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Warning: definitely Too Much Information ahead. If you don't want to go "I really didn't need to know that about you", skip this one.

Some stuff in here I've only told my sister. Some stuff I've not told anyone ever, either in Real Life or online, partly because I would have died of embarrassment and partly because I didn't have the vocabulary, knowledge or context with which, and in which, to express it.

I get the greatest links (she said sarcastically) from the various places I hang around on, am active in, or just innocently wander across. Here's one of them.

I know nothing about the FCKH8 campaign, its founder or founders, its purpose, or whoever runs the Facebook page linked above. I do have an opinion on this particular comment, however (I have an opinion on something I know little to nothing about? There's a surprise!)

I asked you to educate us. How are asexual people oppressed under the law? HOW is it an identity. I usually jack off with my right hand and not my left. Does that count as an “identity?” Are asexual people bullied, harassed and rejected by their friends and family because they don’t get hard ons or something? confused. Educate or quit whining. LGBT people had to do it, now it’s time for A people to step up to the plate and explain because it seems like an emo fad and a way to be different without being gay and to have a chip on your shoulder. So put on your activist hat here and teach us all so we get where you are coming from :)

Quite aside from the charming analogy used, I don’t owe these clowns an explanation for anything. But I’ll do this much, and reveal this much of my privacy, in reply to the question posed:

Are asexual people bullied, harassed and rejected by their friends and family because they don’t get hard ons or something?

Short answer? Yes.

Longer answer: Has any LGBT person ever been told “It’s a phase”, “You don’t know your own mind”, “You’re confused”, “You’ll grow out of it”, and the kicker “But I don’t want you to be lonely and alone when you get older”? It’s just as much denial and ignoring our decisions, our choices, our orientation, when it happens to asexuals.

We get the “Oh, you don’t really mean that”, when we’re younger, the “Isn’t it cute - just wait till he/she gets older and discovers boys/girls, then he/she will change his/her mind!” when we say we’re not interested in marriage and kids, then as we get older it develops into the “So, when are you getting a boyfriend/girlfriend?” questions, that keep on for years. ”When are you getting married?” ”You know, you really should be thinking of settling down now”. ”Any news?” (meaning, ‘Have you succeeded in becoming part of a couple?’). ”I’d like grandkids while I’m still able to enjoy them!”

Seeing all your friends, your age cohort, getting married or settling into relationships. Everyone saying “It’s your turn next!”

Then the earnest “Look, if you’re gay/lesbian, I don’t mind, really; you know you can tell me anything?” phase of questions kicks in.

Finally the questions peter out and stop, not because it’s been accepted that no, you’re not interested in being part of a couple, but because it’s too sad and desperate to keep on arguing over it.

If you’re lucky, you don’t get the awkward “Em - this doesn’t mean you like weird stuff like animals or little kids, does it?” attempts to understand why you’re not interested in ‘normal’ love, romance, sex or any combination of them. If you're lucky. If you're not, you may get it said to your face, or it may be whispered behind your back. But the notion that 'there's something wrong with him or her/that one is a weirdo/what a creep/loser' hangs about you.

In the Bad Old Days, not being interested in sex meant that women were labelled as frigid (which was a psychological problem, and probably even meant they were secretly lesbian or suffering from penis envy), and men were labelled as impotent (and therefore less than men, or even effeminate/possibly homosexual). However it was, the aim was to medically treat you so you would be ‘normal’, you would fit in.

Modern society isn’t all that much better. Modern society is saturated in sex, and whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s unavoidable. That means there are no places for those not interested in sex.

Valentine’s Day - a whole official celebration of ‘tonight is the one night you are sure to be gitting sahm!’ and ‘today is the day for love and romance and coupledom!’

If you’re single and want to be part of a couple but haven’t managed it, you’re a failure. If you’re single and not looking to be paired off, this is unthinkable, unimaginable.

Yes, there is bias and prejudice in society against LGBT people. But imagine an official day in the calendar that exists to rub your nose in your pariah status. Imagine all the novels, songs, movies, TV shows, that make the single person the outsider, the weirdo, the failure until he or she achieves success by finally getting that guy or girl.

