Friday, August 23, 2019

Anti-Social Networking

My blogging has been rather light lately. To fill the gap, here are some of my recent Facebook posts. I hope you find them amusing and intriguing-- or, at least, not insufferably boring or irritating. 

(Yes, I know. Facebook is evil. But it's a good outlet for one's random thoughts.)

As you'll see, I've recently been trying to write some of my Facebook posts bilingually-- in Irish, followed by English. My written Irish is terrible, and it's quite embarrassing to expose this fact in public. But I've come to the conclusion that it's better to use bad Irish than not to use it at all. The Irish language is far too important to be left to those who can speak and write it.

For a long time I've been a ferocious critic of political correctness. I imagine people who see me in the street think: "There goes Maolsheachlann Ó Ceallaigh, the ferocious critic of political correctness." However, more recently I've been troubled by a kind of contradiction in my own thought.

This is it: I tend to believe that taboo, reverence, and piety are good things in themselves. Don't get me wrong, I wish all those things were directed towards their proper objects, but even IN THEMSELVES they seem admirable to me.

And all those things are abundantly present in political correctness. People who trip themselves up constantly trying to use the correct epithets are, in a sense, showing a sort of piety, a sort of reverence. It's misdirected but it's real. And I don't have the slightest problem against censorship on the grounds of public morals; I think Mary Whitehouse was a hero.

But isn't this just what the PC brigade are pushing for, according to their own lights?

My gorge still rises at political correctness, don't get me wrong. And I still consider it a mortal enemy. But there is a little part of my mind that asks: "Are you being completely consistent here? Shouldn't you acknowledge a healthy impulse even in your enemy, "to honour as you strike him down' "? Perhaps Nietzsche was onto something when he said "you may have enemies you hate, but not enemies you despise."

(I would like to think this is the most pompous Facebook post ever.)

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Rinne é an rún cúpla lá ó shoin gan achmainn grinn ar bith a bheith agam as seo amach. D'eirigh mé as an rún sin, ach measaim fós gur smaoineamh maith é. Táim braon don t-íoróin agus don síor-magadh a bhfuil í ngach áit inniú. Uaireanta is mian liom clócha agus róba a caitheamh an t-ám ar fad, fiú san ollmhargadh, agus fíliocht a labhairt in ionad prós.

A few days ago I made the resolution to be completely humourless. I've given it up already, but I still think it's a good idea. I'm so sick of irony and the perpetual levity that's everywhere these days. Sometimes I feel the urge to wear a cloak and robe all the time, even in the supermarket, and to speak in poetry instead of prose.

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I was just looking at the English poetry shelves. I was surprised at the paucity of English poets whose surnames begin with "Y". There were a few poets called Young but none of them were particularly good. (I do like "Night Thoughts" by Edward Young, though I admit that is a niche interest.) The Y section in the English poetry shelves is a narrow and undistinguished stretch.

I contend there are no major ENGLISH poets whose names begin with Y. Yeats was Irish, of course.

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"One might safely say that no people ever liked stench or starvation as such, but only some peculiar pleasures entangled with them. Not so feels the sensitive Gudge... Gudge has succeeded in persuading himself that slums and stinks are really very nice things; that the habit of sleeping fourteen in a room is what has made our England great; and that the smell of open drains is absolutely essential to the rearing of a Viking breed." G.K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World (1910)

"I have seen too much of slums to go into Chestertonian raptures about them." George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)

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Chuaigh mé ar turas chuig an Royal Irish Academy inné, turas eagraithe ag leabharlann UCD, áit a bhfuil mé fostaithe. Bhí an smaoineamh céinne agam is a mbíonn agam go h-iondúil, agus mé ag éisteacht le daoine ag obair at son institiúidí a bhfuil ag plé le oidhreacht agus stair na hÉireann. Tá an cuma orthu go bhfuil suim acu san oidhreacht mar rud stairiúl, rud marbh. Ach is beag an suim a bhfuil agam san oidhreacht mar iarsma. Bím í gconaí ag smaoineamh: conas a feidir linn beocht nua a thabhairt don oidhreacht? Mar shampla, tá taispeantais acu mar gheall at Thomas Moore, file a raibh clú oll-mhór ar in Éireann uair amhain. Ní leor diomsa breatnaigh ar file mar sin mar abhair acadiúl. Sé an cheist domsa: cén fáth nach bhfuil suim againn inniu í Thomas Moore, no file at bith beagnach, agus conas is feidir an suim sin a spreagadh?

