Thursday, April 28, 2005
BUT I'm going to make an exception because I'm fit to burst and I either get it out of my system here or I punch a wall. This is going to be a rant and probably not very lucid but I don't care...
I'm a salaried worker and I'm good at what I do - I work hard, I don't fuck up, I get on with people and I don't swan around with the airs and graces of those who believe they deserve promotions or huge pay rises simply because they've been around for a couple of years and say the right things in meetings. I'm not ambitious in the way most people understand it in that I look at the job functions of the managers further up the pyramid and think that those jobs wouldn't appeal to me - I'm happy doing what I do and caring about the outside world instead.
I work for a major drug production company and I have quite a hands-on role, which I like. Simple ideas and changes I've made in the past 18 months or so have saved / earned the plant millions of dollars. That is no exaggeration - the value of bulk drug product is staggering and incomprehensible to most people outside the industry. I have saved the company the equivalent of my wages and pension for the rest of life and beyond and I'm only here four years. I'm a good solo worker in that if I'm told what to do, and I'm left to get on with it, then I always get the job done (this makes my boss' life that bit easier, which, he tells me regularly, he appreciates).
So what's wrong? Well I've always worked long hours but it comes and goes - sometimes you're busy and stay late, sometimes you've everything set-up nicely and running smoothly, so you get to stick to your hours. The plant is also a 24-hour facility and, every now and then, I'll get called in in the middle of the night to resolve some issue. In the last calendar year I worked 185 hours of overtime, which is nearly five full weeks or the equivalent of my holidays for the year. I don't get a penny of extra pay for that - it's free labour for the company. But still I don't mind any of this.
But, as this year has gone on, there has been an exponential increase in the company's response to what it believes to be the regulatory requirements of the facility. Simply put, there are now more and more staff tasked to assessing (interpreting, really, which is quite different) regulations and their implications for the facility. This, in turn, has greatly increased the amount of documentation and training required to keep the plant "compliant" as these bureaucrats churn out directive after directive. Don't anyone ever doubt that the big drug companies don't take people's health seriously. It may be because stock price matters more than what Jimmy Nobody's family might think of a pharmaceutical-induced premature death, but the point is they care and it is to people's benefit.
I've just come from an ordinary weekly meeting that has lasted nearly two hours. I'm typing this and skipping lunch. I have yet to do any of my own jobs today and I'm in training (again) between three and five. In that meeting my four (yes four) managers have talked and talked and talked. The Irish Medicine Board is auditing our plant next week. We should have absolutely nothing to worry about because the place is spotless and we're all diligent, honest workers. There's a paper trail for every single little thing we do, right down to cleaning the windows and checking the rodent traps. So what was the problem? One was the fact that hoses had been capped with a mixture of blue and yellow plastic caps and "that might lead to awkward questions"! Why the fuck would it? They're plastic fucking caps - some are yellow and some are blue, who gives a shit?. There was a 20 minute discussion about how to manage the situation!
But I'm used to that shite now. The problem is that the necessity to work long hours used to be intermittent, now it's permanent. The meetings, the training and the extra paperwork are taking up the whole day. The job I'm actually being paid to do, the one on which my end of year performance is assessed, can only be done on my own time and my head is wrecked. Yet the four managers, who know all this, sat and reamed off all the tasks they expect us to complete before the audit. If I'm to get it all done I needn't leave the place for the next week.
And how was the (two hour) meeting concluded? By announcing that teams comprising, yes, me, and the other nine at my level, are to be setup to do regular floor audits "to stay focused on plant cleanliness". So the union guys on shift, who earn (easily) twice what I do, can't be relied upon to keep the place clean anymore. Instead we have to do up cleaning lists to tell them where to go to clean up spillages and wipe dust from ledges. These floor audits could take the best part of two hours every two days. Fucking bastards...
This post will not be edited when I calm down. I'll assume my managers all still have their heads so far up their own holes that they'll never come across this.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Friday, April 22, 2005
Now you can read Delevan's take on it and the subsequent reactions (and I know Dermo is well able to look after himself) but I did feel quite bothered by the quote. The provisional republican movement has hijacked our history and the birth of our nation and bastardised our flag and symbols. Now they insult our very nationhood by referring to a Government minister in pre-Republic, Commonwealth terms. The tag "Free State Minister" throws up all sorts of connotations - not least denying the legitimacy of the State that I claim to be a citizen of. I live in Ireland and any northerner who doesn't like it can lump it.
