Stop Ramming Your Politics Down My Throat

The Irony Escaped Me
You know how I constantly attack Norn Iron on this here corner of the web? Remember how I called Coleraine the cultural Arctic Circle? Or the time I talked about how Belfast has the ugliest buildings ever built in a non-Communist country? (I haven’t ranted about that yet? Oh I will!) Well last week I was back in Belfast and the great big joke of it was that I was there for a cultural event. Dave Matthews was playing Vicar Street in Dublin but he sold out faster than OJ Simpson claimed to be Anna Nicole Smith’s lover. Ann-dee and I are such rabid and devoted fans to the crooning, syruppy voiced South African that we decided to brave the accents and go to the Waterfront to see him.

It was worth it. I mean, Duke Special was playing in another venue in the city the same night which was a pity but even the dreadlocked one can’t compete with Dave. The best live album I have ever heard is Dave Matthews Live At Luther College. It was the CD that convinced Andy to take up guitar. It was the CD that served as the soundtrack to my budding romance with a whipsmart, pretty girl who eventually became my wife. Dave, Dave is one of those artists who has been there with me. He was the soundtrack to a lot of major moments in this boy’s life. Let me put it to you this way. Remember the Wonder Years? Dave Matthews Band would be playing in the background as my lecturing monologue began at the end of every show to wrap up the moral if the Wonder Years were made about my life.

So we were stunned when Dave came out with Tim Reynolds. We were going to get our own version of Live At Luther College. I won’t lie to you Internets, Andy jumped up and down like a little girl in a Manga video so that his feet hit his bum as he lifted them. He sobbed a little as Dave began to sing.

I was popping Andy’s Norn Iron cherry. He had never been up North before so I made up a load of stories about everything we passed. It helped that we stayed at the home of the Belfast version of me and it was right beside a big UFF mural. Before driving home in the morning, we took 25 seconds to run over to it and join in the sectarian bigoted fun. Sure, the poisonous hatred tastes like bile in the beginning. But soon you get addicted to it. We stopped three times on the drive home for some racially inspired violence. I have never felt so alive!

Kevin and Andy fight the powers, originally uploaded by Zoomtard.

Onwards with the revolution. Make Ulster British! Oh wait, that makes little sense.

Charity Boxes Are A Political Conspiracy
Before we continue, take 29 seconds to watch this ad.

Many of you who are Irish and not Teragram who has no TV, will have seen this ad. You probably won’t see it much anymore since the BCI stunned Trocaire by banning it yesterday morning. Now I work for a church in Maynooth. I am biased. I love Trocaire. These are the Aid Heroes who live on our doorstep. I use their resources constantly in teaching the kids at MCC. Their lenten boxes were a fixture of my childhood. The ads have been banned because a part of the Trocaire project this year is to force the UN members to ratify a piece of gender equality legistlation. This is political and therefore because of a law passed in 1988, must be prohibited.

In an Irish Times editorial this morning, Mary Raftery put it well.

For over a quarter of a century, Trócaire has rejected the purely charity-based model of development work. What it has been about is the essence of politics as applied to an unequal world. It has set itself the challenge of campaigning to change that world by unflinchingly targeting some of its most savage manifestations. It was, for instance, to the fore in campaigning against apartheid in South Africa. … This was certainly political, and provided crucial support for the development of a civil structure which was ultimately able to ensure a peaceful resolution of one of the most intractable political conflicts of the time. In this, as in many of its other activities, Trócaire enjoyed overwhelming public and indeed governmental support. It had convinced people of the clearly interconnected nature of aid, development and politics.

Due to the decision of the BCI, Irish charities now are faced with the depressing situation of being tied into offering only band-aid solutions to the problems most of the world faces since any effort at all to deal with the systemic evil that oppresses the family of the child you sponsor or the village you provided goats for ends up being political. If this ruling is upheld for example, my own favoured movement, Make Poverty History, will certainly be unable to use the airwaves to communicate their message. Clearly, that is insanity. Make Poverty History is a widespread coalition. Trocaire is the NGO wing of the Roman Catholic Church. These are not partisan political movements. There is nothing that should be censored or banned here. Go write a letter. Your TD, the BCI or a word of support for Trocaire would be a better use of your time than trying to turn that Tayto bag into a pirates hat or whatever it is you do at work.

The thing that really worries me about this decision however is that it could be the first step for the sterilisation of the public arena. A key idea of the Noveau-Enlightenment advanced by the New Atheists like Dawkins and Co is that the decision making process of government should be separated from faith distractions. Alot of their dismay over American politics doesn’t stem from the lack of diversity in their political marketplace but from the fact that so many politicians wear their “private faith” on their sleeves and publicly admit to making decisions within the framework it provides. The Noveau-Enlightenment would like separation: separation of church and state, separation of economics from political entanglement, separation of charity from politics, separation of rational decision making from irrational faith based decision making.

