Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vote NO in the Irish referendums

I'll miss the referendum and presidential votes on Thursday as I'm in England. I strongly recommend a no vote in both referendums. As to the president I can't get excited about this; but I'm dumbfounded that a Fianna Fáil businessman should be the frontrunner. And I say that without having followed yesterday's latest brown envelope story. Truly baffling. Michael D Higgins seems a decent cove. Sinn Fein is hard to take seriously as a leftwing party in view of its record in the North. But most important, the interest in this race is really displacement activity. The office has little role other than the important one of checking that legislation conforms to the constitution and seeking a Supreme Court ruling in cases of doubt.

So now about the two constitutional changes. The parliamentary enquires clause will open the door to McCarthy-esque kangaroo courts. Ah I hear you say it’s only bankers and bishops who will have their collars felt. But then I ask you to consider that to erode civil liberties in the hope that it doesn’t mean me it means someone else is a shortsighted policy.

The constitutional change to allow reductions in judges’ pay is a hard one to argue against but I'm going to anyway. There are good reasons for the constitution prohibiting the government from reducing judges pay and the conditions in the proposed clause are worthless. It would allow the government a lever over the judiciary and so fuzz the separation of powers.

Off to the airport now so no time to give you any links or reasoned arguments to back up my wild assertions. Both referendums will pass with a substantial majority so if you have an interest in Irish politics you’ll just have to bookmark this post and make a diary note to come back to it in 5 years time to see if I was right.

Oh, here's a link which, being signed by barristers including the erstwhile leader of one of the most rightwing parties Ireland has ever had, Michael McDowell, is a slight embarrassment to me, bit it’s the best I can do for now.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

My cousin

I've been quiet for a fortnight, since I heard a cousin of mine died in Sweden. He was a year older then me, and it was sudden and unexpected. I shall attend the funeral in Stockholm on 8th November. Perhaps cousins get to mean more to you as you get older. But today I feel in the mood again and here are a couple of contributions, one on the cleansing of the temple, the other about a divinity shaping our ends.

A divinity that shapes our ends

New Cambridge Shakespeare (not the 1936 edition)

Hamlet Act 5, Scene 2.

   … and that should teach us
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.

Hamlet tells Horatio how on the ship to England he rashly ventured from his cabin at night and found the letter that would have sealed his fate, enabling him to substitute a forgery, so that Guildenstern and Rosencrantz went to their deaths instead of him.

It seems there's a famous footnote to these lines in John Dover Wilson's 1936 Cambridge edition of Hamlet. A gentleman named Malleson (whose son later mentioned this in a letter to Wilson) happened on a craftsman and his mate making fence posts, and the craftsman told him :-

"He rough-hews them and I shape their ends".

Yes really.

It appeared in The Guardian correspondence page on the who-wrote-Shakespeare theme, as evidence that whoever did was familiar with labourer’s talk. I shall get hold of Dover Wilson's 1936 Hamlet when I get the chance and look the note up, to see what he makes of it.

False memory syndrome

Theatre director Trevor Nunn believes Shakespeare really did write Shakespeare's plays, and in The Guardian on Friday 14 October he relates that many years ago an actor friend of his was walking down a country lane in Warwickshire.  Passing two men at work hedging, he stopped and asked, what are you two doing? To which one of them replied, "It's quite simple, I rough-hew them and he shapes their ends."

An instance of false memory, perhaps. Probably (as Hugo Barnacle points out in a reader’s letter on 22 October) Trevor Nunn is actually recalling the Dover Wilson note of 1936, yet really believes that he talked to an “actor friend”, who met two Warwickshire labourers hedging, one of whom uttered a sentence about rough-hewing and the shaping of ends.

In case you want to follow the discussion about who did write Hamlet (which personally I don’t) here's a link to the Trevor Nunn interview in The Guardian. 

Will Shakespeare’s acting pals who all knew him well, plus Ben Jonson, were in no doubt who wrote the plays, and they published them after Will’s death. That they could all have been mistaken beggars belief.

Church pathetic not prophetic

Casting out the money changers by Giotto, 14th century (Wikipedia)

In yesterday’s Guardian Zoe Williams derides St Pauls cathedral, for closing its doors in the face of London's anti-capitalism protest. A Church of England vicar told her why he supports the protesters:-

" In the gospels, Jesus makes a courageous and subversive stand against the corruption of the powers that be, and against the implicit assumption that the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. You feel Jesus's anger in his protest, which actually wasn't that peaceful. "

He's referring to Jesus’s own anti-capitalism protest in the Temple. It’s the only account of Jesus using physical force in any of the gospels, and occurs in all four them.

In this episode Jesus and his disciples travel to Jerusalem for Passover, where he expels the money changers from the Temple, accusing them of making it a den of thieves through their commercial activities. In doing so he stood in the tradition of Old Testament prophets railing against the rich’s treatment of the poor. Zoe Williams suggests it will sadden Christians even more than atheists, which side the cathedral came down on.

Any dominant class rules by persuading a submissive population that existing arrangements are necessary, right and inevitable. Occupy Wall Street and the similar protests in numerous cities worldwide pose the question: oh yeah, who says?