Sunday, 28 October 2012

Musical Mutterings

So as promised last week, this week begins with a review of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s (GY!BE) Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! I’ve spent the week listening to it and I have to say I love it. For a band in such a particular genre as ‘post-rock’ to have a 10-year hiatus between albums and to come back with this – it shows their immense musical qualities. The album starts off with a monstrous beast of a song, ‘Mladic’. Twenty minutes of awesome. Starting with some spoken words, leading into a rather slow, violinic (©) intro, by 1:15 the song introduces its first distorted guitar sounds and builds it into the immense opening. At 3:30 the steam begins to gather at the chimney of the pressure cooker. For the next three minutes, there are subtle hints as to what is to come – at 6:42 there are a few squeals from distorted guitars that they are ready to go. At 7:42, you would be forgiven for thinking that the real rock is kicking off, but GY!BE shift the intro of the song beautifully: this is merely the building process to the real kick off of the song at 8:16.


The deconstruct into distortion, then guitars, then more distortion is just as good. It’s what GY!BE reformed to do.  ‘Their Helicopters’ Sing’ is a six-minute ear and mind cleanser. It awakens you from the trance of the previous twenty minutes by gently bringing you back to earth with a soft two-minute electronic intro. Then on 2:12 we have some bagpipes to awaken the mind! It’s a cacophony of noise but that is not to be derogatory about the song. The album is a punishing one for different reasons and this is just going for a shorter blast at different musical senses. Sandwiched in between the two beasts of the album, it’s a brave but an expectedly brave song sandwich from GY!BE.
We drop to near silence for the intro of ‘We Drift Like Worried Fire’ and within the first minute we have the first taste of some finger picking and more violinic (©) musings. At 2:57 we have a quite sudden change to defined guitar finger picking and the building process begins again. 3:58 brings in the drums as the song begins to simmer under the surface and it boils over at the six-minute mark. It changes tack at the mid point and chills out for a while with some nice violin work. But fear not! By 14:53 we are truly on the crest of a crescendo of guitars again! It chugs along beautifully until three minutes from the end of the song where it becomes quiet rather suddenly luring you into a false sense of peace. It comes back as quickly as it faded. The song is another twenty-minute mammoth but it hooks you from first to last.
The last song ‘Strung Like Lights at Thee Printemps Erable‘ is another electronic, static noise track. Again – that’s not to be disparaging. It’s challenging your senses to adjust to the ultimate changes of the album: the songs themselves rather than just the changes within the songs. The reason these guys are so good is evident in this album. I believe they provide the ‘building rock’ © for ‘post-rock’ and this ability is what makes these guys genii at their craft.
Just as an aside incase there’s any interest, other ‘post-rock’ artists that I enjoy would be Explosions in the Sky, God Is An Astronaut and 65daysofstatic. But GY!BE are the gods of the genre in my humble opinion.

Another new album acquired this week was Apocryphon from The Sword. I came across these guys in 2009 when they supported Metallica on their tour of the UK and they impressed me. They’ve a really distinct sound and made me think they were a heavier version of Fu Manchu – I doubt anyone else will think that! The album itself is good. I have given it a few listens on my hifi and I may have zoned out for a few songs but the ones I heard – I liked! That’s the difference between a metal album and post-rock – I find myself actually sitting down and listening to a post-rock album whereas I can do other stuff and merely hear a metal album. So far my standout track is the opener ‘The Veil of Isis’ but I also include ‘Cloak of Feathers’, ‘Arcane Montane’ and ‘Aporcyphon’ in my list of songs to check out. As happened with their previous two albums, you can find gems buried deep. ‘The Black River’ was buried at number nine on Gods of the Earth and so I found ‘Apocryphon’ buried at number 10! Have to say though – not one song made me want to skip forward so that’s always a good sign! It’s an album I’d define as groovy stoner metal so those seeking a thrash metal Sword album might be a little disappointed.

In closing, with thanks to as always, my top 5 listens for the last week were:
The Sword
Godspeed You! Black Emporer

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Go Small Part 2 - A supranational cooperative?

Since my last ramble about going small, there have been quite a few regions beginning to demand independence from the larger state entities! Did they secretly read my blog?! Viewing statistics would suggest ‘NO’ but I have a sneaky suspicion the answer is definitely …!

My last argument centered around the need to downsize in the hope that smaller entities would prove more difficult for corporations to buy, that there would be more interest in the politics of your area. This blog post touches on the interesting rumblings emanating from areas like Venice and the Basque Region. I know there are also happenings in Catalonia, Scotland and Wallonia, but for the purpose of this blog I’ll attempt to be concise with my argument. I’ll try to argue for the notion of Venetian independence using the concept of the Basque Region cooperative.

One of my previous points arose from my questioning of central government. I basically asked if we downsized, would that be beneficial to somewhere like Cork? Cork it was announced a while back, has seemingly struck oil; well a corporation has and thanks to deals made in the 1980’s the people will see absolutely no benefit from this. The Dublin government gets nothing except the corporation rate of tax on the profits. Yipee. With the recent abolition of and merging of lots of town councils, the Irish government is going to be even more centralised. There are parts I agree with in this – for example the planning process for developments was so corrupt it had to be taken away from the local councils. But a lot of the councils are now seemingly going to be money collection agencies for the government in relation to the forthcoming property tax. The central government gets to wipe its hands of this dirty business. How convenient. But I digress. My main argument here is that the national resources being utilised by the government are our police force and they’re being used against the people. The corporations by having centralised laws can use those laws to their benefit over both small and large landmasses. What government in one area feels is necessary may not what the locality wants.

