Sunday 11 November 2018

ONLY VICTIMS DECIDE WHETHER YOU’RE RACIST!



It’s taken me a few weeks to calm down, but I need to write this.

One of the reasons I love living in the West of Ireland is that here I feel far from the madding modern world; distant from wars and Trump’s ragings.

Now that feeling is gone.
Now we are vulnerable.

Despite all the discrimination the Irish have suffered, this country has no Hate Crime legislation. Growing up in England, I saw a generation of racists being arrested and jailed.

Recently this newspaper’s Dara Bradley quoted a senior Galway garda saying: “…racism and racially motivated incidents are not a major problem in Galway.”

Sorry, but that’s not for you to say.

Believe me, when you’re the victim of racial abuse, be it physical, psychological or political, it feels like a major problem.

Today young African footballers are being abused by visiting players and staff on Galway pitches. The Agency for Fundamental Rights ranks Ireland third worst out of 12 EU states for harassment of people of African background.

The reason that Garda have to say what they do is because they have no legal need to collect data about racist incidents.

The fact that reports of racist incidents appear low does not reflect a lack of racist incidents. There’s no incentive for victims to report Hate Crime.

Victims don’t go to the cops if they know there’s nothing the cops can do.

Instead they end up feeling even more powerless and unwelcome in this country.

Around the world, from Turkey to Brazil, the Philippines to the USA and all over Europe people are voting for right-wing extremists.

Surely we’re safe here though? If populism came to Ireland, what form could it take?

No fan of conspiracy theories, I have to accept that the online forces of alt-right have successfully influenced many recent elections around the world.

As we saw during the abortion referendum, they have for some time been slavering for a wound through which they might access Irish politics. Time after time they failed to permeate the arcane crust around Ireland’s unfathomable party political system.

Then an attention-seeking businessman slashed a gash into our decency, enabling the forces of alt-right to flood in.

Irish politics changed forever.

Pouncing on the dragon’s venomous tongue, alt-right finally breached these shores. Users of online forum 4chain left a barrage of anonymous comments praising Casey for attacking Travellers and saying that Jewish people “basically live in the White House”.

Fake twitter accounts were created to promote Casey, whose image was then mocked up as the quintessential alt-right symbol, Pepe the Frog.

Casey doesn’t care that his online supporters are dangerous people. When asked during the Virgin Media debate if he’d run a divisive campaign, his glib response was:

“I’ve been shooting up the polls all week!”

Take a look at his language:

“…people from Africa, people from India, people from all different continents, they are different ethnic status. The people in the Travelling community are not. They are as Irish as you and me.”

If ‘they’ are exactly the same as ‘us’ then why refer to them as ‘they’?

Casey’s racist rhetoric simply makes no sense.

Travellers are different. They are no more ‘us’ than you are Jewish like me, yet all of us - Travellers, Africans, Asians, even Jewish Englishmen - are equally Irish.

Last year I picked up my citizenship certificate and applied for my first Irish passport. Nobody asked about my ethnicity.

I’m no less Irish than you.

Of course Casey’s remarks won votes. We laughed when Brendan Gleeson’s character in The Guard declared: “I’m Irish, sure, racism’s part of my culture!” because it’s true.

This country has a massive way to go to alter its attitudes, as proved by Casey’s rapidly swollen voter base

When Galway Bay FM’s Keith Finnegan debated Casey’s remarks on his show, he said he’d never seen such a vast amount of texts of support for a man simply expressing a point of view.

Overreacting because of my ethnicity, I sent a text suggesting that there were also a lot of people showing support at the Nuremberg Rallies, where Hitler was just a man expressing his point of view.

They call it populist because it’s popular. If the public had their way we’d have public lynchings. That’s why we make laws: to control the angry mob, attain justice and protect the vulnerable.

Casey retreated to “I’m not a racist” but he doesn’t decide that. Along with many other Irish people, he clearly struggles to understand that only your victim decides if you are a racist.

If you abuse people using different words to the ones with which you abuse your friends or family, or display aggressive attitudes and behaviours towards a group you identify as different, then you are a racist.

If those people or groups feel they’ve been abused for being what they are, then they are victims of racism.

Irish people need to stop judging themselves innocent of racism. This country needs Hate Crime legislation, defined by abuse of race, religion, sexuality or disability, so that victims are protected by law.

In the meantime we need to acknowledge that racism is a problem here.
 

If you’re a victim or referred to as ‘them’ you already know.


©Charlie Adley
11.11.2018.

Sunday 4 November 2018

GO FAR QUICKLY AND CREEP BACK!


It’s that utterly soul-destroying moment when you’ve far to go, yet find yourself stuck behind a car that brakes as each car passes on the other side of the road.

I learned to drive in London and find the roads of the west of Ireland a doddle, so I’ve little reason to road rage. Oh, except for those drivers who take three years to turn right into their own driveway: they do it to me every time.

