Saturday 17 June 2017

Don't see the world in black and white - humanity is a thousand shades of grey!

Can’t I turn my back for one minute? Last week I went off to London to spend a few days with my mum. Sitting in her living room, pure terror ran through me, as Mum told me a tale of horror about her friends, who live around the corner in the road where I grew up.

Above the front door of Jewish homes there’s a tiny container holding a prayer, written on parchment: a mezuzah.

Vile scumbags had been going down this road, knocking on doors with a mezuzah and yelling

“Heil Hitler!”  

at lone senior ladies opening their doors.

Immediately protective of my mum, I felt amazed yet again by the stoicism she displayed.

After a childhood lived as millions of bombs fell nightly from the sky, her Blitz Generation takes things in their stride.

Alongside the police, my family and friends feel protected by their local Jewish community. There exists a strong sense of belonging, of togetherness, supporting and being supported by each other.

Even though I’m an atheist, I feel culturally and in every other way Jewish. The Nazis didn’t care if Jews believed in God or not, but here in the west of Ireland there’s no similar community to lean on, reach out to, talk to.

In fact Irish opinions on Palestine and Israel are often as naive as many of the views I hear from the other end of the spectrum, back in London. I end up wary of speaking about or writing my views, as I love my friends and family, and if I did so it would upset both.

So often I feel pretty damn lonely in both places I call home.

Maybe this lack of community support was the reason I felt more scared than Mum did: if someone heil Hitlered me at my door, I’d be bloody terrified.

Ah, but wasn’t this why I fell in love with life here in the West of Ireland? Aren’t we compassionate here, preferring people to profit and a heart to heart more than a heil Hitler?

Shaken by mum’s news and rolling coverage of the London Bridge murders, I go online to comfort myself. What’s going on back in lovely gentle Galway?

Fascists are throwing rocks through the windows of the Ahmadiyya Mosque in Ballybane.

You’re kidding me.

The City Council is evicting ten young families, offering no plan for their future accommodation, beyond presenting themselves as homeless to the City Council.

“Ah!” you gasp. “He forgot to say they were Traveller families!”

No, I didn’t. My first job in Galway was working with young Traveller children in the Rahoon Flats, and years later I worked with teenage Traveller boys in Ballybane.

What were they like?

Well, there were a couple of no good violent types, quite a few half-decent boys, loads of good ‘uns and one or two pure salt of the earth diamonds.

If that breakdown sounds familiar it’s because it works for the entirety of the human race. We’re not all angels, but there’s a lot more good than bad.

Over the years I grew weary of debates about whether Travellers were an ethnic minority. The only truth seems to be that they are discriminated against like one.

You might have young family members living in your house or garden. Unable to afford housing, they need a mobile home while they save, or to live rent free while they balance caring for young kids with work.

How would you feel when you hear that the council has evicted them from their home, with no offer of alternative housing?

Wouldn’t happen, would it.
You’re not a Traveller.

None of the tired arguments about bringing it upon themselves will wash in this instance. Awarded by the Diocese, these homes have supported the growth of 10 young families over the past 25 years, and now the authorities wish to wash their hands of them.

There’s been no new Traveller accommodation in Galway for over 20 years, so this eviction is forcing people onto the roadside. Happily there was a wonderful turnout of demonstrators in support of these families, just as there was outside the Mosque.

I wish I could have been there too.
Broken windows make me think of Kristallnacht.

Those protesters belong to the loving and caring majority in that breakdown of human types.

However, some become blinkered by their rush for justice. 

Mentally masturbated by Facebook feeds that mirror exactly what they want to believe, far too many people now see the world in black and white, when humanity is truly a thousand shades of grey.

In a mad rush to attach themselves to one extreme, in order to do battle with another, many lose sight of subtlety and moderation.

We are complex beings and better humans when our opinions reflect that.

I fear the speed with which people are making irrational connections. An ideology that wants me dead inspires an idiot terrorist who’d lived in Ireland to kill innocents in London, which leads to a bunch of dangerous fools attacking a mosque in Galway.

In their eagerness to make sense of this hate crime, some then create erroneous links to the Palestinian flag that flew over Galway City Hall, which leaves this Jew, who yearns for a safe Israel and a free Palestinian State, feeling mildly intimidated.

Ah poor diddums.

Galway is far from Gaza, but in a hurry to fortify their own truths, people are starting to think in two dimensions, so such statements can quickly lead to those neo-Nazi bastards threatening my mother’s friends on their doorsteps.

If you need to feel tribal, support Galway.

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 11 June 2017

What do you write when you've nothing to say?

“Howya Charlie!”

“Well hello Seamus!”

“You recognised my voice! Fair play to you!”

