Uncategorized


Once again I am rising to the bait, which has been cast on to the calm May waters by Una Morris.  Her latest earth-shattering, first world problem is the under-representation of women as authors of scientific papers.  This topic is dealt with in another piece in the Guardian. (Where would we be without the Guardian?)

Having read  Jenny Gristock’s article I have a few observations to make.

Firstly, I cannot agree with sexism in any form.  That gender bias exists in universities is not news and is certainly not acceptable.  The study on gender bias is interesting and would seem to show that there is  deep seated discrimination against female scientists at work in the academic world.  One of the most interesting findings of the study is that this discrimination seems to be practiced equally by men and women.

The article also quotes statistics that show that a majority of students in various scientific and medical fields are female.  The data does not mention how many of these students actually graduate.  It does not, either, mention how many of these female students go on to work in their chosen fields ofstudy.  Many, many women, including graduates, choose to stay at home during their child-bearing/raising years. Many, but significantly fewer, men choose to do so also. I fully support their right to do so.  It is a difficult decision to make, but the decision to forego a second income is one which, I believe, can result in the best possible environment in which to raise children.  A stable, secure home with a dedicated, loving, ever present parent in attendence will never be bettered by paid for child care at a creche or montessori.  When one considers the income which is foregone and takes account of reduced pension entitlements etc, it is a far more expensive form of childcare than availing of a local creche, even at a cost of thousands of euro per month.

Women should not have to choose between career and family, says the science magazine. But surely male scientists face similar choices? Apparently not.

Men are certainly faced with similar choices.  Women and men have to make choices together.  Women who want to go out to work and feel that they can not because their spouses will not stay at home to mind the children are probably married to the wrong men. This is a private choice that married couples need to make.  The same applies to the claim that politics or business is not ‘woman friendly’ as mothers have to be at home to make school lunches or put the kids to bed or get them out of bed, or whatever.  If these women want to have a full time career and are married to men who refuse to help around the house, well then they have married the wrong men.

There are sound biological, evolutionary and historical reasons that discrimination against women in the workplace exists.  We have evolved for most of the last 100,000 years in male dominated societal and family groups. Human civilisation has developed over thousands of years into societies in which men control almost all of the wealth and the power.  Much of this is due to the fact that women, through no fault of their own, bear children and men, again through no fault of their own, don’t.  Women, on a purely statistical basis, are hugely under-represented in the fields of business, politics, science, medecine etc.  They are also statistically under-represented in the fields of road sweeping, going down sewers to inspect shitty stuff, plumbing, carpentary, van driving, house painting, block laying, farming etc. but we hear little in terms of vocal demands for a 50/50 gender balance in these areas of employment.

Women are massively over-represented in the fields of primary school teaching, nursing, hair dressing, mid-wifery, child care… should I go on?

Ok.

Payroll and timekeeping clerks, Word processors and typists, Human resources assistants, Paralegals and legal assistants, Librarians, Office clerks, Library assistants, Personal care aides, Special education teachers, Insurance claims and policy processing clerks, Massage therapists, Social workers, Sewing machine operators, Tellers, File clerks, Information and record clerks, Health practitioner support technologists and technicians, Travel agents, Tailors, dressmakers, and sewers.

In all  of these professions women make up over 80% of the workforce.  The full list is here.  There is no hue and cry that men are being done down or disadvantaged because of this.  What the data also shows is that in all of these jobs women earn between about 84% and 94% of what their male colleagues earn.

So it’s an unfair world, after all.

We can make it better.

We can’t make it better by simply blaming men for all of the disadvantages faced by women.

Many groups face disadvantage in the workplace, in access to services or simply in life, because of gender, race, colour, sexuality and many other traits.

Working together we can make it a better, fairer, more equal world.

‘Women should stop pretending that marriage is anything but a tool for their own oppression.’

‘Marriage is an institution that has curtailed women’s freedom for centuries.’

