The Boy Who Shouldn’t Be King

A long time ago, in a village far, far away a boy was creating havoc. He was lashing out at the villagers, calling them All Ireland Champion Whingers and telling fantastical tales of adventures that never happened. The villagers, fed up of the Boy Who Cried 2 Pints, sent the lad to bed with no supper.

But the boy was not to be stopped. Deciding to run away, he put on his fathers suit and climbed aboard a small boat to the mysterious island known as Dáiland. As well as people similar to those in the village the island of Dáiland was filled with malicious Beasts known as Politician’s. The boy, trying to find his place, spent years ducking and dodging them.

Slowly, he grew more confident. He recalled the tale of the Man With 2 Pints and how he’d tricked some of the villagers. So he began to tell even taller tales. Extravagant stories and preposterous claims were told to the Beasts over and over. He spoke to them of a place where everything was wonderful that he called Retrospective Recapitalisation Land.

He spun fables of his feats of daring-do; including one about how he faced down the Evil Hordes looking to carry away all the ATM’s in Dáiland. The boy convinced the Politicians to make him their king with promises of things he called Allowances and Unvouched Expenses.

As king, the boy ordered the Politician’s do to all sorts of wild and crazy things. He told them the more they break things the better the Recovery will be. The Political Beasts, so excited by the freedom of not having to tell the truth anymore, went stomping all over the island. Kicking Austerity Dust into the faces of the inhabitants and telling them it’s part of Keeping the Recovery Going.

The people, once they’d spat the Austerity Dust out of their mouths, weren’t pleased. They set about organising and challenging the Political Beasts. The Beasts, worried that their party might be cut short, turned on the boy king. But he was ready for them, he knew the best way to cover up a lie was to tell an even bigger lie.

So the boy king told the Beasts that he was following orders from a higher power, which he called “The Troika”. He said he’d gladly step aside and let one of the Beasts take over, but he warned them that The Troika eat Beasts for breakfast! Needless to say, the Beasts scurried back all over Dáiland and told the inhabitants of The Troika and how they’d better not make anymore trouble, for all their sake’s.

The boy king, so happy that he’s lies had gone unchallenged went back to partying. He even came up with a way to handle the occasional misstep. Whenever a Beast or an Islander would step out of line, the boy king would simply have them locked up in an Inquiry. And yet…

And yet the boy king felt incomplete. No amount of records set, achievements or accomplishments could fill the hollow in his heart. The boy king, if he had the ability to tell the truth, would have admitted that he would never truly be happy in the knowledge that a village far, far away is still missing its idiot.

 

Tony Groves March 2017

Any similarities to people living or dead are purely coincidental…

Trumps Animal Farm

I’ve been asked three times this week “Why don’t you write about Trump?” and I never really had a good enough response. The truth is that my hot take on the Golden Shower scandal is as lukewarm as a week old urine sample.

The other fact is that I don’t really care all that much what the (soon to be) President did or did not get up to, his proclivities are his business. But I do care about, as should we all, his Business and Businesses. We should care deeply.

“I’m not a businessman, I’m a Business,man.” – Jay Z

Watching the world go into collective hysterics over Trumps unintentionally(or intentionally) hysterical “Press Conference“, I wasn’t sure how to react. Luckily my kids were there to put things in context. Out of the mouths of babes…

I’ve been reading Animal Farm to the kids and they drew my attention to a Napoleon (the dictatorial pig) and Donald Trump (the wannabe dictatorial pig) parallel. If you’re not familiar with the story, Animal Farm is basically a tale of how downtrodden animals revolt against the oppression of human beings, only to find themselves under the oppression of their fellow Comrades, the pigs. A salutary tale, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

What my kids observed was this: Trump and his gang shouting down the attempts of a CNN journalist to ask a question was exactly the same as when having given orders contrary to the Animals Commandments, Napoleon has the sheep start bleating “Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad”, thus drowning out any opposition.

After such a “meeting” Squealer – Napoleon’s Press Secretary –  would trot around the farm to placate the animals and assure them that Leader Napoleon was only making these changes for their own good. Trump’s incoming press secretary Sean Spicer fills this role in the real world version. But Spicer doesn’t seem to have Squealers persuasive skills, relying instead on bullying and threats and yet…

Yet none of this Non Fake News, Fake News circus matters when put into context of Trumps cabinet picks. I read this morning that former Irish Health Minister, James Reilly is in trouble for accepting a donation of €1,000. The donation amount is not in breach of the Standards In Public Office (SIPO) regulations, it is the fact that he took it in cash that’s put him on the wrong side of the law. A minor breach, but a breach nonetheless.