“Well, you have a very, erm, how can I say, individual voice mate. What can I do for you? How the hell are you? Haven’t spoken to you for ages!”

“I’m good, my friend. Good, yeh. All is good. Just wanted a bit of advice about the writing, Charlie. That’s all. Want to get back into the scribbling again, and not sure how to go about it.”

“Well that’s good mate. You know the story. Just get stuck in. You’re a heck of a poet and wordsmith, but as you know poetry isn’t my area of expertise.”

“I do, but you helped me before and I see you every week, month in month out, year in year out, turning out the work, and I want of bit of that self-discipline, to work every day like, y’know?”

“I do mate, but I’m sorry. Can’t help you with that. Self-discipline is a bit beyond my remit. Maybe you need a life coach or a personal trainer or something.”

Hysterical laughter at both ends of the phone.

“Sure, aren’t there thousands of personal trainers here in Tuam? Doesn’t every sham have his own personal feckin’ trainer up here!”

“What I mean is, I can’t help you do it. All you need is enough desire and you’ll find yourself working, and desire is something you’ve got in spades, Seamus. You’re a driven writer.”

“Well thanks for that, Charlie. Makes me feel better to hear that, just on its own like, but seriously like, for a moment now, how do you do it?”

“To be honest mate, you’re asking the wrong person. You should be calling someone like Dave O’Connell, the chief editor of the paper. He has to write a rake of news stories, edit a whole lot more, pass the final edition of the paper and write his own column every week. All I have to do is come up with 1,000 words a week. As far as gigs go, mine’s a gift. Open brief, write anything I want, ‘cept maybe make sure to mention Galway as often as possible. Also I suppose I have to take into account who’s reading it, but that’s not difficult, because the people who are buying this paper are probably around my own age, so I have some idea how they feel.”

“So how do you do it? Do you plan ahead, or just come up with something on the spot?”

“Both, neither, whatever works at the time. Sometimes I haven’t a single idea in my not-so pretty little head, and then a first sentence wanders in while I brush my teeth. Also it depends on where I’m at in my madness. After a long dark bluey, I can get such a buzz off’ve the manic upswing, my head will be jumping and pumping with ideas. That’s when I’ll be sitting at my computer for hours, writing up notes on maybe six or seven pieces at once, or a short story, or whatever I feel like writing.”

“Wow, that sounds fantastic.”

“Yeh, it’s pretty brilliant when that happens alright, which is why I won’t go for the anti-depressants. I’d hate to lose that wave of creative energy I feel after a heavy bout. Anyway, I haven’t had a really bad visit from my black dog for a long time, thank fuck. But I’m wondering, maybe that’s what you should do, Seamus. Just sit and write anything and everything you feel like. Just sit there and don’t think and let it come and know you can’t go wrong.”

“Hmm. That sounds good. Thing is, not sure at the moment what I want to write about.”

“Well don’t then. Sitting and scribbling is only part of the process. Go sit on a rock and watch the tide turn. Walk your legs off into Nowheresville, County Galway, talking out loud to yourself. Also, don’t listen to me, ‘cos right now I’m absolutely out of ideas. Gets like this sometimes. I’ve a few trips coming up, so I have to get ahead of the game by writing 8 colyooms in 4 weeks, and, well, I’ve been pretty reclusive recently, so apart from wittering about the swallows and dandelions, I’m up the Swanee.”

“Get yourself into town with a sandwich board and stand on Cross Street.”

“What d’ya mean? Like a board with ‘Inspire Me!’ painted on it?”

Much laughter.

“Yeh! ‘Inspire Me!’ That’s a good one. Or ‘Ideas Wanted! Offers Welcome! Best Prices paid!’ I bet you’d get loads stopping and talking to you.”

“Oh yeh, can you imagine. Or I could get a dog on a string and sit on Wolfe Tone Bridge under a blanket, with a sign saying: ‘Colyoomless. Please Help!’ I’d have every nutter in town preaching at me. It’d be like Joe Duffy but on my legs and face to face. Come moan at me, with your sad Irish voice in a minor key!”

“Jeeze, Charlie, that’s like poetry.”

“Yeh, ‘like’ being the operative word, mate. Don’t know if I can write something I don’t understand, and as I said, right now I’m not sure what the hell to write about anyway.”

“Couldn’t you take a break? Like, all these columnists, you see ‘So and So is away’, in the papers and mags.”

“Yeh, like yer man Jeffrey Bernard? No mate. Not my style. Even when my Dad died I filed a colyoom. Was cathartic to write about him, at the time. I’ll come up with something, as will you, because life is strange and terrible and wonderful. Sorry I couldn’t help, Seamus. Just pretty vacant, brain-wise.”

“Oh you did help me, Charlie. Just talking to you helps.”

“Same as that mate. So good to hear your wry smile down the phone line.”

