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Archive for May, 2009

That Hairy Old One..

Just to come back to the theme of beards for a moment: I got seduced into setting up one of those Facebook quiz things: ‘how much do you know about…?’ – in this case me.

And one of the questions I posted was: How does Malachi trim his beard?

The options included, biting it, plucking it, trimming it with a babyliss strimmer and ‘he doesn’t, it stopped growing years ago.’

All three people who took the quizz went for that last one.

I had never realised that we hairy chinned ones were such a mystery to the rest of you.

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No one took responsibility for the rape and brutalisation of children by religious orders when it was happening but there are more ways to respond now than simply by being appalled and swearing it will never happen again.
For a start, the orders which were responsible should be disbanded. This will only have token value, since there are few people left in them here and they have no responsibility for children any more. But if they stood down themselves it would be a singular admission of disgrace, and that is what is required of them.
Further, the state should impound their property and reverse legal sweetheart deals to limit the amount of compensation they would have to pay.
Those who continue to celebrate the contribution of these orders should examine their consciences carefully.
Currently there are Christian Brother trusts running schools on both sides of the border, preserving, as they see it, the ethos of the Christian Brothers.
Well the legacy of the Brothers may include some doctors and solicitors who think they got a fine education, but the suffering inflicted by the Brothers was not a fair price for that.
Those trusts should divest themselves of the name and reputation of the Brothers.
Further, I would like to see the history of the depredations, the cynicism and the corruption of the orders and much of the secular church taught to children in schools. It is as important that the history of this hideous period be taught to children here as it is that the history of the Holocaust be taught in Germany.
The atrocities were different in scale and degree, but the story is the same, of how ordinary people can become bestial.
And if the story is told, it has to be related to the global story. In many other countries, the sexual exploitation of disadvantaged children by Irish missionaries was disastrous.
In Canada, they were involved in running schools for Native American children. Those children were trained for servility before their white masters. Thousands were raped and many of those who fled the schools died.
In Australia they were responsible for the importation of Irish orphans and their severance from all hope of knowing who they were.
And if the evidence of experience now is that these celibate orders fostered sadism and sexual perversion, then we must look closely at how they are now conducting themselves in countries where they still function and claim respect.
There are no Christian Brothers teaching in Ireland but there are many in India and in several African countries.
If Ireland is to accept responsibility for the suffering that past generations allowed to be inflicted on children, then it must speak to those other countries and alert them to the danger that their own children may be abused in this way.This could be an Irish diplomatic responsibility.
Never again should these orders be respected or their word be taken untested about what they are doing.
And then we must try to understand how these things happen. Presumably many of those who joined the orders did so with an honest intention of living a disciplined and celibate life. Many of them left home at 14 to join junior seminaries, before their own sexuality was awakened and then had to learn to live with an impossible pledge to celibacy taken before they were fully formed.
These boys and girls also swore obedience to their orders and were, therefore, easily manipulated.
And then they were clustered together in single sex institutions, treated like gormless functionaries by their own superiors and put in charge of vulnerable children, who served the role of the cat that the office boy kicks.
But we have seen it in prisons and concentration camps and in English public schools, that a combination of sexual repression and power produces sadism.
Our own beloved CS Lewis, in a book regarded as a spiritual classic, Surprised By Joy, describes, indulgently, the routine sexual exploitation of little boys in an English public school.
These things were worse in Ireland than elsewhere, and where they were at their worst elsewhere it was often Irish clergy and religious who were doing it. That is the unforgettable legacy of a proud Irish missionary endeavour.
Well, let’s at least be sure, as far as we can, that future generations remember and understand, and that anywhere on this earth that an Irish missionary is in charge of children there is someone keeping a close watch on him.

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Who do you respect?
Set aside for a minute the individuals you look up to, because they have impressed you.
What category of people do you think deserves a respectful nod, being – by virtue of their work or standing – more important than you?
None?
Well, that’s good.
But until very recent times, it was obvious who the leaders in society were.
If you were preparing to meet your bank manager, for instance, you would put on a tie or your best shoes. You would want him to see you at your best, as a responsible and dependable person. You might even have felt a little frisson of humility when ushered into the presence.
That was six months ago.
Now what do you think of bankers?
They have plummetted in the public regard from being seen as the people who oiled the cogs of business, from the small company to the major enterprise; they were the ones who assessed the credit you could afford to handle and who endorsed your efforts with a little patronage.
Now they are widely seen as scheisters and rogues, who turned out not to be deft managers of credit but financial alchemists.
I mean, thanks for the sub prime mortgage, chaps, but did you have to give every one else one?
But the speed of the collapse of the reputation of bankers, dizzying as it was, seems sluggish compared to the collapse in the standing of members of parliament.
These are people who live by ritual, are addressed as honourable and right honourable, just in case we shouldn’t notice what fine and elevated people they are. And, sure enough, they are our law makers and also our servants.
And their position was underwritten by the great ideological principle of our times, democracy. So even when they were making a hash of things, we could allow them to imagine that they had the people behind them.
Then we got the slow erosion of respect for them through spin and media management, followed by the total crash of their stock, as it emerged that they had been fiddling their expenses and using them, in many cases, for property speculation, while, at the same time, lecturing us on the need to tighten our belts, limit our payrise claims and live off miserly benefits.
I mean, how low and hypocrtical do you have to be to string out pensioners with vague promises of future increases while shuffling them parcels of coal through the winter, while at the same time all around you MPs are shuffling their receipts to maximise returns from the tax payer?
The problem for the MPs now is that they can not credibly demand that people pay their taxes fairly, any more than bankers can insist on our probity.
And, if two pillars of rectitude alone had been deflated within months of each other, that would be remarkable but there is a third, the church.
OK, it is a long time since people saluted the priest on the street and got out the best china for him when he called.
Today you might be advised, if he did call, to usher your children upstairs out of harm’s way.
The implosion in the prestige of the church has been progressive over several decades. The religious orders had collapsed before the scandals.
But there was a time when a man or woman in black robes, walking towards you on the street, would prompt you to straighten up and show a little respect.
Who inspires that reaction in you now? Anybody?