Lets look to Europe and assess some examples both of regions who are actively seeking independence from the Nation State or who have unique regional identity and whose independence movements are not yet as pronounced as others. I’ll propose logical reasons as to why I feel going small could work.

The nation state as we know is only something of a recent political concoction. The Peace of Westphalia brought together lots of regions within a defined state border mainly for protection. Europe had just gone through two wars, both ending in 1648 with this Peace. Regions within Europe had been decimated by the Thirty Years War so these small regions sought sanctuary within the borders of a more powerful entity. This entity is what we call the Nation State. I believe that the nation state today has become too powerful, too corrupt and controlled by a minority that dictate to the majority what system we should use to live our lives and what economic situation we have to live in. The variance between states is too great and this variance is what causes people to risk their lives to escape one nation state for another. I do believe however, in an organisation like the EU. Yes it has its faults, but I think a supranational entity like that, run for the benefit of all the EU’s citizens is a way forward. The EU already has a regions policy. It promotes the cultural differences, the positives and the peoples of Europe’s regions. It has a webpage showing just some of the ongoing projects within the different regions and how they are benefiting from being within the EU. I think the world is too small today and wants to move too quickly to merit a move to nothing but totally independent regions. But much like the way the state system we have has ceded certain powers to the EU, for example in terms of trade negotiations, I believe regions could do the same. The EU could become a kind of giant cooperative movement. They have the basic formation of one in place already. Indeed “for one week every year European regions are in the spotlight. It’s called Open Days, lasts a week, and is dedicated to all issues regional and local. From every corner of the continent, thousands of local leaders and administrators come to Brussels to talk directly to EU officials and lawmakers. It is a time of networking, exchanging ideas and passing on information. It is also about celebrating the best of what Europe can produce. An array of local products – foods, wines [and] regional specialities.”  Could this be a way forward with our politics? The answer in my opinion is ‘yes’ and I look to the example of a current cooperative.

We have extremely sad stories coming from the nation state of Spain and most of us have heard about the economic difficulties Spain is facing, Well, despite these extreme difficulties there are success stories and they emerge from communities working together. While Mondragon is a corporation, it is one of the responsible and ethical ones. For “despite its international presence, Mondragon's co-operative structure has kept most of its jobs and production in Spain. It has 35,000 employees in the Spanish Basque Country, 35,000 elsewhere in Spain and about 13,500 abroad.” (France 24 article) I believe cooperatives are the way forward, both socially and financially. They bring communities together and ensure that the power base remains within the cooperative. There are no gigantic wages for someone sitting at the top while the people at the bottom work their balls off for a pittance. Profits are shared and communities worldwide benefit. Even when tough decisions have to be made, look at their methods:
“Most of its workers are partners in the firm, voting to elect the bosses and determine sensitive decisions. In May, for example, workers of its flagship electronics brand Fagor agreed between them to cut their salaries by 7.5 percent and to move workers to different locations.” People do realise that tough decisions need to be made to save business and protect industry. We often hear from governments that people ‘don’t realise that cuts are necessary’ etc. The big one for me at the moment is the bank debt. I wrote about bank reform previously and my belief that personal banks should be run more like Credit Unions (well maybe not Irish credit unions) but a banking cooperative that ensures responsible lending and not only promotes but rewards saving. Local money is used to run them, which again benefits the communities. I spoke last time about calculating interest rates based on the actual need of the loan. The aim of this is to go about reducing exposure to bad debts as people may well be put off unnecessary spending and bad spending practice if the interest for their proposed spending is too high. Easy credit leads to boom and bust cycles. Reducing the size of the banks brings them back to serve the localities they exist within.

Another regional example I’ll touch on is VeniceVenice was a Republic for around one thousand years before the Napoleonic Wars caused its cessation. What was a cause of its end? A powerful Nation State. Now you have the people arguing about things that are important: economics. Venetians argue about the tax they pay Rome and how they have a 20 billion deficit between that which they pay and that which they receive. It’s an understandable complaint when times are tough. What I am attempting to show here is that a lot of our security concerns now are economic. I would argue that Europe is safe from marauding hordes like the Mongols, that future independent regions like Venice are safe from empires such as the Hapsburg Empire that engulfed it as ‘territory’ after Napoleon’s France was defeated. I would argue it’s a safe time to return to regional entities.

