What Happens if Women go on Strike? Strike for Repeal: Ireland’s Abortion

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An edited version of the following piece appeared in yesterday’s Evening Echo. Below we publish the unedited version in it’s entirety with the kind permission of the author, Rebel City’s very own, Rachael O’Sullivan.

A woman’s work is never done, and at €1.14 an hour, the price the Social Protection Department has put on our labour, is it worth it? Strikes for fair working conditions conjures picket lines, cars beeping in support and a general feeling that the working man has rights. He should expect certain humane and fair conditions. Sweatshops are bad; lunch breaks are good. Our history of strike action has taken us from an industrial revolution that thought a seven-day working week and child labour were acceptable, to a modern environment of paid sick leave and assault free work places. Zero hour contracts now threaten that, and yes, we will strike if we need to. It is a tool we understand and is the failsafe we use to ensure our labour remains valued and respected. That our human right to equality is enshrined in our society.

It is fitting then, that over 27 groups around Ireland have called for a national strike to force the government to hold a referendum on the 8th amendment. Women and men around Ireland will be holding events at 12 noon on the 8th of March. Strike for Repeal, are not calling for the government to make abortion legal. They are calling for the right for the people of Ireland to finally make a collective decision. They want the government to allow democracy. To allow the people to decide. To stop avoiding a controversial topic and to face the realities of the female population.

Abortion is one of Ireland’s most divisive subjects. Everyone has an opinion and our democracy ensures they can voice it. The fundamental problem is, should another person’s human rights be your opinion? Do you have the right to make a decision that will affect the physical, psychological, and emotional health of another human being? A decision you make for a stranger could determine their earning power, employability, socio-economic status and their ability to secure a mortgage for the rest of their adult life. Ireland has abortion. It is economic abortion shrouded in secrecy, lies and shame. Over 165,000 women from Ireland have had abortions in the UK since 2006. 65% of the UK’s non-resident abortions are from Ireland.  9-12 women a day travel to the UK to have abortions. Over 1,500 women have travelled to the Netherlands since 2006 for abortions. And just one abortion pill provider shipped 5,600 abortion pills to Ireland within a five-year period. There is no conclusive information on the annual amount of abortion pills women in Ireland are taking. These statistics do not capture the full story as they are based on the UK Department of Health’s records of women who openly recorded their address as the Rep of Ireland. This makes the voluntary inclusion of an address on a form the only method we have of tracking Irish abortion in the UK. It does not include other countries we travel to, and the real figures will show our current statistics to be a stark underestimation.

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Abortion protects women. It protects us from raising a child alone, it protects us from the psychological impacts of carrying a rapist’s child, it protects us if something goes wrong during the pregnancy. Abortion is a medical procedure. It has health risks. If a woman has a rushed and unsupported procedure in the UK and returns to Ireland, can she seek medical help? If she haemorrhages internally, can she say why? If her abortion pill fails or partially aborts, can she approach her GP? Partial abortions can cause serious infections. Does she risk septicaemia or risk imprisonment? This is Ireland’s economic abortion, and its availability depends on last-minute funds to travel, or the freedom to do so. We are a country that has enshrined in our constitution, under article 40.3.3, that a foetus has equal rights to the mother. This places Irish women with the inability to determine their own health care during pregnancy and removes their right to make decisions around their health while pregnant. The James Reilly Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, states that conditions like inevitable miscarriage must become life threatening before a doctor can intervene. In the case of Savita Halappanavar this was too late. If you consider that out of 100 pregnancies, 15-20 will spontaneously abort or miscarry before seven weeks, it places a worrying number of women in Ireland at risk.

The Pro Life campaign uses slogans like, “I’m speaking for the unborn or the pre-born baby”. They are right. They do speak for them. Abortion is not a comfortable or a straightforward medical procedure. There are two people in the equation. You may wish to love them both equally, but you cannot. The question is primal in nature. It delves within our basic desires to protect children, but at what point does an unborn child have rights? And should these rights out strip the mothers? Should a woman, once pregnant, become an ‘incubator’ who allows her human rights to be put on hold for nine months? Pregnancy is a complex and life altering experience for every woman who survives it. The journey into motherhood sees your locus of control shift from yourself to your child. Your instincts for self-preservation switches to the child. Our evolution depended on this instinct and it makes abortion a last resort and complex decision for every woman who makes it. The idea that women could use it as a form of contraception, after a drunken night out, is insulting to the nature and integrity of women. It should not be used to further campaigns as it depicts women as depraved, and we are not. We make great mothers, excellent wife’s and nurturing girlfriends. It is why we accept the unpaid labour of domesticity and provide the nurturance at the heart of our society. It is why you love us. You trust our capacity for the compassion and the care we bring to your lives.