These are just two extraordinary statments from Julie Bindel in a video piece for The Guardian this week.

I can only assume that Julie Bindel has never experienced, as I have, marriage as a partnership of two people who are equal but different.  Her assertion that all marriages are simply a tool to allow men to oppress, subjugate and even legally rape their wives is astonishing.

One of the truths that Julie appears to be missing is that most women who choose marriage do so for positive reasons. Almost always because they are in love with their husbands and also because they believe that a stable marriage provides the foundation of a secure home environment in which to raise children.

I have no doubt that some women choose marriage for the wrong reasons. However, because a woman might pretend to love a man for a period of time simply to access his wealth, as some women undoubtedly do, is not conclusive proof that marriage is a tool to impoverish men.

Julie Bindel laments that in 47 countries it is still legal for a man to rape his wife.  This is obviously wrong and indefensible, but it says nothing about marriage and plenty about the countries where this legal situation persists. That just two of these countries, China and India, represent over a quarter of the worlds population is indeed lamentable, but the countries among the 47 are countries with historically poor human rights records, and can be rightly condemned for their attitudes to LGBT rights and personal freedoms etc.  Why not look positively at the fact that in almost three quarters of sovereign nations rape within marriage has been criminalised, protecting both men and women.

Marriage has developed over many centuries and modern attitudes to marriage are a world away from the days when women were simply the chattel of men. The outdated and archaic marriage as a form of bonded slavery has no place in today’s world and is not the norm in advanced, liberal societies.

Julie Bindel claims that some women are declaring their decision to marry to be an act of feminism. If this is indeed so it seems odd to make a political act of what is traditionally seen as a lifelong commitment to a loving, monogamous relationship and there are better ways to promote feminism.

Of course the argument that is so far missing here is that this form of ‘all men are bastards’ radical feminism is damaging both to men and women. Some men are bastards, some women are too. Some marriages are violent, loveless, cynical unions of convenience or financial expediency.  Some women treat their husbands appallingly.  We long ago rightly consigned to the dustbin the era of advertising of consumer goods with portrayals of simple women who were wholly dependent on their menfolk to guide their silly wives through the consumerist maze. We have however replaced it with endless TV and radio ads where men are portrayed as gormless idiots who could not tie their own laces without a smart, clever, modern woman to help them.  This raises not a whimper of protest but is extremely damaging to male self esteem.

However, none of this negates the fact that we live in an era of unprecedented personal freedom. Women, LGBT and racial minorities are more protected from discrimination and violence than at any time in history. And in the midst of all this, many, many couples, straight, lesbian and gay, choose marriage as the bedrock on which to build committed, lifelong and loving relationships and raise families and develop extended family networks which are an important, but not exclusive, glue for complex societies.

For Julie Bindel to dismiss that as simply a cynical male-devised tool to keep women in their place is insulting, stupid and wrong.

The current refugee crisis in Europe has highlighted for me some glaring truths which are consistently and conveniently ignored by most people who argue that Europe should simply open its borders and allow unlimited access to refugees from war and famine and political suppression and torture etc.  While I do not doubt for a moment the sincerity of those who have flooded social media with a tsunami of compassion and welcome, I do wonder if they have ever considered the real consequences if we were to, as one Facebook page’s title puts it, ‘Open the gates, just open the fucking gates!’

I have commented to friends recently that history will judge us very harshly when the account of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries are written.  Europe will, I believe, fare very badly in history’s judgment.  In the first half of 2015 tens of thousands of people, desperate men, women and children, perished in the waters of the Mediterranean as they vainly attempted to gain access to the European Union and the treasures of a life lived within Fortress Europe.  Many thousands more were beaten back by authorities in countries of south east Europe, before the sheer weight of numbers forced a rethink of policy and European governments, led by Germany, agreed to accept hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea.

