Thursday, 26 July 2012

Is It Time To Go Small?

Size matters. Ask anyone and they’ll all have their own reasoning:
“I enjoy a larger size” says Mark.
Nadine disagrees: “A small one packs more punch. All you need is a shot of caffeine in the morning. That’s why I like an espresso.” Mark of course, is into his frothy latte so enjoys the ‘grande’ beverage offered by some.

Now what I’m going to write about is probably impossible to achieve in this day and age but what I hope to provoke is thinking! Think about the possibilities of downsizing society. My reasons for doing so can obviously be debated, and I may be taking the most extreme examples but I believe extreme is what works. There’s so much out there today that makes us say “oh. That’s terrible” and click to the next news story.

So here it goes.

I believe that a downsizing of society is necessary. I believe that we are proving ungovernable as sizable entities and I believe this is being shown by countries like Greece, Spain and even America. It is too hard to govern from one particular city, a vast country with so many differing political philosophies. I believe that it is easier to corrupt someone who is far from their electorate than someone who lives and works amoung their voters. I hope my following examples will help my cause of why I’m beginning to believe that less is more.

The nation state system we currently live in emerged after the Treaty of Westphalia. We had defined borders, ones which other states could not interfere in. All well and good until the transnational ‘person’ came to be: the corporation. The world we live in right now is being overly influenced by the power of the multinational corporation. Their size and their power are massive influences on so many lives. Most worryingly, their monetary influence in democracies is ever increasing. America is going to have the most expensively bought presidency this November. The figures being mentioned are just frightening and sickening. Not wanting to state the obvious, but when you invest millions and millions of  $’s, €’s or £’s in a parties or individuals campaign, then it’s expected they repay your ‘generosity’ by passing laws that benefit you, the donor.

But it seems to have come to a stage where the laws and bills passed, are nothing but a gigantic benefit to corporations and are eating away at our humanity. The mantra is now consistently ‘profit before anything’, be it humanity or the environment. And personally I find this very troublesome. Capitalism has taught a large section of humanity to care, not about each other, but about their ‘stuff’. People’s concerns now are about their property. While laws are passed that “don’t affect me” people don’t care. This apathy is allowing big business buy control so much of what affects us and what we do. People who want out of this society and want away from the corporate bought governments are finding that laws written to protect them, are not there for the people any more.

In regard to the environment, well it truly is frightening what corporations are doing. Bad news? Lets just buy silence. Artic is considered off limits for oil drilling? Let’s buy our way to that limit. Lets prove that everyone has a price. It’s hard not to write they’re proving that everyone is corruptible, but for the most part, people live in the here and now, for themselves. If someone offers them facilities that they previously didn’t have, they accept. No thought is given to the generations that we’re passing this earth to. It’s going to be in some state. There are some victories for the small guy, but they’re becoming so rare and localised that it’s disheartening for the society we live in. Look at some of the other battles that are on going and you realise the relentless push corporations engage in. They have the means to keep on fighting in the courts and as shown in this amazing documentary they are becoming less able to lose, if indeed they lose at all.

Smaller society could prove more difficult to buy as individual communities would need to be negotiated with. A government based in Dublin for example, couldn’t just sign away the rights to an oil field in Cork. Responsible governments like Norway’s for example, are increasingly difficult to elect. Lies are told to get people into power and so it exists until the next lying, sorry, election cycle. Look at what is possible with a government for the people. A solution where society as a whole benefits, and the people get a little bonus also. But how many countries firstly have the ability to stand up to corporations, backed up by the countries governments they’ve bought, or are brave enough to do so?

Now I know downsizing what we have is nigh impossible, but what I hope to show in this writing is that it is possible; small victories have been won but we need to want this change to last. By having smaller society, communities will be willing to fight for each other more. I think this would lead to a ‘decommercialising’ of our lives, but what we would lack in capitalist consumerism, we could enrich our humanity with. I’m not asking for a return to pre technological era, I think that technology could only improve the community experience. We are all, after all, one big worldly community. But I believe energy needs can be met locally with the improvements in solar energy, wind power and wave energy. My examples above of small victories, I believe more are possible in smaller society. Local, small victories make nice stories in a national press. Nice stories that are forgotten about a few months down the line by all those except those that fought.