I don’t want to reveal my age, so I’m not going to tell it here. But I’m considerably over the age of twenty, let’s put it at that. Here’s more fun experiences from the life of an asexual: going for the first appointment with a new gynaecologist. Doctor takes medical history (so far, so normal). Asks about any kids, ever been pregnant, what birth control used, etc.

Gets a “no” to all of the above. Repeatedly, because doctor keeps trying to get sexual history that does not exist, because doctor does not accept that adult female has no sexual history to recount.

(1) Doctor asks if I have ever had penetrative sex, with helpful accompanying hand gestures* because it seems I must, even at my advanced age, not know what that means. Obviously, it’s perfectly possible I have had sex and not known I was having sex, even though I am of average intelligence and not suffering any developmental or cognitive impairment so that I would not know what ‘sex’ means.
(2) Doctor then tries to find tactful way to ask if I am lesbian.

Because an adult female, in this society, cannot possibly not be having sex with someone. Cannot possibly never have had a sexual partner. What are we, Victorians?

So for you to say that asexuality is not a real thing, that it’s no more of a distinction than which hand you use to masturbate with (and how would you like someone telling a young guy first identifying as gay that being sexually attracted to men rather than women is no more a ‘real’ distinction than “jack(ing) off with my right hand and not my left”?), that asexuals do not get bullied, harassed and rejected -

- you and your campaign are full of shit.

Note: yes, there isn’t ‘one size fits all’ for asexuals: some of us are sexual but not romantic, some are romantic but not sexual, some are neither, others are in varying proportions of both at varying times. Being asexual doesn’t mean we don’t have sexual feelings (we have ordinary physical bodies, of course biological influences affect us), it doesn’t mean we don’t like people, it doesn’t mean we don’t have sexual fantasies, it doesn’t mean we don’t masturbate, it doesn't mean we don't have a sexual or romantic orientation: for instance, I've known I'm heterosexual, ever since the age of twelve when I started making lists of cute boys I saw on the telly/in magazines/in movies. But I've known since the age of nine that I wasn't interested in marriage and a family, and no, that didn't mean I wanted a partner but no kids, it meant I didn't want a spouse or a lover. I may not have had the words to express what I meant, but I knew it.

But primarily it does not mean we’re only going through an emo, attention-seeking phase trying to be as cool as the gay kids without incurring the stigma of being gay or lesbian. It is genuinely only in the last couple of years that I have become aware of asexuality as a "thing", that I received enough information to go "Yeah, you know what? I think that's me." It explained so much to me: why I had the feelings I had, more importantly why I didn't have the feelings I didn't have, why I could experience sexual arousal, have sexual fantasies, find men sexually attractive and yet still not want a relationship, either physical or emotional.

Saying "You lot are just emo kids wanting to be cool without paying the price" is peddling the old Freudian pop-psychology line from the early 20th century of "You're just a frigid woman or impotent man who needs therapy". It's telling me "No, it's religious guilt about sex that indoctrinated you that it's dirty is what's the matter!" Ironically, religion rather than Modern Sexual Liberation has been the most helpful to me in this; Matthew 19:11-12 where Jesus is giving the teaching on divorce:

11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

That let me feel "So, I'm one of the 'eunuchs who have been so from birth', and this is also is part of the natural order. I'm not a problem, I'm as valid as the rest of it."

It's telling me "You're repressed" and nowadays, to be sexually repressed is the worst sin possible. A little pink pill for the girls, like the little blue pill for the boys, will fix me right up.

It's telling me that I need to be 'normal', that what I am now is not 'normal'. It's telling me I don't know my own feelings, that I can't trust my own reasoning.

It's telling me all the things that a campaign about homophobic bullying should know better than to say, because they've heard it in their context, but seem perfectly happy to repeat it in another's context.

*Yes, a gesture along these lines. I had a moment of staring in disbelief and mentally going "This is my life now?"
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Backing up a minute: Ireland has its own indigenous population of what are not exactly gypsies in the classical sense - they're called Travellers (formerly Itinerants, back in the old days, Tinkers). Like everyone else, there are decent, great people among them and some not so great. Like everyone else, there are people prejudiced about them amongst the Settled community (that's the non-Travellers). They've had the traditional reputation of misconduct attributed to gypsies: theft, begging, vagrancy, neglect/mistreatment of their children and animals, etc.

