Monthly Archives: February 2016

Left must refuse to let political class off the hook

It seems that the electoral system is the problem, now.

Feverishly flailing around to identify a culprit for its own abject failures over decades past to allow a genuine democracy to flourish, instead manipulating public opinion to keep two rotten parties in power, the political class is pointing its accusatory fingers in every wrong direction so as to shift the blame for that failure onto the Left, and onto the citizens.

PR is a problem, some of them say. Independents are the problem, others say – and that we need to adopt some European model or other that requires independents to register with a political party! I kid you not.

Some other clown started talking about the need for a d’Hondt system, without bothering his arse to discuss that with the one TD who has more knowledge of that system than the entire southern political class combined, the great untouchable beast, Gerry Adams.

Others have adopted the ridiculous position of shifting the onus onto the opposition, and more precisely onto the Left, as if Sinn Féin and the AAA-PBP are the ones who must suspend principle and mandate, and not the fraudsters of the Right, for whom priniciple and mandate have never mattered once power is at stake.

Never mind that Sinn Féin and AAA-PBP have been the target of sustained assault by the propaganda arm of the political class, the media, in whose interest it is that the status quo is maintained intact, and to whom ethics and other journalistic requirements such as fairness and balance are simply a nuisance and an irritant to be avoided in pursuit of their own selfish and anti-democratic ends.

Never mind the insults and the injuries, the lies and dodgy half-truths relentlessly pursued to skew debate in favour of the Right – with the ultimate victim not being simply the parties of the Left but the people themselves, the citizens, the voters.

Whatever the people say is right when it suits and wrong when it doesn’t. And when it’s wrong, then let’s set up a situation where the people must vote again until they learn to get it right – as the political class sees it. Lisbon, anyone? Maastricht, anyone?

The Left is being unreasonable, these political class clowns and fraudsters say. But that is what they have consistently portrayed the Left as being, unreasonable and therefore unworthy of power. But now they want the Left to exercise power – on behalf of the political class and so as to put back in control the parties of the Right, the very parties who bear responsibility for this current mess, and all previous messes.

Short answer to the political class, and particularly the parties of the Right and their propaganda arm, the media – “Shove off”.

Shove off, go back into your bunkers, switch on your brains, think about what you have done and what you have constructed and the trust you have deliberately destroyed to maintain a rotten crooked system.

Now you go figure. And when you have learned the meaning of that word and that concept ‘Democracy’, and the other concepts that come with it – the Fourth Estate, dignity and respect, fairness and balance, and truth, then come back and speak to the Left, not as a temporary fix to the problem that is entirely of your own making, but as a valid force in Irish democracy (if only we had such a thing).

And let the Left hold firm, and let the Left not indulge in in-fighting, because at this moment of real power to engineer change by forcing realism on the political class, sowing division will be simply unforgivable.

Hold your council, button your lips, talk between yourselves, stay calm, let the Right stew. There is no rush.

This process is part of the revolution.

 

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General Election result positive for Left

Reasons to be cheerful, one, two, three.

One. It was always an impossible ask to replace an entrenched two-and-a half Right-wing party regime with a progressive government in one fell swoop, but the creation of a Right2Change movement to draw allies together and directed towards a bedrock of principled rights-based policies has demonstrably worked even in the face of an antagonistic hegemonic political class propaganda machine.

Two. We now have concrete evidence that the electorate is on the move and that a sufficient proportion of voters are open to persuasion, if only the means of effective persuasion are there. That means that the valiant efforts of Right2Change to open up new lines of communication that bypass mainstream media both in public meetings and via social media, and in the distribution of a progressive newspaper packed with exciting and accessible ideas on the ground and online, have been validated. We need now to imagine the potential effect on the electorate if that magnificent effort is sustained and enhanced.

Three. It may be that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will at last be forced to coalesce, leaving the ground open for a progressive opposition for the first time ever. The clearing out of the reactionary detritus within a discredited Labour Party will likely force that party to return to the Left under a new leader as part of a progressive opposition. The potential for a radically different opposition to anything that has gone before to offer a coherent progressive alternative for government, is there to be exploited. That would mean that at the next election the capacity of a corrupt propagandist media to rubbish progressive ideas would be greatly diminished, particularly if the Right2Change movement vigorously challenges and exposes the anti-democratic nature of State and corporate media.

If the progressive Left maintains discipline and resolve, acts intelligently and in a principled way, keeps a strong presence on the streets and in communities, holds onto those policy principles as the basis of a just and equal society, then I have no doubt that we can put in place a progressive government at the next election.

What an achievement that would be!

But fundamental to success will be the continuation and enhancement of the involvement of the progressive unions via Right2Change.

I would urge all Right2Change activists to make that a priority, and to rally around the movement.

