Tag Archives: Theresa May

Britain – it’s time to talk

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Why, with barely a vote cast, Corbyn’s Labour has already won

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I was getting quite emotional over the last few days thinking of casting my ballot for Corbyn. And make no mistake, it’s for Corbyn, not for Chuka Umunna, my local MP, who I once touted as a potential leader, but no more.

Disclaimer: I have long been a dedicated Corbynista. I barely knew who he was when I saw him interviewed two years ago. I knew after hearing him speak that here was someone who was different, and who saw what needed to be done for the future.

We are living in incredibly interesting political times, and what has happened over the last year is a paradigm shift. So I get that people were sceptical of Corbyn, not convinced, doubtful about his ability to lead the Labour Party. The recalcitrance of the New Labour old guard obfuscated what was necessary for the party to succeed. Their inability to see the shifting sands, the political weathervane moving, cost Labour dear in terms of obstinately promoting Ed Miliband, an abysmally weak leader whose time was over somewhere circa 2013 and the most disastrous Labour election in 30 years in 2015. But obstinately they clung to the echo chamber of neoliberal peers and journalists, and failed to embrace the very real alternative Corbyn offered from the very start.

Better late than never, I guess. While I don’t agree with Corbyn on everything (#Brexit), I admire his singlemindedness, his vision, and just his sheer self-belief. What he has undergone over the last 2 years would have knocked many another politician off their course. My gut instinct (as well as avidly reading newspapers from all political sides over the last two years) is that himself and John McDonnell have a transformational plan for Britain. The manifesto is the layman’s version of this. They, along with their campaign manager (who’s questioning Seumas Milne now?) have run the most brilliant campaign. I would go so far as to say that it is the most brilliant political campaign of modern times, and I include Obama’s 2008 campaign in that, run by David Plouffe. Never has someone had so much thrown at them and risen above it and flourished. He has managed, after years of the harshness of austerity being obvious, to change the tone, the nature, the focus of this argument. And that is why I believe, as I have done for the last two years, that Corbyn would be a transformative PM.

Labour may not win outright tomorrow – in fact, it’s very unlikely they will. Due to either bad advice or Miliband’s own ego, the losses made in 2015 are too hard to claw back. Scotland is lost, not least because of Jim Murphy’s failures there. And then there’s the BluKip factor. That makes the game unfairly skewed in favour of the Tories. However – in a very real sense, before barely a vote being cast, Labour under Corbyn has already won. They have made political discourse the new normal. They have engaged record number of supporters to the PLP. They have used social media in a way it has not been used hithertofore in British elections (more by necessity than by design, given the hostility of Fleet St, but still). They have taken the fight to the Tories, and even if the Tories prevail, it will be as a party battered and bruised, with their weak leadership exposed for what it is under Theresa May. They will not find it so easy to get their mandate through and ultimately it may even be the case that by 2020 we’re looking at a party torn asunder, eating itself alive through infighting and intrigue, and another election.

I never liked voting for New Labour under Tony Blair. I admired Blair’s political acumen up to 2003, but disliked his obvious actorly mannerisms and insincerity. His assuming of the NI Peace Process as his success, when anyone on the other side of the Irish Sea was aware that the success was all Mo Mowlam’s. ‘The people’s this’ ‘The people’s that’. Please. The illusion of allowing democracy, which he himself rent apart by pursuing a foolhardy illegal war. But I will be voting Labour proudly for the first time. Maybe we expect too much of our heroes. Maybe Corbyn will, for many millions of other people, turn out to have feet of clay. But in my opinion, he’s already won. He’s proven, in this campaign, that there is an alternative, there is hope, there is an appetite for a road less travelled, and that it is for the many, not the few. Most of all – he has brought compassion and humanity onto the political agenda. Dignity for those vulnerable in UK society. Pride in public services. The notion that no man or woman is an island. That government is there to work with people, to help them and not to scold or dictate to them. And above all, a question I raised a number of weeks back in my blog on the Huff Post – What type of country do Britons want to live in? I take nothing for granted, and I’m interested to find out the answer.

#VoteLabour #GE2017

The outcome of #GE2017 depends on who Britons are

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Before the manifestos come out, thought we all needed a reminder of what was promised in 2015 by the Conservatives: https://www.conservatives.com/manifesto. I was especially interested in this:

“This Manifesto sets out our plan to do just that. It is a plan for a better future – for you, for your family. It is a plan for every stage of your life. For your new-born baby, there will be the world’s best medical care. For your child, there will be a place at an excellent school. As you look for your first job, we are building a healthy economy that provides a good career for you with a decent income. As you look for that first home, we will make sure the Government is there to help. As you raise your family, we will help you with childcare. And as you grow older, we will ensure that you have dignity in retirement.

Throughout, we will make sure that if you or your family fall ill, you will always be able to depend on our cherished National Health Service to give you the care you need.”

