Category Archives: World Affairs

Expression of views about events in the world today with an emphasis on Irish experience.

France’s “Big Revolution” – 2016?


France’s “Big Revolution” – June 2016

A lot about the current “Revolution” in France, “manifestations” in the best Left-wing tradition, and disarray at the petrol pumps, &c. I’m quite keen to hear views about the actual issues. Without sheltering behind faux-naivete, it does seem that Hollande’s reforms are what the economy needs to function – a sort of latter-day Thatcherism perhaps – while the strength and depth of French Labour movement constitutes a major political obstacle to any such reforms. Longer hours? Well, yes. Shorter contracts – yes to that, too. Limited periods of compensation for lost employment, well … 15 month does seem quite a long time to recuperate from the shock of losing a life-long job in a car-assembly plant.

Champs de Mars

The re-Massacre of the Champs de Mars? (July 1971)

Everything about the present events stands against the background of a Social Contract drawn up, not at the French Revolution, but under Le Plan Economique in the 1960s when France effectively re-tooled as an industrial society to amazing effect. (Mirage, Citroen, TGV and all that.) It might look as though this is the Monetarist Right against the Socialist Left but it is really a much more Centre-Right affair and much nearer to the feeling of the governing class in France than Le Pen.

It may be reprehensible that there is such a class but in France, if there is one thing you can say with some assurance it is that there IS a governing class in France just as there is an educational elite and an “agregation”. Previously I have blamed the doctrinaire persistence of French “revolutionary” ideas about citizenship for the mismanagement of the terrorist crisis and, more widely, the whole history of emigration. It is quite possible for the Left to err in this respect just as much as the Right and if they think they’re marching towards the Bastille they may find themselves arriving at a vacant lot behind the Champs de Mars. (Anyone for tennis?

The Language of Republicanism

Who can fail to be struck by the rudimentary form of communication espoused by the presumptive republican candidate in the current US presidential race? In the New York Times‘ report of his reaction to the London Mayoral election we read, ‘Trump said he was pleased to see Khan elected’ – with further quotations from the candidate along these lines: “I was happy to see that [Khan’s election] … I think it’s a very good thing, and I hope he does a very good job because frankly that would be very, very good. You lead by example, always lead by example. If he does a good job … that would be a terrific thing.”

Donald Trump - US Presidential Candidate

Donald Trump – US Presidential Candidate

Leaving aside the artless note of condescension and the fudged conception of ethnic, religious, and civic identities behind it, the inanity of that attempt to drum up support for the last whisps of the America Dream considered as a political ideology fit for plutocrats and wanna-be plutocrats seems to reveal Trump’s conception of political office as a form of self-endorsement for the second-generation migrant. From that standpoint, it seems then that Khan and Trump have something in common and it is only fresh migrants that Trump disparages.

Continue reading

Impeachment Night in Brasilia, 17 April 2016

The voting has reached 342 in the Congress, the necessary 2/3rds majority against Dilma Rousseff, and there’s a deep roaring noise in the Lower House (Camara) of the Federated Republic of Brazil. “Dilma Fora” has now become “Tchau Querida!” – the most prominent banners of the last day’s marches. (“Por Democracia, Contra Golpe” made a good show. too.) Vote by vote, every steaming delegate shouted out his or her reasons for a “Sim” or “Não”, professing to do so in the name of family, in the name of their constituency, in the name of the people, of shopkeepers, workers, hospital patients, and every other segment of the public they could think of. At one point is simply devolved into a competition as to who shout say “Sim” the loudest – though one elder simple said, “eu voto sim” in the shortest speech of all.

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff speaks to the media after a bilateral meeting with Chile's President Michelle Bachelet at the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile February 26, 2016. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

Dilma in Santiago, Feb. 2016

I must admit that the expressions of disgust at the ‘parliamentary coup’ in progress on the part of some staunch PT-istas were among the most impressive mini-speeches in the five-hour odyssey but the avalanche of votes against the Partido dos Trabalhadores – often against a corrupt government rather than Dilma Rousseff in her own person, be it noted – sounded unmistakably like a majoritarian consensus. It seems to me that, for everyone there “on the night”, the dodgy Impeachment charges had morphed into a vote against a government which tirelessly supported a regime of inveterate corruption on the political plane, even when the perpetrators were as often among bought-on Congress supporters as from its own senior ranks (though not a few of these). In restaurants and shopping centres, during weeks past, all the talk was about the need for a moral reform in Brazil and and end to the “bad ethos” which seems to dominate every walk of life – even to the extent that, as someone told me today, doctors and dentists don’t consider it necessary to supply an invoice when they fill out a prescription or lavish their attentions on that migraine or that abcess which has been causing trouble all week. R$200 will see the job right. (Perhaps we aren’t so different.) Continue reading

Nationhood, Religion and Migration

Noises have recently been heard in the press about extracting Christian ritual from British life – in other words, getting on with the idea that it really is a post-Christian society in spite of Her Majesty’s headship of the Anglican Church. Since then, counter-voices have piped up about the merits of affirming that it is a “traditionally Christian society” while counter-counter-voices have joined in to assert the Christianity in Britain was but an interim chapter in a long “faith history” which includes pre-Christian Saxons household gods, Stonehenge and the blatantly fictional Wicker Man of cult-movie fame. All of these should now be celebrated – the argument goes – if the Man on the Cross is not to hog the historical limelight in what remains of historical time. Now, that’s a right diet of worms! Let’s see …

Christian Queendom

Queen of England and Head of the Church

The well-loved Britain of classroom history is a liberal-secular country whose signature achievement has been the cultivation of an outlook identified with the notion of enlightened self-interest and which became in due course a model for emerging societies in modern times. By the end of the nineteenth century Christianity was increasingly in the background for the intellectual class and widely absent for the working class experience – apparently due to the trauma of the Industrial Revolution but equally on account of their pragmatic grasp on things and hence their incredulity at the pretensions of the Anglican clergy who had the hard task of picking out the deserving poor from the undeserving masses. Continue reading