I went on a work field trip to the Royal Irish Academy yesterday. As always, when listening to people whose work involves cultural heritage, I find myself wondering why they are content to regard it as something historical. I have very little interest in heritage as something historical. To me the question is, how can we give it life? For instance, they had an exhibition on Thomas Moore, an Irish poet who was once phenomenally popular in Ireland. I can't take this as simply a matter of historical interest. To me the question is, why don't we read Thomas Moore (or pretty much any poet) today? And what can we do about it?

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Bhí mé ag féachaint arís ar an scannán The Jane Austen Book Club aréir. Chonaic mé cheana féin é, roinnt blianta ó shoin. Níl gean mór agam ar úrscealta Jane Austen, ach is íontach an rud é scannáin a fheiscint a bhfuil comh daríre sin faoin léitheoireacht agus an tábhacht agus an sult a bfhuil ag baint leis.

I watched The Jane Austen Book Club last night. I saw it before, a few years ago. I'm not mad about Jane Austen's novels, but it's wonderful to see a film that takes reading, and the pleasures and importance of reading, so seriously.

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I was travelling within Ireland at the weekend. As always, when I travel through Ireland, I'm struck by the fact that virtually every playing field you pass outside Dublin has Gaelic sports goalposts (used by both hurling and Gaelic football) instead of soccer or rugby goalposts. Even though I don't actually like Gaelic games much, purely as sports, this gives me great pleasure-- the same pleasure I take in going to America and seeing how they care far more about baseball, basketball and American football than soccer, cricket, rugby, etc.

And here's something else that strikes me. The Gaelic Athletic Association, which organizes these sports, was only founded in 1884 and the games were only really codified around then. The impetus behind this was a very explicit cultural nationalism-- for a long, long time there was a ban on members of the GAA playing foreign games. I think this is important because we are so often told that cultural protectionism is futile, or that traditions can't be invented and have to come into being of their own accord. Obviously not true when you see the legacy of the GAA in Ireland.

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I am reading a biography of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid (Archbishop of Dublin 1940-1972) by John Cooney. The book is very hostile to McQuaid, but the facts are interesting. McQuaid established what is now the Irish Film Institute, as a Catholic film club. He strongly supported the abolition of the law which required female teachers to give up their jobs when they got married. And (according to Cooney) he persuaded the President of UCD to move UCD from the city centre to Belfield, south of the city. So McQuaid has had an influence on my life every day for the last seventeen years or so.

I don't agree with everything he did. He organized a (not very successful) boycott of a soccer match between Ireland and Yugoslavia in 1952, held in Dublin, as a protest against Yugoslavia's imprisonment of a Catholic bishop. Personally I think politics should be kept out of sport. Always. I think the USA was wrong to boycott the Moscow Olympics in 1980. The American football players who dishonoured the flag and anthem to protest police brutality were wrong. The boycott of South African teams during apartheid was wrong. Sport should be kept free of politics.

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What's a capitalist's favourite dessert? PROFIT-eroles!

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Language is so wonderful. I was reading a description of the 1980 Wes Carpenter film, The Fog, which I've loved since I was a kid. The film was described as "a gem". That's the perfect word: "The Fog" has never really attained the status of a classic, nor does it quite deserve it. And "minor classic" doesn't really work, because a classic is a classic is a classic. But it IS a gem. Why should that word fit so perfectly? I don't know, but it does, partly because of the way the word is used in practice. Partly, I think, because a gem is something small and not necessarily valuable, but still noted for its allure.


  1. I suppose they usually call them 'cult-classics' (classics that are only classics in the mind of certain peoples that is) ?
    My father's mention today of a single leaf that's clinging to an oak he planted brought an old Christmas tv movie to my mind- I'm quite certain few people would remember it's existence,but it was about 'the last leaf' to die from a plant,I think that was even the title

    1. I've never heard of it myself but it sounds like a poignant title. I see there is an O. Henry story that uses this title, but it doesn't seem Christmasssy.