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Beyond sexism and #MeToo, why the #PresidentsClub dinner reeks


I have so much that I want to say about the #PresidentsClub. Obviously on the level of sexism, and effectively procurement of young women, who had NO duty of care shown to them by either the charity or #Artista, the agency, it is proof-positive of how sexism exists, and thrives in those places, those secret clubs that men with money and power keep. Let it never be said that men can’t close ranks when they need to – this club/charity/whatever you want to call it was around for 20 years, an open display of how skewed the sexual dynamics are in our society.

By and large, while I have encountered sexism while working in the Third Sector, what tends to exist more are cultures of highly intelligent, highly dissatisfied people. In the charity side of the sector, there are quite healthy gender ratios – one of the few industries to have this. Bullying sometimes thrives, from what I’ve heard from others working directly for charities themselves – where intelligence and boredom meet, this is a logical outcome. They are the type of people who have all the requisite intelligence (probably too much) to thrive in a corporate environment, but lack the confidence/drive. Whether it’s more or less than in the corporate world is debatable.

And/or maybe (in some, though not all cases) some feel that they can make a difference. Sometimes flaws in the industry are overlooked for a perceived greater good. It’s a high-pressure environment, one where people change jobs frequently. And, in my opinion: Not all charities are equal. Some there is more need of than others.

This is not intended as a slight upon charities – the people that work there at mid-level do work incredibly hard, at a fraction of the wages they could get in similar jobs in the corporate world. However, let me also say that, while of course one can take what the charity representatives have said at face value, having worked in this sector on and off for almost 8 years – I find it incredible that no one from these charities attended the #PresidentsClub dinners over a 20 year period. It may be so, but for not even a board member or a trustee to attend – that’s quite extraordinary.

But the point that I think everyone is missing about this: these CEOs, heads of business and the links between tax avoidance and charitable giving: these ‘Titans’ of industry are raising money for charities that, if they paid their tax, would probably (a) not be necessary and (b) wouldn’t be filling the gaps caused by austerity. A logical aim of anyone working in the charity sector should be to put themselves out of a job – to end poverty, to end the need for charitable giving. If we lived in a fair and functional society, where everyone paid according to their means, there would be no need for charities, for the ‘despised’ chuggers, and for tax ‘incentives’ for tax avoiders.

Another layer, of course, are politicians, and their collusion in this merry dance of tax avoidance. Scratch the surface of this story, and I’m sure that there are a number of politicians (most likely Tory) whose backs are having a consensual scratch from big business. Let’s put it this way: the amounts being avoided to pay in tax are so huge that City law firms and the amount they charge to help aid this avoidance are comparatively small change in terms of the amounts saved. Let that sink in for a minute.

The collusion in the usage of young women by lecherous older men and avaricious older women as bait is disgraceful. It’s laughable that these men, men like Philip Green, who avoided £160m in tax personally in 2016 should need ‘incentives’ to be able to give, and it is absolutely repugnant that they are allowed to feel ‘good’ about themselves when just one of them (clearly) could pay what was raised 8 times over.

More than that, it highlights that the UK does not need to be an unequal society, if the current and previous governments had the political will to end this putrid gravy train, and end the need for charity. The fact that there are completely the resources to do this, but no political will to enforce it, even in times of deep national crisis shows that this patriarchal, man-made model of doing business and politics needs to be ripped asunder and structured for the brave new world of equality for which there is clearly public appetite. The Empire is dead; long live the New Utopia.

It really irks me that these men are passing themselves off as ‘doing good’ when they head up corporations that tax avoid. If they paid their taxes into the public purse, there would be less need for charities, some of whom are literally stopping institutions from collapsing – the British Red Cross last winter is a good example of this regarding the NHS. The aim of a civilised society should always be to reduce the need for charitable giving, not increase it. The government’s actions and their close association with the world of finance – even to the extent of one of their own, David Meller, organising this bacchanalian grope-fest – shows there is a whole circle of back-slapping that in itself needs to be scrutinised into non-existence.The demise of the #PresidentsClub is not enough, because some other secret sexist conclave, where politics and big business collude in the exploitation of women is still out there. What’s needed now is to take this story to the next level and press forward with it. In the wake of #MeToo, there is nowhere to hide. Beyond that, if I had one message for these ‘sad old men’ it would be this:

Pay. Your. Goddamn. Taxes.


PS. (And stop leeching and freeloading on the poverty and inequality in British society. As my Grandpa would say, the world (literally) doesn’t owe you a living.


Why #MeToo is part of the zeitgeist


The future is female. Or is it? There is no doubting that the biggest political event of the year was #MeToo. When I first saw the hashtag, posted it on my social media and then wrote about it, I had no idea how big an impact this movement was going to have. Still is having. As a woman, one gets used to ‘women’s issues’ gaining a bit of publicity for a while, then fading into the background. This hasn’t faded. If anything, it is keeping a steady glow going.

There is hardly a profession that I have seen that hasn’t been mentioned in conjunction with #MeToo. Sure, it started with the relative elite of Hollywood, but I’ve seen mentions of this movement by women in the financial world, medicine, the London theatre scene, the classical music world, politics, the literary world, academia, opera. I’ve known, in acquaintance, a few of the accused, and the revelations weren’t surprising. The irony of art reflecting life reflecting art were not lost.