Whatever way you vote, take this as your mantra:

Anyone But Conservative (#ABC)

If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Labour supporter but in your area the Lib Dem MP has the best chance of beating the Tories – hold your nose and vote for them. If you’re a Lib Dem supporter and the Labour candidate is the best chance of ousting the Tory candidate – hold your nose and vote for them. If you’re a Lib Dem/Labour and a Green candidate has the best chance – you get the picture.

This is beyond #Brexit. #Brexit is a done deal at this point in time. That’s not to say at some point in the future, when the consequences become more apparent, that it won’t be reversible. At this point in time, everything is too raw, and any Bremainers angling to change it are going to skew the situation even further, and perhaps irreparably. The primary objective over the next 7 weeks must be to consign the Tories to the scrapheap of electoral history for a generation.

The 18-24 year olds are key. So are disabled people, who have been affected from the outset by austerity. I did a little rough calculation last night – and with these two groups, you have approximately 34.9% of the voting public. So do what you have to, to get these groups to the polls.

I’m Irish, so not even a British subject – but I’ve lived here for 18 years and it angers me to see the rise in inequality and poverty. I do not pay my hard-earned taxes to subsidise corporations. I don’t pay them so that while some Hooray Henry (or George, or Dave, or Boris, or indeed Theresa) lives it large in Chelsea, 3,900,000 children live in poverty in the UK. There’s roughly 12 million children in the UK, so 1 in 3 of them are living in unsafe housing, with little food. Think about that – that could be your child, or one of their friends. I want those taxes to go to the NHS. I want them to go towards helping people into decent housing. I want every child to have enough food in their belly. I want them to go towards education.

The question is more than tribal now – it’s visceral and it depends on a very simple question:

What do you want to see in 5 years time?

Do you want a nation where the majority are well-fed, well-housed, well-cared for in health terms, well-educated, happy? (For all his talk about happiness, David Cameron seemed to know exactly what to do to create the maximum amount of misery). Well, guess what?

YOU CAN HAVE ALL THAT.

That’s the good news. But it comes down to choice. If the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result, giving any leeway to the Tories to regain power on June 8th, or to give them a bigger mandate, will reveal exactly the type of person you are. Are you the type of person who fixates on someone’s appearance/awkwardness, rather on the substance of their policies? Are you the type of person who needs to hear sweet nothings from your politicians, even if you know they have no notion of keeping their electoral promises to you? Or are you the type of person who can look at themselves in the mirror squarely and say ‘I will do what needs to be done for the greater good?’

In the end, it’s all down to you.

#VoteResponsibly #GeneralElection #GeneralElection2017 #ABC

B-Day

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So now B-day has come – and yes, I am naming it as such phonetically, after the French contraption that blows water up one’s arse. Here’s my prediction for what will happen:

There will be a short spike in the markets, which will make the Brexiteers feel smugly justified in their choice. Keep in mind that the markets love stability and decisiveness, so a decision is naturally going to create that hump.

For no apparent reason whatsoever, perhaps on the advice of Sir James Dyson, famous for inventing machines that blow hot air, manufactured in the ‘far East’, Theresa May’s government is heading for a ‘hard Brexit’. Even Thatcher, the much-loathed and excoriated, would never have agreed to this – on this she was very clear. Like her or loathe her, she was an astute politician. Imagine we were in the 1700s and the UK had decided to cut off all ties with Europe and close its trading ports. This is as visceral as what’s about to happen in a less visceral age.
EU migrants will leave – what incentive to stay now? And in fact, countries like Poland are offering their migrants incentives to buy houses, to work and graft in Poland as they have here. As Brexit austerity kicks in for real, in a couple of years, and there is no money to be made, and the mutterings of ‘non-Brits coming in, stealing our jobs’ grows to a roar, there will be no reason to stay. The funny thing is – I’m not sure British people want to be the baristas and builders and NHS staff, having worked on the recruiting side of things once. There’s a reason the Empire went out to conquer the world.

And the UK – or such as shall remain of it – will be screwed over time and time again in trade deals with the US, India and China. I mean, it’s only business, right? To use any advantage available? As one of the former big business centres of the world, you understand that, yes? (Kapow! A gratifying blow for former colonies, at least).

However, to look on the bright side: Brexit has made a united Ireland more probable. An independent Scotland is possible. And the citizens of those countries have Nigel Farage to thank for that. I can’t quite believe I’ve typed that. The caricature of John Bull come to life, Mr. Little England himself. To paraphrase Shakespeare, the denizens of those places will not know whether to praise Farage, or to bury him. Even in Gerry Adams’, Martin McGuinness’, Alex Salmond’s and Nicola Sturgeon’s wet dreams combined would they ever have envisioned that Farage would be the deliverer of independence from England’s yoke. Tiocfaidh ár lá, and in the most unlikely of ways. For Adams at least that won’t matter – ever the political opportunist, a united Ireland by any means available.