“Fury” : The American Tank War in Germany

Along with other traces of “Band of Brothers” realism Brad Pitt’s new film “Fury” contains a fairly lengthy sequence in which a charming young German woman supplies the cub-soldier who figures implicitly as the narrator (and sole survivor) with his first experience of physical love in circumstances which strictly correspond to forced sex, or even rape. For better or worse, Die kleine Fraulein dies prettily in an ensuing bombardment thus leaving the sensitive GI with an embittered soul – or is it a dose of Machiellian realism? – and turns him into an efficient tank-corp killer primed for hands-on lesson doled out by a avuncular Brad in out of the no-quarter-given episodes of the film when die-hard Nazi prisoners get their come-uppance.

"Fury" - Inside Germany in a Sherman Tank

“Fury” – Inside Germany in a Sherman Tank

The story melds Sergeant York, Platoon and just about everything else in cinema history in which individual fortitude in American uniforms wins the day over villainous enemies. A special twist is, Brad speaks German and so mediates all the exchanges with the enemy – both the ladies and the SS “pigs” whom he is so adept at liquidating – and whose kinship to the former remains fuzzily uncertain. (Part of the ‘play’ here is about good Germans and bad Germans, and then American Germans as purgers of German badness with presumed benefits for the Angela Merkels of our world.) Continue reading

The Koch Bros: Liberationist or Liberal?

The Koch Brothers are capitalists – no surprise. Their source of wealth is the energy industry, chiefly petroleum and related enterprises including down-stream chemicals, agriculture, electronics, and even tax and accountancy. All this is available on their corporate website and career pages – just crying out for your job application like any regular employer. You can reach those pages through Google [Koch Industries and Koch Careers]. There you will find that their website banners represent them as the very different from the enemies of democracy so familiar from the hate-placards seen on Internet and Facebook where hysterical voices vie with more credible commentators such as Huffington Post‘s Bill Bigelow to chart their grip on US law-making and education in the Right-Wing’s campaign against “big government”. 

Koch Bros.

Koch Bros.

The Kochs call themselves ‘liberationist’ as distinct from ‘liberal’ or ‘neo-liberal’ in current American parlance. ‘Liberationist’ is virtually synonymous with the Tea-Party Movement which equates the American Dream with the maximum of freedom for capital and the minimum concern for those who have failed to accumulate it in profitable amounts. Continue reading

Great Refuters of our Time

NI Arts Minister Ni Chuilin

NI Arts Minister Ni Chuilin

The minister refutes ...

The minister refutes …

The recent announcement that a Government minister in Dublin has “refuted” allegations of misuse of travelling expenses when, in fact, he merely denied them, has led me to ask myself who are the greatest refuters in the land. A brief internet search has persuaded me overwhelmingly that the word “refute” is something of a brand-mark verb for Republican politicians in Ireland and – in the majority of cases – a virtual prerogative of the Sinn Fein Party. Continue reading

Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper”

American SniperI saw Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” last night – already biggest grossing film since God knows when. It’s certainly a good film in the cinematic sense but it’s also about more sensitive cowboys in battle, hurt lockers and ‘evil savages’ on the ‘insurgents’ side. Yes, they’re still calling them insurgents. Insurging against what? The new world order? And what will be call the troublesome little men who rose up in the 1916 Rising when those commemorations come around? My point, in case I have lost the thread, is that Irish people generally think insurgency against empires is a good thing. Not this time, apparently. Continue reading

Charlie Hebdo & the French Trinity

I have been mulling over a wry reaction to some of more excitable reactions met with on Facebook when I posted my demur about the wisdom of Charlie Hebdo‘s graphic satire on Islamic fundamentalism – no bad thing in itself, at least as regard fundamentalism anywhere, i.e., the intransigent insistence on literal and joyless truth of so-called Revelation. “Nothing is sacred”, says from my friend Bernard Griffin, a factual observation with to which I entirely assent.

Stéphane Charbonnier ("Charb") - Editor at Charlie Hebdo.

Stéphane Charbonnier (“Charb”) – Editor-in-chief at Charlie Hebdo.

Indeed, nothing is sacred – since sacredness is a redundant category from the modern standpoint, and any other standpoint insofar as materialism and inductive science has shattered the pretensions of every former metaphysical system of belief or method of inquiry.  (The two are, of course, synonymous in a modern world outlook.)  For clarity’s sake, I want to say that when I referred to the opproprium which the Bible lavishes on “mockers” – read ‘satirists’ in this instance – I was in no vindicating the attack on the cartoonists. Continue reading

Charlie Hebdo and the French Free Press

Nothing warrants or excuses the atrocity in Paris but I have some misgivings about the nature of Charlie Hebdo‘s satirical campaign. France – La France – is a secular country in principle and its culture of Free Speech is central to its historical self-esteem although, in practice, speech and print are both governed by highly conventional rules excepting for the outre magazine (Canard enchainé and Charlie Hebdo).

Charlie Hebdo Killings (7 Jan. 2015)

Charlie Hebdo Killings (7 Jan. 2015)

Because it is secular on principle, it does not indulge religions or religious groups – as the sartorial rules for school children amply show. By contrast, Britain has laws forbidding anything that is deemed to incite racial hatred aimed at any religious or ethnic group and the satires of Charlie Hebdo might well qualify for censure under such laws. The Dutch, like the French, take the view that Theo van Gogh’s publications were admissible under the ‘free press’ rule. There is, however, another principle which applies in all such cases, and this is common decency and common sense. Continue reading