Monthly Archives: July 2009

Rebel Heart


A short film on Irish rebel Sean Mc Diarmada who was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in Ireland in 1916 and also one of the signatories to the Irish Proclaimation for which he was subsequently executed along with the other main leaders of the rebellion The film was shot during the first Sean Mc Diarmada Summer School held in McDiarmada’s native Kiltyclougher in Co Leitrim, Ireland in June 2009.

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“An Droichead Beo – Retracing McGahern 2009”

John McGahern’s writing is being brought to life in a unique form on Thursday evening the 30th July 2009. Three short scenes from McGahern’s work, will be performed by a local theatre group in Leitrim locations that feature in his writing. The scenes have been specially adapted by writer Brian Leyden and will be interpreted by the award-winning Corn Mill Theatre Company from Carrigallen. This event is being organised by Cairde McGahern, a reading group which formed in 2008 as part of the Leitrim Arts Office initiative to encourage the reading of McGahern’s work in Leitrim. The event entitled An Droichead Beo – Retracing McGahern – will take place in Ballinamore & Aughawillan on the evening of July 30th 2009. The event is free but places are limited. Participants must register for the event on the evening at 7pm in McGirls Pub, Ballinamore.


The Language of Doublespeak

There is a new language which over the years has stealthily embedded itself into our lives. Orwellian in nature and effect, it has become the stock and trade of most of our political leaders. It is a language in which one can speak a thousand words and still say nothing. A language which defies all the rules and regulations of direct communication by inventing many of its own. It creates new words and meanings for old things, things which we had always assumed were basic rights. It manipulates meaning and deliberately conceals truth.

One of the prime examples where this new language is used is in war and its politics, and most notably in Iraq. In the early nineties during the first Iraq war after the killing of five hundred civilians sheltering in a milk factory, we were given two new words to replace four old ones. The words ‘collateral damage’ replaced ‘killing of innocent civilians’ and since then literally thousands if not millions of lives have been snuffed out with hardly a whimper from anyone because the new words had the effect of hiding the actual meaning of the old ones. In this new language it seems being innocent and being civilian is no longer a right.

With this new language the replacing of a few words allows so called civilised states to kill innocent civilians in total contravention of the internationally agreed Geneva Convention which lists such actions as war crimes. It does so because this new language deliberately has no real meaning and hides the truth. It is easier to say ‘Unfortunately we had some collateral damage’ than to report you have just slaughtered five hundred innocent men, women, and children.

With this new language you also have the absolute power to pick up anyone, anywhere in the world, torture them in horrific ways, and should you wish, kill them. This is made possible because the old word ‘torture’ has been replaced with the new tamer word ‘rendition’ which somehow makes the crimes of state sponsored murder and torture more acceptable.

In the hallowed halls of Westminster it allows you to engineer a war that you will never have to fire a shot in. It allows you to say with great gravity at a soldier’s graveside that sacrifices must be made in war, before flying off to a multi-million pound holiday residence in sunnier climes. And closer to home, it allows you to be neutral, be against the war, and still allow US troops to pour through Shannon to fight in that same war.

And should we be worried about this new language, this new doublespeak? Should we even care? The answer to both those questions is yes. Language and the meaning of the words we use was not something we humans invented overnight. Our language and communications skills have developed and evolved over millions of years. This was done for good reasons, chief among them being clarity, meaning, and understanding. As humans we stand above the animals because of our ability to communicate effectively and intelligently with each other. The meaning of the words we use is crucial to this. Calling the killing of innocent civilians ‘Collateral Damage’ divorces us from the bloody reality of what that actually means, severed limbs, bloodied corpses, and dead children. It allows governments to carry out appalling atrocities in our name without fearing the anger and disgust of public opinion. To manipulate words is to manipulate truth. That is a dangerous game and as history has taught us, one which can have terrible consequences as we saw when Hitler’s Nazis took it to a different level by replacing the word ‘Genocide’ with ‘Final Solution’. The result was the horrific and systematic slaughter of over six million people in death camps like Auschwitz.