There’s been a multiplicity of reactions to #MeToo, from women. It wasn’t long (probably a month) before the mutterings of the #NotAllMen groups of women started. From my observance, they were mainly women ‘of a certain age’ and the main thrust of their argument, when one broke it down,  seemed to be that they had to put up with it, so why shouldn’t younger women have to do the same? Many of these women of my personal acquaintance (though not all) had sons which seemed, by their own words, to colour their views. Some women, who were friends with the accused, because they had not experienced this side of them found it hard to comprehend that they were capable of these actions. A human reaction, I guess; but part of the reason that the system of patriarchy and its narrative has prevailed. The deceit of women. Their cunning. When underneath all they are, are sluts. Branded women. Mark them with an A and have done with it. Dress them in a red dress and white bonnet and treat them as brood mares. They are good for little else. Possessions, not human beings.

This movement has given me pause about many things. Of course, partly I was elated and continue to be, that finally, these issues, which form so much a part of the experience of being female,  were being discussed, and that this movement hasn’t disappeared from the public consciousness yet. Partly I’ve been disappointed by the reactions of some other women, and recognise that there is much in there that has been the causation of the lack of progress of the suffragette movement and its descendants, the various waves of feminism. We are still having arguments about providing creches in workplaces – something that was established by the Pankhursts in their business a hundred years ago. If anything, we seem to have gone backwards in terms of this argument.

I believe that #MeToo is having a major effect because of the political schisms we are experiencing. We are seeing an epic battle between how things have been, and how we want them to be, and in between, how things currently are. There is a broad acceptance that how things are is no longer acceptable, and there must be change. There is also conflict with traditionalists and apologists for how things are, and how they want regressive change to the way things were. Crucial to the movement, to this moment, and to the rising call for female equality, has been Trump. Never has toxic masculinity, a real life consequence of the system of patriarchy,  been personified so odiously and so fully in one person. The Hero’s Journey is a basic principle of story-telling, and for every hero(ine) there must be a villain. Trump has fulfilled that role more than competently. In truth, one could argue that it is the only role he has fulfilled competently, providing the perfect example of what happens when one leaves power all in the hands of men. The call for female equality would not be resonating on this scale if men did not look at Trump as an example of their sex, and not like what they see. By and large, unless one is a white supremacist misogynist, he is the very antithesis of aspirational masculinity. His ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ comment. His wildly inappropriate and borderline incestuous comments about his daughter. His clear disregard for his current wife. The scarcity of women in his every staged photo opportunity. Women are useful and/or of service to him, or they are irrelevant, seems to be the message. The history books may yet show that the biggest catalyst for equality for women in Western countries was Donald Trump, despite the villain’s best efforts. No Hero’s Journey story is complete without the triumph of battle.

The way I see it, the major obstacles standing in the way of female equity, and that always have, are two-fold: Not just the implementation of patriarchal mores from men, but also from women themselves. A sort of keeping of the status quo. I was struck by this when reading about Meryl Streep recently. Now don’t get me wrong – I love Meryl Streep as an actress. I think she is probably the greatest living film actor, male or female. I’ve seen her speak at a Women of the World conference, and she comes across as a thoroughly nice human being, despite her disavowal of feminism, which I have to say, I did find disappointing. However, she is a person who has reached a certain level of power and influence, and her pronouncements about wearing black at the Golden Globes come across as someone who wants predominantly to maintain the status quo, while talking about protest. The problem with this is that sort of attitude is not possible, sustainable or even desirable to maintain anymore. It’s part of the ‘Change – but not too much’ attitude of neoliberalism. Unlike Brexit, change does actually mean change. Change is painful. It’s messy. It turns your world upside-down and inside out. Change is the rollercoaster ride that you have no guarantee of being thrown off of. It’s gut-wrenching, soul-destroying, overwhelming, terrifying. And ultimately, enervating, empowering and inevitable once one has been baptised in its fire.

I am using Streep as an example, not because I loathe her (the contrary) but because I believe her approach to fundamental change is wrong and can be a teachable moment. Sure, if every woman rocked up in black, there would be a huge amount of publicity – for the Globes and sales for media outlets. All predominantly run by men. These awards depend on women to boost their profile and sales. There is not one female director nominated this year, despite several great films directed by women, for example. Until they give women an equal footing, and equal power, then don’t engage. If every single woman stayed away from the awards season and refused to engage, that would do more than sending a message, and ‘making a statement’. I’m fairly certain it would have a real-life impact on the profile of the awards and media sales. Who, after all, wants to sift through hundreds of pictures of men in very similar looking tuxedoes?

I hasten to add that this isn’t an original idea – it is based on the Icelandic model of women disengaging from working, taking care of children and households in 1975 as an action against inequality. The result were quite startling – men were barely coping over the 24-hour period. They made their point, and got their first female president 5 years later.

