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What you want to say – 17 July 2019 July 17, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

Freedom of speech and freedom from consequences July 16, 2019

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I was entertained by this from a Dublin taxi driver in the IT recently…

Sir, – I believe free speech is dead and buried in this country.
I am a Dublin-based taxi driver, and as such I hear a lot of comments and opinions expressed by my customers in relation to various topics.
I have learned through my own experience never to engage in such conversation, as it can be detrimental.
I would like to give you some examples of why I hold this view.
While listening to a conversation regarding the gay marriage proposal, I was utterly frowned upon for expressing the view that I would be voting against it.
I expressed a similar view point that I would vote against the abortion referendum, and was ridiculed for having done so.
Regarding the Brexit debate, at the absolute insistence of my customer, I dared to share my thoughts with her, and declared I was a strong Brexit supporter.
This lady, having literally thrown the fare at me, and abusing me by calling me every name she could think of , left my car in an extreme rage. She then stood outside the car, and proceeded to perform Nazi salutes towards me.
I had informed this customer twice, prior to her insistence, that I do not talk about politics or religion. – Yours, etc,

Some interesting responses after that to the letter =- for example the person who writes that while sharing none of his views:

Ultimately, in any democracy, respect for the views of our opponents is important.
I believe that pillorying the likes of [the letter writer] is unhelpful, and so give him credit for publicising his experiences. – Yours, etc,

And another:

Sir, – Paul O’Beirne seems to believe that the right to freedom of speech carries with it a right to uncritical agreement with one’s opinion. No such right has ever existed, nor should it. Free speech applies not only to your letter writer but also to those who would disagree with him. – Yours, etc,

It seems to me that the last letter gets to the heart of this. The right to expression is one thing. I’ve no issue with anyone articulating a legal opinion in a reasonable manner, whether I agree with it or not. But that right to expression doesn’t mean that the opinion has to be agreed with. I’m not certain that throwing a fare back or making Nazi salutes is necessarily the most cogent response to an opinion one disagrees with but the presumption that articulating an opinion in and of itself means people cannot or should not respond seems utopian – as well as an infringement on the right of expression of others.

It reminds me of hearing about other sites (ASF’s for example) where some have demanded access to respond to the thoughts of those who run them. This betrays a significant lack of understanding of the processes at work. There’s no compunction on anyone to offer a right to reply in the context of social media or to engage with others. That’s a right that is variable and determined by those whose site it is. And the idea that this response is a right is very curious. The point is I or anyone can start a site and again within legal limits say pretty much anything. But I’ve no right to demand a response and there’s no right for others to have their responses articulated on the site. Nor can I prevent someone from setting up another site where they fisk this site. Though why someone would bother is a different matter.

In an odd way the person writing the first letter gets it – they don’t articulate opinions that may draw negative responses because… well… they don’t want to draw negative responses. This isn’t an infringement of their right – it’s their taxi after all – they can pretty much do what they want. Rather it is that, perhaps unconsciously, they wish to control the nature of the response. Again that’s fine if they are happy to put the energy into it. I don’t think I would. But they cannot reasonably claim to be surprised if they articulate an opinion that is controversial or contentious and that generates a vehement response.

And this works other ways too. Those of us who have been in taxis and heard sub-racist or misogynistic talk from those driving them (a minority in my experience but not unknown to many of us) will know the times we’ve kept schtum because we need to be somewhere – or stopped the car early in order to get out.

Speaking of broad churches July 16, 2019

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Perhaps little surprise that the Green Party is open to coalition. But given their first and last experience of government surprising they’re quite so open to participation again.

Certainly their membership seems strongly in favour though some straws in the wind:

The debate on coalition illustrated a slight generational bias with younger members such as Saoirse McHugh and Lorna Bogue arguing trenchantly against any agreement with Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil. They also argued the party should identify itself as “explicitly anti-capitalist”. That was amended by delegates to “explicitly antineoliberalism”.

A lot riding on how many seats they actually get at the next election.

A broad church July 16, 2019

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It’s interesting the ferment in the British Labour Party. So many issues. There are those who would query how wide a party it should be – and I’m not talking about those who left for the TIG who are, by my reckoning, simply not left-wing at all.

