The Kindness of the Innkeeper

I think it was on RTÉ’s Prime Time, following the Carrickmines fire, that a Traveller woman voiced her incomprehension at the attitude of residents of Rockville Drive, who had refused to countenance an emergency halting site to accommodate families left homeless by the fire. She said that in her community, if children arrived in the middle of the night left homeless and in need of shelter, you would get out of your own bed and let them sleep in it.

This afternoon I opened a book titled ‘Grow in Love’. It is a religious education book for junior infants in Irish primary schools. My daughter was given a copy. The book received publicity recently because it depicts Mary ‘saying Yes to God’ when the Angel Gabriel tells her that she is pregnant and going to give birth to the son of God.

There is another part of the book that has escaped attention.



‘One kind innkeeper let Mary and Joseph stay in his stable’.

In On Kindness, Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor write that ‘it is often said of small children that they are naturally cruel, but it is less often said that they are naturally kind, instinctively concerned for the well-being of others, often disturbed by the suffering of others and keen to allay it’. A five-year-old encountering this book may conclude that the innkeeper is indeed being kind. But what is really happening here?

No-one in the town, two thousand years ago, is prepared to let a heavily pregnant woman take shelter. There is, however, one innkeeper, who like all the others does not wish to disturb his paying guests, so he says that the heavily pregnant woman can sleep out with the cows and the donkeys and have her baby there. And in 2015, in Ireland, infants are being taught, in publicly-funded schools, in a way that appeals to their own instinctive concern for the well-being of others, that treating pregnant woman like farmyard animals is a laudable act of kindness. Disturbing the logic of commerce and property, however, is simply out of the question. It is a miraculous fact of life, like a virgin birth, that needs no explanation or justification. Then we wonder why Travellers are treated with such cruelty, or why maternity and reproductive health services prove such a nightmare for so many women.


Filed under Uncategorized

They’d Got Each Other’s Backs


‘No Roof, No Floor’ – El Roto


By Estelle Birdy

We, my friend Orla and I, were out for a meal. It was early winter in 2012. I know that because I remember the main topic of conversation. Savita Halappanavar. It wasn’t too long after her death and we’d both been at the protests in the aftermath. We were angry for her and for us and for our children. We were upset for her husband and we were bowled over by his dignity and strength.  Green 19, on Camden Street, was the location for our dinner. For those of you not as hip as myself, it’s a trendy café/restaurant on Camden Street,with reasonably priced food and friendly staff. At the time, they had main meals for a tenner.  Camden Street is probably the biggest ‘going-out’ street in Dublin now. They bring in Portaloos on Saturday nights. At 4am, it’s like Armageddon. This was much earlier and much more civilised. We both had steak, as I recall, and a nice glass of wine each. Then,  at about 8.30pm, the owner, (an unusually unassuming but nevertheless full-on hipster, complete with Osama beard, unusual hats and a difficult looking bike), apologetically came and crouched down beside the table and said we needed to vacate it as he needed it back. He’d warned me when I booked, so that was grand. He moved us to some high stools at a bar area. Orla’s a filthy smoker, so we ended up outside. There’s a little table in the porch area, with a small table and a couple of chairs on the inside and a chair backing onto the street.  It was the first really cold night of that winter. We stuck the jackets on and we were fine, underneath the heater, cheeky little Portuguese wine in hand, bellies full, watching the world go by on the dark street. Then it started.

There were just a couple of them at first.  “Can you spare any change?” “Yeah, I’ll see what I have. Here you go” “Thanks a million” And they were gone. Then Joe arrived. Same thing, but as he was talking, I copped the accent and I said, “Are you from Dundalk?” He was, of course, from not far from my house at home. I don’t know what age he was. Younger than us anyway. He had a sleeping bag wrapped round him and he looked a bit dishevelled. Without the sleeping bag, he wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Fumbally café, (bar the fact that he wasn’t enough of a poseur). The three of us got talking. How come he ended up here? When was he last home? That kind of thing. A series of unfortunate incidents had got him to this point. Stuff that could happen any of us. When his brother hanged himself, he was the one to find him. He couldn’t get that picture out of his head. His mother died after that. He’d always been close to his mother. Then she was gone. Someone tried to set fire to him the night before when he was trying to sleep in a doorway in town. Threw lighter fluid on him and lit the match. He managed to put it out. Who was it? Just some randomer. People do that to you when you’re street sleeping. He did have a sister but she has kids and, he cast his eyes downwards, ashamed, “I’m fond of the drink”.

“Aren’t we all?” we said with our nice wine in front of us. “Whatever gets you through the night. If I were in your place I can guarantee I’d be fond of more than the drink to help get me through”

Suddenly, out comes red-haired Osama. “Come on, move on. Clear out”, waving his arm at Joe to get him to move away. We protested, “No, he’s a friend of ours. We’re having a talk. We know him.”

The owner said some more stuff, we protested some more and suddenly, he said, “Well sit down then mate, you’re blocking the entrance”. He sort of was obstructing the pathway out. He was kind of wide, what with the sleeping bag wrapped around him. Joe looked a bit surprised that he’d been invited to sit down, effectively, in a restaurant. He stayed with us for a good while, talking about home and the logistics of getting back there, only an hour’s drive down the road. It seemed like the most impossible journey.

Customers passed us by, coming out of the restaurant. We didn’t notice any of them except one party of three people. Two glammed-up women and a primped-up tube, (as myself, Joe and Orla might say) As he passed by, he made sure to audibly sneer, lest we might miss the fact that he was sneering. He even let out a disgusted snort. Joe didn’t notice. At least, I hope he didn’t. They went out onto the street and were trying to hail a taxi. Now, I’m not one for criticism of people’s style of dress but I’m giving this man the respect he deserves. He was in his mid to late 30’s with overly ‘done’ hair, greased back. Much scummier looking than Joe’s, for example. His beard was groomed within an inch of its life. He was wearing a faculty scarf. I don’t know which faculty but it was a college scarf and frankly, at that age, there is absolutely no excusing that. His trousers and jacket were too tight for him. Intentionally so. You know the look; trousers that look like they belong to your twelve year old brother? The colour of the results of untreated feline colitis? Too tight at the arse and around the crotch, so they’re pulled up above your ankles to show off your craaaazy socks and expensive leather brogues? All of this would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the fact that he placed himself on the street in our direct line of vision. So that he could keep looking back with a head on him like the *Eagle from the Muppets; snorting and sneering. He had the look of a fella who might have had lots of snorting experience.