Now let’s look at the Trump cabinet, not the individuals, but at their candidacy. Rather, let’s not look at their candidacy, as many of his picks have not completed the required Ethics Review or submitted the required SIPO paperwork. The fact that these checks are required has not stopped the candidates undergoing their Confirmation Hearings.

These hearings are designed to allow Senators, who have access to the Ethics Reviews reports on the candidate, an opportunity to question candidates as to their suitability for their potential role. So what we have now is a group of trumps picks, without proper vetting, being questioned by Senators who have none of the information required to ask pertinent questions.

I don’t really care about what did or did not happen in a Moscow hotel room. I care deeply about a Cabinet of people taking office, who potentially have more ethical flaws and conflicts of interests than any other Cabinet since the birth of democracy.

Trumps presidency has already had more scandal than in the entire eight years of the Obama administration. While everyone was on a Buzzfeed Buzz, Trumps pick were busily being rush through their Confirmation Hearings. While the world was going mad over whether Trump is compromised by a Russian dossier, he was busy compromising an already fragile democracy. That is the Real News.

So forgive me for not getting swept up in the Golden Shower-Gate, but “a donkey lives a long time“.

Tony Groves January 2017

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Chekhov is my favourite writer. His descriptive brevity has opened my mind in more ways than any metaphor laden prose has ever done. His short story, The Huntsman, is a continual source of inspiration. Capturing the beauty in the bleakness of life is no mean feat. No one does it like Chekhov. Chekhov was a Centrist.

Tolstoy, on the other hand, is anything but. He writes with a goal. He writes with an ambition. When he wrote War & Peace, he wasn’t neutral. His voice was in the characters, the journey was turned in directions of his ideological choosing. He is a participant in his work. Tolstoy was a Protagonist.

A little known fact, Chekhov and Tolstoy were great friends. Tolstoy often critiqued his friends writing by saying he could improve it greatly if he’d only offer the reader “a point of view”.  Chekhov, for his part, hated Tolstoy’s moralising and pontificating. They’d argue and malign each other often, but remained true friends until Chekhov’s untimely death, aged only 44. It was the ultimate irony that Chekhov, the Doctor, worried terribly about Tolstoy’s health.

Get to the point Tony!

The point is simple really. 2016 saw a shutting down of hard won advances in human rights. Trump, Brexit and victories for Far Right political parties have promised to curb the rise of “snowflake” liberalism. Liberals, so sure of the rightness of their arguments, have failed to explain themselves. Choosing to wring their hands and mourn, rather than take direct action. Liberals and true Social Democrats have (mostly) seceded the floor to the Right.

The Irish Times gave a platform to a man who threatened refugee children, to explain and normalise the rise of the “Alt Right”

The Irish Political Right, so embarrassed by the actions of their fellow ideologists, have re-branded themselves as Centrists. Paschal Donohoe, recently described himself as “a liberal centrist”. The daftness of this statement went unchallenged. Paschal represents a Right Wing Free Market Ideology that has failed people since inception and most spectacularly since the 2007 global financial crisis.

Fine Gael (and to a lesser degree Fianna Fail) wanting to distance themselves from this have decided to say they are Centrists. Michael Noonan even went so far as to quote W.B Yeats:

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

Centrist sounds great, it sounds sensible; because if it was good enough for Chekhov, it’s good enough for us, right? Wrong.

To be Centrist in the modern political landscape is to play it safe. It’s to obfuscate decisions. It’s to kick the can down the road when faced with difficult choices. to be a Centrist is to be set, to be set is to be stuck, to be stuck is to be unable to move or change. Centrists then, by definition, merely protect the status quo and are blockers to change. Give me the much derided Populist Dreamer over the Feet of Concrete Centrist any day.

When you hear a Fine Gael Minister or spokesperson say Centrist, remember it means Right Wing. Say to yourself that the fulcrum of the Global Right has shifted to far to the so called Alt Right that the old fashioned Right Wing Free Market Merchants are scared. So scared and afraid to challenge it that they want to pretend they’re not associated with it.

Enda Kenny even went so far as to warn against the rise of the Far Right. Having spent his entire time in government sowing the Right Wing seeds, he’s now complaining about the crop he helped cultivate. You couldn’t make it up.

So in  2017 it is the duty of Social Democrats and Snowflake Liberals to yell “Bullshit”. Whenever we see a wolf in sheep clothing, we must signal the alarm. Yes, I prefer Chekhov’s Centrist literature. But I’d rather have a pint and discuss Tolstoy’s Societal Ambition, than sit and sulk over Chekhov’s Centrist staidness.

 

Tony Groves January 2017