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A crucial point in Ireland’s abortion debate is that women carry the responsibility of unplanned pregnancy. At what point did men become removed from the equation? Why is unplanned parenthood a female responsibility? Why do we have abandoned wife’s or single mothers? Could we create a society that reacts to abandoning a child or rape in the same way we do to cannibalism? Something depraved and physically repulsive. Or should we continue to allow our Social Welfare system to track fathers down because teaching our sons to share responsibility is complex? Is it easier to create laws than morals in our society? Ireland has abortion. The reasons we need abortions has been present in our country for generations. Our laundries made these women slaves, our anti-abortion laws make them criminals. Same solution, different generation, but the root problem remains. You may not agree with abortion, but we already have it. Voting to keep Ireland abortion free simply passes the moral baton to the UK. It is easier and will allow a feeling of sitting-room-self-righteousness.  Isolated feelings of contentment but no shared social responsibility for the nature of our actual society. The one we live in; not the utopic version we believe a law has the power to create. Suppression of Ireland’s abortions will not change Irish society; it just rebrands our laundries.

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day. In Ireland, we will see a ‘Strike for Repeal’ throughout the country. You can strike by not going to work, organising a lunchtime protest, or, by wearing black clothes or an armband. It is a solidarity protest for the hundreds of thousands of women who take time off work and travel in secret to other countries. It is time to face the question and have a referendum. I hope we start with the reality of abortion in Ireland and support women through the decriminalisation of their decisions and the medical support they require. Societies based on denial and inequality remain unhealthy and never create solutions. I want to live in a country where I can be an equal and be unafraid to become pregnant. “Motherhood or prison” is not an Ireland to be proud of. It is time for change and to see Ireland as it is, not how denial or locked, secret doors whisper or chant it could be. Accept the things you cannot change and support not criminalising the women of Ireland.

Rachael O’Sullivan

Posted in Feminism, National Issues, Public Health | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is punching genocide supporting white supremacists wrong? – The moral dilemma of a pampered and privileged liberal society

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During the past week or so you will have no doubt witnessed some of the many scenes of protest in the USA after the inauguration of Donald “Grab ’em by the Pussy” Trump as the democratically elected leader of the American Empire. You may also have seen the footage of the unofficial leader of the “alt-right” (read: Neo Nazi) movement, Richard Spencer, getting punched in the face by an anti-fascist during a television interview (twice in one day!). From this memetastic, though scrappy, sucker-punch there has been a resulting outpour of admiration/outrage from the masses for the hooded and ski-masked amateur pugilist, which has brought the wide assortment of leftists and liberals engaging in mass protests against the new POTUS to an apparent impasse, and poses a very necessary question. Is punching white nationalists who paraphrase Hitler and call for ethnic cleansing and the creation of a white-centric USA wrong? In short, HEELLLL NOO! Punch that motherfucker every opportunity you get!

Violence begets violence

It is often claimed by liberals and conservatives alike that using violence against fascists is itself a fascist act and only leads to more violence. Quite often they will refer to the words of Martin Luther King Jr, “violence begets violence”, which would seemingly add merit to their pacifist argument. However, the very nature of the Civil Rights leaders death only further proves that those driven by hatred towards their fellow human beings ultimately believe in using violence as a means to their ends. White supremacy/fascism/racism are inherently violent ideologies, in that by their nature they reduce certain human beings to a subhuman category. In turn this allows the followers of these ideologies to believe they are entitled to more rights than those that do not fit into their vision of the “master race”, and that crimes committed against their “lessers” are acceptable and should be viewed as the norm.

This way of thinking, though not an actual act of physical violence itself, is an act of indirect violence, as it fosters an environment where violence against certain people is acceptable. It is the mentality that allowed the lynching of blacks and other minorities in America to be commonplace and acceptable, even as recently as the 1981 lynching of 19 year old Michael Donald. People who no doubt lived otherwise normal lives would take their children to lynchings as family outings, such was the degree to which this racial based violence was normalised. This is where racism ultimately leads when allowed to spread, as history has shown us time and time again. To imagine that the transition into the America envisioned by Spencer and the NPI (National Policy Institute) could possibly occur without such acts of gross violence is ludicrous, and childishly naive. Therefore we have a moral obligation, a societal duty, to oppose racism by any means necessary. And if ya have to punch an unrepentant white supremacist, then by all means, knock that motherfucker out!

Fight fire with water, not fire

Though violence should be viewed as an acceptable, and ultimately necessary, tool to combat the spread of ideologies of hate, it should of course never be the first mode of intervention when dealing with someone you suspect of harbouring racist opinions. To paraphrase the revolutionary Black Panther leader, Fred Hampton, the best way to fight fire isn’t with fire, you fight fire best with water. In the same sense, you don’t fight racism with more hatred, you fight it best with solidarity. Often otherwise decent people express racist views without themselves truly subscribing to the ideology of racial supremacy, ergo, your instinct shouldn’t be to punch them in the mouth where you can otherwise reason with their good nature about their grievances.