That is the best guarantee that our dream of a progressive government and the creation of the true republic will come to pass.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.


Full commitment to Right2Change vital – GE2016

So, the 2016 General Election is underway.

We could spend our time reading the bones of electoral history since 1922 to try to foresee the future, or we could scatter those bones to make a different future.

That is what the Right2Change initiative allows us to do. But it only allows us to do that if we fully buy into what that initiative is about, what its potential can be in effecting radical ideological change, and how voters can be brought to engage with its promises and to vote accordingly. But we cannot expect voters to believe that this initiative can work if we don’t believe it ourselves.

Right2Change is not a badge of convenience. Those who have signed up to it – have pledged to it – cannot be half-in and half-out when it comes to its central theme of a set of easily understood policy principles.

They are principles, not mere aspirations. And a pledge is not a promise you make at election-time, to discard later.

No person, group or party that self-describes as progressive, socialist or republican and is part of Right2Change can have any reservations about the fundamental rights of those who live here to water, jobs and decent work, housing, health, debt justice, education, democratic reform, equality, a sustainable environment, and ownership of national resources including public works and services. All should willingly agree on those basic rights, or else redefine themselves and withdraw any pledge made – which includes a commitment to work to create a progressive government with those same principles as its policy priorities.

Those individuals, groups or parties that have refused the second part of the pledge for their own reasons are at least being honest about where they stand. They are not, of their own volition, part of the Right2Change movement. That is unfortunate, but lets move on.

Individuals, groups or parties that have signed up to the full package, the policy principles and the intent to form a progressive government should that be possible, now need to fully engage in selling two ideas to the voters; that the combined numbers of Right2Change candidates are capable, if supported, of producing 79+ TDs and that such a progressive government will work in their best interests by creating a fair society based on equality, democracy and justice.

To support the first of those ideas there must be a sense of solidarity among Right2Change candidates. The practice of using the Right2Change banner or logo, and of referring to Right2Change and to the principles, is an important part of that idea. It is not hard to see that that practice is not universally applied. That must change.

To support the second of those ideas, the past springs to our aid. We need to constantly refer to the grave damage that has been done to society in general, and to so many individuals and families, most notably by the outgoing government and its Fianna Fáil led predecessor. While we must use our economic arguments well, it is with the suffering and the waste of human resources and the hollowing out of society that the great mass of people will empathise.

There can be very few among us who have not had some close encounter with the ravages of austerity and neoliberalism – from the suicide epidemic to the housing crisis or health service failures, emigration, under and un-employment, poor wages and salaries, poor child-care services, lack of care for the elderly, sub-standard education for all but the rich, and the list goes on and on.

We will not win votes from hardcore supporters of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Labour, and other status-quo parties, so let’s not waste time and energy on those. But they are not the majority, and it is to the majority that we must make our appeal.

Right2Change supporters need to enter into the fray in a positive mood. Of course, we might not be successful on this occasion. But if not, we will have introduced a set of enlightened principles into the debate, and we will have shown the people that there is not just one ideological position at play.

If we don’t succeed in putting in place a progressive government then we can put in place the best opposition the people have ever seen, with an increased possibility of success next time out. Putting that opposition in place depends on the commitment and integrity of all Right2Change parties, groups and individuals to the policy principles and the urgency of creating real change and holding power to account, which must rule out a coalition of convenience for the sake of short-term power on the part of any Right2Change party or individual.

We do not know the inner workings of the minds of the mass of people coming out of a period of so much oppression and so much suffering and so much destruction. No opinion poll or focus-group can mine that sort of information. But we can work to show that there is another way that is eminently viable and that it will benefit the great mass of the people.

Things will be different, yes. But they will be far better.

But only by voting Right2Change.

 

 


RTE’s ‘Rebellion’ – truth and ethics be damned

There is a convention that should normally apply to critics reviewing art, drama, etc. of trying to find some element worthy of praise even in a review which is necessarily harsh in general terms. In the case of RTE’s ‘Rebellion’ series, that is difficult, given the overall awfulness of this entire enterprise.

So yes, of course, the actors did their best, one presumes, with the material they were given to work with – the lines that were written for their characters, and the directions given them by the series’ director. And yes, the wardrobe team, and hair and makeup, and set dressers and the other functionaries in the process presumably did their best, and some of it was good. But that is not enough.

A film or a TV drama or a staged play depends in the first place on a script, including the premise on which it is grounded. As the ideas develop the script will have a central plot and a series of sub-plots that weave through the narrative, all of which have to be tied up by the end. Crucially, it will also have its main characters – the protagonist (hero) who has a need or goal, and the antagonist (villain) who blocks the achievement of that need or goal. Think of Neil Jordan’s ‘Collins’, Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’, or Dorothy and the Wicked Witch in ‘The Wizard of Oz’. We all understand this aspect of story-telling, partly through instinct and life experience and partly because we implicitly know the structure of story-telling. Good guy, bad guy, and the journey towards resolution.