I believe that using a supranational organisation like the EU could be the answer to future regional security. Now I realise that while I’m pointing out my belief in downsizing, I’m also arguing for a supranational body like the EU to operate as a gigantic cooperative! My argument for that is rational. I would still have bodies like the European Parliament, who do far more good than they are given credit for, to ensure there is no democratic deficit within this organisation. But firstly, by introducing a more cooperative corporation whereby people see the benefit of voting for bosses, for pay increases and decreases, for benefits – that may encourage people to vote in larger numbers for their representatives in the supranational cooperative that would be my vision of the EU. I believe that the policies of the EU could be carried forward with ease. Freedom of travel, freedom to work where one wishes. I believe these traits are transferrable to any future European Union. I think removing the hormonal Nation State from politics removes one of the scourges of humanity: nationalism. Downsizing society and its organs would not lead to a lessoning of ‘internationalism’. By having the EU promote your local goods globally, the people and their cooperatives can celebrate locally what they both can achieve and helping others would make everyone proud of their and others localities. Seeing your locality thrive on the international arena thanks in no small part to decisions you helped shape and voted for - that surely is a good thing.

The EU is not founded on principles like this. I think the nation state has served its purpose and a cooperative based European Union is what will bring people, communities and their cooperatives forward, together. For the better.

*quick update*
I also believe this can work on a worldwide scale - this is another example of a cooperative movement helping its community

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Musical Mutterings

Good day to you all. Last weeks top five artists were:

1.     Grinderman
2.     Queens of the Stone Age
3.     Mogwai
4.     Django Reinhardt (read his history - amazing)
5.     We Cut Corners

Grinderman are awesome. A side project to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – they bring something amazing to my music library. Nick Cave can be a bit down, with weighty lyrics at the best of times – that’s not a disparaging remark at all by the way, I love his music, but didn’t you just wish sometimes he’d just rock out a bit?! Grinderman are that. Their songs are rocking, they’re raw and they’re good! No Pussy Blues is a brilliant example of Grinderman in my view. Nick Cave’s brilliant frustrated lyrics detail how he’s doing everything he can to get a woman to sleep with him:

'I read her Eliot, I read her Yeats, I tried my best to stay up late, I fixed the hinges on her gate, but still she just never wanted to...'

But it’s his brilliance at arranging such a rocking song with an instrument he wasn’t noted for using too much – the guitar – that strikes you. His long time collaborator Warren Ellis and him are too amazing musicians. If you’re a fan of the quieter stuff, check out ‘White Lunar’ – it’s their music from movie scores they’ve written and there are some beautifully arranged and beautifully written songs. Well worth a listen.

We Cut Corners are the other band I’ll write about this week. They’re a two piece Irish band from Dublin whose debut album was released last year. ‘Today I Realised I Could Go Home Backwards’ went in my cd player the day I received it and didn’t leave it for a few days. Not only did it get played there, it was on constant play on my ipod too! The album got so many plays that We Cut Corners were in my top 5 most listened to bands last year! They were only surpassed by the big heavies Rammstein and Metallica. They have a few of their songs available here and their album is available from the Delphi Records website. Why do I think it’s so good? It has a bit of everything from the ‘Indie’ genre. It has a bit of screechy rock in ‘Three People’, 'Go Easy’ is a lively little song, soft yet moves nicely along. ‘A Pirate’s Life' is a lovely chilled out number. The rest of the album is as strong and worth supporting! They’re also playing in the Pavillion in Cork on November 2nd so if you’re free it wouldn’t be a wasted evening!

Lastly, I’ll probably be reviewing this  next week as it’s newly released and these guys ROCK. I was lucky to see them in Dublin in 2010 and it was one of the best gigs I was ever at. Give it your time and ears for an hour

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Reinventing Narcissism

I listened to an interesting podcast this evening. The podcast itself is called ‘Four Thought’ and it’s available on iTunes. The episode I listened to was released on October 10th. The speaker was Mark Vernon and the description of the talk was thus:

Mark Vernon, writer and former priest, says we should rehabilitate the concept of narcissism as a valuable form of self-love.”

Firstly let me begin this post by defining ‘narcissism’.

narcissism |ˈnärsəˌsizəm|
excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one's physical appearance.
Psychology extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one's own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

That is pretty harsh modern take in my view!

In my thesaurus ‘narcissism’ has the following associated with it: vanity, self-love, self-admiration, self-absorption, self-obsession, conceit, self-centeredness, self-regard, egotism, egoism.
Now if we took aside the most self-centered definitions that may have been added over the years, by my reckoning we’d be left with the following positives:
·      self-love
·      self-admiration
·      self-regard

We may also have the following slightly negative traits:
·      self-centeredness
·      self-absorption
·      egotism

I ask you to look at the positives and read them. What in all honesty is wrong with those? In my humble view – nothing is wrong with those and nothing is wrong with any person showing these traits. The following blog post will talk a bit about an institution I believe has a vested interest in keeping humanity suppressed for its own selfish gain. Engaging in ‘positive narcissism’ in my view, could help free us from this institution.