Action can seem overwhelmingly. But even small actions matter. For example: I’ve made a commitment to not hashtag the Golden Globes – small in its way, but in this day and age, social media raises profile. An awards ceremony that does not recognise the achievements of women, half the population, is not a ceremony that I want to help in any way, shape or form. Instead, I’ll be writing as much as I can about #MeToo and issues of female equity as a counterbalance. Done collectively, like the #MeToo movement, these sort of actions can have impact.

The point is: protest is all very well. But actions do speak louder than words, and across sectors women need to start taking meaningful action that does not play by the rules of a game which treats them as second-class citizens. Then, and only then, will we see real progress on the issue of female equity. And progress on this, 100 years on from when women were arrested, tortured and killed merely to get a vote to get a seat at the table, more than change for its own sake, surely has to now be the aim. This is why #MeToo is a crucial movement, coming at a crucial time in the social history of the world, with remarkable staying power. It remains to be seen whether the hero will transform into the heroine on this journey, and whether the Heroine, female equity, will triumph at last.




I was 7 years old, taking swimming lessons. I told my mum that the swimming instructor was holding me around the crotch area and it made me feel funny. I contracted a whole batch of verrucas from the swimming pool and the lessons stopped. I’ve never liked swimming in pools much since. #Metoo

I had chronic childhood acne, so I went to see the top dermatologist in the city. I told my mum that I got a funny feeling from him, and so I never was taken to see him again. It was later found out that he had sexually assaulted a number of patients, including a girl I worked with later on. In this instance, not #metoo.

I was 13. Like a lot of 13 year olds, I wanted to be older than I was, so I snuck into a disco with my cousins for over-16s. I met a guy there. We met up the next day. He was 25. I told him that I was 13. We kissed. He didn’t seem to mind about my age. #Metoo

I was 14. Lazing in bed in my room. A relative, who was staying, came in. I pretended to be asleep. He stuck his hand down my nightie. A year later, I told my mum. I never saw him again. #Metoo

I was 15. Staying with my best friend in her house in Sicily. We wanted to put on a show, a ‘spettacolo’. We decided our contribution to the show would be to dance around in our bikinis to ‘Papa don’t Preach’. We showed her father our routine. He was horrified and absolutely forbade us to do it. We didn’t understand why. I understand now. It would have been a spectacle and we were spectacularly naive. Not #metoo.

Between the ages of 13-15, I was bullied by two boys at my school. Bullied with daily, relentless gendered insults, whispered sotto voce: Slut’. ‘Bitch’. ‘Cunt’. There was nothing sexual to it, but it was relentless, daily harassment and terrifying. When I watched my dad die, age 16, I knew that nothing they could say could hurt me anymore. The next time they tried to harass me, I tore them down with a sharp-as-an-arrow, whip-accurate retort. They never bothered me again. #Metoo

Aged 16, I go to New York for the summer to au pair. I am on a bus to upstate New York to stay with my grandma. On the bus, a man starts talking to me. He tells me about how his mom, Big Red, would love to meet a real Irish person, and how I should definitely get off the bus at Roscoe with him. I politely decline a number of times, though he is incredibly insistent. I go on to meet my unsuspecting grandma. I had no idea why he was so desperate for me to meet his mom, but something didn’t feel right. Not #metoo.

I’m in my bed in a shared house in Dublin, aged 18. Earlier that evening some friends of the live-in landlord had come to stay. They seemed nice enough. I chatted a little with them and then went to bed. I was woken up by one of them on top of me, trying to hold me down while telling me that ‘I wanted it’. With all my might, I kicked him in the groin, and rushed to a room in the house vacated for the weekend. Luckily, this room has a lock. I lock the door and stay there, heart racing, until I know they’ve gone the next day. I tell the landlord. He tells me I must be mistaken, his friends wouldn’t do that. I move house a few months later. #metoo

I hitchhiked everywhere up until the age of 21. I got a lift one evening from a lorry driver going back to Dublin. We were chatting about AIDs. Suddenly, around Cashel, he said ‘So do you want me to pull over and we can do it?’ I let out a horrified ‘No!’ and very firmly told him to drive or I would kick him with my Doc Martens. We drive in silence to Dublin and as he’s about to let me off on the quays, he said, by way of an excuse ‘You kept talking about AIDs. You made me think you wanted to do ‘it’.’ I thank him, because I’m a polite middle-class young woman, and slam the door shut. I didn’t hitchhike long-distance after that. #metoo

It’s my first sun holiday. I was so excited, and I’d bought a long, navy, figure-hugging dress. I loved that dress. I went through the security barriers at the airport. There was no beeping but the security guards made me go through it again. And again. And again. And again. They started giggling and admitted they just wanted to see me walk in my tight long dress. I felt humiliated. #metoo

I’m walking home from a friend’s on the South Circular Road in Dublin. A man stops and asks me for the time. He then asks me if I would have sex with him. For £20. I shout ‘No!’ and run all the way home. #metoo

I visit Leipzig for the first time. I’m staying with my friend Claudia. We walk past a park. Something looks out of place. It turns out it is a man, with a shirt and tie, and a hedgerow up to his thighs, visibly masturbating. My friend is horrified and assures me this is not acceptable behaviour in Leipzig. I’d already seen a guy do that twice in Cork, walking down the street, masturbating as he walked, his penis sticking up over some very baggy sweatpants. The first time I saw him, he shocked me. The second time, I told him to put it away, or else it would fall off. I’m 26, and already wise to the ways of men. #metoo

