What A Year

Well, people. It’s been a year.

Not a particularly good one for me, even leaving international politics aside. (Although it’s fairly impossible to leave international politics aside right now, between the rump nationalism of Brexit and the regressive fascism-in-prospect of Trumplandia: looking either east or west from Ireland, the immediate view seems gloomy.) You may have noticed a certain lack of my blogging presence on these here tubes. I got a job, you see.

Ordinarily, that’d be good news. Unfortunately, it turns out that the job and I were fairly well unsuited to each other: I’m apparently not made for the kind of government work I found myself doing. In early October, I had my worst bout of suicidal ideation in about ten years. Combined with improbable amounts of fatigue, exhaustion, and continuing anxiety – I tried, I swear, so many prescription drugs. It took two months, but I recovered enough to return to work – long enough to give my notice.

So that was last week.

The events of the past while have made clear to me just how very little time there is to waste. I want to do work I’m good at and that I (at least for the most part) enjoy – and I want to advocate for the causes I believe in, which I could not do in the civil service job, which as a condition of employment forbade anything that could be construed as partisan political activity. So! You’ll probably be hearing a little bit more from me on Irish politics, the importance of green energy, climate change mitigation, #repealthe8th, social housing, ending Direct Provision, welcoming refugees, combating racism, building better public transport, and so on, as I harangue my local TDs (that’s the equivalent of an MP, but in Irish) and try to figure out where I can throw my weight in with political activism locally.

In the next while, I should be reactivating (under somewhat different terms) my Patreon page, writing more reviews for Locus and Tor.com, figuring out whether I have a theme for 2017 for the Sleeps With Monsters column, and looking at the practicalities of setting up a freelance biz in editorial consulting/proofreading. (I have mad skillz… but not necessarily in self-promotion.)

That is, I think, all the news that’s fit to print.

Interesting linky bits

Verso Books, “Judith Butler on Gender and the Trans Experience.”

Harvard Magazine, “The Science of Scarcity: Behaviour and Poverty.”

Irish Times, “Legislation to prevent schools and hospitals discriminating against current or future employees because of their sexuality will be in place by summer.” Good on you, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, but make sure it’s solid and your colleagues don’t gut it, aye?

Averil Power on the lack of support and vision of her former Fianna Fáil colleagues – including for the marriage equality referendum – in the Irish Independent. Power’s resignation from the party leaves Fianna Fáil’s Oireachtas members with a sad case of Smurfette syndrome.

The Times of Malta on Roman columbaria rediscovered during work on Gozo’s Citadella.

Tansy Rayner Roberts, “‘Fake Geek Girl’ and the Review of Australian Fiction.”

Salon, “Rape in Westeros: What ‘Game of Thrones’ could learn from ‘Mad Max: Fury Road'” – solid.

Jeanne the Fangirl, “A Song of Ice and Fire has a rape problem.”

Do you want to cry happy tears? Watch this:

*pets David Norris* A REPUBLIC OF DIGNITY.

Disillusioned and Angry: a post about politics and the economy

What follows is a little different from my usual line.

I used to think it was possible to have ambitions. I used to think the ambition of having a steady job – permanent and pensionable – that paid a living wage and left time over for enjoying life was a modest ambition. Maybe not achievable by everyone,* but for someone with my advantages, my – not to be falsely modest – intelligence, and ability to fake middle-class socialisation, something I shouldn’t worry too much about not achieving.

Today I saw this item in the paper. “Wanted: PhD grad to work for jobseekers’ benefit + E50.”

Two different companies have advertised internships as part of the Government’s JobBridge initiative — but want only highly qualified staff.

A pharmaceutical plant in Cork is seeking applications under the back-to-work scheme and a PhD in synthetic organic chemistry is considered to be a “base requirement”.

A spokesman from Hovione said there “hasn’t been that much interest” in the role.

However, another pharmaceutical plant in west Dublin, Clarochem, had a similar requirement for a PhD intern and has just filled the role for a full 39-hour-week programme for six months.

Clarochem Ireland, a custom manufacturing plant in Mulhuddart, asked that applicants held a minimum of a PhD in synthetic chemistry, and were capable of working on solo projects in a dynamic environment.

The oligarchy has won. There is no future for any of us not born to unmortgaged assets in this country – and maybe not in any other, either. Finance Minister Michael Noonan goes to Brussels to get his plaque with “Best European Finance Minister” engraved on it for licking the boots of unelected European eminences, for selling the poor of the Republic down the river and the middle-class after them, in service to the interests of global capital.

