Wednesday, January 27, 2010

One Of Those "No Way!" Moments (IV)

I read recently on Northern Irish news website Slugger O’Toole that Enniscorthy, a town not 20 minutes from where I currently rest my head in County Wexford, has unanimously passed a motion to erect a memorial to the Edentubber Martyrs (see here). When I mentioned this to my partner, her reaction was quite possibly what yours would be; she said: “Who?” Well, during the IRA’s disastrous border campaign in the late 1950s, these five guys accidentally blew themselves, and the cottage they were in, to pieces with the bomb they were planning to plant in the North. As two of them were from Wexford, Enniscorthy Council have decided that they are worthy of a memorial. Seeing as I have serious problems with the IRA’s actions in Northern Ireland – whatever their reasons, it was, in my view, little more than a brutal murder campaign which achieved nothing bar filling graves and increasing hatred and grief – I believe that we should, at the very least, think twice about putting up monuments to men who were members of a still-illegal organisation, and whose actions were in direct violation of the laws of this state, then and now. Especially as such activities are mythologised by Republicans in order to recruit the next generation of volunteers (or, if one were being cynical, cannon fodder). Would the council be so keen to remember these men if their bomb had actually gone off where it was supposed to, and had (maybe) killed an RUC officer? Or a civilian? Not only that, but shouldn’t even a hardened Republican think twice about erecting a monument to guys whose only accomplishment was to accidentally kill themselves? Will they erect a monument to Gorey IRA man Edward O’Brien, who accidentally blew himself up on a bus in London in the nineties, killing himself and injuring three others (see here)? If an IRA man was on going on his way to shoot an RUC man, but got killed by a lorry while crossing the road, is he a martyr?
The only difference between the border campaign in the fifties and the vastly more prolonged, violent, and destructive campaign in the seventies and eighties was down to a question of timing; in the fifties, the conditions weren’t right for bloody mayhem, whereas by 1969 the chaos in the province was an ideal launching ground for paramilitarism (students of the period: I know this is a simplistic analysis, so if you disagree, please let me know). Therefore, in my opinion, a memorial to the Edentubber dead (they certainly weren’t martyrs!) is a tacit vote of approval for the bloody struggle which made Northern Ireland the jolly place it was for over thirty years (before the opposing factions decided that blowing up and shooting people wasn't an effective way of getting things done). If these men had survived, it's quite likely they would have stayed active and perhaps organised planting more bombs, in places such as Enniskillen. Rather than celebrating the Edentubber dead, we should be hoping that, in the future, measured discussion rather than murder is seen as the option of choice, and that their day is firmly in the past. I just have a problem with seeing men who are willing to kill others in cold blood (including me, and you, and anyone else who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the shrapnel is flying) as heroes, no matter how supposedly noble their motives.
Besides, before we consider uniting Ireland, we should take a long hard look at the 26 counties first. I would say that, thanks to Fianna Fail’s catastrophic stewardship of our economy, we couldn't afford a united Ireland even if it was offered to us. Yes, let’s have one nation under the gombeen! Citizens of Northern Ireland, welcome to NAMA-land! Join our pathetically badly run little state, and share with us our incompetent government, intent on making the poor and low-paid pick up the bill for the recklessness of property developers and bankers! Enjoy our shambolic health service, our awful roads, our worthless telecommunications infrastructure, and our overpriced goods and services! Share with us our corrupt banks and golden-circle business elite, not to mention our schools, still controlled by an organisation that protected paedophiles for half a century! Shoppers of the South: give up the bargains to be had north of the border, and take pleasure in being ripped off in a nation once agin! Let’s have a united Ireland that our young people can emigrate from! Hmmm, perhaps we should sort out the problems down here first before adding Ulster to the equation...
Anyway, here's a piece of music:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wexford Sights (VII) and An Amusement (XX)

I suppose it's a little deceptive to call this a Wexford Sight; what is pictured in the above image, a close-up of a frozen puddle outside our driveway, was only a "sight" for a handful of days before someone drove over it (and eventually, of course, it melted). And such an ice composition was probably replicated all over the country. But I like the above image, and it's my blog, so there you have it. And if, like me, you're a sucker for fun geometric things, you won't want to miss out on this; I plan on doing hours of exploring there! Enjoy!