I’m on my first job out of drama school. I’m excited to be working. The experience is marred by the constant harassment from an actor in his 60s. He wants to impress upon me what a big deal he is – he’s had some one-hit wonder with a song back in the 70s and been living off the royalties ever since. I tell him to keep his hands to himself and to his side of the room. #metoo

I grow long, Titian-red hair and so am hired for a show which requires nudity. Great, I think, I can do that. I’m comfortable in my own skin, it’s not gratuitous, it’ll be a new experience. For publicity shots for Time Out and The Stage, I’m offered a closed set and I take it. The director and his stage manager keep peeping through one of the windows that have been covered with black-out paper, pointing and giggling. I feel humiliated. I explain to the PR lady after what happened, and why I really don’t want the pictures used. They’re published anyway. I might be comfortable with my body, but I won’t ever put myself in that situation again. #metoo

An older director invites me for tea. We have a lovely afternoon. He grabs my ass as he kisses me on the cheek as I leave. It barely even registers at this point. It’s certainly on the tame side of my experiences in life thus far. But, hey, #metoo

I’m working in a non-acting job. I need it to pay my bills. I’ve fallen into serious debt and need that steady income. They are trying to get rid of me. Not because I’m not good at my job. But because I’ve held them to account on their practices around women. One member of their senior management was allegedly arrested for wife-beating while in a more junior position. This does not stop him getting promoted. There were whispers around another as a rapist. He is also promoted. Yet another would summon young attractive female employees to come sit on his knee. He is one of the owners. Women are ritually undermined, overlooked, humiliated. They get rid of 5 women over a 9 month period in key positions. I do not stand with 4 of those women at the time in a meaningful way. I am ashamed of myself. I am the 5th. I decide to do something meaningful. I prepare a 22-page document with supporting evidence of their sexist practices. I know where this is headed and I know I must stand up now. I must be counted. The boss is affronted. He later rants to a fellow worker ‘How could I be a misogynist? My wife is the biggest feminist there is!’ After a 7-month campaign of bullying, mind-games, harassment, cajoling, a nervous breakdown (mine), I come back to work. I last 4 days before telling them we either settle or go to court, and I don’t care which it is. I’ve had enough. We settle. #metoo

I have been cat-called as many times as I’ve had hot dinners. I’ve been stalked a number of times by ex-boyfriends. I’ve been harassed into dates and even into relationships by men who wouldn’t take no for an answer. I’ve had men pull over in their cars to ask me to get in. I’ve been knocked off my bike by men looking for a date. I’ve worked with men who tell me their wives ‘don’t understand them’. I’ve worked with men who’ve used their power and reputation to bully me in a non-sexual, but nonetheless damaging way. I’ve overheard men on public transport talking about what they were going to do to particular girls in the type of locker room talk that one expects now from the POTUS. I’ve been catfished by someone pretending to be David Haye until I contacted his agent to confirm it was him. I’ve been invited by a producer of porn to contact him. I’ve been the subject of death threats for having an opinion online. #Metoo. #Metoo. #Metoo. More times than I am capable of remembering or writing about: #MEFUCKINGTOO

And yet: I’m lucky. Despite several near-misses, only a portion of them listed above, I’ve never been raped, unlike several friends who’ve confided in me. Unlike other friends, no man has ever attempted to hit me. I’m tall, athletic and strong. I keep myself athletic and strong and always on guard. My keys are my weapon of choice. I’ve developed a persona that is my armour. The strong woman. The warrior woman. The woman with the big voice and the big laugh. I like this woman. She protects me. She takes on my adversaries one by one, the bullies, the misogynists, the would-be abusers and belittlers of women and vanquishes them. One by one. I cover my vulnerability not because I want to, but because I have to. As a woman, never give away all of your heart, I was once told. I thought that was dispiriting at the time, and now I see the wisdom of it. I thought I thought I’d be done with this shit once I hit my thirties. Oh the innocence. Every time something happens, I am jolted from my reality of being a human being to the reality of living in a world that does not favour the human beings with vaginas.

Can we change it? I don’t know. I know it will not happen if men do not help.

Should we change it? Yes. Absolutely yes. The only objectors to this would be  people who want to continue harassing and abusing.

How do we change it? The first step is listening. Believing women and their stories. Whether it’s misogynistic bullying, sexual harassment, assault: giving the benefit of the doubt. Not many women would want to go through even a workplace hearing to tell their stories of harassment and abuse unless it was true. That in itself can be a harrowing and mentally traumatising experience. It says something that in the #Cosby case over 60 women came forward, in the #Weinstein case over 30, and still there are murmurings of ‘Why didn’t they come forward sooner? Is this a vendetta against men?’. This very thinking is a silencing mechanism, because women know the cost of being visible. It’s something we live with all our lives. It’s a technique that men like Weinstein use to great effect. After that – I’m not sure. Make certain more women are involved in power positions? It can’t hurt to at least try that. After all, it’s not really been done before, and we can tell from the #metoo stories emerging that this is not just a Hollywood/arts industry problem. The industry of story-telling has merely been the catalyst for women from all walks of life to tell their stories.