It is natural for the downtrodden masses to seek someone to blame for their struggles and toiling, and when racists are given a platform to spew their bile it is reasonable to think that some decent folk might fall for their simplistic hate mongering. As Chairman Hampton would encourage, appeal to their humanity and respectfully offer an education on the realities of racism and how the twin evils of capitalism and imperialism rely on racial divisions to keep us all under the proverbial boot. Offer them your solidarity, don’t be an uber-leftist elite (all praise be upon them) and drive them further down the right-wing path by shouting down their honest concerns as you stick piously to the puritan teachings of whichever ideological demigod you subscribe to. In turn, they will hopefully see through the bullshit and offer their solidarity to the victims of racism instead. And if that fails, well, contact your local anti-fascists.

Richard Spencer, however, is a different kettle of fish altogether.

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Children gleefully among the crowd observing the lynching of an black man

A bigger threat than Trump

Richard Spencer isn’t one of the aforementioned downtrodden toilers who can be reasoned with and deterred from his notions of racial supremacy. Richard Spencer is an indoctrinated white supremacist who actually believes that Africans and Latinos are lesser beings than Euorpeans. Richard Spencer propagates the idea of ethnic-cleansing to create a white America. He may say now that this ethnic cleansing should be peaceful, but even the most basic understanding of history – both American and European – shows that any such forced resettlement requires extreme violence. Richard Spencer is charismatic and intelligent, and appeals to a very large section of American (and global) society. Richard Spencer espouses views that are prevalent in their extreme among the subculture of right-wing message boards and forums on websites such as 4chan and Reddit, where many disgruntled white Americans are becoming radicalised in extreme right-wing and racist views. White Americans like Dylann Roof.

Richard Spencer and his ilk are a very real threat to American (and again, global) society, now that Trump’s election has given legitimacy to overt racism, Islamophobia and sexism. It would of course be foolish of me to compare Spencer’s words with the actual crimes of the Nazis, but his quick rise to prominence and growing relevance is certainly comparable to that of Adolf Hitler. Only a few days ago it was the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp by the Soviet Red Army, and the world was once more reminded never to allow such atrocities to occur again. “Never again” the liberals will cry. Well, it is in this sentiment that those promoting Nazi-like ideals should be opposed. A punch in the mouth might seem rather insignificant should Spencer’s goals ever come to fruition. Imagine if Hitler had been punched in the mouth every time he tried to spread his hatred.

 

Liberal complicity in the rise of the right

Some of the liberal types that are baying for Trump’s blood would be the very same people who are appalled at Spencer getting clocked in the mouth. In sheer irony they cheer when millionaires like Madonna talk of blowing up the White House, yet these hypocrites feign disgust when the leader of the modern day incarnation of Nazism gets his chin checked. The old adage “I may not agree with what you say, but I respect your right to say it” is their go-to catchphrase as they look down upon those with the courage to take the necessary action and stamp out the disease of racism before it spreads. This is literal liberal complicity, through ignorance one would hope, in the ongoing rise of the ideologies of hate. Only those of a pampered and privileged position would decry someone for putting a racist in their place. One would genuinely fear how these people would act were the likes of Richard Spencer ever to get into a position of real power. “Stop resisting, just do as the policeman says, and get on the train. I’ll start a petition for you”. Middle-class student types saving the world one petition at a time. Smh.

I would not dare to speak for Black, Latin and Muslim Americans, but these communities facing the very real threat of growing violence under the Trump presidency are no doubt faced with real fears and concerns when people like Spencer are given a mainstream platform to tell them that they do not belong in their own country. As the recent attack on the mosque in Quebec has shown, right-wing extremists are becoming all the more emboldened, and therefore they need to be stopped before they get out of hand. If that means a few Nazis have to get punched in the face, then so fucking be it! And if that means a few liberals have to get their feels hurt, then fuck them too! People who have lived under actual fascism and who are facing actual real violence and genocide (whether Nazi Germany or those living under the Islamofascism of ISIS today) I have no doubt would gladly jump on the opportunity to go back in time and box their future oppressors around the head before their confidence and influence is allowed to grow, without a fuck given as to what liberals might think.

So to conclude, there is absolutely no moral hypocrisy in, and nothing wrong with, punching genocide supporting white supremacists. Remember, liberalism didn’t defeat the Nazis, communists with guns did. I’ll leave ye with a short excerpt from one of Richard Spencer’s recent speeches, which was met with rousing chants of “sieg heil” from his followers.

“To be white is to be a striver, a crusader, an explorer and a conqueror… We don’t exploit other groups, they need us and not the other way around… For us as Europeans, it is only normal again when we are great again. Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”

If you don’t find that a little bit ominous then you are part of the problem.

