still opposing gay marriage.

Cookies: apparently a substitute for civil rights

The piece by the Friendly Atheist cited one group, The Family Leader, which wrote to supporters in a newsletter that “Several of us plan to bring a token of Christian love (like a small bag of cookies or other treats) to share with homosexual activists who we’ll be encountering Monday. It’s time we dispel lies about Christians, by tangibly showing love to people who struggle with homosexuality.”

How patronising. I mean, I agree that it’s a step in the right direction in the sense of generally trying to improve relations between the gay community and the religious one – but it’s a tiny step, and one that still manages to condescend to those fighting for marriage equality. It’s a bit like the quintessential Irish backhanded compliment – “you don’t sweat much for a fat bird”… maybe it was well-intentioned, maybe it was not, but either way it leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth.

The gay community are not advocating, protesting and working tirelessly for cookies. They’re working for the right to have their unions with their loved ones recognised by the law, the same way as it would were their partner of the opposite sex. Whether or not it was intended that way, trying to substitute cookies for acceptable legislation giving them the opportunities they deserve is a huge insult. Marriage equality? No, we don’t think you should have that, we’re going to continue opposing your fight for justice… but it’s OK, have some confectionary! Sure, sugar always puts me in a good mood when I’ve had a bad day, but somehow I don’t think comfort eating is going to do much for these people. It’s also incredibly lazy. Why give serious thought and consideration to the perspective of those you are so vehemently opposing when you can just bake for them instead?

The act in and of itself is not bad, but taken in context, there’s more backhand in this dubious act of of “kindness” than you’re likely to get from an angry Samuel L. Jackson.

Samuel L. Jackson: he'll backhand you if he's feeling nice.