The reason Mr. Vernon’s talk caught my attention is because he spoke about an issue that has been in my thoughts since I wrote my thesis. Now my disclaimer here is that my arguments are against the institution of religion itself, namely the Roman Catholic Church whom I consider to be one of the most corrupt, evil institutions the world has seen. My arguments are not so much about religious beliefs – more the teachings of this criminal institution. Now part of my thesis involved me researching and writing about the control the institution of the Roman Catholic Church was able to place over society right from the Church’s very beginnings. A lot of the Church’s teachings have been about controlling the individual. Part of my first chapter centered on the French philosopher Michael Foucault. In lectures given in the 1970’s, Foucault spoke about certain Christian practices which firstly began with “the emergence of a very strange phenomenon in Graeco–Roman civilization, that is the organisation of a link between total obedience, knowledge of oneself, and confession to someone else.” (Foucault in Holland, 2002: 86) Foucault argued that the goal of these Christian practices was the same: Their goal was “to get individuals to work at their own ‘mortification’ in this world.” In my thesis my argument was that this phenomenon taught people to feel shame if they ever had a notion that the Church was committing wrongs and that this inbuilt shame in people caused silence rather than outspokenness in times of wrong doing for fear of offending a god and/or shaming those purportedly doing his work here on earth. I argued that this was and still is powerful and destructive control to have.

I mention this to give you the reader a very brief introduction to my theory of institutional Church control. Mr. Vernon when speaking about the criticism associated with self-love made the following point in his talk. He asks why narcissism carries such automatically negative connotations today? He says “it may have something to do with religious injunctions around the notion that its better to give than to receive, though I suspect its too easy just to blame religion.” (08.11 – 08.24) I have no such qualms! It is very easy to blame institutional religion and I have part of my argument laid out above. The institution of the Church has taught people over many, many centuries to feel ashamed of their bodies. It has taught society to feel ashamed of the natural act of sex. That any form of self-love is wrong. Only their definition of love is acceptable. This societal indoctrination of course had an impact on the psyche of people. This indoctrination led to the ‘crime’ of narcissism and the negative associations that my thesaurus listed alongside the word. My thesis aimed to prove that if society had different teachings, we would be different people. I personally turn to philosophy in my attempts to find answers and in this instance I turn to Aristotle.

While the word ‘narcissism’ was not around in Aristotle’s day, the concept of self-love was and Aristotle spoke of the need to love oneself for he believed that you are closer to yourself than to anyone else. Aristotle argued that those who denigrate self-love are thinking of people who seek the greatest honors and pleasures only for themselves. A good person who is self-loving will seek only what is best for himself or herself, which will be consistent with what is best for all. A good person will do seemingly unselfish acts, such as taking risks for friends or giving away money, but will do these things because they are noble and are motivated by self-love. 

Now I do not believe the institution of the Catholic Church fully understand or believe the message taught by their supposed saviour Jesus Christ because using Aristotle’s logic from this point, Jesus could be described as a ‘positive narcissist’.

Now, please excuse me while I paraphrase sparknotes but the following paragraph succinctly returns us to my control theory. They write that Aristotle’s discussion of self-love marks him as one of the early proponents of ethical egoism, a controversial issue in the modern world. Ethical egoism is the idea that self-love is the most important virtue and that if we all sought what was best for ourselves, the world would naturally work its way into a desirable shape without the need for selflessness. This idea is unpopular in the modern world because its most ardent proponents tend to be selfish conservatives (the emphasis is mine) who have no interest in the needs of others. Unlike us, however, Aristotle lived in a world where there was common agreement on what was good for all and where the community mattered more than the individual. In such a world, successful people measured their success in part by the success of their fellow citizens. Selfishness seems like a vice only in a world driven by individualism, where there is no evident benefit for oneself in helping others. 

Some of the most selfish conservatives that come to my mind today are the ones in the upper echelons of the Roman Catholic Church. A close second are some of the conservatives in the United States of whom a majority would recognise the Christian god as their almighty. Don’t believe me? Look at Church responses to the worldwide scandal of child rape and sexual abuse. A lot of Republican conservatives in the US argue for the right to life right up to the point of birth. Once born, you can face the death penalty at some point in your life, crippling poverty – basically neither have much interest in the needs of others. Their main priorities are maintenance of power and control over their flocks.

I believe that by reinventing the notion of self-love and thus ‘narcissism’, by removing the stigma that the institution of the Church has put on the notions of love, I believe a freer, more confident and vibrant people could emerge. My basic argument here is that in nearly everyone’s life, you are one of your own first loves. As a child, loving yourself helps to foster your belief in yourself that for example, your decision-making skills are good. Obviously the love of a parent or parents, guardian or guardians helps to foster these beliefs and they guide us back to the right path when our inexperience in life leads us off in the wrong direction. Loving yourself helps you feel grounded in your own body. It gives you confidence to face the world as an individual person; warts and all. The institution of the Church does not want this. It wants you to acknowledge that you are weakness ‘humanified’. It requires you to pray for strength to overcome your weakness. Self-love is no weakness.

I believe humanity needs to have more belief in itself and love for itself. The love starts within you. Please remember that no form of love is perfect. If we could only remove the stigma associated with narcissism I think we could persuade people to be a lot happier and a lot more confident. Not only would this removal of stigma facilitate this, I believe that it would begin to free society of the yoke that religion has placed around its existence. By accepting that we have faults and that we must live with them, only then can we can more easily accept the faults in others and become a more tolerant society. It is beliefs put in our heads by the Institution of the Church that cause us to question any theories or notions of love. When presented with thoughts, it is most important to remember the following:

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. ~ Aristotle

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Musical Mutterings 2

As the rain pours down upon my gaff, let me dip into this week’s musical mutterings!
My top five bands for the previous week were:

1.     Om
2.     Metallica
3.     Gil Scott Heron
4.     The Birthday Suit
5.     Charlie Parr

Ok so last time out I muttered somewhat about Om and how awesome they are. That would explain their position in this weeks chart. Still absolutely loving ‘Sinai’ and ‘State of Non-Return’.