We kept talking to Joe who, thankfully, had his back to the street.  He was spared this epic performance. I don’t know how long this man kept this up but it seemed interminable to us. We couldn’t say anything though, or give it away with our facial expressions, for fear that Joe would turn around and see what the Eagle was doing behind his back. I gave Joe some money. We chatted for a while longer. Then off he went into the dark. I’ve never seen him since. When he left, myself and Orla stared straight ahead out into the blackness of the street. My jaw was so tight it hurt. “Did you see that arsehole behind him?” I said. “See him? I wanted to…..”. Out of respect for the polite amongst you, I will leave it up to your imagination what she wanted to do to the adult man whose sneeriness made his lips meet his nose. She had that white line around her mouth. That’s the dangerous time. The Eagle was lucky that a taxi had swept him away.

After Joe left they just kept coming. All men. Of all ages. There was the one who laughed about how he wouldn’t make it to 40 because you can’t live like that for that long. He said he expected to die in the next couple of years because that’s just the way it is. He was in his early 30’s. “No one lives past about 45 on the streets. It’s too hard a life” he said. There was the neat and scrubbed older man who, tight mouthed and angry, asked us for money. He politely said thanks but he looked a bit like he hated us. I can’t say I blame him. I could be wrong but he looked like he hadn’t been on the streets too long. He could have been a Dad at our kids’ schools.

There was the one who, when we really had given away every bit we had in our pockets, said, “That’s ok. Listen, thank you very much for looking me in the eye and talking to me” We asked him what he was on about because we hadn’t loved him up or anything. He was young and handsome and sad. People just talking to him as an equal human being was important to him, he said. He’d been put in care when he was two and no one acknowledged his existence again until he was given his social welfare card when he was sixteen. Those were his words. Succinct. I wish he had stayed longer to talk.

There were ones with few teeth and the tell-tale gauntness or the moon- face. The ruddy and cut up faces of the drinkers. The clean- scrubbed faces of the ones holding it together, with neat back packs and ironed looking shirts. The ones who marked themselves out from a distance with a sleeping bag. It was like a tsunami of homeless men. Not a tsunami of ‘the homeless’. There is no monolith to see here. Every single person, different from every other with something interesting to talk about and a story to tell. Homeless people.

There’s a hostel on Camden Street, so presumably that’s where they were all heading. Eventually, their numbers dwindled. I went across the road and got more money out, went to the bar in the restaurant and ordered two more glasses. The owner, eyes downcast, just like Joe’s had been, said, “Sorry about that earlier. I shouldn’t have been so hard” I said, “No problem, we knew him, he’s from home.” He said, “Nah, I’ve never had any trouble with him. I shouldn’t have gone on like that. I’m sorry ok?”

He was genuinely ashamed of himself, or so it seemed to me. He seemed awkward. He’s a nice fella. Not many people running a business like that would have asked Joe to sit down. Joe wasn’t there to hear the apology though. I got the apology, but then, I wasn’t being thrown out.

Myself and Orla sat there, like we’d been hit by something hard. We didn’t even look at each other. She just said, “Hhmmm”

There was no need to say anything. We had had a privileged evening.

Last year, I was walking into town during the day. It was freezing cold. That kind of damp cold that penetrates your warm jacket and gets into your bones. I was just thinking how much I was feeling the cold, when I passed by the ATM outside Break For The Border. There was a queue of a few men and one woman standing at the ATM. Almost at their feet, there was -what looked like- a corpse. I reversed a few steps when the scene before me sank in. I looked at the man lying on the ground, a yellowish grey, his body contorted into a silly position on his bag, with stuff spilling out of it.  I looked at the queue of people. I asked (what I thought to be) the obvious questions in the circumstances. “Is he alright? Is he alive? Is he breathing?” as I bent down to the maybe-dead-man. The men in the queue, all well- dressed officey looking types, became entirely engrossed in the fabric of the jacket of the man in front of each of them. I started to wonder was I actually dead. Such was their huge interest in matters of cloth and their apparent inability to hear or see me. Only one person in that queue could hear me, a woman, “I don’t know”, she grimaced with tears in her eyes. She looked distraught and relieved that I’d asked and horrified that this was happening. I felt sorry for her. The look in her eyes. She just didn’t know what to do.

I touched the corpse’s hand and found that he wasn’t quite dead yet. He was cold but he moved slightly and groaned. He was off his face. Couldn’t talk, couldn’t open his eyes. I said, “If you stay here, you’re going to die. Do you understand me? It’s freezing. He couldn’t really open his eyes, he was so out of it. I left and went round the corner and called Focus to get advice on what to do. The woman on the line told me to do nothing else. That their outreach teams would be doing the rounds and they’d get to him in due course. She said there was nothing I could do. I wasn’t going to call an ambulance because he’d likely not go with them and I wasn’t going to call the Guards because…I wasn’t going to call the Guards. I went back and told the corpse-man that someone would be round soon from Focus. Not that he responded too well but he did manage to look at me. Sort of. He murmured some animal sounds. I hoped they meant, “Yeah, grand so.”  I zipped up his jacket and he conked out. A man in the queue snorted at me and the almost dead man. Everyone else, (part of an entirely new queue of people) was very interested in everyone else’s back. They’d got each other’s backs.

Earlier this year I was working with a group of people who are part of a community drugs scheme. I was chatting to one of the women in the class afterwards. She’d often be a bit out of it during the class. This wasn’t an altogether bad thing.  She was really enjoying it and she got a lot of the relaxation and meditation, she said. I could boast about my Yoga Nidra skills here but I fear Methadone was a bigger factor in her enjoyment levels. She got sneered at by some of the jumpy, aggressive young fellas in the class. So, we were talking about her maintenance programme and how she had got her methadone down a bit. She was glad to be making progress she said. She nodded her head back towards the room where we’d just done the class and said, “There’s a stigma around heroin users. The others look down on us”

I said, “Are you telling me that other people with drug problems look down on you because of your drug problem? Are you fuckin’ serious?” I’d had a bellyful of the aggressive pill-poppers in the class that day.