In the European Union, despite what many protest groups and left leaning political parties would have us believe, we live in unprecedented comfort.  We have access to levels of health care, social supports, education and leisure opportunities that previous generations could only have dreamed of.   The average per capita GDP of EU nations is around $38,000.  Luxembourg tops the EU list at over $92,000, with Romania listed as the poorest EU state at $19,400.  Ireland’s per capita GDP is $46,800, making us the third wealthiest member of the EU, the seventh wealthiest in all of Europe and the sixteenth wealthiest sovereign nation on the planet.  At the bottom of a long list of 198 sovereign nations you will find the Central African Republic, which in 2014 had an estimated per capita GDP of just $600 dollars.  To put that in context, as if it was needed, it is 1.28% of the per capita GDP if Ireland, 1.5% of the EU average and just 3.09% of the GDP of the EU’s poorest member, Romania.  It is a mere 4% of the global per capita GDP average of $15,000.  These are startling numbers.  Thirty per cent of the 198 countries in the world have a per capita GDP of less than $5,000.  Twenty two of the world’s forty wealthiest nations are in Europe, while thirty of the forty poorest countries in the world are in Africa, a continent rich in resources which has been raped, pillaged and plundered by white Europeans for over four hundred years.

Jeremy Corbyn was today elected leader of the British Labour Party, and during his victory speech he said “…poverty is not inevitable.”  Maybe he is right.  Maybe poverty is not inevitable.  Maybe whoever said, all those years ago, that he poor will always be with us, was wrong.  Maybe there is a way that humankind can agree to share equally the resources and wealth of this planet.  However, one hundred thousand years of human history and a couple of hundred years of capitalism would, it seems, provide a convincing argument to the contrary.

Suppose, for a moment, that we could find a way to equally distribute the available wealth and resources of the Earth among its seven billion plus inhabitants.  Suppose that the spirit of Gene Rodenberry, to create a society beyond need, beyond money, was infused into every man, woman and child.  Suppose that every citizen of the planet was seized by an irresistible desire to live by the tenet of Louis Blanc,from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”  How wonderful this would be.  How welcome, if you are one of the many millions living in abject poverty.  Such a redistribution of wealth would see all of humankind living at an average per capita GDP of $15,000.  Imagine the difference this would make to citizens of the Central African Republic, or Somalia, or the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Malawi, Burundi or Liberia, all of whom have a per capita GDP of less than $1,000.  They would see their standard of living increased fifteen-fold.  Their access to health care, education and leisure would soar to undreamed of levels.

This, of course, could not be done unless wealthier countries were prepared to accept a lower standard of living.  The poorest country in the EU, Romania, would see its living standard drop by about 22%.  The European Union would on average have to adjust by over 60%.  In Ireland we would be required to adjust our living standards downwards by almost 70%.  While we are known, mostly to ourselves, as a very charitable nation, I do not believe that our charitable inclination would stretch as far as a 70% reduction in living standards.  Charity is all very well, as long as it is not too, terribly inconvenient.  Giving our loose change to a chugger or supporting an African child with a monthly €15 direct debit makes us feel all warm and fuzzy, but it is not inconvenient.  It costs us almost nothing.  Sacrificing some of our leisure time to volunteer with a homeless charity is very satisfying and makes us believe that we do our best for others before we return to our comfortable lives, but is not very inconvenient.

What about real equality?

What about walking to the shop, in the rain, because our share of global oil does not stretch to a half kilometre dash to Spar?  What about no foreign holidays, ever?  What about not having asparagus in February, or bell peppers and strawberries, and oranges and lemons and fresh grapes and countless other fruits and vegetables all year round?  What about really sharing the wealth?

What we do not seem to realise is, that in order for us to live a wonderful life of two cars in the driveway, fresh fruit and veg all year round, two holidays a year, streaming movies, winter heating at the flick of a switch and a forty hour, five day week, someone else needs to get screwed.  If we want to live in the lap of luxury someone needs to live in grinding poverty.  People surviving in Ireland on €188 weekly social welfare might argue with my use of the word luxury, but I doubt that the 4.7 million citizens of the Central African Republic would.  The simple fact is that when we sit down each evening we are eating someone else’s dinner.  The wealth and resources of the Earth are finite, and we in Ireland are taking over three times our share.  We are eating the cake of the third world while endlessly congratulating ourselves for throwing crumbs to the starving.

