Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy…

As America continues its depressing slow drift into Fascism this quote caught my eye: “In my work with the defendants (at the Nuremberg Trails 1945-1949) I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel with their fellow men. Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.” Quotation: Captain G. M. Gilbert, the Army psychologist … Read more

In true Bloomsday style, “Samuel Beckett got outrageously drunk…”

If you don’t know by now, it’s tradition!  [We know… – Ed]. Those of a sensitive disposition are duly warned, once again, that James Joyce enjoys the language in all its fecund nuttiness. And another reminder of a brief history of the day, from the Guardian, which includes this great 1924 quote from Joyce on Ulysses – “I have to convince myself that I wrote that book. I used to be able to talk intelligently about it.” Joyce’s last Bloomsday would take place on 16 June 1940, when the author was … Read more

The Opioids of the People

The United States government has launched a new anti-opioid campaign featuring true stories of people so desperate that they inflicted gruesome injuries on themselves to get another prescription. Such stories have already been more effectively told in poetry. The epidemic’s most searing skald is William Brewer, a son of Oceana, West Virginia, a post-industrial town so gripped by addiction that it is nicknamed Oxyana. We were so hungry; Tom’s hand on the table looked like warm bread. I crushed it … Read more

The Churches are backing themselves into a corner of Northern Ireland’s narrow ground. The laity should take over

Following on from the testimony of  Gerry Lynch and Elizabeth Nelson, it’s  hardly a surprise that the continuing revolution in faith and morals over abortion and  LGBT rights won elsewhere but not here,  is splitting the churches. True to ancient form, the leaderships of the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian Churches are treating what is actually a clash of moralities as challenges to authority.  The Catholics appeal to canon law, the Presbyterians to the Bible. And that is still that. For … Read more

Dementia and the pathology of leadership…

I described previously the problem of the ‘Pathology of Leadership’ (here), with a further post mainly devoted to dementia in our leaders (here). It’s not just political leaders who have health problems. I mentioned Ferdinand Sauerbruch in the second post. It’s difficult now to overemphasise just how renowned a surgeon he was in the inter-war period. From very modest origins, he rose to be the top surgeon in the top hospital, the Charité in Berlin, in Germany. He was deservedly internationally famous … Read more

Eight lessons for democracy from the Eighth (however you voted) …

There’s so much to unpack from the Repeal referendum that it’s hard to do them justice in one (shortish) blog. But, hey, here goes. The “boring bits” of democracy really matter. Repeal arose from a deliberative process amongst a randomly chosen set of citizens. Largely private, it allowed space for a range of opinions in a permissive, non-confrontational space, far removed the increasingly normative Twitter “Diss Course” that’s so popular with the political media. It revealed the same 2/3 support as the … Read more

What can Evangelicals learn from #repealthe8th

It was the closing celebration at New Wine in Sligo last summer, one of Ireland’s largest gatherings of Evangelical Christians. If you’re familiar with these events, the final evening is a vibrant celebration with bible teaching and vibrant praise and worship, with the aim of sending the masses out affirmed and emboldened in their faith. Arriving slightly late for the final event I walked past a table laden with hundreds of anti-abortion books. These were to be given free to … Read more

Will Northern Ireland now look to the Republic for abortion rights – or Trump’s America?

On the face of it, you’d think it’s a non- question. It just couldn’t  happen in Northern Ireland where the direction of travel is surely  the other way. But in the States, Roe v Wade, the essential abortion law of the whole country, is under unprecedented attack from the conservative evangelical right, coalescing round the Trump coalition. Given the ideological split on the current Supreme Court, with five conservative justices to four liberal ones, President Donald Trump is one Supreme Court … Read more

Soapbox: Jorja, her rare condition and a pressing need to legalise medicinal cannabis…

Robin Emerson is father to Jorja Emerson and keen activists for rare diseases and the legalisation of medicinal cannabis. Jorja Emerson was born on 26th February 2016, a beautiful baby girl weighing just 5lbs. After a number of months, we started noticing that Jorja was not developing like a typical baby her age, and in December we discovered that Jorja had a rare 1q43q44 chromosome deletion, and was most likely the only baby in Ireland with this specific chromosome deletion. … Read more

The royal wedding: an entertainment that is also an investment in the future of the British state

The wedding of the Kilkeels belongs in that part of the human imagination that houses dreams and fantasy.   With identity such a great part of the imagination  on our island,  it is easily recognised as such, although what part of the imagination is affected can sharply differ. My memories are vivid of the pretty decent royal coverage in the Dublin media in 1973  when I was covering  the trial in Winchester of Gerry Kelly, the Price sisters and five others … Read more

So G’wan Leinster – but can we have a different Irish ‘winner’ next year please?