“Yeah that’s just the way it is. We’re just junkies and scumbags. But ye know, people say that ‘this drug is a gateway drug’ or ‘that drug leads you to heroin’. I didn’t even drink before I started. I never smoked a joint. Never took anything. I smoked heroin for the first time and a couple of weeks later I was banging up”

Before heroin, she had been pregnant. She was really happy, she said, looking forward to having her baby.  It was discovered late in the pregnancy. Something was seriously wrong with the baby. She wouldn’t have survived outside of the womb. Her baby died inside her. She had to carry the baby for a period of time. I can’t remember how long she said. Then she was induced and had to give birth to her dead baby. She lost the will to live. She said that it probably sounded stupid but she couldn’t get over how horrible it was. How excited she had been one day and the next day everything was terrible. She said she was like a zombie. Then she was at a party and someone says “Here, try this. It’ll make all your pain go away” And it did. After that she lost everything. Her family, her home, her friends, everything. She said she had done things that she never would have believed herself capable of before. I could imagine. Someone had cut her an extra wide smile at some point. She was a big soft baby of a woman.

There’s a line in the film Mississippi Burning where Gene Hackman’s character, FBI Agent Rupert Anderson, quotes his father. He’s explaining to the younger, FBI agent, about how things work in the Southern States. His father was a farmer and his father’s near neighbour, was also a farmer.  A black farmer. The black farmer does well for himself and then some white people come and burn his place down and destroy his crops. Just to show him like. In explanation of how he lived beside this man for so many years but did nothing to defend him, Agent Anderson’s father said,

“If you ain’t better than a nigger son, who are you better than?”

It’s the line that always stuck with me and when I hear, variously, “What about our own?” “I don’t give them money, they’ll only spend it on drink or drugs”, “They need to be moved out to the outskirts of town, they’re putting the tourists off” “Some of us pay our mortgages, why should I subsidise those who don’t?” “Same sex marriage devalues my marriage”, “Knackers”, “Scumbags”, “Junkies”, “Sluts”, “Slags”, “Whores” or just a big obvious, curled- lipped snort, all I really hear is, “If you ain’t better than a nigger son, who are you better than?”

In a world where we’re told that hierarchies and invisible ladders are real things and that that is ‘just the way it is’, I’m just not feeling any rung beneath my feet and I can’t see anyone above me either. This culture of ‘better than’ is making me sick and I can’t be the only one. Given the right set of circumstances, I could be anyone of these people. Been at that party, had someone I loved die, been too fond of the drink. Maybe, if I hadn’t messed up so much and had so many weaknesses and been just about perfect,  I could even have been Mr. Snorty Eagle or a Jacket Fabric Obsessive. Maybe.




*Orla recognised this style of head as being like the Eagle from The Muppets


Filed under Uncategorized

Notes on Ciudadanos

Jordi Évole, presenter of the debate, with Albert Rivera and Pablo Iglesias

Jordi Évole, presenter of the debate, with Albert Rivera and Pablo Iglesias

The other night, the leaders of Spain’s new political parties went up against each other in a televised debate set in a bar, with both of them sat at a table sipping coffee. It was shown on a private TV station and if you want to watch it online, the TV station seeks payment. In appearance and rhetoric, Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos seems a more convincing political leader than Pablo Iglesias of Podemos. If you go to the Ciudadanos website, the policy outline appears progressive: they say they will expand social security; they say they want a quality universal public health system; they say they want a free, universal and secular education system; they say they want a judiciary free from political influence. They describe themselves as drawing on Enlightenment values that include ‘progressive liberalism’ and ‘democratic socialism’, and call for greater citizen participation in representative institutions. Though Podemos claims that it emerged from 15M, Ciudadanos could, with equal legitimacy, and were it not for the fact that it has been around for nearly a decade, claim the same thing. Both parties are an attempt to channel the deep rejection of Spain’s political order and the search for some kind of new dispensation that characterised 15M. One could take the original Democracia Real Ya! statement that heralded the 15M explosion and map each of its statements to some aspect of Ciudadanos’s stated ideals.

Ciudadanos has been around for a lot longer than Podemos. It formed part of a pan-European alliance with Declan Ganley’s Libertas in the 2009 elections, and caused a split in its ranks by so doing: one of its high-profile members resigned based on the anti-abortion stance taken by Ganley and other groups in the alliance, but Albert Rivera persisted. Like Ganley, his US defence contractor associate, Rivera too is opposed to ‘crony capitalism’ and claims he will replace it with a more ‘reasonable’ form of capitalism.

In contrast to the claims about universality the party makes on its website, public pronouncements from party officials make clear that this does not apply to immigrants. This kind of ambiguity appeals to a particular mindset in Spanish society: people who are guided by the vague ideas about social justice cited by all parties including the Partido Popular, but who often veer into resentment towards people gaming the system for their own ends. Ciudadanos supports Spain’s membership of NATO, and its website also says it will make sure Frontex has the necessary resources to control immigration flows.

Whereas Iglesias has a vaguely counter-cultural air, Rivera is polished and business-like. I wasn’t aware of Rivera’s personal history before writing this article, and while writing it occurred to me that he reminded me of the law students at a private university whom I met when I lived in Madrid. These were people who were fundamentally right-wing in outlook, and who dressed in the de rigueur garb for the well-to-do in Spain: Lacoste polo shirts, Barbour jackets, loafers and so on, but who were able to combine this conservative aesthetic with an openness to debate, espousing convictions rooted in classical liberalism. They enjoyed and welcomed debate on social and political matters, especially when these entailed a radical challenge, because they were firm enough in their faith, and their social standing, that they would cope comfortably, even if, on the whole, their way of seeing the world was not altogether different from their Aznar-voting parents. They could agree on certain things from a radical perspective, perhaps founded on the confidence that such things would never become a reality. These are not the kind of braying halfwits one might find in their closest analogues in Britain or Ireland. I checked: Rivera is a lawyer, educated at a private university. Iglesias, on the other hand, comes across like the kind of people I used to know who studied in the politics faculty at Madrid’s Complutense university (he was, after all, a lecturer there) and whom I would accompany to parties in okupas. Their respective worlds are not so far apart, and it strikes me that the staging of the debate in a bar, in a sit-down encounter, appeals to a middle-class, university-educated political sensibility that dreams of seeing these currents collide. The spectacle of politics unfolding on these terms must be particularly appealing to educated middle-class twenty- and thirty-somethings whose expectations of upward mobility and just reward for their years of study have been dashed in long years of social and economic crisis. Perhaps many of them feel such encounters as a sign that their generation is finally being given a shot.

Rivera will appeal to people who think government is first and foremost about having technically competent officials in place, skilled managers rather than skilled orators. The uncomfortable reality for Podemos’s leadership is that the very terrain they staked out in the political arena -an opposition to corruption, a commitment to transparency, participation and social justice, young and untarnished leaders- has now been occupied by a competitor that promises the same but without the threat of radical change that Podemos’s associations with Latin America and the Spanish radical left inevitably suggest. What is more, Podemos’s competitor is viewed favourably by Spain’s business and media elites, who on the whole are not wedded to any political party in particular, and will see to it that Ciudadanos’s glaring contradictions go unquestioned.