An Bhreathnadóir

Posted in Anti-imperialism, Anti-racism, International Issues | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m still here. Still. – A personal journey in the Irish mental health services

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So I’ve just informed my psychiatrist that over the Christmas period I was getting suicidal thoughts. She doesn’t even acknowledge it, just keeps writing on her chart as if I told her I was having pains in my arm or something. There’s no compassion or basic empathy, even forced empathy. She just looks down her chart and keeps asking the same questions I’ve been asked since I was 16: What was your appetite like?; Were you socializing much?; How are things at home? She then gives the question asking will I do anything to myself in the short-term, not because she cares, but because it’s required in case the health service later gets sued for malpractice. She then says she’s upping my medication, despite me telling her I wasn’t satisfied with it so far. The idea is more drugs help. More having to swallow a big fat capsule every night which is so horrible it makes me gag doing it. She tells me we’re done for now and she’ll see me in two weeks, and then goes off to photocopy my prescription. I was in there for 15 minutes. I spent more time in the waiting room than in the room talking about how I was feeling.

I leave and go outside to read a bit while my dad comes to collect me to bring me to college. The place is a small little HSE building in one of Cork’s suburbs. Hard to get to and not on a bus route. All the staff are cold and clearly have no interest in their job. Except for the odd young person clearly fresh out of college who’re visibly losing faith quickly in their hope of helping anyone seriously. In the waiting room, there’s a gold plaque celebrating the opening of the place by a Fianna Fáíl politician during the Celtic Tiger years. It’s my second time going there. Over a year ago, I attended a few psychiatry sessions which were the same type of box-ticking interview before I eventually decided not to waste my time going there. I only went back this time as my GP said it was necessary if I wanted to improve. Can’t say I was surprised, I’ve been in enough of these sessions to know what the protocol is.

I first went to counselling when I was 15. I went to a place ran by CAMHS – Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service – on the Western Road across from UCC. It was in a rented out old building where the budget was clearly being stretched. The staff were all friendly and very hard-working, but even still, they were forced to follow a script taught to them by the HSE. It was more about keeping the HSE safe rather than helping people with mental illness. After 2 years in and out of counselling and therapy I was in a tough spot because of my age. I was getting too old for counselling with CAMHS, and they were already stretched with demand, but I hadn’t turned 18 yet so I couldn’t use adult services. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place [It must be mentioned, minors that are “sectioned” are often placed into care in the adult services due to lack of beds in the appropriate facilities – Ed.]. Eventually, I got referred onto the psychology department in a city hospital, where I went through the same checklist interviews. I received my first diagnosis of clinical depression and anxiety. Apparently, I ticked enough of the boxes. I was started on medication for the first time, and had weekly counselling for 10 weeks. I was 17 at the time and just going into my Leaving Cert Year. After the 10 weeks of counselling ended, that was it. No follow-up, nothing. It wasn’t until my first year of college that I was referred onto somewhere again. Again, on the first day, the same predictable interview. No emotion is shown, no compassion, just the same automatic questioning and jotting down the answers.

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Most of the counselling I’ve attended has only been for a fixed amount of time. Just when I start to get comfortable with someone, enough to really begin going in-depth into my mental well-being, they’re sent on a course with their college, or moved to a different health department. Then someone else comes in and it starts over again, with no conclusion. I never get the chance to talk about the actual issues I’m facing. Such as the guilt I feel that every time my parents leave for work I can see the dread in their faces that they’re going to come home and I’m after doing something. That’s not something that can go on any clipboard, that’s the human side of a deeply widespread issue. I only got home that day after my appointment to see that 8 people in Cork had taken their lives that week alone. There’s an obvious crisis, but the response to it is just cold. I’m in favour of treating mental illness as a medical issue, and I couldn’t care if I got a horrible person as a counsellor, if they helped my mental well-being. But the services just aren’t there. Throughout my entire time in the mental health industry (yes, industry), I’ve never met someone else who’s gone through the same thing. It’s a purely individualized treatment.

This is the personal side of mental health services in Ireland, but it’s reflective of a broken system. It reflects a state and a system that doesn’t cherish all the children of the nation equally. It’s the result of austerity and cutbacks to healthcare so bankers could be paid off. It’s the result of a system that puts profits and money ahead of social wellbeing. A system that puts the individual on the spotlight, taking away the strength that lies in our co-operating together, as we have done for thousands of years.

Graham

Posted in Mental Health, National Issues, Public Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Future is Unwritten: Culture And Struggle

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Culture, and specifically music, is an often neglected but hugely important factor in any struggle against an oppressive system. In modern times, we’ve largely ignored the cultural struggle. Most music today only props up the individualist consensus and is a far cry from the type of cultural organisation prominent in the 1960s. It’s hard to picture that decade without the anti-Vietnam protests, the demos for nuclear disarmament, the student protests in France which nearly brought down French capitalism, or the Civil Rights Movements by black Americans or nationalists in occupied Ireland. It’s impossible to remember that decade without the soundtrack that accompanied it though, like Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival, which put into words the drafting of poor Americans into service in Vietnam while the sons of upper-class white politicians got away with it. Or We Shall Overcome which became an anthem of civil rights, from Alabama to Derry. Even today, it’s very common to hear these songs whenever the 60’s is featured in a film or documentary.