Then in the 90s we got the authentic Roma coming to live amongst us, after the general collapse of the Eastern Bloc regimes and specially with the influx of immigration from Romania after the fall of Ceaușescu. They got all the normal prejudice about Travellers with added "bloody foreigners" and bonus "bloody dark-skinned foreigners" to boot.

Were there a lot of suddenly visible Roma begging on our streets? Yes, even in my own town. Did we never before have beggars in Ireland? What do you think?

Anyhow, since we've even had prejudice against the Poles (fellow white-skinned Roman Catholics) expressed by some bandwagon-jumping politicians and some seriously nuts zealots in the balmy days of the Celtic Tiger (when instead of us going Over There for work, as we're back to doing, suddenly Them from Over There were coming to us for work), how do you think really foreign foreigners get treated, particularly when they're linked with the Travellers?

If we really wanted to know, we've had ample evidence in the past three days.

(1) Seven-year old girl taken into care from her family in Dublin
(2) Two-year old boy taken into care from his family in Athlone

Please note the photos used to illustrate the story by the newspaper in the first case: the blue-eyed, blonde girl taken from the Greek Roma family, who has been proven by DNA testing not to be their child.

That's the engine driving the story as far as the papers and so-called journalists are concerned (yes, Paul Connolly, I'm saying you're a hack and a self-publicist, not a journalist or a brave crusader against crime).

What was the reason the children were taken? The police (An Garda Síochána, the Civic Guard, in popular parlance the Guards)said it was under Section 12 of the Child Care Act. Let's have a gander at the wording of that section:


Protection of Children in Emergencies

Power of Garda Síochána to take a child to safety.

12.—(1) Where a member of the Garda Síochána has reasonable grounds for believing that—

(a) there is an immediate and serious risk to the health or welfare of a child, and

(b) it would not be sufficient for the protection of the child from such immediate and serious risk to await the making of an application for an emergency care order by a health board under section 13 ,

the member, accompanied by such other persons as may be necessary, may, without warrant, enter (if need be by force) any house or other place (including any building or part of a building, tent, caravan or other temporary or moveable structure, vehicle, vessel, aircraft or hovercraft) and remove the child to safety.

(2) The provisions of subsection (1) are without prejudice to any other powers exercisable by a member of the Garda Síochána.

(3) Where a child is removed by a member of the Garda Síochána in accordance with subsection (1), the child shall as soon as possible be delivered up to the custody of the health board for the area in which the child is for the time being.

(4) Where a child is delivered up to the custody of a health board in accordance with subsection (3), the health board shall, unless it returns the child to the parent having custody of him or a person acting in loco parentis, make application for an emergency care order at the next sitting of the District Court held in the same district court district or, in the event that the next such sitting is not due to be held within three days of the date on which the child is delivered up to the custody of the health board, at a sitting of the District Court, which has been specially arranged under section 13 (4), held within the said three days, and it shall be lawful for the health board to retain custody of the child pending the hearing of that application.

Now, here's where I start flipping the metaphorical table and kicking the metaphorical cat. Did the police and social services have suspicions of abuse? Apparently, no. Did the police and social services remove the other children of those families? NO.

Isn't that crazy? You think parents/guardians are endangering a child by neglect or active abuse, but you leave other at-risk children in the home? Why would you do that?

Why, if the other kids look like their parents!

Yes, THAT is the reason the forces of the State swooped in to take away the Dublin girl and Athlone boy. They didn't look like the rest of the family.

You still think this is an elaborate joke, don't you? What kind of crazy story is that? This is one of those "Dumb Paddy" jokes only with a really elaborate set-up, isn't it?

Oh no, my friends. Welcome to secular, liberal, progressive, integrated Ireland of 2013. Where your kids can be taken away from you if someone rings up the police that they don't look exactly like you. Or even if they don't ring the police, they ring a "scare the punters" true crime show on a down-market TV station, and the 'journalist' presenter of said show then rings the cops and asks "Whaddya gonna do about this?"

Possible bad publicity from a tabloid journalist salivating for a story about public neglect and child endangerment garnished with appeals to lowest-common-denominator prejudice about foreign Gypsy beggars and thieves and welfare spongers, with a salacious suggestion of paedophile/child pornography sex trafficking sprinkled on top?