And in 30 years time, when the die-hard anti-EUers are dead and the great English poet Donne’s admonishment of no man being an island comes home to roost, and those who are young enough and still alive to remember how some of their elders (and some of their peers) tried to sell the notion of freedom from laws they’d created, border control they’d refused, and the swapping of a relatively benevolent master Europe for the small and petty master England – fearful, isolationist, out only for cronyism of an inner and elite circle – then England will re-apply to be part of a community it should never have left. Prodigal, bowed, chastened. And sometimes, in post-imperial societies, this is how former great empires consign themselves to irrelevance.

#Brexit #A50

HOW TO TAKE THE POSITIVE FROM TRUMP’S PRESIDENCY

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I know. You’re scared. I’m scared too. I’ve had an uneasy feeling about the two dominant WASP-y countries since at least June 23rd. This transmuted into sheer terror when a KKK-lover, through the trick of the electoral college, ascended to #PEETUS (I know, I know.There should be an O – though maybe not a wooden one 😉 But the first three letters is what he is in my head now and forever more).
There were a Seth Myers and an SNL sketch around the time he was elected that rang true though. Liberal white people have had the first taste of what it has been to be someone of colour/an immigrant/a Muslim in the US and UK for at least 15 years. This modern fear and paranoia of the other wasn’t created by Trump. This was created by George W. Bush and Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. An evangelical white Christian who took his instructions from God and a wannabe Catholic (at the time) eager to prove his zealotry. Both of whom implemented anti-Muslim profiling and the horror threat that is Guantanamo.
If we go back further and we look at the inherent inequality in deregulation, free market capitalism and the rise of the cult of the individual, we can see that we afford the likes of Farage and Trump too much credit and power. They didn’t create those conditions – they have just used and exploited them. And it is true that when situations don’t directly affect us, we mostly have, as white liberals in Western societies with the relative comfort of life that entails, to quote Milton, preferred ‘Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty’.
Because here’s the thing. For some political elite (and I’m not just talking Trump here, again, it affords him too much power, and while he’s proven himself all too happy to take as much power as he can, let’s not attribute more to him than he is about to have), the democracy experiment has gone way too far. We must remember that in its original concept, it was a methodology whereby patrician male Greeks decided the fate of their fellow citizens. What we have now has transmuted far beyond their expectations, and what we have now is a model that doesn’t sit comfortably with most of the ruling elite – both Left and Right. The Neo-Liberal experiment alone would attest to that.
Until conditions are made unbearable for us, we do prefer to wear our bondage with ease. Many women have expressed their fear at a Handmaid’s Tale-esque looming dystopia. I’ve heard of harassment of black friends in NYC, supposedly the ‘great melting-pot’. But racism and misogyny, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant rhetoric is not a new thing – a whole political party was born out of the latter in the UK, for goodness sake. This did not just ‘happen’. Its growth is down to factors that lie way beyond Trump and Farage’s collective abilities, in austerity policies, a placating of the public, especially the middle-class, educated public at the expense of blue collar workers who are seeing the world they expected to grow old in – the miners, the unskilled labourers – move beyond their reach with no alternative offered in its stead. It does not excuse the alignment with racists, misogynists and bigots. But it does explain it. And, in a sense, one can understand the outrage of having been conned.
But why any positivity over Trump’s election and ascendancy to (piss)POTUS? Well – here’s the thing. There are many people both sides of the Atlantic whose bondage is no longer bearable. I’ve seen more calls to resistance in a few short months than I’ve seen in a whole lifetime of political observance. I’ve finally seen the penny drop with many of my white liberal friends that, hey, things haven’t been so great over the last decade and a half with their Muslim and black friends (although the penny hasn’t quite dropped about who instigated this in the UK – but for sure, it escalated under a Tory party so right-wing and power-crazed that they have literally thrashed their Great Leader Thatcher’s legacy in that she was strongly pro the single market. Oh the irony of ironies).
And the reality is – there hasn’t been such an opportunity for positive change since 1945. I’m not talking change you want to bereave in, hope that doesn’t quite fulfil its overblown promises. I’m talking real, structural, lasting change. We have exciting ideas like universal income that need to be robustly discussed. We have the realisation and the evidence of the gender and race pay gaps, and for what feels like the first time in my lifetime, a possibility to address this (despite the best efforts of the Breitbart fanboys). Unoccupied buildings are being taken over in Dublin and Manchester as the conviction that everyone deserves at least one home, and that there is an immorality to empty buildings when people are dying on our streets. We know our planet has finite resources, despite the climate change deniers, and that there is a better, kinder way forward.
