Archive for May, 2007

Now I want those 15 months back.

I like stories about how the little things in history made a big difference. Like how the plucky little bicycle was a huge engine of women’s emancipation. Well, I discovered today that in Excel, if you hit Ctrl+Page Up/Down, it allows you to alternate quickly between tabs. If I had known that a few years back, I would be a captain of industry by now, the toast of all Monte Carlo. Sadly I didn’t, so I’m not. Looking forward to seeing what happens to Peter in Eastenders tonight, though.

Sick Joke

Was up in the North yesterday, talking about the elections. Not that the purpose of my visit was to talk about the elections or anything: it just came up in the conversation.

I mentioned one part of the debate between Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny to a couple of people: the bit where Enda Kenny talked about how he was going to bring in free GP visits for every child under 5, and where Bertie Ahern sort of nailed him on this, insisting that ‘no child born today will receive that service’.

Naturally enough, the people I spoke with thought that the situation was absurd, since there is no charge for basic GP treatment for NHS patients who live in the UK.

They were unaware of how things work here in the republic, where you pay around €50 for a visit to a GP, and where, in my own experience, the level of service you receive is very inconsistent, staffed by many doctors who have no decent communication skills and a patronising attitude towards their patients.

To give an example: a few weeks back I had to write a letter of complaint on behalf of a non-Irish national who had taken her baby to the GP’s surgery about a skin ailment. The mother had brought along the different creams and soaps she had been using, and placed these on the table for the GP to see. The GP took a quick look at the child’s leg (the rash was all over the child’s body), then wrote out a prescription without checking the creams on the table. She lifted the mother’s handbag, and placed the creams and the soaps inside, then ushered her and the baby out the door, handing over the prescription but giving no indication of how often to use the prescribed medicine, how long the rash was likely to last and so on. The woman was made to feel pressured to leave.

It then turned out that the prescription the GP had given was for one of the creams that the mother had placed in front of her. The whole appointment lasted 4-5 minutes maximum, for which she received an invoice for €45.

I’ll have more to say on the subject in a few days, since I’ve had a bit of an eye-opener of late.

A Football Match, Made In Hell

The Polish mass lasts 90 minutes

Bloomin’ immigrants, ruining our traditional ways of life. Enda Kenny ought to step in.

Incidentally, I felt a surge of nostalgia yesterday afternoon, thanks to a group of immigrant workmen. I got stuck behind a former Northern Ireland DOE van on the N1, It was doing about 30 mph. Some things never change.

Satisfy This!

Some may be familiar with employee satisfaction surveys, which are ostensibly to gauge the employee’s satisfaction with his work and associated considerations.

Now a hardened veteran of such surveys, I accord them no importance. For the firm, they fulfil many functions, the principal of these being to measure how much the firm can continue paying its employees at current rates without people packing it in when they are still needed to do work, thus causing the firm to incur costs for hiring new employees.

Continue reading ‘Satisfy This!’

Last Night I Dreamt Somebody Believed Citizens Had Rights

Some recollections, which may need checking against the record:

I watched some of the televised debate between Rabbitte, Sargent, McDowell and Adams last night, and turned off just after Rabbitte had compared McDowell to a ‘menopausal Paris Hilton’, a remark far more minger than zinger.

Although I might be happy to see Michael McDowell be the object of some gratuitous insult and I care little also for Paris Hilton’s feelings, this piece of sexist claptrap was out of order. In an all-male panel, Rabbitte thought he could score points by feminising his opponent. The scene says something about Irish politics and what you need to do to win power.

Up until that point, though, I thought Rabbitte had done quite well. His opening speech was quite good.

Gerry Adams, on the other hand, was leaden, unsure of himself, and surprisingly inarticulate. His apparent popularity may be more a function of the peace process than any enduring aspect of his character. Now that things have been sewn up in the North, there is a danger (for him and his party) that hitherto sympathetic people start to get sick of him. The problem here with his party’s all-Ireland approach to politics is that without a unified state, you are talking about a country that does not really exist. This might work in Northern Ireland, but unfortunately, for really existing elections in the Republic, this seems to entail a sky-based approach to pie.