Why, that might make us (and more importantly, our political masters) look bad! Quick, to the Batmobile!
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Well, it didn't take long for the rainbows and butterflies and fluffy white clouds and cuddly kitties and puppies mood to dissipate. Normal service has been resumed, and I will now grouse at length.

In the middle of an online discussion about romantic/sexual relationships, engendered by a post on polygamy, we were all engaging in the free play of intellect and giving examples and counter-examples from our own lives and experiences.

The fools!

I made the cardinal error of expressing a personal opinion and revealing truthful data about myself.

I know: on the internet? Am I insane???

Luckily, a gentleman was on hand to steer the errant boat of my meanderings into the proper channels since my frail feminine intellect was not up to the job of piloting said vessel.

I’m not trying to too strongly doubt you when you say what you want, he began, before beginning to do exactly that.

You see, like an idiot, I had backed up the claim that I was not interested in romantic love (the very notion! what kind of female am I, to disdain such an important and foundational part of my innermost womanly essence?) by giving a concrete date as to when this realisation occurred to me.

That was my first error right there, you see. I was (or rather, I am) allowing that earlier child-version of me to control my life since it is unimaginable that there may be (or at least, the kindly-instructing male cannot imagine) areas of personality-space where you could rationally decide you’ll never meet anyone who could mutually increase your life satisfaction via intimacy.

But did I meekly and gratefully accept this mild admonishment meant only for my betterment? No, rather I persisted in being a graceless wretch and insisting that I knew my own psyche better than he did. This meant that he had to disburden himself of intimate personal information in order to lead me back onto the paths of proper behaviour and right-thinking; fortunately for me, he had both the experience and the advice which - if only I would not harden my heart and stop up my ears - would bring me true fulfilment, joy and human blossoming.

You see, he had been in a similar position once though probably not as extreme, but luckily it was self-delusion, and (he) actually hadn’t met the right people yet.

You see the cause of and solution to my problems right there! I am suffering from self-delusion, not the reasoned conclusion that I don't, I really don't, either want or need an emotional attachment. And he came even more blessedly to my aid by informing me of a conclusion I, in the decades of my life since that young age discernment, had never contemplated or considered for myself; that
Maybe your sample size is big enough that you really can be sure you’ll never meet anyone who you could be emotionally involved with in a healthy way, but there are definitely people out there who believe what you seem to believe now and then turn out to be wrong.

Ah, whatever would I have done without a smart, insightful male to mansplain my problem to me? Now all is clear: men of Europe, flee in fear, for that knocking at the door you hear is me carrying out data collection in order to generate a statistically significant result! After all, how can I tell I really don't want a man, unless I check out all the men living in my geographic location just to be absolutely sure? Rely on my own weak, ineffectual, female 'feelings' that I know my own mind, tastes and inclinations? Don't be ridiculous!
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Suppose you go to a restaurant for your lunch every day. It's not the greatest in town, but it's within your budget, it's convenient to your place of work or where you live, and all you really want is something hot and filling in the middle of the day. This place does that at least.

The menu isn't that varied, they have a bad habit of suddenly and with no warning switching the items on offer and when you can get them, and the service is (to be honest) not that helpful or responsive, but although you grouse about it, it hasn't yet got to the stage where it's more trouble than it's worth.

So, one day, you go in and decide to order an omelette. But when you look at the menu, it's all vegan food. Big posters on the walls about veganism. Flyers on the tables for vegan causes and events. Gift cards on sale that you can give to your friends and family for vegan meals. A collection tin prominently positioned at the cash desk soliciting donations for a particular vegan organisation.

Huh, you think to yourself. I didn't see anything outside or in the local papers saying this place had suddenly gone vegan or changed ownership. Maybe it's just a promotion for this week?

Anyway, when the waiter comes to take your order, you tell him you want an omelette. He tells you sorry, no can do. You ask why, and he tells you "Oh, we don't do those kinds of dishes".

You say you didn't realise they had switched to being a vegan restaurant - or is it because they're under new management? Your waiter says, with a distinct look of who let this one wander around outside on her own?, that they haven't changed, they've always been this kind of restaurant. Indeed, the attitude he exudes very strongly implies that this is normal, that this is what all restaurants are like, that anything else, well, just isn't food service provision.