The TV encounter garnered record audiences, with some 5 million tuning in to watch the leaders of two political parties that are not even the main parties in Spain currently. You get the sense that the contest between Ciudadanos and Podemos could soon become the foremost political contest in Spanish society, provided Podemos keeps its radical origins well hidden, its proposals moderate, and its key spokespersons at the forefront, presenting a semblance of democratic debate. People may even argue that this represents meaningful political change generated by 15M. It is a superficially attractive image. But this is a spectacle shorn of the mass open participation and horizontal democratic forms that characterised 15M and many of its outworkings. With its unerring fixation on figureheads, it is in fact geared towards de-mobilisation and passivity and hence likely to stabilise, not re-order. It is, on the whole, a dismal spectacle.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Yes I Know, But…


What distinguishes the residents of Rockville Drive, who, in the wake of the Carrickmines fire, mounted a protest against emergency accommodation for Travellers who had been left bereaved and with nowhere to stay, from residents of other comfortable housing estates throughout Ireland?

Very little, I imagine: something similar would happen in a great many other places up and down the country. There is a generalised opposition to living beside Travellers, rooted in racism, classism (consider how the insult ‘knacker’ applies both to Travellers and to urban working class people), fears about property prices, fears about what living next to Travellers says about them. If it appears strikingly cold-hearted for residents of an area to oppose giving other human beings some temporary place of shelter, it’s only because this kind of situation doesn’t come to the fore very often in national media. The attitude is there all the time, and it is widespread. If we focus on the intransigence and failings of these particular residents, as if this were a kind of aberration, we lose sight of this point.

I don’t think it diminishes the issue of racism towards Travellers to note that the attitudes and the stances here extend, when it comes to housing, to the question of social housing. There are many owner-occupiers -or rather, people with mortgages- who resent the idea of social housing being built near where they live.

Fine, they say, people need to live somewhere, but why does it have to be here? Why am I working hard to live in a nice place when all these people get the same thing I’m looking for, but in their case they get it for nothing?

There is no point pretending that these opinions and beliefs are the preserve of a cold-hearted minority in such areas. Life in what Margaret Thatcher called a ‘property-owning democracy’ shapes you to think like this. Many people I speak to are reticent about forcefully voicing their opinions on these matters. If you could summarise their outlook, it would be “I know, but..”.

They say things like, “I know people should have somewhere to live, but.. why does it have to be us?” Or, “I agree that we need to look after people, but these people really are good-for-nothings. Or, “That all sounds nice and I agree with you, but there’s no denying these people bring problems.”

Such people seem very well aware that in the cold light of day their stance appears cruel and ignorant. So they present themselves as reasonable and compassionate on the whole, but regrettably pushed beyond a limit in this particular case. Tell them their opinion is racist or ignorant or selfish and they can flare up in indignation. It is as though you were applying a hot branding iron to their skin. They act as though getting caught in such an act would destroy their whole being, their whole sense of themselves, their standing in the eyes of others.

Life in ‘property-owning democracy’ means people cease to see accommodation and shelter as a right. They cease to see it -if ever they did see it- as the condition of possibility for other rights -to health, to education, to a decent standard of living. Instead they see it as just reward for their own personal endeavour, and, ultimately, an object of competition, an asset to be traded and hence, guarded jealously. As for one’s neighbours in this regard, it becomes seldom a matter of simply wanting to live in a pleasant community, but of living in a community that can be sold as pleasant. They see this way of the world expressed by their political respresentatives in government, by newspapers, by TV programmes, by family members, work colleagues… with no other horizon.

It doesn’t seem that hard, on the surface, to imagine a world in which the first response from residents of an area, following a horrific accident affecting Travellers, when told by their local council that their street would now be used for emergency accommodation, would be: how do we help get things set up? How do we make them comfortable and welcome and make sure their needs are met? In fact, if you actually believed the notion that there is such a thing as ‘Middle Ireland’, a world stocked with decent hardworking families who do their bit and look out for others, you may very well imagine that this is what would happen. It may be comforting, even, to imagine that such a thing exists. But when I talk with such people about, for example, why parents shouldn’t have to pay for schoolbooks, pointing out that it should be everyone’s responsibility to pay for these things, or why you shouldn’t have to pay for private health insurance because everyone should have access to the best of treatment as a matter of right, I see them recoil. I see them squirm, they look to the ground and I see that they feel such questions like a threat. And then comes the response: “yes, I know, but…”

I can get how anxiety to see a resolution in this case can lead people to focus their ire and disapproval towards those mounting the protest. Yet it is worth remembering that these people are acting out what people in positions of power and influence have shown to be acceptable. “Just a note to let you know that the McCarthy family will not be allocated a house in your area”, wrote Phil Hogan to constituents who did not want a Traveller family housed in their area back in September 2012. “Councillor Billy Ireland and I are glad to be of assistance in this matter.” Phil Hogan, who was Minister for the Environment at the time, did not lose his job. He was not brought to book for a racist abuse of power. He was appointed an EU Commissioner, paid over €25o,000 a year.

It’s easy to focus solely on moral reproach of the particular individuals involved. This has been the stance taken by certain Labour politicians whose attitude towards basic human rights and basic standards of housing and accommodation is ambivalent at best and utterly contemptuous at worst. This focus, on its own, can suggest there is a decent Middle Ireland out there full of right-thinking people who are categorically not racist and categorically not prejudiced toward Travellers. No such thing exists, and to pretend it does just reproduces the curtain-twitching individualism that keeps these problems alive.


Filed under Uncategorized

Honi soit qui mal y pense: Cynicism and Ireland’s agora


I left a shorter version of this comment, for old times’ sake, on Kathy Sheridan’s article in today’s Irish Times. The article is titled ‘We should stop cribbing about the ‘small stuff’ – and think big.’

Kathy Sheridan speaks of cynicism as if though were a purely negative affair. But why should this be so? Cynicism as a school of philosophy was not simply a matter of declaring that everything sucked. It was concerned with challenging convention and living according to one’s nature, usually from the sidelines. Diogenes of Sinope, AKA Diogenes the Cynic, is reputed to have masturbated in the agora, the central space of the political life of Greek city-states.

When he was reprimanded by affronted citizens for so doing, he said he wished he could extinguish hunger as easily by rubbing his belly. His point, of course, given the ever present hunger in the city’s midst, was that people are happy to leap upon matters of politeness and decorum whilst basic human needs go unaddressed.