There’s always going to be a bit of a flux at the margins of any political group, and of course within such groups. Ideological position can be difficult to pin down. I was talking recently to a former Labour TD who went independent and would be regarded as quite left-wing. I was surprised to hear them argue that their view was using the tax system as a means of rebalancing matters rather than nationalisation. Of course it’s not either or, and nationalisation isn’t the ultimate panacea either – I think a much broader range of forms of social ownership offers greater flexibility and is more important by far than taxation in transformative terms. And the tax system is crucial too – albeit it is one lever amongst many.

But the point is that a British Labour Party unable to accommodate such views and many more wouldn’t be much of a broad church. It’s one reason I’m cautious about deselection processes. On paper it sounds fine, and in certain instances essential, ensure that only those with congenial views are elected, and yet the reality is that it could leave a string of seat losses and as we know the position of the Labour Party in the UK is far from robust. Indeed I tend to the view that a slightly more diffuse approach, of the sort that finally saw the TIG depart, is better than full frontal assaults. There may be those who the latter approach is more appropriate. But one interesting dynamic is that local CLPs often seem to tolerate MPs because they are able to be elected (I saw that in the WP too come to think of it). That’s a problem, but one has to wonder short of a massive change in the UK electoral system is there any great choice in the matter.

A lot, naturally, depends on what we consider the baseline positions of the BLP. I was a member during the last of the Kinnock years, and in all truth it was, whatever ones views on his leadership, reasonably left-wing in that period. Less so than my own position, but still clearly so. I felt that was largely true up to the advent of Blair. I wonder how I’d have felt were I involved in the early 2000s. I suspect that it would have been difficult to remain in the party during that period. Yet people, many very genuine and sincere and some very left-wing did, precisely because it was the largest and most diverse formation. And that was an enormous strength when as was inevitable the Blair project began to fall apart – and just on that I think one can easily argue that it took a good decade for that to finally disintegrate.

Sometimes it seems that there’s a view that there’s a sort of uncontested terrain that is the platonic ideal for a political formation, and yet look at how concepts and issue such as nationalism, republicanism and so on deeply divide political formations on the left and further left on this island. Which perhaps is another way of saying there are no easy solutions and sometimes acting as if there are weakens the very formations necessary to achieve them.

The world of workers: Job Stress July 15, 2019

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Well this is useful, although it does seem to state the obvious:

Although it may still be below the average for 10 western European countries, job stress in Ireland more than doubled from 8 per cent in 2010 to 17 per cent in 2015, the ESRI said this week.
The think tank also found that health sector and public administration workers are at particular risk, as are those in a group of jobs labelled by the report’s authors as associated professionals or technical. This group represents the foot soldiers of most organisations, not those in managerial roles but those doing the day-to-day graft that keeps the organisation functioning.

Noise to information… July 14, 2019

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This from the Atlantic on Twitter is interesting. For all its much vaunted influence the piece notes that despite the froth of excitement on the platform over the released of the Mueller Report, supposedly the defining moment of the Trump presidency, there was no impact at all on his poll ratings – negative or positive. Indeed the government shut-down impacted much much more strongly on his popularity. Worse again, for those who are overly attached to it, Twitter users aren’t representative of the public at large.

This can’t come as much of a surprise to people, surely? I was always struck when commenting on Politics.ie by their polls. These were so hugely out of sync with general public opinion that after a while they were almost comforting. And the piece notes that twitter (and this is true of Politics.ie too, and no doubt this site) has more politically active or politically interested people involved than the society at large.

Which means that those who use such platforms (or this site too come to think of it) as touchstones may be making some significant errors. And the piece addresses the curious ‘flattening’ effect of twitter, though I think this is true of other areas too, where every outrage becomes almost equivalent – controversies don’t have a ranking order because of the nature of the medium.

Sunday and the Week’s Media Stupid Statements July 14, 2019

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Away and taking a break, but this caught my eye earlier in the week.