“So what’ll it be this week, Charlie? Why not write about having nothing to write about?”

“Ah now, not sure about that. Wouldn’t that be seen as extracting the Michael?”

©Charlie Adley

Sunday 4 June 2017


What a nasty election this has been. Maybe that’s because the entire process was born out of a massive conceit. 

Setting out to appeal to bewildered Labour voters and UKIP orphans, Theresa May created a sub-Churchillian atmosphere of Us Against Them, claiming she could secure a better Brexit deal if she had a massive majority in government.

What a load of tosh. May knows well that when her team face up to negotiations with the EU, the size of her parliamentary majority will not make the slightest difference.

When Alexis Tsipras arrived in Brussels after Syriza’s massive landslide victory, Wolfgang Schäuble bluntly rebuffed his mandate thus:

“It’s yours against mine.”

There will be 27 other mandates on that table, and in the EU, an entity perfectly designed to give heretic governments the runaround; to obfuscate and confuse.

Rather than spoil her campaign with that inconvenient truth, May prefers to win over a certain Brit voter who doesn’t mind a bit of argy bargy with Johnny Foreigner.

That voter longs for England to control its borders. May looks the type who’ll close the doors, yet here lies more deceit.

It is an accepted truth that a thriving Western economy needs a broad base of migrant workers. 

Those who constantly complain that immigrants steal English jobs will not be eagerly racing off their sofas to fill vacancies created by Europeans departing base and messy industries.

Work for those hours, at that rate of pay?
Are you kidding? Who do you think I am, mate?

Britain needs immigrants, and without free movement from the EU, the UK will have to open its doors to people from all over the world, doubtless with many more skin types than the EU offered.

Not sure those refugees from UKIP voting Tory this time round will like that so much.

You can’t blame May for calling the election. If I’d been elected leader of my party and in the process become Prime Minster, I’d be overjoyed to see my opposition in the throes of civil war.

Had May simply said that as her opposition was in tatters, she’d decided it’d be pretty silly not to go for a General Election, I would admire her.

Had she said:

“I is doin’ it now, ‘cos they over there is totes rubbish!” I might even have voted for her.

Unfortunately in this particular Game of Thrones there’s room only for conceit and deceit.

May’s mantra of ‘strong and stable government’ was a conceit. What is strong about a government that fails to balance its books for 15 years; that by 2020 will have borrowed more than all previous Labour governments combined?

What is strong about an economy that needs to cut the triple lock on pensions; that abolishes free school lunches; that sees wages shrinking against prices for the first time in decades?

The Tories have been in power for 7 years. 
When will strong actually mean strong?

What is stable about saying you won’t call an election and then calling an election? What is stable about denying Scotland the right to another referendum, because that would destabilise the Brexit process, and then calling an election to stabilise the Brexit process?

Jeremy Corbyn is not free from deceit. As leader of the Labour Party he turned his back on his own beliefs and campaigned to Remain, when a man of true principle might have stepped down.

After backtracking on Trident, Corbyn started to look suspiciously like every other politician, until he redeemed himself, first by saying that this election was less about Brexit, and more about what kind of country UK voters prefer to live in, and then bravely declaring the War on Terror a failure.

He implied what others dare not say, even though we all know it to be true: if you bomb people in their homes, they will bomb you in yours. 

Alone in suggesting policies that might alleviate this horrific revenge cycle of terrorism and war, Corbyn wants to review UK foreign policy, in order to make the streets of home safer places.

This of course left Corbyn open to a barrage of abuse from Boris Johnson and crew, rushing to misquote and malign the Labour leader, claiming he’d said those victims deserved to die.

A nasty little election it is, indeed.

Lurking behind the conceits and deceits of our electoral processes lies a new and dangerous subterfuge.

It was not a shock when news broke last week that the 
Conservatives had been bombarding voters in marginal constituencies with ads and messages from fake Facebook accounts.

Through his business Renaissance Technologies, Right Wing billionaire Robert Mercer is able to sell power to the highest bidder. 

Using Brexit as his petri dish, Mercer donated millions of pounds to the Leave campaign, combining vast data mining with harvesting Facebook profiles.

During the US election, his organisation sent individualised messages to targeted voters in vital swing States, while also creating tens of thousands of false Twitter accounts that split and grew exponentially. 

They spread the Trump word, both because he’d paid the most to be heard, and because Mercer's Right Wing agenda would be well served.

Brexit was won or lost by a margin 52-48. Trump won solely by electoral college, after losing the popular vote. Mercer’s apparent ability to influence floating voters via social media is disturbingly significant.

Available only to the super rich, this dark bastardising of thought constitutes a new and real threat to our freedoms.

The conceit and deceit we are used to.

©Charlie Adley