Friday, January 15, 2010

This Week's Blinding Thought (VIII)

As I wandered along the beach recently (the first time I've been able to get there since the ice that made the road lethal finally melted) I saw something lying in the sand that, in the fading light, looked like a deformed skull. Closer inspection revealed it to be, not the controversy-sparking remains of a visiting alien whose saucer was brought down by the recent cold spell, which froze his navigation system (or something), but a burst and mangled football. It seems an apt image for what I'm about to write, though!
Last night I watched Dorian Gray, the contemporary retelling of Oscar Wilde’s classic novel (which I’m currently reading). All in all, it was pretty poor; Ben Barnes was an epicene and prissy Dorian (it occurred to me while watching that, in appearance alone, a fantastic Dorian would be Noel Fielding from The Mighty Boosh) and the storytelling was clumsy and hamfisted, a parody of Wilde’s elegant original (curiously, the filmmakers jettisoned both the blatant homoeroticism of the original, as well as its intellectualism, as if scared that too much talk about ideas might scare away the punters; as with A Rebours, the dandy’s search for pleasure and sensation is more about aesthetics and the flaunting of restrictive social mores than simply getting your leg over a lot, something the film ignores entirely as far as I can see). Colin Firth is a passable Henry Wooton, but his relationship with Dorian is reduced to saying “g’wan, lad” while Basil Hallward (the painter who executes the eponymous Picture) says “careful, now...” (It’s hilarious the way Henry’s seduction of Dorian to the Dark Side of Life begins with offering him a cigarette; I knew it! First a cigarette, then you’re an absinthe-swilling opium fiend getting the arse whipped off you by a transvestite midget in an East End dive! They’re evil! Eeeeeee-vil!). The ending is also a travesty, but at least the portrait itself, when revealed, isn’t too ridiculous (although the bits where it growls and maggots fall out of it are laughably silly) and Rebecca Hall is both charming and attractive (I quite like the 1945 version of this film, and the portrait in that is better too!). But the most idiotic moment in the film comes when, at a high society party, Dorian plies a wealthy young woman with drink and has his wicked way with her upstairs, then does the same with her mother while the young woman hides under the bed. What’s most interesting about this is how it fundamentally misunderstands just how Victorian society functioned, and does this so badly that it renders the film worthless. Ignoring the effect that an unwanted pregnancy would have on a young heiress’s life, and the fact that at a society party, with respectable adults everywhere, it would be impossible to ply her with enough drink to make her consent to rumpy-pumpy (especially with her mother present!), I ask you to read the following extract from Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday (published in English in 1943, two years after the author killed himself while fleeing Hitler’s Europe and on his way to South America) about the sexual climate in 19th Century Austria (and I imagine that Victorian Britain would have been the same):

“While [social morality] winked one eye at a young man and even encouraged him with the other to ‘sow his wild oats’ [with shopgirls and other lower-class women whom the toffs didn’t give a toss about] ... in the case of the woman it studiously shut both eyes and acted as if it were blind. That a man could admit desires, and was permitted to experience them, was silently admitted by custom. But to admit frankly that a woman could be subject to similar desires ... would have transgressed the conception of the ‘sanctity of womanhood’. In the pre-Freudian era, therefore, the axiom was agreed upon that a female person could have no physical desires as long as they had not been awakened by man, and that, obviously, was officially permitted only in marriage. But even in those moral times, in Vienna in particular, the air was full of dangerous erotic infection, and a girl of good family had to live in a completely sterilised atmosphere, from the day of her birth until the day when she left the altar on her husband’s arm. In order to protect young girls, they were not left alone for a single moment. They were given a governess whose duty it was to see that they did not step out of the house unaccompanied, that they were taken to school, to their dancing lessons, and brought home in the same manner. Every book which they read was inspected ... A girl of good family was not allowed to have any idea of how the male body was formed, or to know how children came into the world, for [she] was to enter into matrimony not only physically untouched, but completely ‘pure’ spiritually as well. ‘Good breeding’, for a young girl of that time, was identical with ignorance of life ... [M]iddle-class usage strove frantically to uphold the fiction that a well-born woman neither possessed sexual instincts nor was permitted to possess any as long as she remained unmarried – anything else would have made her an ‘immoral person’, an outcast from the family...”