These things matter, though, because the provisional republican movement is quite possibly the most sinister organisation of its size in Western Europe - it has no parallels in terms of organised crime, agents with high status in society or an ability to assault the electoral process. Islamo-fascism anywhere; the BNP in Britain; the fascists in France; the neo-Nazis in Germany; the Basque movements in Spain; even the Mafia in Italy are all small fry with relatively small agendas. It has to be understood that the provisional republican movement has only one goal - a united Ireland with them in charge (and for a very long time).
Well... duh, you might think, except what people don't realise is that this peace "process" is a con, a monumental fudge. How can any peace process take this long and still be as far away from a resolution as ever? I'll tell you what their plan is, it's really quite simple. A military victory was impossible especially as the British and Irish security forces had significantly infiltrated the movement (though not as completely as they like to think). An agreement of the 1922 type was also impossible as repartition moved a united Ireland even further away and unionism had already become even more entrenched after 25 years of troubles. Ongoing violence meant that electoral successes would forever be fleeting, so the plan that was formed was another twin-track approach.
Instead of the ballot box and the gun it became the ballot box and the peace process with the peace process being the new weapon of choice. An eternally dragged out peace process, with concession after concession made over time by governments petrified of getting the blame for a return to violence. Simultaneously, the provisional republican movement reaps the peace dividend on both sides of the border as the violence fades in people's memory. The money "earned" to buy guns is, instead, channeled into political marketing - posters, ads, election workers on every doorstep. Politicians coached in the use of language, everything done "with the greatest respect..." Elections effectively being bought.
The secret is to mobilise the voters. In these times of apathy, Sinn Fein voters can be relied upon to make it to the polls. Recently, in an Irish by-election in Meath, Sinn Fein's percentage share of the vote grew, but they had a similar number of total votes i.e. in a low turnout all their voters turned up. In the last British General Election the national turnout was just under 60%. The highest turnout in the whole of the UK was 81.3% in Mid-Ulster, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness winning the seat. The second and third highest turnouts in the North that year were West Tyrone and Fermanagh / South Tyrone. Both constituencies returned Sinn Fein MPs.
While the Peace Process has been ongoing the two governments have been afraid to attack Sinn Fein (although the junior Irish coalition partner, the Progressive Democrats, have done a lot of sounding-off over the years). You rarely, if ever, hear an attack on Sinn Fein's economic policies for instance. I bet most people don't even know what any of their policies are, to be honest. Yet the electoral successes mount. Sinn Fein, because of their large membership, are very active in Working Class constituencies that traditionally have a poor voter turnout. They are perceived to be "doing something" for those localities hence they tap in to an under-exploited source of votes. Money laundering and murders are irrelevant. Since the end of Civil War politics in Ireland in the '70s and '80s, voting has become increasingly parochialised.
So what is the plan? Well it is to continue to use the peace process to neutralise the constitutional parties in both Britain and Ireland and to keep unionism split and marginalised. Then, eventually, the electoral successes in the North will result in Sinn Fein being the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, with a Sinn Fein leader as First Minister. Simultaneously, ongoing electoral successes in Ireland would ultimately leave Sinn Fein holding the balance of power and, possibly, ending up in a coalition government. Sinn Fein in power North and South simultaneously. I'll leave the rest to the imagination...
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
I think I would have liked to have seen a Latin American pope but that's irrelevant now. Pope Benedict needs to be given a chance. Slating a papacy as "[continuing an] orthodoxy which could seem so harsh in its impact", before it's even started, just smacks of standard Brit Catholic-bashing.
The piece finishes by saying "this Benedict takes the top job... as a theological pugilist who is willing to sacrifice popular appeal in the cause of doctrinal purity." Well, good. A-la-carte catholicism is pointless - you either believe or you do not. Yes, women should be equal partners within the church, even if the Church stops short of women vocations; yes, homosexuals should be treated with love, dignity and respect, even if the church does not agree with or support that lifestyle choice and, yes, social justice should be a leading theme. But doctrine should not be watered down to suit the personal agendas of the affluent west.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
I don't believe that the Church has to evolve to suit first world individualism/greed but I do think a pope capable of connecting with people's spirituality is necessary and I think this pope may be a little too politicised for that. A pope that concentrates on Christ's basic message would do more in these times than a pope arguing strongly on narrow points of doctrine.