That is a lesson we forget at our peril.


The Death of Michael Jackson

Elvis Presley’s manager is reputed to have said ‘good career move‘ on hearing the news of the death of the fading star.  In the wake of the bill topping Michael Jackson ‘Death Event’, one might be forgiven for thinking the same thing.

The wall to wall footage on the various news programmes was all so predictable. The gathering crowds, statements from shocked colleagues as stars and politicians tearfully recounted their moments with ‘Michael’.  Shots of dark limousines with tinted windows pulling up and ejecting beautiful though solemn looking celebrities, constant images of crying fans depositing flowers on footpaths. Police tape, satellite units and the worlds media camping outside his home. One intellectual giant from Sky news wondered if this meant the upcoming London concerts would be cancelled! The whole merry go round dragged out for days until finally I guess like all the rest of us who ‘shuffle off this mortal coil’ there was nothing more to be done except bury him. And what a burial it was. The biggest show of all time. Audience figures in the billions. Tickets might even be sold! More satellite units, more media scrums, and more blanket news coverage. More pomp and more ceremony. More flowers and more tears, and long after the circus is over, more record sales!

The King of Pop is dead. Long live his royalties .


Technophobia

In 1969 as a young boy I sat on the floor of the living room in our house with my mother, father, and entire family, to watch an event that promised to change the world. An event that had been hyped up for weeks as the most technologically advanced feat of all time. An event which was at last unveiling before our very eyes on what was then to us the most advanced technology we knew of, television. Despite the snowy, wavy, low grade images, we sat silently, jaws agape, and watched as Neil Armstrong took that giant leap for mankind to become the first human being ever to step on the surface of the Moon.

We watched it all on a beautiful rosewood framed black and white Bosch Television that had buttons on the front for turning it on and off and for changing the channels. Back then ‘remote’ meant living in a cottage at the top of a mountain and if you wanted to change channels you got up off your posterior, walked to the television, and pressed the button. Mind you the choice of channel was much simpler then, given we had only four.

How things have changed. Since then technology, and our dependence on it, has advanced rapidly and today your television can broadcast hundreds of channels direct to your living room via cables and satellites, and the computer in your average home is hundreds of times more powerful than that which ran the entire moon mission.

In the home these technological advances are becoming more and more evident. Now we have ‘smart homes’ that turn on the lights as you enter a room or allow you to listen to music where ever you are. Internet connected fridges that tell you when you are running low on milk and will even order, pay for, and have it delivered to your door from your nearest supermarket. You can even start up the oven or turn on the heating system with a mobile phone as you leave the office after a busy day.

And what of the Internet? Hardly fifteen years in existence it now seems that life cannot be lived or function properly without it. Drawn to it in huge numbers we humans silently sit in front of millions of computer screens downloading and uploading billions and billions of bytes of information every day whilst all the time contactable via email or the ubiquitous mobile phone.

Our dependence on technology has long passed the point of no return but the question is what benefits if any, has technology brought us. More free time? Then why are we constantly complaining of just the opposite? Has it helped us build better communities? Then why are our communities dying? Healthier lifestyles maybe? Then why is obesity one of the fastest growing problems facing young people and why is half the world starving? Has it made us better at communicating with, and understanding each other? Then why is the world such a violent place? Why can we not seem to get on better?

Of course technology is hugely important and necessary and has in many ways enhanced our lives, but for all our advances and all our acquiring of knowledge, we would do well to remember that technology will best serve us as a tool, not as a lifestyle. Dependence on something can quickly turn to addiction which very soon becomes a form of slavery. If the way forward for mankind is to be wired up to every network on the planet, have every scintilla of information at our fingertips, yet not ever know our neighbours, then surely we are taking a giant leap backwards for mankind, a retrograde step in a process that would very definitely change the world and the way we live in it, irrevocably, and for the worse.


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