Let me tell you why this is important. I’m not going to tell you a story about why this is important for your daughters, your wives, your sisters. I was house-sitting in a very wealthy part of London last year. The house belonged to a wealthy older woman of 87. She’d led a privileged life, and her husband had worked in close proximity with a relative of the Royal Family. She was in the early stages of dementia, in and out of lucidity. One day, when I was sitting down with her, she told me of her driving lessons, aged 17. She spent at least as much time fending off the driving instructor from touching her up. She didn’t want to tell her father, because she felt he would have done nothing. She didn’t want to tell her mother, who would have made a scene and that would have stopped her learning to drive, which signified freedom. So, 70 years later, this patrician, Cambridge-educated lady in the first stages of losing her mind, still remembered this ritual humiliation, this abuse of power, this demonstration of privilege. Despite all she had achieved in her life (and it was considerable), that scar still burned bright. Her fear, anger and upset was palpable.

That’s the power of the #metoo hashtag. We’re finally visible. Telling our stories. This is not an attack on all men, but it sure is about as personal as it can get. Because until we tell our stories, reconcile the truth of those stories with the fiction of the patriarchal narrative, how can we hope to create space in this world for every human being to live safely, to reach our potential as a species and to evolve and thrive accordingly? That’s what I want – do #youtoo?









Take a Knee


A flag is just a piece of cloth. What it’s supposed to represent – an equal playing field for all, justice for all – is not being adhered to and has not been, ever, in the history of the US.

Remember these protests started under Obama’s administration, as a protest against police brutality. Only Trump could make it all about himself and some perverse idea of patriotism, where one doesn’t question how loyalty to this ‘flag’ trumps (pun intended) keeping racist law enforcement officers in check.

But since The Donald has decided to put his rather profane tuppence ha’porth in, let’s use it to question what is really important here. In truth, no flag matters. What is done supposedly in the name of the flag does. The flag is no more than a human extension of the Pavlov’s dog experiment. I support those taking a knee because what they are protesting for (actual civil rights, the right to not be killed by endemic racism) is more important. If you are proud of your country (and by this I mean any country, not just the U.S.), know exactly what it is you’re proud of. When it comes down to it, and if one’s grasp on history is solid, and if one is scrupulously honest, it’ll end up that you’ll be proud of some things, of other things not so much. Let the country that is without sin cast the first stone.

The danger is, during this political paradigm shift (and we are still in the midst of this shift) that revisionism of history is rife. We have the situation in Germany where partly (to the best of my understanding) what the AfD set their stall out on is whitewashing German history, especially that of the Third Reich, as something to be proud of, that ‘others’ had wilfully misinterpreted. How can one be proud of that part of one’s history which included mass genocide? And this point could be said of many countries, including the US. Including the UK. Trump and Brexit happened, to a large extent, due to people’s ignorance of their own imperialist, genocidal, racist histories.

Pride in a flag, for pride’s sake, if the foundation of what that flag represents, is ridiculous. Pride in an anthem, a song, is indefensible if the human rights that have been nominally enshrined in law are not being accorded to all citizens, irrespective of colour, creed, sex, gender, sexual preference, power and wealth status. There is ample evidence to show us that the US has little respect for the rights of its African-American citizens. The very presence of a man like Trump in the White House and his penchant for the company of white supremacists and self-described Nazis is a very testimony to this. The symbols that we once held dear unquestioningly are being called into question. It’s long overdue. Men like Kaepernick remind us that rather than slavishly adhering to the status quo, our citizenship calls upon us to question whether it is fit for purpose, or indeed, if it ever was. And the evidence and history taken objectively, would strongly indicate that it never has been.

The late great Stéphane Hessel wrote about a ‘Time for Outrage’. Outrage is only the beginning point. It’s the precursor of change, and holds the potential of change for the better, for everyone. Some people will not want change, simply because change, even when it is for the better, is not easy. Some people will not want change, because they see change as an attack on their status and supremacy in the world order. Those latter are probably not wrong, but they must not stand as an impediment to change for the better for the majority. We are on a knife’s edge balance in the West when Germany, for 28 years a beacon of hope to the power of people and progressive thinking, to the art of the possible rather than the cynical deal, can have 1.3 citizens who ignored their own history and voted in the far-right to the Bundestag again. The damage has been done, and nationalism has made its inroads. The road that this ultimately leads to can be changed, however. It’s not too late for that yet, if we remain conscious of the difference between superficial nationalism and deeper citizenship.

Nationalism only appeals to those who are childish and sheep-like in their thinking. Those who deal in the vicious pettiness of playground politics. Those who like their inane saluting, doublespeak, symbolism and who find comfort in the denigration of others. This is not ‘love of country’. Love of country, and deeper citizenship is when you care that everyone is afforded the same rights, the same opportunities, that everyone prospers. That’s what those who are taking a knee are highlighting. May they overcome.

#Takeaknee #sportisnotjustsport

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Self-pity – the nuclear option


“We may have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”.