And I’m not going to lie or disseminate here – change is not easy. Having been through a period of huge change myself over the last few years, where I’ve narrowly escaped bankruptcy, had a nervous breakdown, become a yoga teacher (not related necessarily, but the latter has helped enormously!), been through harassment and effectively eviction by my ex-landlord, made some of the greatest strides forward in my career as an artist to date, being able to work more than ever in my chosen path, and now, feeling stronger than ever having been forged in the fire of change – I know that change isn’t easy. And, despite how awful at times that change was – horrible, foetal position inducing, exhausting, energetically debilitating – I am immensely grateful for it. The Gráinne of 2017 is a better, stronger, 2.0 version of the Gráinne 2008 model. There is a strength in being made vulnerable that cannot be emulated by a show of strength. I made it out the other side of my fears and despair with the help, love and support of some tremendous friends, my tribe, my community.
I cite my own experience as maybe a glimmer of a way forward and an insight into how change works. (Or as the saying goes ‘Everyone wants change, but no one wants to change’). If the last 40 years has been defined by the rise of the cult of the individual, we have the choice to strenuously exercise our liberty and work together for our common good. That’s our human choice.
We can give in to our worst nightmare, our inner demons, and I’ll be honest here – on the sexual assault, misogynistic bullying front, Trump certainly triggers a lot of mine. Or we can look at him in his emperor’s clothes, his all-together, and know that he is weak. His whole concept of some sort of white male supremacy is weak – because the whole notion of supremacy of one human being over another is weak. Weakness of intellect. Weakness of natural ability. Supremacy indicates: I can’t make it on my own/as a group without some unfair advantage over other individuals based on sex/race/sexual preference etc. Supremacy indicates: I can only thrive by the oppression of others. Supremacy indicates: I can’t see the humanity in those weaker than me in privilege – the poor, the sick, the disabled – because they reflect back my own weakness, my own vulnerability, my own human frailty – and I DON’T LIKE THAT (capitals inspired by #Trumptweets). Supremacy, ergo, is the ultimate display of weakness.
Or we can access our brightest angels and look around at our community, our diverse, rich, colourful communities, and we can decide right now that there is room for everyone to live and everyone to grow and reach their potential. But we have to realise that choosing our better angels of hope is not a choice for wimps. It requires action. While the marches on the 21st January are great and necessary, as the first step in dissent – it is but a first step. Write to your Senator/MP. Call them. Question why, here in the UK, in the 6th richest country which extolls the virtue of service to country, a third of all homeless are ex-military. Question why there are tax loopholes for those who could most afford to pay their taxes. Inequality of income is widening, and is not unconnected to the rise in homelessness, to the 2.5 million children living below the poverty line, to the easily manipulated anger at political elites (sometimes justifiable), which has led to #Trump, #Farage and their ilk. Question why the soon-to-be 45th President of the United States has yet to release details of his taxes. Question why there is not a psychological test necessary to deem fitness for office. (One of the things that I’ve experienced which ran counter to all of my beliefs until I was directly confronted with it, is that sociopaths walk among us – and we need to begin to understand as a society how to deal with them and integrate them in ways that are least harmful to the majority). Reach out to your community. Join action groups that advocate causes that are meaningful to you. Even if it is just one good deed per day – giving up that seat, talking to that elderly person, giving a compliment where it is least expected – do it. One deed a day per person is 365 good deeds in this naughty world. One good deed a day per person in the UK would add up to approximately 21,900,000,000 good deeds in a year (#maths). Positive action done incrementally and collectively can make change. Sand is the result of waves eroding rocks with millions of beats – and as I’ve just found out through my good friend Google, sand can also re-form into rock over millions of years. Our choice is to catch the wave and turn the tide before hardness sets in. John Lewis, the great civil rights activist and politician, said the other day to always choose love. And, given his experiences and age, forged by Circumstance and Time, I feel that is advice worth heeding.
Dear reader, I’m blathering on because, like you, I feel the trepidation. I’m awake and writing this because of that trepidation. I can admit that looking at that embodiment of angry, toxic orange-white supremacist masculinity on the TV/computer screen has simultaneously enraged and paralysed me. It’s triggered memories that I had consigned to the dustbins of experience. Not just because of him, but because of the legions of angry, toxic white supremacists who feel vindicated and emboldened by him. It’s caused me hours and days of questioning the very nature of humankind, that we can return cyclically to this sort of nasty political climate, despite the lessons of history. I know essentially I’m preaching to the choir. Like you, I feel the need to express what I’m feeling on this – and I am feeling a lot. It feels that the last 6 months have been so full of feelings and global emotion that it’s implosive. And, as they used to say about farting, but now which seems to be an apt description of Theresa May’s #Brexit policy – better out than in. But, just to reiterate: where there is life, there is hope. Where there is a human, there is a choice. And, if the last 40 years and six+ months and the late Jo Cox have taught us – we are better together. We are better when we work together. For our common and equally uncommon good.