But on to the first of two artists I’m looking at this week – The Birthday Suit. Currently I am in possession only of their 3 song EP called ‘Less Worthless Years’ but have pre-ordered their new album due for release sometime this month I think? They are headed by currently hiatussed Idlewild guitarist Rod Jones. He’s joined by Jacqueline Irvine, David Jack, Steve Morrison, Séan McLaughlin and Catrin Pryce-Jones. They offer nice melodic rock/folk songs. ‘Past Passes By’ is a lovely song. It’s a slow moving (not in a negative sense) song that builds beautifully and the singing just ‘goes’. It is It’s 3.40 of niceness! ‘Sing It Alone’ is a bit more of a straight up song. It starts as it means to sound, getting slightly more guitary for the chorus. Still a decent song! ‘The Longingness of Time Comp’ I like a lot. It starts with a nice picked melody with good vocals, builds gently over the first minute, adds intensity for the chorus which kind of reminds me of The Decemberists in a way, then reverses to the nice picking. They are (in my opinion) a slightly rockier version of a beauty of a band called In TheWillows. 

I’m also going to talk about Charlie Parr. Charlie was recommended by a friend in the old US of A. He’s a bluesy folk singer/songwriter. He is truly fantastic. His voice is softer than you’d imagine when you look at him but it still sounds like it has a story to tell. And tell it he does. The album I listened to last week was ‘Cheap Wine’. Seriously – check it out. Opening with a beautiful number called 1922 Blues it grabs your attention straight off. It rolls into my favourite song on the album ‘To A Scrapyard Bus Stop’. Check out the linked video. It’s a beauty. It caught my ear the very first time I heard it. Charlie is an extremely talented guitarist and the story telling in his songs really kept me listening to both the words and music solidly through this album.

That’s it for this musical mutterings. I’m working on a bigger piece for a blog due tomorrow so this is a short mutter!

Friday, 12 October 2012

My open letter

As promised in my previous blog post, this is the letter that I have sent to the following Members of the European Parliament from Ireland:

Emer Costello, Gay Mitchell, Paul Murphy, Liam Aylward, Nessa Childers, Mairead McGuinness, Brian Crowley, Seán Kelly, Phil Prendergast, Pat the Cope Gallagher, Marian Harkin, Jim Higgins - their profiles can be found here

Dear MEP,

I write to you today as a very concerned citizen of the European Union. You probably have heard of a lady called Catherine Ashton – she’s the European Union’s Foreign Affairs minister. A few weeks back she issued a joint statement with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Arab League, on the “importance of respecting all prophets”. The joint statement came about due to the violent reactions caused by the film ‘Innocence of Muslims’. I, like many others, worry greatly that the statement included only a passing reference to freedom of expression and that its main focus was on the point that we should be expressing respect for all religions and all prophets. I wish to briefly highlight some very worrying points which I hope as a Member of the European Parliament you can bring to Ms. Ashton’s attention and help persuade her to think otherwise for the sake of the freedom of expression, speech and thought for Europe’s citizens.

My first concern is regarding one of the organisations she issued the joint statement with – the OIC. This is an organisation that has, along with others, been attempting to introduce an amendment to the UN charter that would make defamation of religion a crime. If they succeed (which thankfully at this moment in time they have not) they would be criminalising my right as a European Citizen to question anything to do with religion. Why does Ms. Ashton wish to associate Europe with this organisation? Now please, do not misunderstand me – I am all for respecting the beliefs of people that are religious; but why then are my beliefs as an atheist being targeted? Why are my rights to question the messages, rules and contradictions in the teachings of ‘prophets’ being eroded? The old saying ‘history repeats itself’ is never more accurate than it is now and I will use the example of the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages to highlight the importance of freedom of thought when it comes to religion.
I ask you, where would women be if no one was ever allowed question the religion taught by the Roman Catholic Church? Take the views of one of the Church’s most revered saints:
"The woman is subject to man on account of the weakness of her nature . . . Man is the beginning of woman and her end, just as God is the beginning and end of every creature. Children ought to love their Father more than they love their mother." – Thomas Aquinas
Do we still respect this view? I should hope no one does.
Would we still have to respect this view if we were not allowed question, challenge and criticise the Catholic religion? I imagine the answer to be “yes”.
Another of the Church’s fanstastic modern views relates to homosexuality.
They are of the view that homosexual acts are contrary to the natural law. The church believes these acts close the sexual act to the gift of life; that they do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
Do we as citizens of the European Union respect this stance of the Catholic religion?
Again I should hope not. But if Ms. Ashton’s statement is allowed to stand, our ability to question archaic beliefs like the two examples I’ve given becomes all the more difficult. Where would we be as a society if we were never allowed question the Church’s belief that the Earth was the center of the Universe and that the sun orbited around us?
Where would we be as a race of people if we never questioned anything that the Roman Catholic Church deemed to be blasphemous? 