I would have preferred a third world pope myself although, again, my reasoning there would be pretty vague. Still, if my history is up to scratch, the last Benedict was a man of peace who tried, on numerous occasions to halt the senseless imperial slaughter that was World War 1. Maybe there's something in his choice of name?
But this British election is turning out to be dangerously more cynical than I feared and maybe another huge Labour majority is required. The Tories' election strategy is crystal clear - play to fears and prejudices, xenophobia and racism. Middle Class liberals, particularly young adults, won't bother to vote and enough of the working classes, being persuaded that immigrants are the reason for their deprivation, will join the Little Englanders and vote for the tough Tories.
The "Tory" press in Britain is leading the charge on their behalf. Last week the Daily Mail ran a story about immigrants in Calais queuing in droves to enter Britain, complete with pictures. However on Sunday the Observer, investigating the claims, ran a counter-article asking "where all the asylum seekers had gone" i.e. no queues and interviews with African men claiming that entry to Britain is impossible.
Of course all of this is relevant to Ireland too, for we seem to be following in Britain's footsteps. We don't have immigration on anything like the same scale yet the Irish people already resent the few we have. The referendum of last June proved that. The rumours, the lies, the Chinese whispers. People believing only what they want to believe (immigrant mothers chucking brand new prams in the river because they know the State will give them another one, for God's sake!).
Here's the truth about immigration as far as I'm concerned:
- An aging Europe requires a huge influx of immigrants to work and, therefore, pay the taxes that will in, in turn, pay our pensions and our healthcare. Why? Because we're not having enough kids and we're having them later in life.
- Immigrants, historically, are net economic contributors to society. Look at the US for proof of this - the most succesful society in the history of the world that exists solely because of mass immigration.
- Immigrants work, pay taxes and, even if drawing welfare, still spend money. After all the foundation stone of capitalism and the global market is a perpetual increase in consumption. As populations drop the requirements for goods and services drop and, ironically, this leads to unemployment and another layer of people who can't afford to buy existing goods and services - constant economic stagnation, as the people of France are discovering.
- People claim that only skilled migrants should be allowed into a country i.e. those that will not become a "burden" on the state. But this does not take into account the destabilising affects of skilled people leaving their own communities behind.
At a moral level I believe that all people really are equal - I don't just say that and add qualifiers that, because I'm lucky enough to have been born in my Safe European Home, I therefore, somehow, deserve better opportunities from life than others. The term "economic migrants" is used in disparaging terms. I really don't know why. What's wrong with moving to lands of greater opportunity? Does anyone really believe that Africans, for example, only want to sit around drawing welfare? And is it fair to generalise about entire continents?
If people believe that large-scale immigration causes social problems then they have to accept that these social problems are based on racism pure and simple. People that come from another country are different so, therefore, they deserve less. Self-segregation is rampant because the hosts don't want to know and the immigrants know this and often don't want to know themselves. If that sounds unfair then ask if the race riots of 2001 in Northern England would have happened if there had been a mass movement of other English people into those towns.
If anyone reading this from Europe or America was denied passage to another country they would feel, rightly, aggrieved yet this is the reality facing the vast majority of the world's population. A species that evolved by migration over many thousands of years has spent less than a hundred restricting the free movement of people.
I support genuinely free trade, I'm no anti-globaliser. But free trade without free movement of people is immoral and it is time that people in authority or positions of influence started educating the masses on the true meaning of equality.
I must say I loved Liverpool. Everybody was so friendly - bar staff, waiters, taxi drivers, Anfield stewards, police. That last one's not a joke - I asked a policewoman where a good area to go out in would be, I wasn't arrested or anything. I'm not sure it's the sort of city couples would enjoy... I'll leave that train of thought there although I will say that I've never in my life had two girls argue over who was going to have me in Ireland!
If anyone reading this is interested, I stayed in a Premier Travel Inn in the city centre, clean, comfortable, reasonable rates and slap bang in the city centre. As well as the football, I went to the Albert Docks (restored docklands), which is full of bars and restaurants and also has the Tate Gallery and Beatles Museum. The docks is a 5 - 10 minute stroll from the city centre. In the city must of the bars, restaurants and clubs seem to be in the Cavern Quarter or Concert Square.