It is truly obscene.

And I do not care.

I do not, and I will not, pretend to care.

None of us, with the exception of the very few, truly remarkable individuals, really care.  None of us are prepared to reduce or lifestyles by three quarters in order to create an equal world.  Yes we want the poor and downtrodden of the third world to have three meals a day and a roof over their heads and to live free from oppression.  But we want to maintain our own comfortable lives, too.  Let them have a nice life, but not as nice as ours.  We work hard for all we have; we deserve our comforts and our leisure.  Don’t we?

[GDP per capita figures are from a combination of sources which include the IMF, World Bank and CIA Factbook, and are Per Capita GDP PPP (purchasing power parity).  Figures are quoted in Internatinal Dollars,also known as Geary-Khamis Dollars.  While the actual  figures are open to debate, and as a non-economist I am always open to correction, the basis of the argument would be unchanged by any slight, or even significant, tweaking.]

The case of ‘Maria’, the blonde haired, green eyed child ‘rescued’ from a Roma encampment in Greece tells us a lot more about ourselves and our slavish interaction with news media than it does about Roma culture or child abduction or trafficking.Image

I wrote last week on my Facebook page that it was an obscenity that while a 16 year old girl had been missing in north Dublin for 48 hours the front pages of all of our newspapers were obsessed with the story of Madeline McCann, a child who in all likelihood died 6 years ago.  There must have been literally hundreds of parents of missing children in the UK who were looking on in amazement these last two weeks as vast resources were poured into the search for ‘Maddie’.

And we lap it up.  Her cute 4 year old face on the front page sells newspapers.  The missing 16 year old gets a few lines on page 6, 7 or 8 and consequently the chances of finding her quickly are greatly reduced.

But what about our little blonde angel in Greece?

It seems that Greek police found her by accident when she understandably stuck out like a sore thumb in the middle of dark haired, brown skinned Roma camp.  Having decided fairly quickly that this child did not belong to the couple who claimed to be her parents the Greek police rescued her and put her in the care of a children’s charity.  As details filtered out it emerged that this Roma couple had fourteen children and that their birth certificates showed that three of them had been born within six months of each other!  So, logic tells us that the Roma couple in question has got at least three children that could not possibly be their own, the blonde, green eyed Maria and at least two other Roma children.  So why, then, are our newspapers and news bulletins crammed with the story of Maria with no mention whatsoever of at least two other children who seem to be in the same predicament as Maria.  Two dark haired, brown skinned kids who could not possibly belong to this Roma couple were left in their care while beautiful, angelic Maria, who obviously is one of ‘us’ as opposed to one of ‘them’ is ‘rescued’ and a pan European search ensues to ensure she is reunited with her family, who may or may not be Scandinavian, German or eastern European but definitely not Roma.

If the Sun or the Mirror or Star or whoever puts a picture of two scruffy, brown Roma kids on their front page we will pass it by and reach for the paper with Maria on the front page.  If some unknown, missing 16 year old from north Dublin appears on a front page that paper is going to be slaughtered by the others pushing the desperate search for Missing Maddie.  The main evening news bulletin a nine o’clock this evening on RTE1 led with the story the Roma couple being charged with child abduction

It is as yet far from established that the natural parents of Maria did not give her up willingly.  If child abduction is indeed proven and a conviction secured this is still not, even on the slowest of slow news days, appropriately the top story for our national broadcaster.  It is tabloid fodder, as is the futile search for Madeline McCann, but it pushes all the right buttons with the great unwashed. In this case it is the Roma coming here to steal our stuff and our kids, it is our innate racism, our knee jerk reaction when the pale, blonde Maria is juxtaposed with the dark, brooding Roma.