The Donald’s ‘choice’ of language is revealing. Part of the #Trump schtick is to paint himself as a victim. This is also a trait I’ve noticed in the average #Trump supporter, when conversing with them, the average white male who feels victimised and put-upon for having to acknowledge the inequities of the past and present, and of narcissistic sociopaths of both sexes. It’s the trait of the adult that doesn’t want to grow up and acknowledge uncomfortable truths about themselves and the world they’ve created for themselves. It’s the trait of inmates and children of nursery and reception-going ages, both of whom I’ve worked with.

This sort of trait is not confined to a type, as such: One can be supremely talented, be an intellectual high flyer, be an average Jo(e), be a rare beauty, be plain. Ironically the place where I’ve seen this sort of self-pitying characteristic least is in special needs children. I know about this intently, because I was prone to this trait, and really had to come to a place in myself to re-frame my thinking on it – and it is still a work in progress. It’s an easy place to slip to, where everyone else and the world is at fault, without taking the time to do the adult, accountable thing and take stock of one’s own perspective. What are my patterns, and how do I overcome them?

Although this is still a theory in formation, there are two reasons that I can see that Trump is prevailing: 1. He is tapping into this infantile sense of injustice without challenging the recipients of his message to challenge themselves to rise above their own inner toddler and 2. He has authenticity. Now, I know there is a lot of evidence that could be thrown against that last statement, but hear me out, because this is key: He is authentically an asshole and he is living his truth in that. There’s a lack of pretence there that is clearly speaking to his supporters. And until people in opposition realise this, and start to think about how to combat it, we will always lose the argument, no matter how much evidence we have to the contrary.

Because the reality is: He is not put upon, and he has choice. He is choosing to rattle the sabre and poke the bear. There seems to be a lack of education and understanding about the effects of nuclear war, which back in the 80s was just par for the course. Every school child had seen ‘The Day After’, we all knew about Hiroshima, and we all understood the lyrics of Sting’s ‘Russians’ (time for a re-release called ‘Americans’). Mr. Sumner was accurate about the Russians loving their children – I’m not convinced pro-Trump Americans do, or that, due to a lack of education and understanding, they understand the Pandora’s Box that Trump is promising to unleash. Judging by the plethora of bombastic tweets in support of him, they don’t. Who would, having seen even the pictures of Hiroshima, would wish that for the world?

Mr. Trump has a choice; and he is choosing to take the lowest road possible. Perhaps in a bid to boost his flagging ratings and his dwindling crowds. His pronouncements are normalised and a logical outcome of the normalisation of white male privilege and a failure in our systems of teaching and enforcing personal accountability in our society. If we all survive the Trump presidency (my T-shirt is already on order), we have to focus on what is important: our interdependency, an insistence on equality and equal representation, respect for our differences and for our planet. The only point of being lead down a dark path is to embrace the light when we see it.

I’m going to leave you with a quote from Frankl, who was, the more I discover about him, an amazing character. One thing I did not know until recently was that he chose to go to Auschwitz. He had a safe passage to the US, but his parents were being deported to Auschwitz and he chose to go with them. So not only did he make a choice – he chose love. It’s always there, folks. In our words. In our deeds. In our reactions. You are not helpless. You have power, if you choose to use it. If you choose to live mindfully. If you do not, no matter your circumstances, you are a hamster on a wheel, an eternal victim of your own whining 3-year old. Ask yourself – isn’t it time to embrace being an adult, with all the wonderful joys and challenges that entails? There’s little point in being king for a day (or in Trump’s case, 7.25 more years and counting) if one’s head does not have the strength to bear the crown. There’s little point in being Emperor if the rest of the world can see, plain as day, that you have no clothes. That you’re just a big whining man-baby in a suit who, through circumstance, has access to the biggest and most dangerous toy in the world. Even standing on the precipice of obliteration, let’s see this for what it is. A choice.

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”
― Viktor E. Frankl

Dear (fellow) White People

Dear (fellow) White People

Like many people in the US and UK, I was glued to my computer and television screens yesterday, watching the horror in Virginia unfold. Right now, it’s really hard to take the positives from #Charlottesville.

I’ve been watching the rise of white supremacy over the last 10 years or so, and it’s shocking how it’s been normalised in mainstream politics, over here through Blair’s reintroduction of the Prevention of Terrorism act, which was always bound to unfairly vilify the Muslim community as it did the Irish community throughout the 1970s and 80s; Bush’s clampdown on civil liberties in the US and re-working of the facts of history to reflect a NeoCon narrative; and the demonisation of Muslims and immigrants by Cameron, Farage and Trump. This actions were always going to give credence to a white imperialist narrative of English-speaking white people being the fabled ‘good guys’, despite masses of evidence to the contrary throughout history.

