Author Archive: Eamonn Fitzgerald
Ex-pat Irishman keeping an eye on the world from the Bavarian side of the Alps.
In the fourth installment in the Millennium series, The Girl in the Spider’s Web (original Swedish title: Det som inte dödar oss), author David Lagercrantz quotes Erich Maria Remarque as saying: “It’s always the wrong people who have the guilty conscience. Those who are really responsible for suffering in the world couldn’t care less. It’s the ones fighting for good who are consumed by remorse.”
How does one measure the extent, the expanse of human loss? And when it involves the loss of a beloved mother, how does one explain the feeling of anguish left by the absence of so constant and cherished a presence? Words fail. Although a month has elapsed since her death, the pain remains acute.
One source of comfort in these sad days is the support offered by her friends and neighbours. Their loyalty and support is heroic and the beautiful memorial cake baked by the saintly Milly Hanley expresses love better than any phrase or sentence. The act of taking the time to create something nourishing in the style favoured by my mother is the ultimate tribute to her legacy.Tweet
Our loss is enormous. Our hearts are broken. Our sorrow is great. Our hope is that our mother, Catherine O’Donnell-Fitzgerald (29 July 1928 – 6 September 2015), will smile up at us and down on us — eternally — because we will be forever in her debt.
In Memory Of My Mother
I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily
Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday —
You meet me and you say:
‘Don’t forget to see about the cattle — ‘
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.
And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life —
And I see us meeting at the end of a town
On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.
O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is a harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us — eternally.
Now that the great battle has entered its final round, it is time to dwell upon the “love of unforgotten times” as Robert Louis Stevenson so perfectly termed it.
To My Mother
You too, my mother, read my rhymes
For love of unforgotten times,
And you may chance to hear once more
The little feet along the floor.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894)
“In my life I have been fortunate to have explored fascinating places around the world. There is one particular city though, that keeps giving me new emotions every day. It is Roma (Rome),” says video-maker Oliver Astrologo. In this beautiful clip, Oliver captures what Henry James noticed a century ago when he visited The Eternal City: “Here was history in the stones of the street and the atoms of the sunshine.”
The image of Aylan Kurdi dead on a Turkish beach is being portrayed as Europe’s disgrace. What it really illustrates, in fact, is the cruelty and inhumanity the wealthy Gulf Arab states that are refusing to help Syria’s refugees. On Wednesday, Amira Fathalla of BBC Monitoring sought to explain “Why Syrians do not flee to Gulf states.” The harsh reality is that “Without a visa, Syrians are not currently allowed to enter Arab countries except for Algeria, Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen,” she wrote. One cannot imagine that there’s a long line of refugees waiting to enter Sudan and Yemen.
Today, in the Washington Post, Ishaan Tharoor follows up and spells out the inhumanity of the neighbours: “The Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing next to nothing for Syria’s refugees.” Here, he names and shames: “six Gulf countries — Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.” Shame be upon them.
Back in June, a young Tunisian Islamist arrived at a tourist beach in Sousse, on the Gulf of Hammamet, which is a part of the Mediterranean. “In the midday sun, Seifeddine Rezgui pulled a Kalashnikov from a parasol and opened fire on the beach, sending holidaymakers fleeing for their lives. He threw explosives at the pool area before continuing inside the Imperial Marhaba hotel,” reported the BBC. By the time the police shot him, he had murdered 38 tourists. Three months earlier, Islamist terrorists killed 22 people in the Bardo National Museum in Tunis.
Michael J. Totten visited Sousse recently and his post, How to Destroy a City in Five Minutes, is chilling. It is especially relevant in light of the crises that are engulfing North Africa and their knock-on consequences for Europe. Snippet:
“Hotels are laying off workers. Shops are empty and many will have to be closed. The city is reeling with feelings of guilt and anxiety. Guilt because one of their own murdered guests, the gravest possible offense against the ancient Arab code of hospitality, and anxiety because — what now? How will the city survive? How will all the laid-off workers earn a living with their industry on its back? Sousse without tourists is like Hollywood without movies and Detroit without automobile manufacturing.
Even Tunisia’s agriculture economy is crashing. Prices are down by 35 percent because the resorts don’t need to feed tourists anymore.”
What will become of the the unemployed Tunisian hotel workers? How will the country’s agricultural labourers survive the winter? Despite the risks, crossing the Mediterranean may be their best option. The question then is how should they be classified: migrants in search of work or refugees fleeing the barbarism of ISIS?Tweet
“Hungarian police cleared hundreds of migrants desperate to get to Germany from Budapest’s main railway stations on Tuesday, prompting protests and confusion at a site that has become the latest focus of Europe’s refugee crisis.” So reports the Wall Street Journal in an article titled “Chaos Erupts in Budapest as Hungary Clears Migrants From Train Station“.