Thankfully things have changed, and we do not have too many people masturbating in public. Indeed, in some places, you can even be fined for searching for food in rubbish bins. Now, if only we could abolish negativity, things might start looking up…

Whereas the cynics of old sought to unmask generalised hypocrisy, stupidity and brutality, the prevailing understanding of cynicism these days, particularly when it comes to the public, is barely distinguishable from knee-jerk negativity. In her article, Kathy Sheridan has her sights in particular on the Right2Water campaign.

Apparently, laying claim to a ‘right to change’ Ireland on the basis of ‘equality, justice and democracy’, which is what the campaign now promises, amounts to ‘relentlessly negative rhetoric’, and ‘peddling unrealistic promises’. If laying claim to equality, justice and democracy amount to peddling unrealistic promises, then the ‘heavy responsibility’ Kathy Sheridan speaks about really ought to lie with those who claim such things are not possible.

There is, of course, another meaning of ‘cynical’ in common parlance, which has more to do with the kind of thing the cynics sought to unmask. This is when someone is calculatingly manipulative and dishonest in the service of narrow interests. One might, for instance, describe a studs-up tackle in football as a ‘cynical foul’. That is, the player is motivated by inflicting damage on the opposing player or team, rather than playing the match in keeping with the spirit of the game. One might apply this analogy to the arena of political discussion. Rather than attend to the substance of what people are actually saying, one can -if the intent is merely to smash a political opponent- wilfully misrepresent what is being said. Hence, tens of thousands of people taking to the streets seeking to demonstrate against injustice -with a great many individual variations in their reasons and motives for doing so- can be reduced to mere negativity, or presented as the harebrained babblings of a thoughtless mob, rather than a sign people are prepared to fight for a better and more just and democratic society, and are willing to do so together by demonstrating in public spaces. For democrats, this kind of thing ought to be excellent news. For those whose only response to a vigorous challenge to the ruling order is simply honi soit qui mal y pense, not so much, I guess.

Perhaps Diogenes fits the profile of the ‘moaner and cribber’ Sheridan attacks in her article for not trusting enough in Ireland’s great and good, or in the ‘myriad of choices’ she claims representative democracy provides. If so, she may be pleased to learn that he is also reputed to have committed suicide by holding his breath.


Filed under Uncategorized

To The Other Side

This is a guest post by Estelle Birdy.



There may be some people out there who don’t actually know that I’m from Co. Louth. Just so you know, I am. Last Sunday I travelled with my four kids and the dog, to Blackrock, Co Louth. These days, when you’re travelling on the M1 from Dublin, a good bit North of Drogheda, (a dreadful place in South Louth), you come over a rise and you get the most amazing view of beautiful countryside, the sea and the Cooley Mountains. Every time I drive over that rise, I have a bodily reaction. I really feel something. I’ve examined this feeling and it’s something more than the normal reaction you might have to beautiful scenery. It’s a big, big feeling.

We all arrived at the house.  It’s a 1970’s Bungalow Bliss style house, like most of the houses on the Old Golf Links Road.  Bought in 1975, with a Louth County Council mortgage by my parents, returning home after many years in London.  My mother’s from Tipperary, a council house in the arse end of nowhere.  Her Dad was killed in his early 40’s in a mining accident.  He was a Trade Unionist and a believer in education being the key to getting people out of poverty.  Unusually for poor people of the time, all seven of the children went to secondary school.  Of the seven siblings, five had to emigrate.  Of those five, only my mother came back to settle.  Two others came back but much later in life.

My Dad grew up in Carrickmacross.  His Dad was a cattle dealer and made enough money to have a nice house and by the 50’s, a car.  My Dad’s family even went on holidays.  To Blackrock, Co Louth, funnily enough.  Of the nine children in his family, three had to emigrate and a fourth chose to.  All three who had to emigrate, eventually migrated back.

On Sunday then, I went for a walk.  I rambled down the Rock, (as it is known in those parts).  It’s really a very pleasant place.  The houses are nice.  It’s got a relatively new council estate built at end of our road.  Those houses are really nice too.  The council estate was built because, at the height of the boom, the adult children of people who had grown up in Blackrock, didn’t have a hope in hell of affording a house in Blackrock. Some good citizens got a petition going, to stop the building of the estate as it would devalue “our houses” and attract “the wrong elements” into the area.

They arrived to our house with their petition and their beseeching, we-understand-each-other faces, one evening.  To my mother’s doorstep.  She told them to “Get the fuck away from my door” and chased them out the gate.  I thought of this as I passed the estate where one of my oldest friends now lives with her kids.

I walked down the leafy loveliness of the Rock Road.  I was away in dreamland when I heard a voice calling, “Well if it isn’t Estelle Birdy”.  It was Paula, the older sister of another of my friends, and her husband.  We stopped and had a chat about our kids and how our aging parents are doing and just stuff.

I walked on down towards the beach road.  I stopped at the top of the slope just looked at the beautiful view across the bay.  The tide was out but there was shimmering silvery water out at the river. I walked past the house where the judge used to live.  I don’t know if the family still lives there.  He was no ordinary judge.  He was a judge in the North.  At a time when judges from the North and their families got blown up and shot.  This judge was a Catholic and he took refuge South of the border in Blackrock.  His daughter, at college in the North, had to use a false name.  We thought that was hilarious when we were at school.  We used to joke that she called herself, “Eileen Shoot All The Brit Bastards”,  just to be safe. You find that kind of thing funny when you’re fifteen.  Actually, I still find it funny.

The family had 24 hour Garda protection.  They had a sentry box outside the front of the house.  The house backs onto the beach and has a little track down to the strand. They had a big bay window at the back, to make the best of the views.  As I was passing, I thought of the day when, myself and my cousins were tracking around torturing each other with dares. We used to dare each other to get into people’s gardens and take a flower or run around right up at their windows or something that could get you in trouble if you were caught.

This day, one of my cousins, (who shall remain nameless), was dared to go in and steal a daffodil from this particular house. We didn’t even know it was the judge’s house at the time. Up we rocked, all 6 of us, into the garden. The man himself was reading the Sunday newspapers sitting in the window.  The nameless cousin, ran in and took about 50 daffodils. We all marched around the garden. Then we all left. My mother went feckin’ mad when we got back with all those flowers. I often wondered, in the intervening years, what the Garda protection was for and why they only thought the front of the house needed protection.