I agree with MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, on the white moderate:

“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

If we have been shown anything over the last year, and in particular, the last two weeks, is that white male fragility turns nasty when faced with both the sins of the past and present. This must change. There are those who would call for tolerance. This, to my mind, does not solve anything when those calling for ‘tolerance’ are supported by systemic injustice. I think, rather than erring on the side of ‘tolerance’ we must have robust discussion. No holds barred, no punch unpulled. And not just with others, but with ourselves. How much are we willing to watch other people be demonised? Killed by police for trumped up traffic ‘violations’? Being twice victimised by the use of the false equivalence I have seen on the Twittersphere today, comparing those in Black Lives Matter who are standing up for their civil rights with those self-described Nazis who worship at the altar of a genocidal dictator? Being ‘tolerant’ of bigotry enables it – if we’ve learned nothing from the last 15 months, I think the evidence would point towards that. Power = privilege. It’s as simple as that. These last 15 months, both here in the UK and the US, and indeed, across Europe has been a sharp wake-up call to those who believed white supremacy to be vanquished; it merely was gestating underground, ready to rise up at the appropriate time.

But I will say this: There is hope. There are those who realise what is at stake and who stood up and were counted, like the counter-protesters stood up to Nazis and white supremacists. Everyone who stood against fascism and white supremacy in Charlottesville put themselves literally in the line of fire and did the right thing. That’s brave. Governor Terry McAuliffe gave the speech that Trump should have. Republican politicians like Rubio are calling Trump out on his ‘many, many sides’ endorsing of the white supremacists (and they are taking it like that, on social media forums – they’re emboldened). I can’t believe I’m writing this, but even Nigel Farage was shocked at the Nazi salutes and publicly expressed that, like Dr. Frankenstein horrified at the monster he helped create.So there is some hope.

The veil has fallen from the ‘alt-right’ ‘fashy’ neo-Nazi white ‘nationalist’ aka white supremacist KKK. I’ve long thought the term ‘alt-right’ was a dangerous one for the media to adopt – there is little hope of reasoning with fascists.  A rose by any other name is still a rose. A Nazi by any other name is still a Nazi.

I have two questions for the likes of Richard Spencer:

1. If white people (and white men in particular) are so ‘supreme’, then why do we (and they) require unfair, systemic advantage socially and politically?

2. There is much talk in fascist circles about ‘white genocide’ – isn’t the truth that it is closer to ‘white suicide’, as what psychologically balanced person (including white people) would want the continuation of an imperialistically-minded, misogynistic, racist, intolerant culture such as the one you and your acolytes are espousing?

Indeed, given that “inbreeding increases the chances of the expression of deleterious recessive alleles by increasing homozygosity and therefore has the potential to decrease the fitness of the offspring”, there is a strong argument that racial purity is unrealistic and undesirable – unless you are the sort of madman that wants to control those with a low IQ.

Many clearly were emboldened enough by the fact that Trump, with his KKK entourage in the White House, to appear at a rally without their masks. They have potentially given those who work in the area of counter-terrorism and terrorism prevention a huge gift by this shameless display of arrogance, through a theory known as social learning. This theory, developed by Albert Bandura posits that people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling. If organisations like SPLC has the facial recognition equipment to identify each and every one of them in such a way that they can out them within their communities.  Depending on the community, if  it has a tangible effect on their lives,  (through societal shaming, loss of employment etc) that they might really think about what they’ve signed up to. America also has a strong tradition of patriotism and religion that can be used positively – I can’t think of anything more antipathetic to the supposition of what ‘American values’ or ‘Christian values’ are than Nazism.  Because we’ve yet to hear any denouncement of these white supremacist Nazi terrorists from Trump, but logic would dictate that if anyone in white communities knows that one of their own is involved in white supremacy  and Nazism- report them to the FBI immediately and without hesitation. That’s actually the most patriotic thing one could do in this instance, if indeed one is sincere in one’s belief in the US constitution of equality for all.

If there are any #Trump supporters out there – shame on you if you quietly sit by and don’t petition him and/or your local senator to categorically denounce this as white supremacist terrorism. He contended that ‘race didn’t affect the numbers’ – now is your chance to do the right thing and show him that it will have an impact in 2020.

My hope today, in an American that seems more divided than ever, is that white people are reaching out to their black neighbours. If they don’t know someone who is black (and that is entirely possible), visit a black church to pray, or support a black business with your custom.  The only use of ‘white power’ or ‘white male power’ should be in the service of rendering an equitable world for all. Pandering to white and male fragility is no longer sustainable, especially among white people ourselves. There are ways you can show your solidarity, by being a great ally and listening to the black communities very real fears. if I was a black person or POC in Trump’s America, I’d now be officially terrified post-Charlottesville,  if I hadn’t been before. That’s unacceptable. Let’s stop tolerating intolerance. As the late and great Stéphane Hessel said, it’s ‘Time for Outrage’.


Britain – it’s time to talk


Pull up a chair, Britain and sit down. We need to have a long overdue chat. And we need to be honest, so shudDUP and let us talk. Yup, pun absolutely intended. Never let it be said that we Irish don’t try and inject a bit of humour into every situation.