On pie. Was I just hungry before bedtime, or was there quite a lot of talk of pie and cake? There was one point where I thought I heard Gerry Adams mention the ‘tax cake’, but this was probably the ‘tax take’. I shall give him the benefit of the doubt in this case, but McDowell’s criticisms of his lack of economic knowledge appeared to be generally correct.

Trevor Sargent was the most impressive speaker, and I liked his story about the woman waiting in the car for her train. I found it amusing how Gerry Adams had made a point of making some stumbling remarks in Irish during his speech, whereas Sargent, who seemed to be wearing his fainne, began his with a quick ‘dia daoibh’, and that was it. During the debate he was the most effective critic of McDowell.

I don’t think Michael McDowell appeared on the programme to win votes from Sinn Fein or Labour. Rather, he was there to retain and win over people who are primarily concerned with holding on to the gains they have made in the last 10 years. Part of this entails raising the spectre of ‘left-wing’ politics, hence the pre-debate poster session and the joke about the “the left, the hard left, and the left-overs”, which probably pleased many of his potential voters.

If I have not much to say about the substance of what I saw of the debate, it is probably because I could not discern any substance to it. Besides, it was way past my bedtime.

Knowing me..

These remarks by Larry Flynt on the passing of Jerry Falwell, which I came across via Angry Arab’s site, strike me as true:

My mother always told me that no matter how much you dislike a person, when you meet them face to face you will find characteristics about them that you like. Jerry Falwell was a perfect example of that. I hated everything he stood for, but after meeting him in person, years after the trial, Jerry Falwell and I became good friends. He would visit me in California and we would debate together on college campuses. I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling.

Before the gap between image and reality gets bridged, you tend to demonise people who hold views you find highly objectionable, until you discover that the views they hold may really only constitute a fragment of who they are as a person. Once you get to know someone, it becomes a lot harder to subject them to ridicule, which can spoil some of your fun.

..but the dianetic is interested in you

I caught some of the Panorama documentary on Scientology the other night. John Sweeney’s outburst formed the focus of the publicity prior to the documentary, and it appears to be shaping debate in the aftermath of its airing too.

My first reaction when seeing him responding with quasi-military barracking to his pursuer’s constant harrassment was to laugh. He was clearly attempting to retain some sense of journalistic order, but these attempts -in such a surreal and oppressive situation- led him to mirror the full-on approach of his opponent. A person less concerned with the pressures of delivering a documentary might have been more inclined to respond with a foul language, or a knee to the opponent’s crigs. Neither response would have been justified, but it would have been certainly understandable. I also thought the scientologist missed a trick by not offering him a ‘free stress test’.

I don’t have much to say about Scientology itself, but there were some features of the tactics employed by its practicioners in the documentary which are recognisable from other situations. The incessant recourse to the vocabulary of reason – facts, bias, objectivity, reason, bigotry, prejudice and so on- allied to the presentation of all sorts of ‘facts’ is employed to force the opponent into submission and compliance.

How does a rational individual deal with such people? By attempting to debate with them and their practices, are you not engaging them on their own terms? Have you not lost before you’ve begun?

As long as Scientology is recognised by the public as a cult, there is the hope that people have the knowledge to recognise it and steer clear from it. But what happens when this false rationality is not tethered to a recognisable ‘brand’? What if the existence of Scientology is merely a symptom of a wider malaise in human relations?

For example, on the television every night of the week (I am sorry if this comes across as one of my hobby horses), you have programmes broadcast that highlight the need for receptiveness to the advice of ‘experts’, in property purchases, household cleanliness, personal grooming, child rearing, and so on. The storyline of each programme is the same: as long as the clueless and confused -even humiliated- participant follows the expert’s advice, then things will work out better. If you watch these programmes night after night -as many people do- do you not end up acquiescing in the receptiveness that these programmes demand? Is that not the whole point of the programmes: so that you are receptive to purchasing the products advertised before, during, and after?

The easy and desirable answer is to say that people who watch the programmes enjoy independence and freedom, and one should respect them enough to realise that they are able to make up their own minds about what they see. But what if they are neither free nor independent?

If they are independent, why do they watch these programmes religiously, when the principal lessons proferred -be observant to the conditions and demands of the marketplace, and behave according to the expectations of ‘experts’- is the same every time? If they are free, why do they choose to submit to the same programmes every week?

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May 2007
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