Then I walked back down the road towards the village. And who should I meet only a man who is black. There are lots of people of different colours living in Blackrock now. When I was growing up, it would have been a real talking point if a black man turned up. You had to go to Dublin to see a black man and only then if Phil Lynott was in town. I had been in London until I was nearly five, so I expected people to be all different colours. I remember going to Dublin and feeling weird that in this city everyone looked the same. I said to the man, “At least it’s not raining”, looking up at the grey sky. He beamed at me and said, “Yes, everything’s A O.K.” and did that O.K. hand gesture.

I don’t know why but meeting him made me even happier.

The church in Blackrock is up at the top of a big hill and the front door faces towards the bay and the mountains. I turned up and started climbing the hill. I found a 1 cent coin on the way. Lucky.  In the porch of the church. There were two men, a really old one and one about my age. We said hello to each other.

I said to them, “Is there a mass on inside or something?” The older man said, “You’re obviously a local.  We’re not from here you know. We’re from Armagh.”

I said, “Oh my God! Armagh? Foreigners like?”

The younger one laughed but the older man said, “We’re strangers here. We’ve never been here before. We’re coming for a wedding next Friday. We came today to check out where the church is.”

Five days in advance of the wedding, they were checking where the church was. Just in case they’d be late or get lost.

Then he looked out through the door of the church and asked me what that was out there, “Is it a lake?” I said, “No that’s the sea”. I explained to him that the tide was out now but on its way back in. I pointed out the river and told them how it fills up as the tide comes in but is a shallow trickle when it’s out. How it’s an illusion though, as the tide comes back in. The sea looks to be miles away and you could have crossed the river in its shallow state and be playing miles away from shore.  But the river is filling up, from the other sides of the estuary. You try to cross back but the river is deep now, with whirlpools and undertows you never expected. I told them how 3 kids had drowned like this, while their parents were on the beach on a hot weekend. They crossed the river where it’s really close to the shore. When they tried to get back, just a couple of hundred metres, they drowned in the river. The first two were brothers and it happened when I was in sixth class. They found their bodies on the Monday. I remember the weird quiet in the school, a few steps up from the beach, when the word went round that they were being taken up from the shore. No one knew them personally. They weren’t local. I think they came from Knockbridge or somewhere. As I was telling the story, the feelings of that day came back so strongly. It was so shocking. They were kids, just like us and they had drowned on our beach. The other boy, who coincidentally, had the same surname as those boys but was no relation, drowned some years later. It was some years after again, before a sign was put up along the promenade, warning of the dangers of crossing the river. I told the men this. The younger man said, “Isn’t that always the way?”

We stood looking at the sea together for a while. The old man said, “I’ve never seen anything like that before. It must be good to be a local here. You’re lucky to be a local.”

I hadn’t considered this. I said, “I’m not really a local. Well, I suppose. I grew up here. I haven’t lived here for a long time”.  I didn’t really know what to say. Then I said, “Yeah, you’re right. I am a local.”

We parted company. I wished them a good time at the wedding and they headed off. I went into the church. The lights were dimmed. There were a few candles burning on those offertory candle thingys on the altar. I was completely alone in the church. I sat down in a pew near the top on the right hand side. I felt weird. Like there was something gathering around me. It smelt exactly the same as it always smelt. Sensations and memories and random thoughts started flooding me.

I was sitting in the exact spot where I had sat for my First Communion. Beside Sandra, who had the exact same shoes as I had. I stopped going to mass quite young, at 11 or so, because I didn’t want to and my parents didn’t make me. But I had spent a lot of time in this Church after that. There were easy pickings for myself and my cousins. People dropped a lot of change on the floor. Change that bought lots of sweets. We used to race each other, on our bellies, up and down the church pulling ourselves across the cushiony kneeling things. Memories of funerals and weddings and tone deaf singing ringing in my ears.  Being dragged out of the confession box by the sacristan when we got trapped inside because some ceremony started and we couldn’t escape.


My Dad arguing with Cardinal O’Fiaich at the altar during my confirmation because he had called me the wrong name. Exasperated, Tommy O’Fiaich, turned to me and said, “Look, will you just tell me your confirmation name and never mind him”.

Thoughts of the boys in the river and the desperate search for them on that hot Sunday. The fishermen rushing to their boats.  Locals scouring the whole length of the shoreline, desperately hoping they’d walked to a safety.  Why had they come into my head and why I had I told the Armagh people about them? Thoughts of Sandra, of the same Communion shoes fame, who still lives, now with her own family, next to the school. How she told me about how important it was for her that there were other non-white kids in her childrens’ school because her children are mixed race.

The memories and the thoughts were like ghosts whispering around me. I started to cry. I couldn’t stop crying alone in the semi-darkness.  It wasn’t maudlin in a, “my childhood was idyllic and constantly happy” kind of way. It was everything. As if every emotion and thought was crying to get out. And it was the feeling of belonging. In this place. At this time. Even, in this church.  The old Armagh man could read it straight away. Maybe in my face or the way I walked up the hill?  I belong to this place and it belongs to me. But I wasn’t even born here.  I don’t live there anymore but I own this part of the world and it owns me and no one can ever take that away from me.

Then, thoughts of those who have a place where they belong. A place that feels like this, for them. People who have to leave that home. Not because they want to travel the world but because they’re going to starve or be tortured and killed. Because their home has become a place of fear and death. Thoughts of the man from Afghanistan who set off with a large group to walk to the U.K. They lost a lot of the group along the way. Mostly the women and children. He’s stuck in a make shift hut in Calais. Calais used to be owned by England. Afghanistan used to be part of the British Empire. If he’d been born in a different time, he would have been a British citizen all along. Albeit a lesser one.

Thoughts of the story my friend Orla, (also from Blackrock),  had told me the day before about how she couldn’t stop sobbing at the stories she had read about the people being picked up in the Mediterranean by the Irish navy. People end up in the water and they hold onto their children for hours at a time. Gripping them tightly in desperation. Keeping their heads above water. After holding maybe multiple children in their arms, they, (if they’re lucky), get pulled out by these Irish people. And they find their children dead in their arms.  They’ve probably been dead for ages. They just needed to hold on. To hold their heads out of the water. But it wasn’t enough. Like Rowan Gillespie’s famine sculpture along the quays in Dublin, with the man with his dead child draped over his shoulders. It’s based on a real story of a man who walked for many miles carrying his child, not realising that his child was long dead on his back.


Thoughts of photos from the 60’s, of the most beautiful gardens in Afghanistan. Afghan people fought long and hard to stay in their homeland. It is a beautiful place. They don’t want to leave it until they have to leave it. Sudanese or Syrian people don’t think the U.K. is a really great place to go and live. It’s grey and cold, and so too, sometimes, are the people. They’d mostly like to stay in the places they know and love.