We need to have more than symbolic victories which corporations simply show their cunning and patience, in order to win at all costs.

My argument is currently thin, it needs fleshing out, but these are just my formative thoughts!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Gear Grinding

A famous cartoon personality once had a famous phrase “you know what really grinds my gears”?

Well, you know what grinds my gears? Religion. It is just something that the more I read about and try and learn about, the more ridiculous the whole thing becomes to me. I’m going to write about a few personal experiences that are leading me to a life of pure Atheistic bliss.

A few things recently (and one thing a few months back) have led me to write this non-too controversial blog. I have always been a quiet observer on religious issues and tried to keep out of any debates or discussions on religion and didn’t want a label of an atheist, agnostic or secularist. I didn’t feel the need to involve myself in learning more, or exploring more. No idea why – I just didn’t. That began to change when I attended a debate in UCC back in February where Michael Nugent spoke, and spoke very well, about the need for a secular state. Adnan Rashid was also in attendance speaking for Islam. What really got through to me at this debate, was Michael Nugent speaking without the need to force his beliefs on anyone in attendance. He spoke about the need to keep religious belief separate and private. No belief system should make or influence the making of rules in a society. Nothing at all wrong with that. What got through to me from Adnan was the need for RADICALISATION. DEATH TO THE INFADELS! Ha! I jest! …..hey it’s my blog – I’ll jest when I want. But seriously, he spoke eloquently and clearly, but the points were all stemming from the same belief. That good comes from his religion, that his religion helped create scientific advances. That you need religion for your morals. That Islam does this and it does that. Maybe it does for him – but what I’m asking today is:

‘Why can’t people give themselves the credit’?

Yes - we are a miracle; but of science! We are supposed to be rational beings. Why can’t we give ourselves the credit for what we do?! I went to hear Richard Dawkins speak in the National Concert Hall in June and his talk inspired me to join Atheist Ireland. I find it more important than ever to support causes that are societal driven. Fighting for a secular state merely means fighting for equality for all. You can have your beliefs, but in the private sphere.

Now here’s where I get controversial. Throughout history, different societies have had different gods. All as fake as the next. The only thing I do not doubt the existence of is a man, yes a MAN, named Jesus. There is evidence to suggest that a man named Jesus was around in the years he is said to have been. But he was not and is not a god. What is my reasoning? Well let’s look at how unique his story is:

Not very unique is it? As for the ‘god’ argument? I’ve always been amazed by the fact, the two ‘great’ religions of today, Christianity and Islam, began in the Middle East. It also amazes me that for an all knowing all powerful ‘being’ who wanted all of humanity to know about him, he didn’t do a great job of exporting his message to places like Asia….. Australia…… Europe……. The Americas. Especially as ‘he’ ‘created’ the first two people. I mean, that’s a really bad game of Chinese whispers if your message is passed on by the people you created and you end up with lots of different religions, and hundreds if not thousands of different churches a few thousand years down the line. Where’s ‘his’ voice to remind people of the right way?! Where was he during the Lutheran, Calvinist reformations? How about the major one of Henry VIII calling bullshit on the pope and his power? If the pope truly was and is this gods mouthpiece on earth – why no comeuppance for England as a nation? Why did this god not smite this heathenous nation?  There’s one simple reason – he doesn’t exist. Why would he have allowed the gigantic hunt for witches? Why would he not have given a simple hint as to the world’s position as a planet in a solar system orbiting the sun? Why not a quick whisper to the pope, or to any of the priests of whom so many hear his ‘calling’ but then don’t hear much else. So many questions – so much proof as to the stupidity of it all.