It is only by questioning the religious that we the people help to make it freer. By challenging Saudi Arabia this summer, the Olympic Council persuaded them to allow women to participate in the games. If Europe aligns itself with an organisation such as the OIC it is entering dangerous territory. Should they ever get their defamation of religion law passed, it means we lose our right to question their interpretation of their prophets’ teachings. Look at Malala Yousafzai, this week shot by extremists because she wishes to be educated. We lose the right to question the extremist’s motives if we respect their interpretation of their prophets’ teachings. They are after all merely carrying out their interpretation of Islam and punishing those who counter the teachings of their prophet.

My second concern is that by issuing statements with the aforementioned organisations, Europe gives increasing credence to some of these Islamic states and their use of the blasphemy laws currently on their statute books. Here are five examples that Atheist Ireland’s Michael Nugent gave when writing on his blog:

·      In Indonesia, Alexander Aan, a 31-year-old atheist civil servant, has been jailed for two and a half years for sharing material on Facebook about the Prophet Mohammad and writing that god does not exist.
·      In Pakistan, Asia Noreen Bibi, a 41-year-old Christian mother, has spent three years in prison and faces execution by hanging after a farcical blasphemy conviction. And last year two Pakistani politicians who questioned her sentence were murdered.
·      Also in Pakistan, Rimsha Masih, a 14-year-old Christian girl, was recently arrested for allegedly burning pages from the Quran. An islamic cleric was later arrested for planting the Quran pages as evidence.
·      In Saudi Arabia, Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old Muslim poet, has been jailed for blasphemy for publishing tweets saying that he would shake Muhammad’s hand as an equal if he met him.
·      And in Iran, Youcef Nadarkhani, a 35-year-old Christian Pastor, has just recently been released after spending nearly three years in prison facing execution on charges of apostasy and evangelising Muslims.
The European Union’s focus should be on getting these people released from prison and forcing these countries to repeal their ridiculous blasphemy laws. I say again that by aligning ourselves with oppressive organisations, it makes it very difficult to speak out against their crimes when Europe is a partner in their statements on what they interpret to be crimes against their beliefs.
Lastly, I ask where is Catherine Ashton’s voice, or indeed any high-ranking EU politician’s voice, condemning the following hate speech coming from the institution of the Roman Catholic Church? Again I quote from Michael Nugent’s blog because he puts it far more succinctly than I could hope to: 
“Pope Benedict recently said that to truly live up to our being we must recognise that we are dependent on God. And Pope John Paul II said that a culture which rejects God cannot be considered fully human; that spiritual values are ultimately what make us fully human; and that Jesus came to teach us what it means to be fully human.
This dangerous arrogance is spread by Cardinals and Bishops and theologians. Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor has said that atheists are not fully human because we leave out the search for transcendent meaning that he calls God. Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo has said that we will be fully human when we see the shining face of God. Cardinal Paul Poupard has said that there does not exist a fully human culture that is not open to the dimension of faith;. Bishop Patrick O’Donogue has said that the fundamental needs of the human person can only be truly fulfilled through encounter with the deepest truths about God and the human person.
More disturbingly, this dangerous arrogance is embedded in the principles of Catholic education of children. The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario says its Fully Alive program was created to help Catholic parents teach their children to be fully human. An Archdiocesan Board of Education in Iowa says that a Catholic school’s program must concern itself with the whole child in development that is fully human and thoroughly Catholic. Roncalli Catholic High School in Nebraska says its students become more fully human by becoming more deeply aware of God, self and others. Pope John Paul II Catholic School in Chicago says that it fulfills a person’s right to be fully human. Holy Cross Catholic College in Bury says a Catholic College strives to be fully human. These are only some examples.”

This is a far more serious matter than people wish to acknowledge. In Europe’s recent history, can you remember back to the teachings of a particular political party telling its citizens that a certain part of society were less than human? What were the consequences of those teachings? What was Europe built for if not to counteract intolerance and bullcrap like that?

Words have massive influence on people’s thoughts and it is for this reason that I await Catherine Ashton’s joint declaration with leading secularists, atheists social and religious leaders on the need to respect all people from the threat of religious institutional and interpretive man made intolerance. All people are important and should be respected.
I thank you for taking the time to read this.
Yours sincerely,

I should point out that when I emailed an MEP of whom I am not a constituent, I added the following:

'I write to you today, not as a constituent, but as a......'

And I signed off with my name! Not (me)!