Don’t you understand, what I’m trying to say?
And can’t you feel the fears I’m feeling today?
If the button is pushed, there’s no running away,
There’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave,
Take a look around you, boy, it’s bound to scare you, boy,
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

– Eve of Destruction, Barry Maguire

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“We Won’t Fight Another Rich Man’s War!!!” – Vietnam veterans against the War, circa 1970.

These types of songs accompanied the growth of the Hippy movement which, in America at least, challenged the conservative, Bourgeois culture, where young people were meant to be seen and not heard, where women, blacks, native Americans etc. were to know their place, and where workers were there to make profit and nothing else. The Hippies were mainly young, practiced “Free Love”, took drugs and overall gave a massive Fuck You to the establishment. Opposition to the Vietnam War was a huge part of the counter-culture and the music that came out of that struggle gave people the energy to keep the struggle going, which ended with the pulling out of US forces from Vietnam.

Although, it wasn’t without a price, the state and the establishment understood the power of the movement that was growing out from under them. Police were encouraged to be brutal to any protests, and on occasions such as the Kent State Massacre, student demonstrators were murdered. This repression would itself lead to new music. Although the Hippy Movement wasn’t perfect, largely it was led by Middle-Class students who had a very idealist view of the world. It wanted to change the world but often wanted to do it in a very liberal way. Many Hippies just wanted to smoke and get laid, rather than change the political-economic system at its core. For many, their radicalism didn’t last much longer than their university years. However, it still made an impact, while showing how music could make a political contribution. This paved the way for a no-nonsense, working-class contribution: Punk.

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WARNING: Image contains materials some readers may find offensive…“the butcher’s apron, boy”

Punk came about in the aftermath of the Hippy movement, mainly in working-class England. The most influential Punk bands of the time were the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Early punk bands included the New York Dolls, the Ramones and The Damned, who all put a focus on quick, energetic songs with the emphasis put on effort rather than on the egoism prevalent in some popular Rock bands of the time, where the lead singers would frequently prefer to show off their individual talent rather than express something that would connect with everyday life.

The Sex Pistols made a huge impact on the music scene, not just in the decade, but in the century. Led by London-Irish frontman Johnny Rotten, whose mother came from Cork (Leave it to the Rebel County to have some connection!). The Sex Pistols not only made the older, conservative generations blush, they made them get a fucking heart attack. They focused on topics which were actually relevant to working-class youth. They put into music the same feeling among most young people at that time: That something just wasn’t right with the status quo. Their most famous song, God Save the Queen, made a mockery of the monarchy, at a time when youth unemployment was high but the media was fawning over Lizzie Windsor’s upcoming Jubilee celebrations.

God save the queen
The fascist regime
They made you a moron
Potential H-bomb

Don’t be told what you want
Don’t be told what you need
There’s no future, no future,
No future for you

-God Save the Queen, The Sex Pistols

Predictably, there was shock and outrage from the media that there were actual artists who were going to call out the media’s celebrations of a professional scrounger family. It is now known that the charts were fixed, despite the song reaching number 1. During a now-infamous celebratory boat-ride by the Windsor’s on the Thames in London, the Sex Pistols attempted to get their own boat to go alongside the Queen’s vessel and play their song. The outcome was predictable, the police, not finding any drug dealers or criminals anywhere seemingly, descended en masse and assaulted the band and their supporters. On another occassion, the Sex Pistols appeared on a TV chat-show, where the host appeared to look at them as a sideshow, as a sort of in-joke with the parents watching, “just look at what your kids are into!” sort of thing. The interview, helped along with alcohol, ended up with curses being focused on the interviewer. Within hours, the tabloid rags were in hysterics – “Ban this sick filth!”. Many parents had a quiet chat with their children following it, making sure they wouldn’t listen to such outrageous filth again. Most of the venues in London banned the Sex Pistols from playing, although this only boosted their popularity. The Pistols also generated controversy upon the release of their only album, Never Mind the Bollocks. They also had notable songs such as Anarchy in the UK, about exactly what the fuck kind of country they were in, and Bodies, about abortion. Nothing was off-topic for the Sex Pistols, but it couldn’t be claimed that the things they were talking about weren’t known to young people. All that and they were together only 2 years.