This is impossible. It demands too much. The criteria used to discern what is faith based from what is rationale-based is in fact, faith based. They believe in the Enlightenment. It is their worldview. It is their axiomatic system, their lens through which everything is viewed. Within that system, systematic separation is a good idea. But in reality, their “faith” in Enlightenment values has to influence all their decisions. In the same way, a Catholic with a love of kids, a bad case of wanderlust and a knack for languages ends up working for Trocaire more because of their belief in the intrinsic value of human life than a combination of skills and circumstances.

It is impossible to separate politics from economics. Free markets free from government meddling is a political position. It is impossible to separate charity from politics. Giving money to Trocaire is a political decision. It is also an economic decision and can also be a religious expression. The human animal is more complex than this Modernity can imagine. And the world is more complex than the sum of human animals that make it up.

I desperately hope that the BCI decision to ban the ad is overthrown. I don’t want to see Trocaire’s vital relief work stopped because of a shortfall in funding. I don’t want to see their battle for gender equality go unfinished. But mostly I don’t want to live in a Banana Republic where we think we can separate life into tidy little boxes so that now I put on my politics hat as I vote but then I put on my Christian hat to pray.

Jesus and the ladies
Today is World Women’s Day. I would like to start a tradition following on from last year of deconstructing the idea that Christianity is sexist or that Jesus did not believe in equality. At the start of the record of Jesus’ life that John wrote, there is a story about Jesus getting thirsty. This is interesting in the first place because it indicates that Jesus was definitely a real man. He didn’t just pretend to be one while actually being a divine ghost-wisp-thing. He is taking a short cut through a part of the land filled with the inferior breed, the Samaritans. The Samaritans were the wishy-washy traitors of the day, who had perverted the true teaching of pure Judaism and taken up with all kinds of dodgy practices.

Jesus is sitting in the midday sun while his posse have gone to get lunch. A Samaritan woman is at the well getting water for the day. Jesus says, “‘Scuse me. Can I’ve some water?” She is shocked. Who is this guy, this Jew, who thinks he can ask me for water. Those Jews have looked down on us for the last couple of centuries and now he wants some water?! This response didn’t surprise Jesus. The fact that this woman was coming out to get her day’s water at midday suggested that she might have been used to getting trod on by people. Only women who were alienated by the village did that.

It turns out, that as the story unfolds, that this woman was actually the town bicycle. That is not a nice phrase but that is how she was viewed. The deeply patriarchal society she lived in would have reviled her for her constant relationships with men. She was living with the sixth man in her life. This is why she came to the well in the searing heat of the midday sun. Its scorching was preferable to the sharp words the women of the town would have had for her. She is hostile to Jesus because he is a Jew and therefore can be expected to think himself better than her a Samaritan, he would be expected to treat her badly if he knew her sexual history and he is a man and men have not treated her well.

Instead of fulfilling the expected role of a man down through the ages, Jesus neither rejects her nor makes a pass at her. Instead he cuts straight to the issue at hand. She is looking for a source of life from her relationships with men. She needs the intimacy and affection of the man in her life like other people need water. Something in her past or in her make up has made her utterly dependent on them. And the utterly dependent are the utterly vulnerable. They cheat on her. They abuse her. They treat her mean. They know she’ll stay keen. Ultimately, they leave her.

Jesus points her away from finding life bedroom embraces. Instead he says she is hungry for a meal that this world and all the men in it can’t provide because she wasn’t made for this world, nor for men. She was made for God and she is hungry for God. She can get that source of life only from him. Then, in the final line, John gives Jesus his punchline: ‘The Messiah you have been waiting for? “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”‘

The Christian churches have spent most of the last 2000 years disregarding the radical way that Jesus related to women. He treated them as utter equals. He regarded them as his friends and his confidantes. They are the people who stick with him through the trial and crucifixion. They are the first witnesses to the Resurrection. They are the apostles regarded most highly. Feminism often discusses the views of women in Christendom in terms of two options: the whore, Mary Magdalene or the Mother, Mary. Jesus offers us no such easy dichotomies. The Samaritan woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the prostitute who annoints him with costly perfume join his mother and his friends Mary and Martha and dozens of other women involved in the Gospels as distinct, individual women defined neither by gender nor sexual history. In this pure and classical sense, Jesus was a feminist. On World Women’s Day, that should be remembered.

Your Correspondent, Proud of you as a peer and as your gentleman lover

2 Responses to “Stop Ramming Your Politics Down My Throat”

  1. […] Zoomtard is right, we should do more than complain to one another about the recent BCI decision. Later today I’m going to send the letter below to the BCI. Feel free to copy the text and use it as is, or modify it, but do send something! […]

  2. […] Lots of places have linked to the YouTube video of the original tv ad (eg Anthonymcg |Bloggorah | Damien Mulley | Duncan’s TV adland | IQblog | Lex Ferenda | Sigla (Sinéad Gleeson) | VoteTube | Zoomtard (with superb commentary)) and various places have audio of the original radio ad ( | Holy Shmoly (Donncha O’Caoimh) | Irish Eyes (Bernie Goldbach) | also here (mp3)). […]