The above reasons are merely a slight peek into my thoughts on the ridiculousness of the Christian religion. There are obviously newer examples to use as to why this god doesn’t exist but that will be for another blog, another day. This little rambling will lead nicely into another blog on religion for a close date in the future. I’m writing my thesis on religion and law and I might condense some of my findings, writings on the matter into a short blog post here. It’s made for a fascinating research topic so sharing would be good! So remember:

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Bike Trek: Episode 1 – Trekacide, A Bike For A Snip

So here I am again…. 3 blogs in under a week. The writing bug has (hopefully) well and truly bitten me. This little ramble shall be bike related. As my title suggests, all is not well in my bike world. Some langers stole my bike from UCC over 10 days ago and I’ve been feeling a little empty since. Partly my own fault – I only had a cable lock on it which didn’t even put up a struggle for me. It just lay there like a cheap lockwhore and gave the thief/thieves my bike. 

 I should have done in UCC what I do in the city – lock my cobra lock with my D-lock and it’s highly unlikely it would have been taken. I was planning on selling it in the near future anyway so I had already thought of a Trekless future, well this particular Trek, I shall more than likely be purchasing another one. It was a great, nay, an amazing bike. So many memories with it! It was amazing to me however that even in such a public place, the thieves managed to take it! And even more amazing was that the CCTV quality up in UCC is quite honestly, terrible. A letter shall be on its way to try and get more investment into that for their own benefit. 

What really hit home about the whole episode however, was just how vulnerable us cyclists are to theft. It’s not something I had thought about until I started trying to do something about the theft. I reported it to the Gardai, but I was told it’s highly unlikely they’ll find it and even more unlikely that I’ll ever see it again. Now that’s not a criticism – I know how impossible a task it is for them to find a bike especially as it has probably made its way up the country at this stage. On the contrary, even following the recommended steps of reporting a crime early and giving as much detail as possible about your stolen goods proves more or less pointless when it comes to bike theft. Even if the CCTV in UCC had been good and we had seen someone at the bike – all that would ultimately prove is that someone definitely took it! While there are insurance companies offering cover now, it just feels bad that once your baby is gone – it’s gone! Highly unlikely you’ll ever see it again! Especially if it’s a valuable one.
My learned lessons? Better locks, all the time, everytime. 

And insurance. Because you never know when this distressing event could happen again. The only consolation is the therapy. Bicycle shopping therapy for a new one! And hopefully my new locks won't leave me in this situation.....

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Legalise Prostitution

Two blog posts in two days! Wow! I’m back on the writing train baby! After my little ramble yesterday about football, I’m back today with something a bit more topical for Ireland. There’s a public consultation which ends in a few weeks and there's been lots of talk here in Ireland currently regarding prostitution and whether or not we should follow Sweden’s path of criminalising the purchasing of sex. I for one am firmly against the idea. I have to admit, I was on the fence a few months back but I wrote an essay (Should Prostitution Be Legalised) for my course that opened my eyes in a big way. Sweden it seems, has never fully investigated the impact their laws have had on prostitutes, or as I prefer to call them - sex workers.  It does however like to throw about stats ‘proving’ that they’ve curtailed prostitution in their country. All well and good I hear you say; but it’s far from the truth. In 2004, prior to implementing Sweden’s exported moral law, a report by the Norwegian justice ministry “cited evidence of an ‘increased fear of attack’ among Swedish prostitutes, who found it harder to assess their clients because transactions had to be agreed hastily or on the telephone.” Even in 2001, (*note* this link will open a PDF) the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) expressed concern that “the Swedish legislation may have rendered prostitutes more vulnerable, and asked the Swedish Government to evaluate the effects of the law.” 

