Monthly Archives: June 2014

The State, and loyalty withheld

The constitution of this State (Bunreacht na hÉireann) demands two things of citizens in Article 9.3 thus – ‘Fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State are fundamental political duties of all citizens’.

The authors of this dreadful constitution have tried to conflate two very different things, making both fundamental conditions (duties) of citizenship. Like many others I have no problem declaring my fidelity to the nation (the people) in all of its (their) diversity. However, my membership of that nation does not rely, and neither do my rights as a native-born citizen, on expressing or having loyalty to ‘the State’.

There is a moral/ethical price for exacting loyalty, otherwise it is induced through coercion or bribery or persuasive propaganda. A State which has lost all moral/ethical compass, as this State demonstrably has over many issues of fundamental human rights over many decades, cannot demand the loyalty of citizens to the State. That loyalty can only be in the gift of the citizen, or can be withheld.

The treatment of women and children in particular since the foundation of the State, the thrashing of their fundamental human rights, well documented, is so egregious as to lead any right-thinking person who is a citizen to withhold any sense of loyalty to the State, as I publicly state that I do.

Now, perhaps the government would refer my disloyalty to the State to the Gardaí – the coercive agents of the State – for investigation and prosecution, the same Gardaí who see nothing to investigate in the case of the Tuam septic-tank disposal of of 796 bodies of children born and prematurely dead in what was effectively State ‘care’, the same Gardaí who have on many occasions covered-up crimes against the fundamental human rights of women and children.

This State has long-since lost any right to exercise any moral/ethical authority over me as a citizen. My tacit complicity in this State’s crimes against humanity is a price for loyalty that I will not pay, regardless of what the constitution demands.

The State that will have my loyalty is one that is constituted as a true republic with its fundamental and binding laws expressed in a constitution fit for a republic, embodying all of the rights and guarantees that those who live within its boundaries, both citizens and non-citizens, are entitled to.

Those rights and guarantees will include the vigorous prosecution of any agent of the State at any level of authority who fails to protect and vindicate the fundamental human rights of the person.

Until that is achieved my fidelity and loyalty belong only to the nation – the people – ‘the native-born Gael and the strangers within our gates’, as James Connolly described the Irish.

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Education – Our 21st Century Murder Machine

Yet again, this time in an RTE Prime Time discussion on third-level education, the question of catering for the needs of Foreign Direct Investment has arisen.

In 1968, armed with a Leaving Certificate, and not a great one at that, I was hired as a trainee field engineer by Burroughs Machines, a huge US multinational competitor with IBM in the budding area of computers, but mainly still marketing electro-mechanical accounting machines. Apart from some experience of working with cars in my father’s garage, and the mechanical knowledge learned from that, I knew nothing about that field.

And so, Burroughs Machines booked me into their own training school in London, flew me there at an exorbitant price, paid for good digs with a local landlady for eight weeks and flew me home to start work. Six months later, they did the same, this time for the advanced course for a period of six weeks.

In other words, when Burroughs Machines wanted a new employee to be up to speed, Burroughs carried all of the cost. Every penny!

Now, the most profitable corporations in the world demand of governments such as ours that virtually all of the cost of training new staff will be borne by the State – in other words, by us. Not alone do they demand graduate level, but increasingly demand post-graduate degree level as a condition of employment. Not content with that, they now want these new workers to be ‘job-ready’, to have served an internship, at no cost to the corporation, so that the worker can sit at the desk or in the lab ‘ready-to-go’ on the first day of employment without any investment required by the corporation in any aspect of their training.

What a scam!

Worse still, programmes at third-level institutions are being changed, manipulated, distorted, prioritised, added-on, or else diminished or dropped to make space for specific corporate-friendly programmes with little apparent concern beyond the short-term requirements of transitory FDI corporations.

Third-level institutions have warped from being seats of higher learning into being ‘partners’ with FDI corporations, tailoring research programmes to suit the needs, not of the students or of the State, but of the corporations, usually here today and gone tomorrow and paying as little tax to the State as possible while here.

And even worse, at second level, students are now being shoe-horned into taking an ever diminishing range of subjects so as to provide raw material for third-level programmes that lead to those qualifications adjudged to be attractive to FDI corporations. Maths and science are the big buzz now, and the Humanities, for example, is the stuff of losers.

Never mind the different preferences, intelligences, interests, talents or capabilities of a broad range of students. Never mind the notion of the whole person, or the happy person, or the fulfilled person. Never mind the wider needs of a society of humans in all of its complexity.