But if I want to go anywhere in the world, I expect to be able to go there. I have no idea why anyone should stop me. If I wanted to go to visit Afghanistan or Sudan or Syria, I’d take it as a personal affront, to be told I couldn’t. I go to the U.K. whenever I like. I could have a British passport if I wanted, simply because I was born there. I have an Irish passport simply because my parents were born here. I thought of the arbitrary nature of all of this and the pretence that there is some inalienable right to be somewhere on this planet and to keep others out. There isn’t. It’s not a natural law or anything. It’s just made up. These are the rules of the game. And it is just a game; with an ever changing set of rules, made up, not by nature, but by people. The current rules of the game dictate that my ‘belonging place’ is Blackrock, Co. Louth but that I can change that place to just about anywhere in the world and I am unlikely to be even called a migrant. Those are the rules. At the moment.

Were my parents migrants when they left to move to England? Or when they came back? I think of my Dad starting to tear up at my kitchen table last year, talking about those famous signs, “No Blacks. No Irish. No Dogs”. I have my answer. They were migrants when they went to England. They were just going home when they moved to Ireland. What of the 1970’s me though? Was I a migrant when I first came to Ireland? Probably not because my parents were born in Ireland. Yet, I could still have that British passport if I wanted. That would make me British wouldn’t it? I had a completely London accent, at the time. Does that make a difference? Keeping up? You’d better. The rules can change very quickly. For instance, one of the current rules is, “Call anyone travelling, on an overcrowded boat from Africa or Asia to Europe, ‘a migrant’. Not a ‘person’. Not even a ‘migrant person’. Just a ‘migrant’. There are verbs to use when referring to these ‘migrants’. ‘Swarming’ and ‘scurrying’ are acceptable.

Words are containers of meaning. The people who make up the rules, know this. Keeping up with the rules is difficult. Make sure you’re ahead of the game. Otherwise you could end up lost on the other side of the river. With the waters rising over your head.

I took my 1 cent and paid for a candle and lit it. I hope the church doesn’t mind. That was all I had on me. I thought of all of the people in the sea. That’s all it was though. A thought. It doesn’t take anyone out of the water.  I wished or prayed, or whatever you want to call it, for everything to be better.



Filed under Uncategorized

Manuel Castells on social movements, political parties, SYRIZA, Podemos, outrage and hope

This is a translated excerpt of an intervention by Manuel Castells, on the event of a revised edition of his Networks of Outrage of Hope. Also participating was Pablo Iglesias, Secretary General of Podemos, and Manuel Campo Vidal, journalist and TV presenter. Castells’s remarks are in response to contributions by the others (I may add Pablo Iglesias’s intervention, which was interesting in its own right, if I get the time).

(Translated excerpt from 28m to 45m.)

Manuel Castells

Manuel Castells

We are faced with a new historical form of social movements. Because when the same concrete forms, in terms of networks, in terms of collective leadership, in terms of proposals for rupture from a system, but not in a political sense but rather in a cultural and mental sense, when this gets repeated, time and again, in absolutely different contexts, whether in a crisis or not, in dictatorship or democracy, in Latin America or China, in Europe or anywhere else… not all countries have these movements. But in those that do have them, they are like this.

So this needs to make us reflect upon the new forms, let us call them networked movements (movimientos en red), which are those that correspond, from the point of view of the communicative, cultural and organisational structure, to the domination, the pre-eminence, of networks in our society.

This does not mean that these movements are made by the internet. This is something stupid that no-one has ever written. But without the internet they would be other movements, not these ones. And the thing is, if we do not have these ones, we have no others. That is what is happening in the world.

The other matter that I would like to address, in general terms, before going on to the more interesting part, which is our exchange here, rather than juxtaposed speeches, is that in the widest perspective of what I have tried to develop over many years, there are two basic elements.

One: social movements, throughout history, and not only nowadays, but always, are the agents of transformation, of cutures, of societies, and of institutions. If there are no social movements, there can be no transformation. There can be no transformation. As such, the institutions have to be changed from outside the institutions. That is the fundamental question that I have been setting forth in line with a long tradition of thought that highlights that implementation within institutions is absolutely necessary to change people’s lives. But without the fuel of social movements, this does not happen. And here I am in agreement with what was previously said, that the experience of history shows that when movements become locked in, when what remains of movements, the actors that emerge from movements, become locked within the institutions, the transformation comes to an end. Not only does the movement come to an end. The transformation comes to an end.

Movements always come to an end. Movements always die. Whether through repression, or they are co-opted, or through integration. But the important thing is: how do they die? And what do they die for? And how can they be reproduced again? If their death is fertile, and if new forms of living are born through new institutional forms, new cultural forms, then they have played their role of transformation. And if not, it is simply a great heroic collective attempt to change lives that is defeated, and history is full of defeats and victories. But whenever there are transformative victories, they are always through social movements. There is not a single case where transformation has come out of institutions. This is a very serious thing. Because it means that if things really must be changed, this cannot be expected of political parties. As simple as that. Traditional political parties rooted in the institutions of the State. When these political parties are no longer inspired by ideological projects that are utopian, social, based on popular demands, they go on to become machines of that State, and that State reproduces; it does not produce.

Now, at the same time, the relation outlined here, and I’m moving on now to concrete matters, between party and movement, is complex, and fundamental. Why? Because transformation -and here we agree- is not produced merely through narrowly political action. The transformation is cultural, it is mental. It is people’s minds. Deep down, the way in which we think, the way in which we act. And that way of thinking is not eternal. It is constantly modelled and modulated. And it is for this reason that communication is the space of power. For that very reason. Because the ability of any given project -be it of transformation or repression or domination- depends on conquering people’s minds, be it through adherence, or through resignation, which is what is generally happening. Be it out of enthusiasm that things can be changed, or for fear of changing. At this point of time, for example, in Europe, the big battle is the conservative offensive aimed at inciting fear. And what is more they are trying to do this through one paradigmatic example: Syriza. We have to make people afraid with Syriza. If you support Syriza, the same thing will happen to you. You will have no money. You will have nothing to eat. You won’t be able to open your banks. Fear.