 (image found on
NGOs like Ruhama in Ireland who want the Swedish model implemented – (Please note that Ruhama are the main opposition to sex worker rights being established in Ireland and are also a powerful religious anti-sex work organisation. Ruhama is a joint initiative of the Good Shepherd Sisters and Our Lady of Charity Sisters, who have been caring for Ireland’s ‘fallen women’ since 1848 and 1853 respectively) - argue that another deterrent of this style of anti-prostitution law is that it would curtail the trafficking of women. On their website they say that prostitutes tend to be women who “were trafficked into prostitution in Ireland but a significant number were trafficked or prostituted into other countries but escaped to Ireland. Now while living here, they have sourced Ruhama for help.” ‘In Whose Name?’ – the largest study of migrant sex workers in the UK to date raised a few issues. It argued that there is a climate of fear being created amongst sex workers due to increasing police activity that is driven by “hype and misinformation promoted by NGOs who are ideologically opposed to commercial sex.” This claim is backed by the ‘Turn Off the Blue Light’ campaign in Ireland: “There is currently a “Turn Off the Red Light” (TORL) campaign being run by an alliance of organisations. They say they want to end prostitution and sex trafficking and ‘the solution’ is to criminalise the purchasers of sex. We believe the real agenda is to have their own ideology on sex work enacted as law.” The Metro focused on the same ‘In Whose Name’ study and reported “the majority of sex workers who were asked in a study say they prefer working in the sex industry to menial jobs where they are less likely to achieve such a good standard of living.”
Legalising prostitution would offer an honest, societal government driven support system for the sex workers. Not an ideologically, moral, religious driven propaganda machine, but an actual support service to these workers. No system is going to achieve perfection. What you want is a system that protects the people that are going to be involved. Ultimately, they’re the ones that suffer. People have to decide whether they want prostitution to be visible, or if they’d prefer the menace of invisibility. One would hope that society could allocate the resources to take the menace out of it full stop. Legalisation and regulation can mean discreetness and safety.

Friday, 13 July 2012

A little football rambling

Ahhh, what’s there left to write that hasn’t already been written about where we currently are with the state of football. One of my favourite bloggers, Mr AB, touched on this today in his blog ‘Sheik, Rattle and Roll’.  With the recent announcement from Milan that Ibrahimovic and Motta are on their way to Paris, he said that we’re “heading even further into ludicrous Championship Manager territory” and he is right. But, was I one of the few who got bored of the Championship Manager ‘system’ of taking over a rich club, along with your own, who then bought your youth and reserve team for millions while selling their own first team (conveniently) to you for a pittance?! Winning got boring. I loved managing what I had, mainly at Arsenal, but sometimes starting at the bottom with a Conference club and properly budgeting for the players the club could afford and when I won something, found it much more satisfying! …… yes yes I am talking about a computer game but in my defense, it was during my Champ Man addiction filled youth….. just imagine what I’ll be like in real life  when Arsenal win the league next season! My satisfied ego will be smug all over your face! Read into that what you will!

But back to the main story, the only thing I can personally say about this move to Championship Manager style football is that football is going to get very boring very quickly with the oil money currently spilling around. In fact, the oil money can be seen to metaphorically be an oil spill over football – the rich companies get to carry on as normal and buy positive PR for the shit storm they’re perpetrating (usually an extra couple of million on the transfer fees), some select few benefit, (yes Arsenal have been a beneficiary) while the least protected get to deal with the spillages, the slicks and the faux interest from the media while it’s considered ‘news’.  The teams in the lower reaches of football must be sickened looking at the sums of money being thrown about. The oil riches are currently overflowing from Manchester, Paris and Malaga (and I’m not forgetting the Russian in Chelsea) and it truly is destroying football. It is sad to see teams like AC Milan and Arsenal losing their best talent due to the massively inflated wages on offer from these oil clubs.  Now don’t misunderstand my point here – there have always been and always will be clubs that can afford bigger wages and have attracted the top talent, but when this is done organically, i.e. the Arsenal way, the Manchester United way or Real Madrid way – paying what you as a club, business or organisation can afford – all well and good. What the oil money is doing is concentrating talent between four to five clubs and it massively skews the market for everyone else. It might be naivety on my part, but how much money do you need to be happy? How much can one person truly spend in their lifetime? RvP was offered a reported £130,000 a week to stay at Arsenal. That he wants more, to me, is sickening. But that’s football life I guess. The idealist in me sighs and hopes for change, the realist knows I’ll still be there with Arsenal no matter what!