Okay, you say. If you haven't changed, if this isn't a specifically vegan restaurant, if anyone can come in here and order a meal, can I get my omelette?

"Oh, no," your waiter tells you. He adds, with a sneer, "We don't do that kind of cooking because our staff don't share those beliefs, and we consider that the majority of our customers don't, either."

Those beliefs? What kinds of beliefs are those?, you ask.

"Pro-animal suffering", your waiter explains. "Neither our staff nor our customers believe that the provision and consumption of food should involve or rely on cruelty to animals. That's why we don't serve your kind of meals."

Now, I ask you: would you continue to eat in that restaurant? Would you accept that if you wanted an omelette, this meant you wanted hens to be kept in cruel conditions? Or that if you liked shepherd's pie, this meant you were a sadist?

Would there have been a better way for the waiter to explain why they had an offer on quinoa salad but you couldn't get a hard-boiled egg with that, without insulting customers, insinuating that those who didn't immediately embrace veganism were barbarians, or telling you why there wasn't a contradiction in the statement that this restaurant hadn't changed its policy or emphasis, it was the same as ever it was, but that being a restaurant meant it served greens but not steaks?

And, had you been treated as some kind of animal-torturer, would you have remained to munch on a lettuce-leaf or departed full of determination to eat the biggest, rarest, most juice-dripping steak you could get your mouth around - even though, when you went in, all you wanted was a lousy omelette and you didn't mind if the other patrons ate cous-cous at the same time you were eating your lunch?
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Beware the unimpressed older Irish woman with a keyboard, Internet access, copious spare time and who has already heard more than enough bullshit from fellas in her life already (see "Irish" above).

What terrible things have I engaged in recently? Why, I have whiled away the pleasant hours casting aspersions on people's genitalia!  As proof, I proffer the very accusation so that you may see for yourself:

"This doesn’t really answer my question, though. First of all, I didn’t say that it would make no difference TO KNOW ABOUT or TO HAVE EVIDENCE OF alien life; that is a totally separate claim that has nothing to do with my argument (which you might have noticed if you weren’t too busy casting aspersions on my genitalia). What I said – and I’m quoting myself here, since you apparently are incapable of even that basic action – was: “let’s say that we’re talking about THE POTENTIAL EXISTENCE OF sentient alien species on other planets – is that really something that is at all analyzable in terms of its effect on my day-to-day existence?” (caps added for emphasis) See? Not the same thing."

I won't go into the whole discussion, save to explain that I was making a general reply to another commenter in a discussion on another blog (which wasn't actually about the possible existence of alien life; that was just an example this person used).   I may indeed have been mean about manhoods and their metaphorical and symbolic (ab)use, but you know, I cannot find it in myself to regret it.  Let me tell you why.

This kicked off because of a post this young man made in which he makes the following statements in development of his point:

"humans are optimized for aggressive, raised-hackles, high-stakes reasoning", "human reasoning faculties are practically weaponized in their forms and functions", "In short, the evidence indicates overwhelmingly that we reason best when we reason competitively" and that " Asking us to reason with a constructive curiousness – to reason, that is, in a state of suspended disbelief or make-believe – is tantamount to asking us not to reason at all."

He clarifies in a further comment in reply to another commenter that "Charity is a flawed heuristic and I reject it openly."  (This is in regard to debate; I have no idea of his opinions on charity in other human interactions or indeed life as a whole).  Well, fine, then: to quote Hilaire Belloc, caritas non conturbat me, so let me answer a fool according to his folly.

Because I am so damn well sick and tired, fed-up to the back teeth, of the attitude expressed by that young man - I mean his discovery that "Hey!  If I talk really fast and really loud and steamroller over anyone else trying to make a point and be all aggressive and in-your-face, then I can win debates!"  Ah yes, I vaguely remember back when I was young and stupid, too.

But now I am old and cranky and I don't care a straw about your delicate sensibilities, and certainly not about this same old nonsense, where there is confusion between making a convincing argument and winning through boorishness.  You can bore your listeners into submission or piss them off enough to make them ragequit, but that is not the victory of obvious truth or superior wisdom, that is winning because all you care about is winning.