Topic for next post (following another anger fuelled drive to and from Dublin) - why are Irish drivers, and in particular those from Cork, so completely shit?
Thursday, April 14, 2005
The 'pool were absolutely excellent last night - beating the Italians at their own game. It wasn't the visual feast that was the first half of the game in Anfield but it was a master class in disciplined football. The punters around me in the pub weren't too inspired by it all, but then I've long since been convinced that most Irish people know sweet FA about the Beautiful Game.
Anyway the gits better win on my first visit to Anfield!
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
I'm not trying to defend religion as such. Now I'm in complete danger of sounding elitist here, but I look around me and wonder at how aware people are of their lives - it seems to me that, inevitably, all people live in bubbles of varying degrees of ignorance. The vast, vast majority of people just don't think about the meaning of the lives they lead - ignorance is bliss. Now if you believe that no value system can be naturally derived from atheism then what moral value system would the world have if there was a universal realisation that this is all we have? An atheist with moral values often claims to be humanist to escape (what I believe to be) a moral dilemma. But even accepting humanism at face value, would enough people in the world decide they were also humanist in order to maintain a civilisation that has just realised this is all they have?
I just don't think they would (there is a school of thought that suggests that if around 10% of a population revolt, civil society breaks down and a state of anarchy will reign). The injustices perpetrated in the name of God isn't really my point nor is the notion that to be good one must have God (as a race we seem to manage to slaughter millions of our fellows regardless of whether we claim a God or not). My point is (and don't read this and conclude that I believe in much religious doctrine) that it is the world's religions that have provided us with the basic moral compasses that makes us "civilised" and I believe that, if the world's religions were to collapse, there is nothing strong enough in place to replace them. In fact I think my point is that a particular John Lennon song is, frankly, bollox.
Monday, April 11, 2005
One of the loudest criticisms levelled at the church today is its "responsibility" for exacerbating the AIDS crisis in Africa because of its opposition to the use of condoms. Now I'm open to correction here, but does the church not also teach abstinence before marriage and fidelity to your spouse until death do you part? If people actually lived that way then isn't it reasonable to hypothesise that AIDS would not be anything like the epidemic that it is? If people choose not to live their lives that way (I don't) then is it fair to cherry-pick one aspect of Catholic doctrine and hold it responsible for the epidemic? Perhaps the church has aggressively restricted the availability of condoms in areas but does that really explain the explosion of AIDS in Africa? It certainly doesn't explain the AIDS crisis currently gripping Russia.
Personally I'm agnostic, in that I accept that the existence of God can neither be proved nor disproved and that religious belief, therefore, is blind faith. I choose to believe because it makes life that bit easier to live. For example, if I only have a finite existence, why waste my time doing... well, anything? I often wonder what would be the result if all the people of the world were to become atheist? Anarchy, rampant individualism / survival of the fittest and state repression of unimaginable proportions IMHO. However I certainly believe that the Catholicism of my childhood - "Do onto others..."; "Love one another..."; the God of love, peace and forgiveness - has taught me to be the person I profess to be today. I don't believe that any value system can be derived from Atheism. So I often wonder why the Church feels the need to divert from the core teachings of the gospels.
When I was a kid I read something, somewhere, that asked why the Churches should be expected to change their teachings in order to fit better with modern living. That point has stuck with me. You either accept Church teachings or you don't - how can it be a pick and mix? I don't pretend to live according to all Catholic doctrine so I no longer pretend that I'm a practicing Catholic. That doesn't mean I can't respect Catholic teaching that I have chosen to ignore. If the church were to return to a simple message of peace and charity, respect for life and respect for one's fellow man, they could well find an audience among those who increasingly realise that affluence does not automatically bring happiness and fulfillment.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Last night I was at the Interpol gig in the Olympia in Dublin - the gig that I got a present of tickets for at Christmas. They were most excellent, really very enjoyable. I must also mention the stunningly relaxing journey I had this morning as well - I was staying in Portmarnock, north Co. Dublin, last night and got a DART (Dublin light rail) into the city at exactly 7am. I then got a LUAS (city tram) from the Northern railway station (Connolly) to the Southern (Heuston) at 7:30, had time to buy a paper, get a coffee and a sandwich (all very reasonable) before catching the Intercity to Cork at 8:30, which was in Cork at 11:30.