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While the Sex Pistols could be said to have taken a sledgehammer to the status quo, The Clash could be said to have been the scalpel. Formed in 1976, The Clash focused on the experiences of those from working-class backgrounds. Lead singer Joe Strummer was a Marxist, and Paul Simonon’s father was a member of the Communist Party. Some of their songs included London Calling, which was about the fear of nuclear war after the Five-Mile Island incident in the US. Although now the actual meaning of the song is lost, it’s generally the song you hear when an American-made film features a part in England. Rock the Casbah, which was about the Middle East and Censorship, Straight to Hell which dealt in part with the children left behind by American soldiers in Vietnam. One of their songs, White Riot, was taken by some eejits to be a racist piece, when in reality, it was written after 2 of the band members got caught up in a riot by Black Londoners against police brutality. The song called on white youths to get their act together and start fighting back for their rights.

Black people gotta lot a problems
But they don’t mind throwing a brick
White people go to school
Where they teach you how to be thick

-White Riot, The Clash

While some punk bands, including the Sex Pistols, tended to take a nihilistic view of things, The Clash always encouraged people to take things into their own hands and fight back. Bankrobber had the lyrics:

Some is rich, and some is poor
That’s the way the world is
But I don’t believe in lying back
Sayin’ how bad your luck is

-Bankrobber, The Clash

The Clash even named one of their albums Sandinista!, after the Marxist government in Nicaragua, then under attack by Ronald Reagan’s Contras. The Clash practised what they preached, as well. They were one of the few internationally known bands to play in Belfast during the conflict in the north east of Ireland. Joe Strummer received death treats from Loyalists after he wore a t-shirt supporting the H-Block hunger strikers.

Similarly, Derry punk-band The Undertones wore black armbands on British TV after the death of Bobby Sands. Belfast-based Stiff Little Fingers wrote songs about ordinary life during the conflict, such as Suspect Device.

They take away our freedom
In the name of liberty
Why can’t they all just clear off
Why can’t they let us be
They make us feel indebted
For saving us from hell
And then they put us through it
It’s time the bastards fell

-Suspect Device, Stiff Little Fingers

Although much of this music was neutral in regard to the conflict, and made it look like those who were against the British presence in Ireland were as bad as the British, it still resonated with young people from both sides of the community.

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Nationalist youth armed with Molotov cocktails prepared to defend Free Derry from British Occupation Forces during the Battle of the Bogside, August 1969.

Overall, it’s clear to see, just from looking at the music, why things were so rebellious in the 60s/70s. The US pulled out of Vietnam, British soldiers were being engaged on Irish streets, the Portuguese overthrew a dictator and came very close to establishing Western Europe’s first Communist government, while liberation movements in Africa, Latin America and Asia were winning struggle after struggle against imperialism in Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, Angola etc. The Black Panthers were fighting for liberation of black Americans, ETA had assassinated Franco’s Prime Minister in the first shots of a new liberation struggle for the Basque Country. These were revolutionary times, and revolutionary movements which had a strong cultural arsenal.

Fast forward to the 21st Century, and we’re largely listless. Young people don’t have the same outlet in music as they did before, the same encouragement to be rebellious, take what’s your right through struggle. The songs of the anti-Vietnam war protests are too many to mention all of them, but can anyone name an anti-Iraq war song? There isn’t many. How many songs are there being written by bands nowadays about austerity, along the lines of  the Thatcher-era The Special’s Ghost Town? Rap music, for example, is very different to its origins in the 1990s. The focus is on what’s commercial and not on what gives an expression to the background to the various struggles of the day.

For an example, how many young people in Ireland have an instinctive anti-imperialism because of songs like Come out Ye Black and Tans or Seán Sabhat? “What’s keeping us from fighting back nowadays?” is often heard in protest movements. Maybe it’s the music?

And so now I’d like to say – people can change anything they want to. And that means everything in the world. People are running about following their little tracks – I am one of them. But we’ve all got to stop just following our own little mouse trail. People can do anything – this is something that I’m beginning to learn. People are out there doing bad things to each other. That’s because they’ve been dehumanised. It’s time to take the humanity back into the center of the ring and follow that for a time. Greed, it ain’t going anywhere. They should have that in a big billboard across Times Square. Without people you’re nothing. That’s my spiel.” 

Joe Strummer

Graham

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Apollo House solidarity action, Cork City 11/1/17: A few words from our man in City Hall

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Empowered by the events unfolding in Dublin, activists from a wide circle of groups in Cork marched from Connolly Hall, down the road and straight into the City Hall building this morning. We did not announce our demonstration, our march or our momentary occupation because the point of this was to create a nuisance, to gather attention and show that we stand united with the residents and activists in Apollo House. Our chants, banners and march were met with huge support from regular passersby, drivers and commuters on the bus. We received signatures of solidarity and words of kindness.

The following statement was read out by one of our activists at the protest, and also released to the media –

Statement of Cork Housing Action Group

Home Sweet Home Cork

Every abandoned building is a home waiting to be made.