If Maria’s parents are found and it transpires that they did give her up willingly for an irregular, unofficial adoption, or even sold her, what then?  Do the Greek authorities take Maria away from the only parents she has known and re-home her with strangers?  Do they give her back to the Roma couple?  Does she go, as she probably would in Ireland, into an uncertain future in care with no guarantee of adoption or fostering?  I don’t know the answer but I do know you won’t find it in tomorrow’s front pages.  What you will find is the usual diet of overt racism and xenophobia masquerading as concern.

And so the waiting begins.  Bertie has bid farewell to Mr. Justice Alan Mahon and his esteemed colleagues down at Dublin Castle, and when Owen O’Callaghan has given his tuppence worth the three judges can get on with writing their final report.

I must say that I will miss the tribunal.  In entertainment terms it has been the best show in town for quite some years now and had come to feel almost like an old, reliable friend.  The sort of old friend who could always be relied upon to cheer me up and give me a giggle on a dreary, wet Monday in Dublin traffic.  After a 12 year run the end of it will seem a bit like the last episode of The Riordans.

The tribunal even outlived the Vincent Browne Show.  The re-enactments pioneered on the show were always fantastic entertainment.  Way back in the dim and distant past, before pod-casting had been heard of, I used to set my cassette recorder on a timer to record the show before I went to bed at night.  Driving out the N4 at 3 or 4am the next morning I was often convulsed with laughter while listening to Tom Gilmartin of Liam Lawlor giving evidence.  Gilmartin’s recounting of the occasion when Lawlor gate crashed a meeting in London nearly put me in a ditch west of Enfield one dark morning.

You see, there were one or two consummate entertainers at the tribunal a few years before Bertie came on the scene.  Imagine how disappointing it would have been if Bertie had completely flopped in the comedy stakes.

Good old reliable Bertie, though, he really didn’t let us down.  Bertie’s run had many highlights.  Everything from how as minister for finance he didn’t engage with the banking system to Michael Wall not eating the dinner and many more fabulous anecdotes in between proved his status as a raconteur without peer.  However, the day he told us that he won the money on a horse has got to be the pinnacle of a performance with more peaks than the Himalayas.

I look forward eagerly to the publication of the final report.  It is sure to be a bestseller and should easily outstrip Justice Floods interim report from a couple of years ago.  Perhaps it will enliven the blogosphere, which quite frankly has been a little quiet of late.

Over in Dublin 4 work on the new Lansdowne Road stadium continues apace.  When the newly built venue opens to the public in 2010 rugby and soccer fans can expect a much enhanced day out for their sports viewing.  What they won’t be expecting, however, is the crowds of spectators urging them on as they go to spend a penny in the stadium’s many toilet facilities.

“The other big thing is the toilet facilities, something that the old stadium was lacking in, to put it mildly. It’ll be a much better spectator experience.”  So said Martin Murphy, Lansdowne Road Stadium Director

On June 24th last I was passing through Kilbeggan in Co. Westmeath and I snapped this photo of a rather shabby looking former Bank of Ireland branch.  Later that evening I used the photo to illustrate a post about the impending recession.  Just yesterday I was again passing through Kilbeggan and was pleasantly surprised to seee that the building has had a facelift.  Do you supppose someone at BOI head office came across the photo on the web? (Although, how a search for Californian escort agencies could lead one to my site is a bit of a mystery!) 

 

 

Photo copyright alawlor 2008

 Anyway, the denizens of Kilbeggan are, I’m sure, delighted that this eyesore in the heart of their village has benn rectified.

‘…and they so loved their country that they used its flag as a tablecloth.’

Lisbon ‘NO’ supporters honour the Irish tri-colour at a victory celebration in Brussels.

 

 

 

Meanwhile back in Ireland, Chicken Licken was reaching some alarming conclusions.

 

Next Page »