Very unremarkable, you would think, but mention public transport in this country and just about everybody will have a horror story to tell. I have to say, though, that I have never had a problem with the buses or trains. It's true that, for example, you can't get a train direct from Ireland's second city to any city other than Dublin. But it's also true that the population is just too small and east-coast centred to make any such service remotely viable. The return Intercity service and associated connections cost a total of €60.35, which is a bit prohibitive, but understandable to be honest. In general the problems with Irish public transport stem from a lack of capacity at peak commuter times. If, like me, you tend to travel at more abnormal times then there's rarely a problem but those services are never full.
Anyway enough of all that. The question above was posed by a fellow passenger on the Intercity service this morning. I had copies of Private Eye and the Guardian (as well as an Irish Times). "Well", I explained, "First of all Private Eye is funny and it does a particularly good job savaging and satirising hypocrisy, and exposing conflicts of interest, in both the British establishment and the British media in a way that no Irish publication does here."
Then I said "I buy the Guardian and the Observer because their world news sections tend to be more informative as they have better resources with which they can report from far-flung corners of the world. Also their op-ed writers are simply better than those writing in the Irish papers". Finally I said "I like the Irish Times but I won't buy any Irish Sunday newspapers because they're all piss-poor rags and I wouldn't wipe my arse with the Sunday Independent" (get off that fence me!).
I went on to explain something that I really don't think Irish people realise - the British General Election is very relevant to Ireland as a nation. Politics in Britain is becoming ever more cynical and ever more populist. The two main parties are pandering to the lowest common denominators in the fight for votes - crime, immigration and the NHS seem to be the big issues or, rather, they have been turned into the big issues by the two main parties.
Labour seem to have virtually stolen all of the Tories' central policies so the Tories have been forced into becoming ever more right-wing in order to keep an identity. Both Labour and the Tories are on a mission to scare the British people into voting for them. Fear is their weapon and they're both wielding it relentlessly - and will continue to do so for the next month. Labour are bad but the Tories' master plan would appear to be that, if they can't persuade Labour voters to defect, they'll at least try and persuade them to abstain with all the negativity. That's how cynical electioneering has got in the UK - disenfranchise people emotionally if not literally.
So what's the relevance to Ireland? Well, whether we Irish like it or not, our country is modelled on Britain - similar government, the same legal system and principles, a similar state education system, a similar tax and welfare system and a similar health service. At least that's the theory - for all the complaining done about the NHS it really is light years ahead of what we have. Ditto public transport etc. But my point is that if a policy is implemented in Britain we tend to follow suit. If Labour gets its way and introduces ID cards, for example, we won't be far behind and (as we seem to have a similar drink-fuelled crime problem and similar urban disillusionment) the recently introduced ASBOs (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders) could soon be introduced here with people being slapped with curfews and other such things on the evidence of hearsay.
No one has sympathy for teenage thugs terrorising people in run down estates but there is already ample evidence that ASBOs are being abused by the sort of people that will vote for whichever party promises to kick the most immigrants out of the country and lock up the most "criminals". And, like I say, we'll be right there behind them given half a chance. Is solving the causes of crime on anyone's agenda? Maybe we'll get lucky and the Lib Dems will hold the balance of power...
I'm pretty sure that person regretted opening their gob in the first place after all that.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
They did concede one after all. Still 2-1 considering the two teams on paper is some result. Not sure about next week. To be honest I hope football just doesn't get tarnished with more violence. Watching the Italians boo and turn their backs on the Liverpool fans' gestures of contrition and friendship was not pleasant.
Monday, April 04, 2005
This month's Observer Sport Monthly has an excellent treatment of the disaster, its aftermath and the memories 20 years on. It has absorbed a lot of my thought over the last 24 hours and in advance of tomorrow night's game. I really hope Liverpool Football Club handle the occasion with dignity and respect.
However I'm not sure I've ever quite seen a journalist screw an interviewee over quite as completely as Jamie Jackson has Phil Neal - Liverpool's captain that night. Don't get me wrong, Neal deserves it if that's his attitude - making money off the backs of dead people. It reads absolutely terribly and Phil Neal should be ashamed of himself. I wonder if that's the last we'll hear of it?...
On a side note the egg-chasing is over for another year and nice and early too for good measure. Simon Heald on dangerhere.com articulates the relief.