As another hugely successful season draws to a close, with a grand slam in the bag, Ireland ranked 2nd in the world and 2nd favourites to win next year’s world cup  – we can still look forward to Leinster winning the European Champions Cup. Leinster play Racing 92 of Paris in Bilbao (Spain) on Saturday 12th May. Kick off 16.45, Irish time. Whilst Ulster failed to get to the knockout stages of the Champions Cup, Connacht got to the quarterfinals of … Read more

‘The Slow Genocide’ of the Rohingya People

Dr Maung Zarni, the Burmese human rights activist, chillingly described how the slow burning genocide of the Rohingya community in Burma has been ongoing for four decades at a talk on the plight of the Royhinga in the Junction on Friday 13 April 2018. The event was organised jointly by Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire and the 50th Anniversary of Civil Rights Commemoration Committee. Dr Maung Zarni a scholar educator and regular on BBC World Service has been a … Read more

California surpasses the UK to become the World’s 5th largest economy…

It shows the massive size of the US economy that one State alone has just overtaken the UK to become the World’s 5th largest economy. As reported by NBC NEWS: California’s economy has surpassed that of the United Kingdom to become the world’s fifth largest, according to federal data made public Friday. California’s gross domestic product rose by $127 billion from 2016 to 2017, surpassing $2.7 trillion, the data said. Meanwhile, the UK’s economic output slightly shrunk over that time when … Read more

You get less holidays than a medieval peasant…

Hopefully, you are enjoying your bank holiday weekend. As you look forward to returning to your toil on Tuesday you may find this article by Business Insider cruel comfort. Plowing and harvesting were backbreaking toil, but the peasant enjoyed anywhere from eight weeks to half the year off. The Church, mindful of how to keep a population from rebelling, enforced frequent mandatory holidays. Weddings, wakes, and births might mean a week off quaffing ale to celebrate, and when wandering jugglers … Read more

“The third lesson of this episode stretches far beyond Israel-Palestine…”

The Palestinian leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, has been widely condemned for his anti-Semitic remarks in a televised speech addressing a meeting of the Palestinian National Council on Monday 30th April.  Among his critics, as the Belfast Telegraph notes, former US Secretary of State John Kerry Former US Secretary of State John Kerry wrote on Twitter: “These comments are wrong, ugly, and unacceptable – anywhere from anyone – but particularly from anyone who says he wants to be a peacemaker. No … Read more

I Preferred Groucho…

I know visitors to Slugger tend to shy away from articles with deliberately provocative opening statements, but I’m going to do it anyway: Marx Was Right! Well, how could he not be? Especially when you can see for yourself the evident reasonableness in his best-known pronouncements: From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend on reading it. I don’t have a photograph. I’d give you my footprints, … Read more

Numbers are important, but government (and journalism) needs to find and act upon real stories too

Wicked problems always occur in a social context — the wickedness of the problem reflects the diversity among the stakeholders in the problem. — Jeff Conklin The weekend papers in Ireland are full of speculation based almost entirely on those most chancey of numbers, the latest polling figures. It leaves, even in an avid anorak type like yours truly, a sense that the world must be happening somewhere else. A friend, who is firmly ensconced inside the Irish political bubble, … Read more

Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government…

This morning I  came across this classic clip from The Monty Python and the Holy Grail film. Ever after 40 years, it is still a great send-up of our political system. Enjoy. A self-perpetuating autocracy King Arthur: Old woman! Dennis: Man. King Arthur: Man, sorry. What knight lives in that castle over there? Dennis: I’m 37. King Arthur: What? Dennis: I’m 37. I’m not old. King Arthur: Well I can’t just call you “man”. Dennis: Well you could say “Dennis”. … Read more

We can acknowledge Powell as a significant historical figure, without resurrecting his politics…

The decision by the BBC to broadcast Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech on Saturday was always going to be controversial. The speech, made by Powell 50 years ago on 20th April, had a long-term impact on British politics, and transformed the climate on race relations in Britain. In the speech, Powell spoke out against Britain’s liberal immigration laws, predicting dire consequences for the country if immigration was to continue unchecked. He also attacked the race relations legislation that the … Read more