In short, I am sick, sore and sorry of this "who's got the biggest sausage stuffed down his trousers?" approach to debate or conversation or any attempt at discourse.  All too prevalent and easily visible all over the Internet, but not confined to there; it's in the media, politics, and all areas of public and private life.

Listen, if you be capable of instruction, and know that an argument is not the same thing as a quarrel.  The point is to convince your interlocutor through the rigour, sturdiness and elegance of the proposals you put forward and the conclusions you draw from them.  Thinking that "competitive reasoning" is the prime and only sincere method of reasoning leaves those of us not in possession of a
membrum virile and/or in possession of common courtesy and functioning manners unable to engage in reasoning at all, by your definition.

As further proof of my all-round baseness and malignity regarding the never-to-be sneered-at phallus, let me confess that I await with contemptible glee the moment when this young man gets a job, tries this style of discourse on a customer or superior, and gets smacked down so hard he bounces by his boss or the staff who have been in the workplace longer than him.  Because in the Real World, this attitude from a snotty-nosed brat does not fly - he won't find the flawed heuristic of charity too prevalent!  So that should make him happy, correct?

Oh, and apparently, I am also a WASP (or at the very least, in possession of "WASPy cultural presumptions").  Given that I am, as mentioned above, Irish and that he was lecturing me on making assumptions, the irony that he was himself assuming I am an American mainline Protestant (credit where it's due, he at least got the "white" part right)... well, what else should I expect from a competitive reasoner exercising his weaponized, optimized abilities?

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This seems to be the place I am even more grumpy and pessimistic than ordinary. I think perhaps I am slowly figuring out why.

Ireland has changed. Ireland has changed a lot. Socially, religiously, you name it. The way we went totally mad over our little taste of prosperity should have been enough of a demonstration (ah, the seven fat cattle of Pharaoh's dream and their fate should have been a warning for us, but we didn't want to even look for a Joseph to read the signs, never mind listen to any ill-omens).

I can read and understand the mindset of the characters in 19th century novels (and, to an extent, 18th century ones) with little to no difficulty because it was pretty much the mindset of Ireland up to my youth. The joke about Éamon de Valera (member of the revolutionary forces in the 1916 rebellion, elected as representative to the various governments of Ireland from 1917-1959, president of Ireland 1959-1973) was that he had dragged Ireland, kicking and screaming, forward into the 19th century.

From about 1980 onwards, that changed. Another joke about Ireland was that we were always about 20 years behind the times, so yes, the Sexual Revolution didn't really hit until the 80s. Now we have readily available contraception, we have divorce, there's a groundswell amongst certain politicians to bring in same-sex marriage (we already have a Civil Partnership and Cohabitiation Act, giving same-sex couples the status of civil partners and giving certain rights to cohabiting couples of whatever gender) and we're looking to be gearing up for yet another abortion referendum.

It's safe to say the mindset I grew up with is very much a relic of the past; my generation is likely the last to share it (and not all of us do). So does the future belong to the mid-Atlantic accented dwellers in dormitory towns commuting to the conurbations for their white-collar jobs? The children who grew up watching Australian soaps and American movies and now pronounce Z as "zee", not "zed" and will likely spell words in the American fashion because the software training them for their computer courses is all bought in from Microsoft's American sources? Those who are now two generations away from the bog, newly right-wing and fiscally conservative while being socially liberal, who would have voted Progressive Democrat for their low-tax, business-friendly policies while the PDs were still in existence, and are now the floating voters Labour is chasing while forgetting all about the rural voters and working-class urban voters, more or less accepting that Sinn Féin is mopping those up.

Maybe. Not so much. I don't know. We're all middle-class and aspirational now, aren't we? Except for those of us still living in the countryside, or small rural towns, or the less salubrious areas of those same conurbations (there may be a well-regarded University of Limerick now, but swap "Angela's Ashes" for yet more news about gangland shootings in Moyross and Southill, and not all that much has changed, has it?)

That's not what I'm complaining about, though. I argue about religion elsewhere and I don't discuss politics much anywhere (though, dear Americans, I am astounded by those of you I meet online who, while otherwise pleasant and even rational folk, immediately go into the defence of capitalism as the One True and Only Workable System, Divinely Ordained and Favoured for the Spread of Liberty, Democracy and Human Happiness, instead of being, you know, a human-created method of handling the buying and selling of stuff).