Image from Pablo Iglesias's Twitter avatar, 17th July

Alexis Tsipras and Pablo Iglesias

Against fear, which is the most basic of human emotions, there are only two reactions. This has been studied empirically. There are only two antidotes. One: outrage (indignación). I am so outraged that I cannot bear more of this humiliation, this injustice, I cannot bear any longer to have no dignity, that I explode regardless of the consequences. That is what happened with the referendum in Greece. But the other matter is hope. That’s why I called my book Networks of Outrage and Hope. Because after outrage, there must be a positive emotion that says, beyond this, we have to hope for something. What? And here we have the difference between party and movement. Movements are simply emotional. All movements are emotional. They have no programme. Throughout history, they have no programme. Or they have a programme that includes everything. Everything at once. Occupy Wall Street had 375 concrete demands, very concrete ones, like the end of US military bases across the whole planet. Well, programmes of that kind, ok, but these are utopias, desires, positive emotions for change.

This then has to be processed by the institutions, and therefore by political actors. But which political actors? That is the question. Political actors that are constitutively capable of processing that kind of emotion, this kind of hope. To spell it out: it is not the same thing to propose, to traditional political parties that form part of professional politics, a series of demands that these parties then put in an electoral manifesto in order go on just the same as before or make small reforms, as it is to be a political instrument for social and cultural transformation. That is, ultimately, a transformation in how we live, and what we live for. That is something completely different. That is why I do not just talk about parties and movements but of transformative parties or parties that reproduce the social order on the whole.

Going back to a few of the things you have said. The 15M was an explosion of outrage towards what was happening. It had no programme. It had no real leadership. There were calls made, but this is not leadership. It was spontaneous. And it was built simultaneously on social networks and in the street. I agree with Pablo [Iglesias] that the street, provides, above all, the visibility that those who are not on social networks cannot have. It also appeared on TV, but badly, and this is something that Manuel and I have been arguing over for a long time: I think that traditional media outlets are essential, provided they cease to be traditional. Because these media outlets are the property of governments or the property of companies that have not the slightest interest in social change. And the only thing that redeems them are the journalists. I am not being a demagogue here: because there are professional journalists who risk their position, who do not allow themselves to be manipulated, but who do not always win, and many times they lose. They lose, that is to say, they are sacked, or they have to shut up, and we have many instances of this.

So, it is not true that traditional media outlets are the engine of change. But what is true is that if there is no presence, in some way, in traditional media outlets, then the message is limited in terms of the spheres it can reach. Let us take a very clear example here: how does one then get this message across? One, through professional journalists who resist. Two, by creating events on such a scale that they cannot be treated with disdain. And that was in large part what the social movements did. Social movements create a situation that one can try to manipulate, but only to a certain extent. Or, the penetration of this space controlled and manipulated by government or capitalist firms…this the specific case of Spain – this is an example, it is not always like this- there is a movement. This movement is built on social networks. The networks go on existing. The networks never stop. This is why these movements are different from others. They go on working, constantly.


To give an example from the United States, when everyone said Occupy Wall Street has died: well, as a movement yes, because there never was an articulated movement. And after six months occupying more than a thousand American cities, there were no further occupations of that kind. But the people (emphasis) who were there remain, and the networks remain. And so what happens? Suddenly there is another flaring up of outrage, the serial killings of black people in the United States, and Ferguson bursts forth, as do demonstrations throughout the country, white and black people, and the whole present movement, Black Lives Matter, that emerges from these same networks that were there. Any thing that occurs in society, now, there will no longer be any silence about it. Every time there is an injustice, it now emerges in every society.

Now, it emerges where it emerges. That is, this does not guarantee positive or negative effects in normative terms. And here is where organised, conscious, reflective political action has an essential role. As such, the movement is the source of social change. The new type of party that can emerge from those movements is the form of articulation without which it is difficult to go on to change institutions.

So. If the parties that emerge from these movements, of Podemos’s type, after a while become parties that are the same as the others, that is, a new left, this becomes part of the same caste. It becomes professional politics. It becomes -to be frank- like Izquierda Unida (United Left). The only purpose they serve is to accompany the system.

So, the big question is how, whilst being a political actor inside the institutions, with constitutional obligations etc etc, this fire of transformation, and this material connection with what is happening in society, can be maintained.

Ada Colau

Ada Colau

Only one example comes to mind, but one that I am witnessing: in Barcelona, Ada Colau and the whole team of Barcelona en Comú are trying to run the city, they are carrying out projects, but the neighbourhoods are more active than ever. The social networks are more active than ever. And you know what? These municipal coalitions, or in the future, a Podemos with national responsibilities, have a small problem. They can only be good. If they get perverted, they cease to exist, because they live on the basis of the trust they have generated. If this trust is betrayed, and they become another PSOE with a purple tint, this will disappear or be absorbed by the PSOE, or it becomes the PSOE, which is something else. It will go on to carry out the same role of reproducing the system with other hues. That is the big difference between the attempts to regenerate the left and the attempts to change society. The majority of people voting for these coalitions, and for Podemos, think they are changing society. There is data to support this – Jaime Miquel, the best electoral analyst in Spain, who I am grateful to have here today, has been convincing me of this.

Now, even in these conditions..even..for me things are very simple: a transformative party is not the same as a traditional political party. And this party of transformation is defined by its connection to what continues to exist in terms of desire for change on social networks, in society, in neighbourhood organisations, in labour organisations etc.

The final fundamental question for the final two, three minutes I have. The space of political action that is national, and global powers that are global. This exists, this is what the movement for a just globalisation sought to tackle, and in that sense it was a great social movement that laid out how social transformation could be achieved in this world. And in fact, the only things we are seeing is that from local governments, such as the current municipal coalitions we now have in Spain…there has been a real municipal revolution, and the world has discovered this but here it appears not. But there has been a municipal revolution. This municipal revolution is scalable on networks of municipal change that exist throughout the world. As such the old idea of scaling to the global level through linking up the local is one of the ways. The other is that the capacity of national states where there is a transformative process, to articulate systems of reciprocal defence against global powers is the potential horizon. This is what has happened in Latin America. In Latin America, states that have been transformed by new kinds of social movements, whatever you think of this state or that, but there has been a movement of support with regard to international relations. Relying upon other economic powers, for example China. Well, it is not that I believe Podemos’s salvation lies in an alliance with China, but I wish to point out that the world is a bit wider. And, ultimately, we really have to believe the idea of the internet as a global network of wills, projects, and debate. Because if deep down the ultimate transformation is a cultural and mental transformation, of people throughout the world, then beyond political institutions, beyond alliances between states or city councils or parties, there is the constant and permanent connection of minds throughout the world, who coincide on the point that we can no longer put up with this, and that the question is how to overcome fear.


Filed under Uncategorized