Please feel free to use this letter as a template if you wish to email the MEP's. The more that do, the more they realise this is how we the people feel.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


Brian: No, no. Please, please please listen. I've got one or two things to say.
The Crowd: Tell us! Tell us both of them!
Brian: Look, you've got it all wrong. You don't need to follow me. You don't need to follow anybody! You've got to think for yourselves! You're all individuals!
The Crowd: Yes! We're all individuals!
Brian: You're all different!
The Crowd: Yes! We're all different!
Man in crowd: I'm not...
Man in crowd: Shhh!
Brian: You've all got to work it out for yourselves.
The Crowd: Yes! We've got to work it out for ourselves!
Brian: Exactly!
The Crowd: Tell us more!
Brian: No! That's the point! Don't let anyone tell you what to do!
 - Monty Python's 'Life of Brian' (quotes sourced from IMDB)

There has been a lot of who-ha around lately surrounding the issue of religious beliefs, blasphemy and freedom of speech. I’d like to add my own personal thoughts to this very matter. The first part of this blog will be my own ramblings, using a variety of sources to back up or support or highlight my points. You know – a normal blog! I’ll ramble and roam and hopefully hit on a few valid points!

The second part of this blog coming in the next day or two will include a more structured and possibly civilised open letter/email to all of Ireland’s MEP’s regarding the recent declaration by Catherine Ashton. My letter will be inspired by this blog post.

Let us begin exactly with what she said and with whom she said it. That will lead into my main argument.

The aforementioned Catherine Ashton is the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs. A few weeks back she issued a joint statement with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Arab League, on the “importance of respecting all prophets”.  This is the same OIC that has for years been seeking to adopt a legally binding prohibition against blasphemy most recently in the UN. As Michael Nugent pointed out, “Respecting all prophets would mean respecting not only the prophets of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, but also respecting David Koresh at Waco, and David Icke who believes that George Bush is a space lizard. This is clearly absurd. We can respect your right to believe, while not respecting the content of your beliefs. You have rights. Your beliefs do not. That is the essence of freedom of conscience.”
What I find most astonishing is these prophets and gods that our politicians aim to protect, need us mortals to fight their battles for them here on earth. If they actually existed and heard our ‘blasphemies’ and were truly so concerned about our cruel, hurtful words – why not do the old god thing and smite some poor suckers? You know? Show yourself to be angry, then speak from a cloud and apologise for the smiting saying, it was an incident that shouldn’t have happened…. and won’t happen again….. words to the effect of something like… oh I don’t know…… this:
'My smitings have brought deep shame. But shame is not enough. The smiting of said suckers is a grievous sin against god…. I mean me. Therefore we focus not on shame but on my sorrow for your sins. This terrible crime, and the inadequate response by some Church leaders, to my smitings grieve us all. Afterall…. You started it with your name calling.’

Hmmmm, no that won’t work. That’s too much of a ‘pass the buck’ attitude. We need more zazz.

How about:
"The suffering and trauma endured by some suckers who have been smited while refusing to respect my authoritah, and the effect on their family members, is a matter of continuing shame and dismay to all gods. Let us be very clear. The smiting of the suckers was, is and always will be a crime, and is contrary to all I believe in. But seriously. Just believe in the prophets, don’t question and I won’t need to do this again.”
Yes……that’s more from the heart. We’ll stick with that one for the time being. But rest assured oh prophet Space Lizard Bush – I know of an institution whose recent existence has been all about learning different ways to apologise for the same thing. If you need to call them their number is 1-800-GENERICOLGY – they’re also online at www.genericclericapology.abuse or www.institutionalcriminals.vatican In fact – your two apologetic examples above are paraphrasing some of their members worldwide apologies! They know how to apologise to so many different cultures and nationalities in the same meaningless fashion – if they can’t help you no one can.

So while EU citizens of all beliefs are being told to respect all prophets by the EU’s highest foreign policy prophet, here in what I like to call ‘reality’ or ‘everyday life’ we the people have an Institution full of prophets that blasphemes against my belief system: humanity. And it has done it since the first days of its formation. It has blasphemed against women, gay people, scientists, Muslim’s, Protestants, children…. everyone that isn’t deemed ‘Christian’. That institution is the Catholic Church. I have questions regarding their blasphemy aimed at our politicians.
When are we going to have a senior politician stand up and call out this criminal institution for the wrongs it has actually committed and worse still – covered up. The very Pope that ‘apologises’ for the abuse of children, is the same man that wrote the laws that damned the victims.
When will we have a senior politician who will stand up and tell this institution that their views on gay marriage are not even worthy of being associated with the stone age? Their views are so, so wrong. Plain and simple.
When will we have a senior politician come out and chastise the religious for having those whose interpretation of what their religion, religious book and prophet teaches, leads to crimes against humanity like this
What big men they’ve proved themselves to be shooting a 14 year old girl . I am not implying that all take their beliefs as literally as the above – but that is where the danger of Catherine Ashton’s statement becomes very apparent: the interpretation of ‘prophets’ and whose prophet says what to them. Some have a prophet or god who teaches them crap like this and some feel they have the right to say this. In fact, there are the beginnings of a few cracks starting to appear in one religious institution. One hopes more feel duty bound to speak out like Fr Hans Küng.

Lastly, I ask where are the voices in our political elite when the aforementioned authoritarian, criminal institution, the Roman Catholic Church, deems me and other people to be less than human? Where is Catherine Ashton’s voice condemning the following hate speech of one Benedict XVI? This Pope believes that gays and lesbians are, ‘less-than’. They are "incomplete".

I quote the following passage from a blog post by Michael Nugent because I believe what he says is so true and overall it is such a serious matter.