The focus of the drama is Keleti, which was constructed in eclectic style between 1881 and 1884 and was considered one of the most modern railway stations in Europe at the time. In May, your blogger passed through Keleti and it was obvious then that it was a magnet for Middle East migrants making their way to northern Europe. Kelati will remain in the news until Europe agrees on anti-trafficking and nation-building policies for Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans. In the meantime, terror, repression and dire economic circumstances will continue to convince young people that the only way to a better life is to emigrate and board those trains in Budapest.Tweet
“It is projected that sub-Saharan Africa will have 900 million more inhabitants in the next 20 years. Of these, at least 200 million will be young people looking for work. The chaos of their countries of origin will push them further north.” So wrote Massimo Nava in Corriere della Sera a week ago.
The European Union is deeply divided about how to deal with the massive migration crisis that’s unfolding on its shore, in its mountains and at its train stations. Border controls are being blatantly ignored and policy is being made up on the fly. The proverb becomes reality: “Every man for himself (and the devil take the hindmost).” Example: A law aimed at discouraging refugees from settling in Denmark comes into effect today.
The plight of millions of human beings, exploited by traffickers and terrorized by religious fanatics, is distressing and only a person with a heart of stone would deny refuge to the exhausted and the traumatized, but beyond the individual and group suffering there’s a bigger challenge that demands an urgent, global response. The mass migration we are currently witnessing is a consequence of the real-time disintegration of states in the Middle East and North Africa. If this is not addressed, these endless waves of the displaced will erode the stability of the host countries. Such instability would turn Europe into a very disagreeable place, for both natives and migrants.
Those who find this kind of scenario apocalyptic, should note that countries and federations that wish to protect their sovereignty and citizens (the real purpose of government, after all) must control their borders. This does not exclude sympathy for those fleeing failed states, but the solution is to stabilize and rebuild failed states, not accept massive, unplanned shifts in population.
If the citizens of Syria, Libya, Eritrea, Bangladesh and all the other places that people are fleeing from cannot have decent lives at home, they’ll try to find better ones abroad. Unless Brussels, Washington, the Arab League, the African Union and ASEAN co-operate on this emergency, the situation is going to get much more frightening and Raspail’s fiction will become fact.Tweet
“When women protest against misogyny in India, Mason interprets this as an anti-capitalist protest. This is ahistorical nonsense; the status of women in India has been terrible since at least the Islamic invasions of the 5th century. Women were burned alive on their husband’s funeral pyres until the arrival of the (capitalist) East India Company, which banned the practice.”
That’s a snippet is from Julian Gough’s scathing review of PostCapitalism: A Guide To Our Future, by Paul Mason, the economics editor at the UK’s Channel 4 News. The Irish Times does little justice to Gough’s dismemberment of Mason’s work, however, by linking to it from its homepage via an image adorned with the text: “Paul Mason: Capitalism is at the heart of the world’s woes“. A more fitting caption would have been: “Julian Gough: Socialism is at the heart of the world’s woes”.
Here’s Gough poking fun at Mason’s grim world view: “From page one, everything bad is capitalism’s fault. Russian invasion of the Ukraine? The rise of Islamic State? ‘These are the signs that the neoliberal order has failed.’ Not signs that, say, totalitarian Russian rule might be in crisis; or that 1,000 years of brutal Sunni/Shia sectarian conflict might have caused some longterm problems in the region.”
Gough notes that Mason became a teenage member of Workers’ Power, “one of the more charming and earnest English Trotskyist outfits. (Current membership, after the last split, about 35.)… And, like all Marxists ever — including Marx — he is bitterly disappointed in the actual, non-theoretical working class. (Though, fair play to Mason, he does say Lenin was wrong to call them a labour aristocracy and try to kill them.) Mason despairs: ‘It has become impossible to imagine this working class — disorganised, in thrall to consumerism and individualism — overthrowing capitalism.'”
So what’s the solution? Simple, really. All we need is to return to the 20th century and the visions that led to millions of murdered innocents. Mason says “We need to be unashamed utopians.” Gough counters, “No, we don’t. Utopianism has never led to anything other than catastrophe, because it isn’t anchored in reality. The trouble with Paul Mason’s prescription is not that it requires a new kind of financial system; it is that it requires a new kind of human being. As ever, we, the actual workers, are not good enough for the revolution.”
Julian Gough deserves praise for swimming against the luvvy tide here. Paul Mason is a media darling and an unashamed admirer of the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. In fact, he provided the foreword for Varoufakis’s book, The Global Minotaur: America, Europe, and the Future of the Global Economy. Greater love hath no Utopian.Tweet
On this day in 2013, Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, died. “I can’t think of a case where poems changed the world,” he once said, “but what they do is they change people’s understanding of what’s going on in the world.” As the month of August ebbs away, Blackberry-Picking sums up the summer that was, with its mix of “heavy rain and sun.” Heaney is in playful mood here and he even allows himself a bit of rhyming fun at the end: “all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot / Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.”
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.
Seamus Heaney (13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013)