Austerity as a policy has been created, encouraged and used extensively in the Irish State by the Fianna Fail, Fianna Gael and Labour parties.  A byproduct of this period of austerity has seen a housing crisis of epidemic proportions in our country. This includes visible, invisible and non secure rental tenants. This triad impacts a large portion of the population and has created a culture that accepts its own insecurity.  Those affected, include the visible homeless, such as Ireland’s rough sleepers. The invisible homeless, those staying in emergency accommodation, such as hostels, b&bs, couch surfers, or those forced to live with family and friends. And the renters, people living with extortionate, uncapped rents that often dominate family budgets to the exclusion of basic needs like heat or food. Cork has over 55,000 people officially labeled as suffering from food poverty; yet our homeless figures do not reflect this reality.

We believe this is a stark indicator of the economic decisions that people and families are making in the attempt to remain housed in our current period of economic instability. We do not believe the government has exhibited enough concern or practical application of support for Cork’s visible and invisible homeless. We as a group intend to highlight this lack of motivation or competence, through the ability of normal people to stand with their neighbors in times of hardship.

Along with the remarkable and wonderful initiative ‘Home Sweet Home’, we in Cork will stand with Dublins Apollo House and Home Sweet Home Campaign with a solidarity protest.

  1. Idle council buildings should be distributed to those on the housing list who will accept them. Government to divert rent-assistance funds from landlords to renovating/refurbishing houses considered unfit for living.

  1. A cessation of all evictions and repossessions. No family or group of individuals should face the threat of homelessness simply because they cannot pay. Housing should create homes not just profit. We call for an amnesty to those who have faced legal problems because of eviction prevention.

  1. We see that the State assures the power of the landlord, we demand that tenants are given the right of appeal of unfair rents through a mechanism in the Rental Tenancy Board. We do not accept the argument that landlords have the right to raise the rent whenever and however and reject it outright.

  1. We call upon the State to take responsibility for the Housing crisis and adopt a central long term plan to accommodate the population. The market exists to generate profit and we cast this notion aside. Housing is our human right.

  1. That the thousands of empty homes around the country are put on offer to those on housing lists and emergency housing, rather than left rot, collapse and fall into disrepair.

  1. We believe that people who become unemployed or unable to pay their rent should be able to appeal to a government or Tenancy Representative body to have the payment of their rent frozen.

  1. That the State takes the offer of the Credit Union’s assistance in construction of public and affordable housing.

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The activists stayed inside the building and spoke to those around. It was interesting to see the confused and also condescending looks that some of the staff inside gave, particularly the manager who looked very flustered. “Next time let us know in advance and we’ll facilitate you” I think I heard? Perhaps he does not understand how protests work?

Apollo House has shone a light on the awful way in which the State deals with housing, be it for the homeless or the invisible homeless. Apollo House has mobilised, inspired and united a huge variety of activists and they are ready to act.

In Cork, we showed our fellow Corkonians that the spirit of Apollo House is here, with us and we’re going to channel it to do something for Cork as well. We are not going to sit idly by as homes are left empty, we are not going to stand idly by as people are thrown to the streets. This act in City Hall building is our message of resistance.

More action will follow.

Bick Marry

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A New Year’s message to the haters…

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A homeless man begging in Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mac Sweeney/Provision

After some months of distraction and neglecting of this blog, the Rebel City Writers are back and hope to keep a consistent flow of material throughout 2017. For those of you new to our blog, do delve into our archives for some Pulitzer-worthy rantings and ramblings from rebels and reds alike. 

WARNING: If bad words offend you, then fuck off and read the fucking Echo!!

Absence of religion in my life has left me aloft as to who I should praise now that the curtain is about to close on another Christmas, so a theoretical nod to Karl Marx will have to suffice. Now let’s be clear, I am no scrooge and only partially a grinch. Christmas dinner and the time spent with family are my favourite parts of the holidays. Although, throwing on me novelty Christmas jumper and heading to the pub to consume intolerable levels of black stuff leading to a more intolerable rendition of my favourite christmas song, is right up there. What I can’t stand are the haters.

Some would say that Christmas brings out the best in us in terms of people’s willingness to give, to both charity and the less fortunate. However, I would say it brings out the worst in us. A few suits with share stickers dropping a couple of bob into a lads cup on the South Mall, although welcomed, is not reflective of the generosity, or of the equality, of society. Especially when our local district court Judge imprisons at least half a dozen of these very people in the final week of court proceedings, for “begging” and being “an obstruction and nuisance to the public”. Anyway the point is Christmas never fails at illuminating the core problems in society and the division surrounding them – poverty, homelessness, income inequality, mental health, unemployment, domestic violence etc. all come to the fore of public discussion. And although most people would be generally sympathetic to anyone who finds themselves in tough circumstances at christmas, not everyone would. I used to refer to them as the welfare haters, but now I just call them CUNTS.