This slamming on the brakes whenever a car passes stuff is only acceptable from overseas drivers, who’ve never seen Irish roads. This guy in front of me in his silver hatchback is evidently a tourist, but he's also a Dub, who's only now found reason to venture west of the Shannon.

“It’s a bloody main road!” I scream out loud alone, safe in my private metal shell. “There’s bloody white lines for gods sake. Think this is narrow, idiot? Oh hooooooo hoh! Just wait!”

Purposefully ignoring the way all us other drivers are not at all dead, or intent on driving into each others’ cars, yer man admirably concentrates on keeping his two kids and wife alive as long as possible.

If this was America he could get nicked. Slow driving is incredibly dangerous and recognised as a crime over there.

Yeh but I’ll get there and all is good. 

Slow down Adley.

The day before last weekend’s Bank Holiday I packed Blue Bag and catapulted myself far away.

That was the essence of my cunning plan. Go as far as you can as quickly as you can and then creep closer to Galway.

Another kingdom, my friend Angel’s home in Kerry offers me sanctuary, peace and serenity, tea and talk.

Inbetween long comfortable silences, borne by years of friendship, I’m ranting and he’s listening.

That’s the way it is today.
More tea?

Angel may not see it any more as he has lived here for years, but outside my friend’s windows I look down from high clifftop to the mighty Atlantic, as it slams into defiant black rocks below.

Straight ahead from our perch my eyes blur into Kerry’s magical coastal swirls, spikes and isles.

I love falling asleep in his mobile. It’s a different kind of silence to the one I enjoy at home. My silence is the wind playing violin on my home’s rooftop or the smash of hailstones crashing onto my bedroom windows.

Natural phenomena do not affect my slumber. I’lI sleep through all of that - in truth I love it!-  but if there’s the slightest artificial sound, a motorbike somewhere in the townland, alpha male kicks in and I’m awake.

Laying on Angel’s fold-out spare bed I revel in the sound of rain on the roof, a troupe of metallic pigmies tap dancing on my head. The waves crashing on the rocks below soothe me and I’m off away for a good eight hours.

Next morning I drive past a place in Dingle called ‘Dolphin Booking Office’.
Is that the place where dolphins go to book a swim with humans?

Round the seemingly endless bends from Dingle to Tralee, where jaw-dropping views remain unseen as it’s eyes on the road territory, if you want to avoid the approaching oblivious coaches.

Then north to Tarbert for a pub, to read the paper and relax, anonymous in public.
That night I spend in splendid isolation at Castle View House on Carrig Island.




Friendly and attentive, Patricia and Garrett Dee run this charming gentle B&B, and with no pubs nearby and no licence to sell alcohol, it’s not for everybody. 

Tonight it’s exactly what I want: peace and quiet.
Nobody wants or needs me.



Outside my bedroom window there is a castle.
Time to stare at the river and sky for a few hours.
                                
Hallelujah.

Over dinner Garrett talks gently of a lifetime’s work spent hosting. He is such an amiable man. If I had to host tourists for that long, well, let’s just say that’s why he runs the place and I’m his guest.

Tonight peace.
Tomorrow north for Bank Holiday by the sea in Kilkee.

First though a gloriously sunny Saturday to pass, challenged only by a freezing your bits off northerly gale.

Just before Loop Head I stop and fortify myself with excellent coffee and scrummy blackberry and apple pie in Kilbaha Gallery. Garrett had recommended the place.
 

You listen to the locals.
That’s the way it works.


 The sign in the cafĂ© loo says "Smile! You're in West Clare!" and I do because I love West Clare. People are as their stone. I feel most at home with the granite people of Yorkshire and Connemara. If they offer you a handshake or a barstool you're worth it; you've earned it.


The gentle limestone souls of Clare with their easy smiles are so different. They feel to me today as welcome as they are welcoming.

When passing cars on the backroads of Clare, the single finger raised from the steering wheel in greeting will not suffice. Here only the fully-lifted open palm, accompanied by beaming smile will do.

By nature I'm a bit of a minimalist, happy to acknowledge another's existence by looking across and lifting a fingertip. I love this intensely human rural Irish behaviour, but it causes me no end of strife in London, where it takes me 48 hours to stop scaring the locals.




















Loop Head Lighthouse is absolutely splendid. Steve the guide has no end of information - really, no end! - and then, out on the top platform, pinned back by the gale, I gaze out to the pancake cliffs and Loop Head itself.



The Bay View in Kilkee lives up to its name, giving this space cadet the perfect room: a tiny bay window with a chair, one way looking out to the beach and crashing waves, the other to distant sheep-terraced green hills 

Just what this scribbler needs while life is in chaotic flux: friendship, solitude and tonight, if I feel up to it, a wee smidgeon of craic in Kilkee, ready for home tomorrow.

©Charlie Adley
04.11.2018