What I am uneasy about is the easy amnesia that, to be fair, is not just the hallmark of this generation but going back two or more centuries. We can assign blame for various reasons due to our history, but the effect has been to make us a nation constantly looking over our shoulder for the approval of others, never secure in ourselves. We have so few historic buildings compared to other countries, because largely the attitude here was "Knock down them oul' ruins, what use are they?" There's a very true and very cutting saying that "You can't eat scenery" (the most scenic areas of the country, in the West, are the ones with the worst farmland. The people who can afford to enjoy the scenery are the incomers, the townies who made their money elsewhere and are buying up the cottages as holiday homes, while the natives leave for the four airts of the world for work). But we have no memory, no foresight, no vision. Knock it down! Build something new and concrete like the big countries have!

And, my dear urban sophisticates, that applies to you just as much. The attitude of mockery to de Valera's
vision, where to get an easy laugh all that was needed was to refer to "comely maidens" or "dancing at the crossroads" - yes, it's problematic, yes, it's a political speech and the kind of "Apple pie and Mom" fantasy notion that is easily peddled for demagoguery, yes, it ignores the reality of rural life, yes, yes, yes to all the justified criticism.

But what is funny, tell me, about the idea of people being able to live in their own place? Of having work, of having a house, of having a family, in a place where they have roots and there is continuity of memory? Or is it less provincial to aspire to being a suburb of London, or to be
Spiritually we are probably a lot closer to Boston than Berlin? Well, we're back on the emigrant trail to Boston and Australia, and we're going cap in hand with begging bowl extended to Berlin for money to keep us afloat, so despite all the modernity we still haven't achieved that old man's romantic nonsense of being able to provide employment and support for ourselves.

Look,never mind that. What I want to say, what I really mean to say, is this - why are we not remembering the sea and the rocks and the streams and the trees? We have a language we can't speak and names we don't know the meaning of, so that the builders and developers of the private housing estates (more egregiously in the 80s and 90s, it is true) slapped on monikers like "Tuscany Downs"  (we don't even have downlands in this country; that's the South of England as in the White Cliffs of Dover) and "Windermere Villas" to sell them to the aspirational?  Anything was better than the local; better to live in No. 56, Linton Hall, than in plain, common old Ballymore or Cloonduff.

Ironically, the pendulum swung the other way and at the height of the boom, developers were slapping elements of Irish together to make fake names that had nothing to do with the locale or they were even meaningless.  We're so adept at being fakes, we even have to fake being indigenous.

Town names may be a different matter; the map may say the name of this street is Wolfe Tone Road while the locals still call it Fair Lane, but you can go back and find older maps for older names.  But who will remember the names of the sea-caves in the cliffs by the little cove where my father was born?  Even he only knew one or two names from the old people when he was a child.  Now all the families who were born there are gone, moved away or died out, and the constant erosion means that the road that was there in his time is fallen away, the road there now in my time is falling away, and in twenty years who will remember?

Well, that's why there are books of local history and topography,and God bless the amateur and the dilettante who like to muddle about in old churchyards and overgrown ruins.  But unless the curious and enthusiastic amateur finds the old people in time, their knowledge dies with them.

No, I'm not saying "Ah, the good old days."  In my case, the "good old days" were being born and reared in a council cottage without running water up to the age of eleven (we moved into town when I was fifteen), where winter meant cleaning the mildew off the winter coats that had been hanging in the wardrobe for six months (yes, damp cold rooms mean mildew grows on clothes) and my mother regularly handwashed clothes in a plastic tub and cooked meals over the fire.  This is an
image of the kinds of fireplaces I certainly remember well into the 1970s (and in some places, up to the 90s) in the older cottages, and my mother up to her 60s was well able to handle this kind of equipment for the old people she visited.

I have no romantic illusions about poverty or the ennobling effect of hardship on the spirit (see Kavanagh's The Great Hunger for another countryman's experience of the same).  What I am angry about is that we're throwing away true silver for fools' gold, and we don't even care. We don't even realise. 
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