Presented as it was, Rebellion’ failed hopelessly on these essential elements. Who was the protagonist? Who was the antagonist?

Yes, the protagonist can be a group of people, but that group has to have a common objective – a goal or a need. Given that this series is supposed to be about three young women with the 1916 revolution playing out as moving wallpaper behind their stories, what is their common goal? I can’t see it. And who is the antagonist? Given the surface story, the three women, it cannot be the British Empire except in the case of one of them and partly in the case of another. Is it the patriarchal culture in which they live? If so, the revolution is an unnecessary diversion from the story that needs to be told, since its mission to create an egalitarian society is never teased out. Instead, the revolutionaries are presented, particularly in the form of Patrick Pearse, as being arch-Catholic and conservative, essentially no different to the status quo in terms of attitudes to women, so why bother with the revolution at all?

But the scriptwriter has another crucial task to do if he/she is going to create a credible  and engaging drama, and that is in the creation of characters that ring true to the audience, that we care about, that we gradually understand in terms of the goal or need and where in the character’s psychology that springs from. What character flaw do each carry into the story which they must overcome in order to achieve their goal or need? It is a job that simply must be done, to construct a back-story for the character so that even before we first see and hear them on stage or on screen they already exist in a complete form. An actor can work with that, but not without it.

That, Colin Teevan has utterly failed to do. He has shown us three young women who are at best half-formed in dramatic terms. I could not bring myself to care about any of them, and as the series went on it became obvious that the three-women story was just a soap-opera device, and an opportunity to divert our attention from the potential excitement of the real story of the 1916 revolution.

And in the story of the revolution, and more importantly the revolutionary characters, Teevan failed even more dismally. A character’s backstory has to be true and credible whether a fictional character, but even more so when it is based on a real, once-living, person. For a writer to use the stage, film or television to traduce the character of a real person, and to do it gratuitously as in the case of his portrayal of Patrick Pearse is reprehensible, unprofessional and worthy of outright condemnation regardless of one’s attitude to Patrick Pearse. Pearse lived, had a unique character as we all do, harboured a set of ideas, worked in the world in a variety of political and social ways, had friends and enemies, had a goal and a need which was to free Ireland from the clutches of the empire and to replace it with an enlightened modern republic, penned his name to a very progressive Proclamation and in the process knowingly signed his own death warrant. But that is not the Pearse that Teevan and his collaborators want us to see and to know.

Would that we could sue Teevan and his collaborators for slandering a dead man, because that slander was perpetrated knowingly, and carefully planned as part of the overall noxious enterprise. Prominent among those collaborators is Jane Gogan, RTE’s Head of Drama. Gogan has received high-quality training in screen-writing via the New York University screen-writing course presented at UCD in 1995. I know that because I also attended that superb course. There is simply no excuse for her not to have insisted on great care being taken in the creation of fictional characters and plot construction, but particularly in the truthful representation of a living or once-living person. The ethics of screenwriting demands that.

And ethics must form part of our evaluation of this series. It is unethical to portray the actions and the motivations of a set of historical characters, from the leaders to the rank-and-file in a revolution, in a way that runs counter to known fact. It is unethical to distort fact in such a way as to manipulate public sentiment towards a part of the history that the public not only shares but owns. The 1916 revolution is part of the backstory of each of us as individuals and of us as a collective, whether we acknowledge it or not, or whether we take one side or the other. It represents the facts of a past from which we have emerged and around which we have been culturally moulded.

When a social/political class interferes in a significant way – outside of the acceptable expression of opposing opinions – by altering facts or deliberately misrepresenting key figures so as to manipulate our understanding of history and therefore the backstory to the world we live in today, then that becomes a political act, an act of altering our perceptions through propaganda so as to suit the political and social exigencies of this moment in time and future time as they affect the privileged status of members of the political class.

I have no doubt at all that this dreadful series was concocted to be what it is – a shallow soap-opera that provides the vehicle for portraying the 1916 revolution in a very bad light – at a series of meetings, which I have outlined in a previous review of an episode. Those meetings included senior personnel from the publicly funded State broadcaster, and involved the spending of about €6 million of our money on a production that disseminates highly negative and counter-factual propaganda against a key moment in our history and its central characters.

It is not difficult to discern just who is intended to be the beneficiary of that publicly funded propaganda. It is of course the counter-revolutionary class, the political class, to which those who created this series belong and from membership of which class they benefit in terms of continuation of power, privilege, and wealth. It is the counter-revolutionary class that is challenged by the facts of history and the true characters of the leaders and the rank-and-file of the revolution.

And we can’t have that.

Truth, and ethics, be damned.

 

 


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