“Pope Benedict recently said that to truly live up to our being we must recognise that we are dependent on God. And Pope John Paul II said that a culture which rejects God cannot be considered fully human; that spiritual values are ultimately what make us fully human; and that Jesus came to teach us what it means to be fully human.
This dangerous arrogance is spread by Cardinals and Bishops and theologians. Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor has said that atheists are not fully human because we leave out the search for transcendent meaning that he calls God. Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo has said that we will be fully human when we see the shining face of God. Cardinal Paul Poupard has said that there does not exist a fully human culture that is not open to the dimension of faith;. Bishop Patrick O’Donogue has said that the fundamental needs of the human person can only be truly fulfilled through encounter with the deepest truths about God and the human person.
More disturbingly, this dangerous arrogance is embedded in the principles of Catholic education of children. The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario says its Fully Alive program was created to help Catholic parents teach their children to be fully human. An Archdiocesan Board of Education in Iowa says that a Catholic school’s program must concern itself with the whole child in development that is fully human and thoroughly Catholic. Roncalli Catholic High School in Nebraska says its students become more fully human by becoming more deeply aware of God, self and others. Pope John Paul II Catholic School in Chicago says that it fulfills a person’s right to be fully human. Holy Cross Catholic College in Bury says a Catholic College strives to be fully human. These are only some examples.”

This is a far more serious matter than people wish to acknowledge. In humanities recent history, can you remember back to the teachings of a particular political party telling its people that a certain part of society were less than human? What were the consequences of those teachings?

Words have massive influence on people’s thoughts and it is for this reason that I await Catherine Ashton’s joint declaration with secularists and atheists on the need to respect all people from the threat of religious institutional and interpretive man made intolerance. Blaming ones personal beliefs on a figment of ones imagination is just a handy excuse for people that make known their prejudices. All people are important and should be respected no matter what their beliefs, but beliefs should not cost others their freedom. We the people exist. The proof? We pay the politicians salaries.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Musical Mutterings 1

Starting tonight, I’m going to try and do a short weekly blog on the bands that I’m currently listening to and the music that is currently ‘doing it’ for me. This blog will be in addition to my blog take off, launch edition 2.421a

I’m now finished my masters’ thesis and have time to begin tending to my blog in a serious manner!

I recently bought the book ‘Enter Night: A Biography ofMetallica’ written by Mick Wall and I have to say that I enjoyed it immensely. It gave me a really good insight into areas of the band I wasn’t too familiar with previously – namely the formation years of the band and some of the different stories behind the recording of and influences behind the albums. What was most interesting after reading the chapters on individual albums, was listening to said albums straight through. While you notice the differences yourself when it comes to the immediately audible sounds, it’s only after reading that you notice the qualities that Cliff brought to the band in its earlier years. Yes this is a well travelled road but I just found it amazing the bass and musical skills he brought to the band. One very interesting point Mick Wall writes about is a rumour that Dave Lombardo was supposed to replace Lars in the band pre Cliff’s death. I can’t help but dream about the direction the band would have embarked on with one of the greatest drummers, thee greatest rhythm guitarist and such an amazing bassist. Not forgetting that Kirk was a fantastic lead guitarist also. How would their music have evolved? It kind of shocked me to read that Lars was still needing drumming lessons even up to the making of the ‘Black Album’. Fascinating read nonetheless! For what it’s worth, my top 3 Metallica albums would be:
1.     Master of Puppets
2.     Ride the Lightening
3.     Metallica

In other music news, this last week my top five artists were:
1.     Metallica
2.     La Strada
3.     The Kinks
4.     Om
5.     Keith Jarrett

Metallica were the outright leaderboard winners in no small part to listening to nearly all albums. I couldn’t being myself to listen to anything on ReLoad except Fuel and Memory Remains. I couldn’t bring myself to listen to anything on St. Anger. Period! La Strada are a Belgian three piece I came across on a cruise I won through my old job. They were one of my classical artists aiding me through a long night when spell checking my thesis. The Kinks I hadn’t listened to in ages! They’re one of those bands that you should listen to more but keep escaping my mind! Om on the other hand, have impressed me massively with their latest offering ‘Advaitic Songs’. What a phenomenal album. They played in Dublin a few weeks back but I couldn’t afford the trip to Dublin to see them. If you like haunting, slow, bass and cello driven heavy rock – these are the guys for you. The worst part is that my description probably does them no justice! They’re in a genre of their own. The standout song on the album for me would be ‘State of Non Return’. It’s six minutes of ultimate bliss on a truly amazing album. The heavy slow guitars and bass intermixed with the aforementioned cello – it’s a different sound from what you’ve heard before! Trust me!

I’ve recently gotten into Keith Jarrett after I listened to a fantastic episode of a podcast that I subscribe to: Witness, available through iTunes and made by the BBC World Service. It gave the background to a concert he gave in Köln and as the blurb says, the Köln concert was made possible thanks to this 17-year-old and her perseverance. I got my hands on a copy of the concert from my local library and it was truly something. So I’ve acquired a few more of his albums and he got me through one night of spell checking and grammar checking. Rio is quite an album also.

Ok so I’ll wrap up this post and hopefully have more music mutterings next week.