But after Friday, and yet another kick to the proverbial nuts, and yet another betrayal, and yet another situation where serious risks could be posed to Ireland as a result of English foolhardiness, the niceties are over. It’s time for the truth bombs. I think many Irish friends living in England feel the same. Hell, even our Taoiseach, Enda-ThirdWay-Kenny, has issued a little slapdown to the British government. So in the interests of inter-island dialogue and a baseline of understanding, and having been asked questions by so many English friends on Friday (which I’m always glad to answer) ranging from ‘Why don’t Sinn Féin do a solid for Corbyn and take up their seats’ to ‘What’s so bad about the DUP’, let me take you through a potted history of Ireland, and in particular recent history, and why this recent move on the part of the Tory party is beyond the Pale (that’s a little joke for Irish readers – British readers, you may have to do a little Googling).

Ok. 800 years of British rule, which was barbaric, unjust and brutal. I’ll skip through most of this section except to say that even dating back to Tudor times, the English have a nasty habit of believing and cultivating xenophobic divide and conquer tactics. The Paul Dacre of his day, Sir Edmund Spenser, described the Irish as savages; a description that stuck while they were being stripped of their lands, their languages, their culture, and even their crops (which caused the ‘potato famine’ of the mid-19th century – the lie is that it was a famine, it was more genocide for profit. No foodbanks at the time, so the native Irish either starved to death or left. The population was halved to 4 million. Some ate stones and grass in a bid to stay alive). Being hung, drawn and quartered was a punishment remembered in Irish songs like Robert Emmett. You get the picture. Being occupied is not fun. Hopefully it explains why we support anyone but the English in football matches.

So we then enter the 20th century, and let’s speed through the 1916 Rising. The Black and Tan lads added to the general jolly japes of the history of the British in Ireland with mass burnings of properties, scalpings, rapes and so forth. We come to the Anglo-Irish Treaty, whereupon the deal was made to leave most of Ulster in the UK and the other 26 counties as the newly-formed Republic of Ireland.

Let’s shoot forward to the 1960s. It was clear that there were civil rights abuses by the mainly Unionist political class against nationalists by this time, which lead to civil rights marches inspired by those in the US at that time. These culminated in Bloody Sunday, whereupon British soldiers shot 28 unarmed civilians in the Bogside in Derry who were involved in a peaceful protest against internment. This led to a cover-up by law-enforcement institutions across Northern Ireland and by the British government. It also led to a huge recruitment drive to the IRA.

British readers will know all about the bombings on their mainland. I’m not condoning the bombings or the killing of innocent lives. They do have to be placed in the context of loss of life on both sides, however. Loyalist terrorists were no slouches in that department either, which is why it is important to understand the DUP, the ‘confidence and supply’ partner of the Tories and their ties to them. So here are some interesting #DUPfacts  that the general British public may not be aware of:

1. Many of their politicians have roots in paramilitary activities – not unusual in Northern Ireland, but after all the Tories’ smear campaign against Corbyn for merely talking to Sinn Féin, this is a bit much.

2. They opposed the Good Friday Agreement.

3. They are the biggest anti-choice, pro-forced pregnancy party in the UK.

4.They are against equal marriage and fought hard against LGBTQ rights. Even David Cameron disagreed with their stance on this. Though he also toyed with the idea of aligning with them in 2015, had he not won a small majority. ‘Compassionate Conservatism’, eh?

5. Jeffrey Donaldson MP, worked with Enoch Powell,  when he was expelled from Tories, and claimed he was one of the ‘great voices of unionism’

6. They are climate change deniers who raked money off biofuels in a ‘cash for ash’ green energy scandal.

7. Accepted a £435k donation from Scottish Tory Richard Cook, from the shady Constitutional Research Council (links with Saudis), and ran pro-Brexit adverts in the Metro free-sheet in the UK.

The Good Friday Agreement, voted for in a referendum in good faith by Irish people both North and South of the border, has been the cause of almost 20 years of peace. The process broke down in March this year over the green energy scandal, in which Arlene Foster was deeply implicated, and which Theresa May would have known about. They’ve lost two of the major poster boys of the GFA, the late Rev. Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.

Given the history of the British government in Northern Ireland, their support of the interests of the Protestant political class over that of the nationalist community, to have been courting the DUPs since last summer for their support and then to enter into an ad hoc partnership with them beggars belief. It throws any pretence of the stance of neutrality on the part of the British government regarding Northern Ireland out the  window, and contravenes the tenet of neutrality on the parts of the British and Irish governments within the GFA. And it is a major security risk; not just for the people of Britain and Ireland, but most especially for the nationalist community of Northern Ireland. Unionists do not have a history, much like their English ancestors, of wielding power graciously.

The frustration on the part of Irish people like myself is that yet again, the interests of Ireland have been placed as secondary to those of the English, and in particular recently to the internal wranglings of the Tory party. Ireland took a massive hit in 2008 for the British and German bondholders. The pain was certainly not shared on that occasion. There was then the fallout from Brexit, where the impact on exports and the border between Ireland and the North wasn’t even considered. And now this. The most apt description I have come across about the DUP is from George Monbiot, as an organisation that are like ‘UKIP, supercharged by religious fundamentalism’.

The only very small silver lining from this is that it may inadvertently cause more of an understanding of Irish politics, and the politics and history of Ulster in particular. If the peace process doesn’t get shafted completely, we will all be very lucky. Suffice it to say, you have been warned. You think the Tory Party is the ‘Nasty Party?’ You ain’t seen nothing yet.