Someone well known to this particular column (are there column’s on blogs?) actually makes some solid points in this piece on Brexit in the IT. For example, he points to the counter-productive manner in which various parties functioned in the positioning on the issue in the last few years – the DUP which refused to accept a ‘special status’ for NI in the EU, the over optimism of the remain camp given the actual disposition of forces in play in the UK which led to the admittedly flawed withdrawal agreement failing to gain any traction. But then:

Finally the Irish Government, with the backing of all the main parties in the Dáil, has clung doggedly to the backstop designed to prevent the return of a hard border on the island. The net result of that stance could be the imposition of the kind of border controls the backstop is supposed to prevent.

But that doesn’t make sense because if Collins is arguing previously that the withdrawal agreement was the only game in town for remainers of which the backstop is a functional part then that’s a basic contradiction. And no alternative offered – just this “any feasible proposal for avoiding a hard border needs to be explored” , perhaps because there is none. Oh well.

The other revolutions – Greetings on the 14th of July July 14, 2019

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Another epochal revolution – perhaps, do I tentatively suggest, arguably the most epochal?

Here’s a serious question, where do people suggest is good in Paris on Bastille Day? All recommendations gratefully accepted.

Stereolab? July 13, 2019

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Anyone from here get to Stereolab this last month? Met a lot of people there but only saw one CLR-linked person in the distance. I’ve always liked Stereolab, but much more their early recordings as noted here. But, got to say, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the gig overall. There’s something both compelling and charming about the intensity of their approach.

As it happened it was a long booked occasion and only a week or two before the gig it was announced The Adolescents were playing the same night in Dublin. Now I’d have to admit to liking Adolescents a lot more than Stereolab, and I’ve never seen them, but I can’t say I was too put out to discover the clash. There’s something about the Adolescents that makes them so much of their time (I started listening to them in the early 1990s) and I’d worry that seeing them at this stage might alter that perception.

Yet that said I don’t have the same worries say about the Damned or Undertones, both groups from slightly earlier again than The Adolescents. That said I first saw the Damned in 1985 so they’ve been a constant enough presence having seen them at least once a decade subsequently. As to the Undertones while the original band broke up there was That Petrol Emotion so they were a continuing feature for quite some time.

Anyhow, here’s the Adolescents live this year.

Authentic voices July 13, 2019

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I like this piece here in the Guardian written by Australian writer Malla Nunn whose heritage is mixed-race South African. She pushes back against the idea that only those who are of a culture can write (or indeed, and this is more pernicious, should write) about that culture or race.

It seems to me that there’s a contemporary confusion between the absolute necessity for more voices from those who were dispossessed and marginalised and/or continue to be, and stopping those who are not of or from a specific group writing about it.

And I worry that there’s a view that somehow fiction is a limited resource, that if one person writes about something they are preventing someone else from doing so.

As Nunn notes:

The search for authentic and diverse fiction is helping to address a centuries-old lack of outside voices, and for that, I am grateful.

But to insist that stories be told only by those with “lived experience” goes against my belief in imagination, empathy, research and the shared experience of being human.

I understand the essentialism of these approaches she describes – because it is understandable as a response to oppression. But there are contradictions in essentialism. Is the idea that we break down or reinforce ideas of ‘otherness’? My own inclination is the former while accepting that there are distinctions of place and time (though not of humanity). But I think that while there should be regard for specific voices that doesn’t mean they are the only voices that can or should be heard.

And it is the proscriptive nature of the second that is troubling – because it engenders problems given the sheer cultural weight of those who have greater access to the levers of power.

And she makes a very interesting concluding point:

I leave you with an example of the power of story to transcend an author’s “lived experience”: The Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, a white, Zimbabwean-born author. The books lack the grit and authenticity I wanted in southern African crime fiction. My mother, on the other hand, adored the series. When she sat down to read those books, she wasn’t looking for hard-edged reality. She’d lived through poverty, shame and racism in real time. She wanted humour, hope and a black woman in control. Alexander McCall Smith’s work gives her that. I’ll let her and all the other readers decide where they stand in relation to the character and the story.

Two readers, both with similar backgrounds, approaching a work of fiction in two very different ways – and yet no call for the fiction to be excised.

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