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http://malachi.podcastpeople.com/redirect/media/32300/malachi-o-doherty-32300mp3

“Snoring was nature’s guard dog. At the ancient campfire, the low rumble was probably a warning to all dangerous animals to stay away, for the man is never more bestial and appalling than when he is shuddering from deep in his throat up to his sinuses.  “

Barney

Barney

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It might be that most of us will survive swine flu and that the world in six months from now will not be greatly changed by it.  Or maybe the world will be more radically transformed by something we haven’t noticed. We did not, after all, seem to think global warming would bring us down when only a decade ago the great fear was of a new ice age.
But the notices on the trees and telegraph poles around us since we were children have said, ‘The End is Nigh’, and we tend to think that is about right.
I have lived in a fatalistic Hindu culture in which people believed there was nothing they could do to avert destiny and yet they had the paradoxical faith that life just goes on and on. It is we Christians and post Christians who live with the perpetual sense that the world is about to end.
And maybe it is. Philosophers like John Gray have made an unnervingly plausible case for pessimism about the immediate human future. I’m more with the irrepressible Steven Hawkings who tells us to prepare to seed new colonies among the stars, to sustain us in millions of years from now when we will have outlived this planet, our first stepping stone.
The superstitious expected the end of humankind to come with the turn of the millennium. A close reading of Nostradamous by writer Colin Wilson, suggested 1998 might be the year to keep your head down.
And though we didn’t fry under a thermonuclear blast or see the collapse of all our networks with the unleashing of Y2K, we did see – and continue to see – threats to our survival, coming at us like thundering bowls from God’s low swing. Either something is trying to finish us off, and just missing us every time so far, with Sars, Meteorites, Bird Flu, melting ice floes, or we are projecting a scary pattern onto random events.
A lot depends on how we perceive our vulnerability as a species. We might be eradicated by a super volcano; we came close to it once before. And who’s to say that Knocklayde won’t erupt again? But, for now, what may be hurting us more is our ingrained tendency to read all threats apocalyptically.
I was part of a drop-out generation in the 1970s which really did expect nuclear war. If you had asked any of my hairy friends of the time why they were smoking dope and not looking for a job, most would have said, ‘because there is no point’. The declared western strategy for dealing with a possible Russian invasion of Germany was a nuclear attack. And for the Russians to believe that the west would really do something so stupid, the ordinary population had to believe it too. You need propaganda to make a nuclear option plausible, and it’s message must be that you are prepared to lose your own population in order to win a war. It is an atrocity against the well being of the people on your own side.
We were trained then by our own cold warrior governments to expect the end of the world. This fitted very neatly with the religious culture of the west, and particularly with the new apocalyptic millennial evangelicalism. The irony about this new Christianity is that it was driven by men in slick suits who seem to be doing very well out of the world they wanted us all to get ready to wave goodbye to.
Pastor McConnell at Whitewell was preaching the imminent end of the world in the 1990s. I wonder how many of those who took him seriously had life insurance policies and long terms investment portfolios.
Swine flu seems to fit so neatly into our routine, and now tiresome, expectation of global calamity that some people are now finding that a reason to dismiss the warnings.
And some of the media are going over the top. The BBC on Wednesday was reporting ‘suspected cases detected’, as if straining to exaggerate the chance that someone with flu symptoms might give them the headline they were yearning to write.
Journalist Ben Goldacre has described in the Guardian how, in the interest of balance, numerous BBC programmes have been inviting him on as a swine flu sceptic.
The best balance of all right now would be the plain realistic understanding that new diseases come along from time to time and hit us hard – as did Aids. This might be one of them; it might not. Either way it doesn’t mean anything other than that we should be prepared to safeguard our wonderfully prolific, still-surviving selves, in the real hope that we do have a future.

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snails7

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