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These CUNTS are not too hard to spot. They usually blame any lasting economic problems on the poor and destitute, otherwise known as “entitled”. Not a word said about tax evasion, income inequality or the banks causing the financial crisis. As Frankie Boyle says, all of this stuff “was on the fucking news”. The CUNTS are generally intellectually impotent, they come up with generalisations and stereotypes, not based on any fact based research by the way, and they repeat them religiously. They don’t acknowledge that at the end of 2014, 39% of the population of the Free State (or 1,969,630 people) had requested some sort of financial aid from the Department of Social Protection. Yeah, thats right 39%, probably about half of the adult population needed help. While at the beginning of 2016 we learned that 13 people had doubled their wealth in a year to have 38 Billion between them. Yeah that’s right, 13 fucking people. I could fit the bastards in the box room of me mother’s house all together, and be sure if I had the chance – I would fuck a grenade in there after them.

The point is everyone needs a hand at some stage in life. Obviously, if the current global economic system is designed to concentrate real wealth in the hands of a few, then more people are going to need help. Yeah I might be playing to divisionists by attacking the CUNTS, but fuck it and fuck them. They think that 39% of the population is entitled and part of the “don’t want to work brigade”. Their go-to catchphrase “Get a job and contribute” – yeah, contribute to what exactly? The growing loot of capital exploited on the backs of the working class being stored by the 1% in their paedophile dungeons? I’ve got a better idea, why don’t you have your mince pie and fucking choke on it, CUNT.

Jonathan Dunne

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Children of Austerity – Sugar babies

Sugar Daddy Billboard

Since the introduction of increased tuition fees in the UK and further austerity in Ireland, there has been a noticeable mark up in the amount of young people (overwhelmingly women) signing up to websites which advertise their ‘company’ (often sex) with older and wealthier men. The crisis in Ireland has placed many people under financial strain and as a result into doing work that under normal circumstances they would not do. This scheme of arranging companionship with the wealthy is one such example.

This scandalous devaluation of the human spirit and body comes with the commodity based society we’re living in. Everything is already for sale in the eye of a capitalist and countries have already taken the step to legalize sex work. Sex work however is less socially and culturally acceptable, it’s still generally stigmatized for a variety of different reasons. This scheme by name and approach makes the concept of a young person selling their ‘company’ to older, wealthier people friendlier and this is done solely and purely for PR.

Because regardless of how it is twisted or turned, the environment that drives young people into this scheme is one of financial hardship. Since the introduction of austerity measures, particularly the increases in tuition fees the numbers of people signing up as ‘sugar babies’ has disproportionately increased. It can be easily concluded that in the absence of meaningful work or support from the state, desperation has driven hundreds and thousands into advertising themselves for company.

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I don’t rule out that there are people out there who signed up voluntarily to this scheme nor do I condemn them. Their personal desires are their own, but on the basis of the statistics going back to the election of the Conservative government in the UK and the Fine Gael-Labour government in Ireland the numbers speak for themselves. Her.ie article on this topic states that ‘Since 2008 there has been 358% increase in signs up all across the world’, essentially highlighting that the very first year of the international banking crisis heralded in extreme hardship for vulnerable people around the world.

I can’t help but feel a sort of helplessness when reading about this, the way it has been spun has made it generally culturally acceptable despite it being revolting and a method of forcing young people into prostitution. This isn’t a question of ‘doing whatever you want’ or ‘following your dreams’, these are liberal notions which dilute the very real crisis young people are in.

In the face of increasing fees and continued and prolonged absence of meaningful employment the options we have are continuously cut down to the point where options such as prostitution are considered and taken up. It’s worth noting that as fees increase education becomes more and more inaccessible leaving options for young people more limited and limited.

As further austerity measures are introduced alongside the anti-student loan system we’ll see a clearer divide among young people. Those with the means will attend University and go on to well paid jobs while most of us will see either ourselves or our children locked out of third level education. Students and young people must mobilize to defend themselves and apply enough pressure to see tuition fees of all forms rolled back. But the continuing declining environment for young people won’t be simply beaten through defensive campaigns, we must also see to it that zero hour contracts are rid of alongside discriminatory wages on the basis of wage.

These sugar babies mark the beginning of a rapid and scary decline for our generation. If we’re going to do nothing, it’s just going to get worse.

Additional reading:

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/labour-declines-to-rule-out-rising-fees-for-third-level-students-1.2537065

http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/irish-sugar-babies-speak-about-dating-older-men-for-money-724788.html

http://www.her.ie/life/hundreds-of-irish-women-are-turning-to-sugar-daddies-to-help-them-pay-their-debts/21467

http://www.dailyedge.ie/irish-students-sugar-daddies-1284320-Jan2014/

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