The European project is a humanitarian and democratic – and on any measure other than that of global capital’s, an economic – failure, but we’re still shackled to the corpse of all its fine promises. Our budgets will go to Brussels to be amended and approved by unelected, unaccountable men and women – carrion-feeders who will continue to demand the privatisation of state assets and state bodies (assets and bodies that by right and justice belong to the people of Ireland!) and to whose dictates our spineless, treacherous, two-faced “leaders” will cravenly bow.

The Irish government will not be able to reclaim the assets it has sold at a loss to corporate interests – corporate interests that will use them to make a profit at the expense of Irish residents. Nor will our government easily recover the powers it has so cravenly surrendered.

They call this a recovery. Who has recovered?

Who was responsible for this catastrophe in the first place? Who has benefited from it?

Not the people struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Not the people seeing their real wages – if they’re employed at all – go down, and the cost of food and accommodation go up. Unemployment remains above 13%. Three hundred and thirty thousand people are out of work. (That is at least 7% of our total population, for comparison purposes: 13% of people between age 18 and 65 are signed on for benefits, which approximates to 7% of all the people of any age normally resident in this country.)

And, let’s reiterate: the people who are in work have seen their take-home pay decrease under the burden of wage-cuts and changes in their tax and PRSI assessment. That particular trend isn’t about to reverse itself.

Conclusion? The average person at work, or looking for work, in the country is comprehensively screwed.

Barring a sustained revolutionary change in the relationship between the citizenry and our government, between the nation and the European Union and the IMF – and going forward in an age of ever-increasing automation, in how we conceive of the relationship between people, labour, and capital – we’re permanently screwed.

Because under the conditions presently obtaining and likely to remain in place, there will never be enough actual work to provide full employment at non-poverty-level standards of living. So we need to change how we think about the relationship between labour and money, between people and capital – and that is a change far more revolutionary than demanding democratic accountability from the Oireachtas and the EU.

*Which is another story, and a shame and a half.

Linky has only two links

Marie Brennan continues the “gritty” vs. “grim” discussion in three conversations at once:

So my take on these multiple conversations would be to toss the “realism = superior” thing out the window, to decouple realism/grittiness/etc from grimdarkness (as per my last post), and then to have a more focused discussion about the specific portrayal of negative issues, and where the line is between depicting those things to critique them and depicting them out of habit, or for the shock value. Which is a situation where you’re mostly going to benefit from analyzing specific texts, before you try to make statements about trends — and that, I will admit, is where I probably have to step out, because I don’t have the data to argue my point. I haven’t read Martin since A Feast for Crows was released, got only halfway through Abercrombie’s first book, and so on with the rest of the key names in this debate. I know I don’t agree with every criticism I’ve seen of Martin (nor every defense), but I also know I should re-familiarize myself with the text before I try to debate it.

I doubt we’ll be able to get the debate to focus on that third question, because this is the internet. The conversation is going on in two dozen places, not all of which are aware of one another, and it’s sliding in new directions with each post. But I do think it helps to bear in mind that the question exists, and isn’t coterminous with the other things we’re talking about.

Once again, I encourage reading the comments, especially those by Alec Austin and Marissa Lingen.

Feminist Ire on Leo Varadkar’s World: Where Men Are Men and Women Are Grateful:

The implication of Varadkar’s comments are clearly that women in those situations where it may be a short-term cost to work should give up their jobs in order to avail of the personal insolvency arrangements. There is no other way of interpreting it.

And make no mistake about it he means women and women only should give up their jobs. Women for the most part earn less than men and it is they who should sacrifice their careers in order to save the family home. If they don’t do this, they can’t partake in the system and if the bank succeeds in having the home repossessed, well it’s Mammy’s fault because that selfish bitch wouldn’t give up her job. Dear Women, Leo Varadkar wants you to pull your socks up and get on with the hoovering because you have no business in trying to make your way in the workplace. That’s man stuff.

…What this demonstrates is how women and women-focused issues are deemed completely irrelevant to the discourse around indebtedness, employment, and even motherhood in Ireland. Who cares if the childcare cost is arguably temporary and leaving her job contains a risk that may result in not getting another job a few years down the road? Who cares that nobody wants to acknowledge that childrearing is a form of labour? Who cares that women are expected to be responsible for childrearing, housework and labour outside of the home? Who cares that it costs up to €2,000 a month to put two children in a crèche? Certainly not the good and the great…

…For women it’s a lose-lose situation. This is part of a strategy designed to make women work within the home for free to enable men to work outside it for payment.”

I’ve quote a lot, because it’s important. Read the whole thing.