Maths and science (and of course mandatory religion) are, it seems, far more important in Ireland today than history, or geography, or the various forms of art and design, or language(s), or the broader study of culture(s), or philosophy, or anthropology, or sociology, or the study of political ideologies, systems and practices. We are producing cogs for corporations at the expence of building a fully functional society fueled by knowledge, creativity and a little wisdom.

We are building our 21st century version of The Murder Machine, as Patrick Pearse described the British system of ‘education’ in Ireland, designed to build not a love of learning and the exploitation of each child’s particular intelligences and capabilities and interests for the benefit of the child and society at large, but to create functioning workers for the benefit of FDI corporations and local ‘entrepreneurs’ (another buzz-word) and obedient subjects for the State.

Nowhere in his seminal essay, The Murder Machine, published in 1912, did Patrick Pearse prioritise Logical-Mathematical intelligence over all others, nor did Howard Gardner in his theory of multiple intelligences (1983).

Gardner, like Pearse, was interested in the empowerment of the learner. His categorisations of intelligences were: musical–rhythmic, visual–spatial, verbal–linguistic, logical–mathematical, bodily–kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic, and he later suggested that existential and moral intelligence could be added to that list. We don’t possess just one form of intelligence, but each has her/his own unique combination at various levels from that list, and nobody, therefore, is unintelligent.

But our posse of senior civil servants in the Department of Education behaves like idiots, as does our Minister for Education, and most of his predecessors in that job. For them, the exigencies of the moment as they relate to the ‘market-place’ matter far more than the creation and maintenance of a properly-functioning society of by-and-large happy and fulfilled citizens, or the promotion of a sustainable indigenous multi-faceted economy serving the needs of the people instead of a temporary FDI low-tax low-cost (to them) economy.

Bad enough to be ruled by self-serving idiots, but worse still to allow ourselves to be turned into willing idiots by accepting slogans, buzz-words and carefully-spun built-on-quicksand concepts that serve only the wealthy and exploitative foreign corporations and local capitalists, and to do that at great cost to our children and young adults.

It really is long past time to wise-up and to put in place systems of learning that prioritise the long-term enhancement of the lives of children as they grow to adulthood and full participation in a happy and prosperous society. We are well capable of achieving that.


Towards a Sociology of Power in Ireland

Sociologists, and sociology departments at our universities, regularly engage in scientific examination so as to produce a sociology of Travellers, or single mothers, or the unemployed, or emigrants/immigrants, or the working class/middle class and so on, because it seems we really need to understand these people and these communities or categories in terms of behaviour, attitudes, structures, origins, education, wealth or the lack of, etc.

Wouldn’t it be very enlightening and very useful if the same sociologists and sociology departments turned their attention to producing a sociology of judges, for instance, or of the wider legal profession? Wouldn’t it be very enlightening and useful to have available a sociology of medical practitioners, a sociology of parliamentarians, a sociology of appointees to State boards and public bodies, a sociology of leading capitalists… you get the drift?

It seems to me that that is the work that sociologists should be doing. We have masses of data on the ruled. How about the same detail about the rulers, the powerful, the wealthy, the professional facilitators, the ‘experts’ – including academics whose findings and views are often used to buttress power. A sociology of sociologists, perhaps?

Fifteen years ago, Brian McNair pointed out the need for A Sociology of Journalism in his book of that title. The need for that particular bit of knowledge hardly needs explaining, but fifteen years later, where is the research, where is the analysis of this extraordinarily powerful institution/profession in Ireland? Where is the sociology of state broadcasting and corporate media in Ireland? Nowhere to be seen.

Come on! It is not as if there is not an army of undergrad and post-grad students out there in relevant departments in every one of our universities looking for useful and interesting research with which to engage on their way to qualification and graduation. It is not as if there is not a swarm of sociology lecturers/professors, many of whom indicate they lean, even slightly, towards the political left. Well, come on, give us the goods, stop endlessly replicating previous work, stop gazing at the navel of the working class, the powerless, the ‘problem people’ – gifting to the powerful the information they need to better control society.

We need to know the provenance of power, so that we can understand it and deal with it, and perhaps even correct its faults. We will happily take it in installments, from different sources. We are well able to knit things together, more than capable of understanding the big picture from the sum of its elements.

And if some of this work is already done, as it must be, don’t leave it yellowing on some academic bookcase, or hidden from public view in some academic publication – write it up and put it out in the Public Sphere, where it should be.

We need a comprehensive sociology of the forms and facets and structures of power, and we need it now. Show us the money!


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