Category: Other

Christopher Hitchens Was No Angel

When Christopher Eric Hitchens passed away on December 15th of last year, his death from oesophageal cancer, whilst expected, did nonetheless come as a shock to many given his firm resoluteness in battling the disease. The eulogies in his memory came in rapid succession, each one seemingly revealing another level of his irreverent and upstart nature. He was remembered as, “…one of the greatest orators of all time. He was a polymath, a wit, immensely knowledgeable, and a valiant fighter against all tyrants including imaginary supernatural ones.”, by Richard Dawkins, with Stephen Fry noting that he was someone who “…opened up debate and gave voice to ideas and causes that without his talents would have been less ventilated and less understood.” Tony Blair also had the kindest of words to say about Hitchens, memorialising that he was “fearless in the pursuit of truth and any cause in which he believed.” For someone considered within the atheist movement to be one of the “Four Horsemen of the New Atheism”, it appeared that a hagiography of Hitchens was being written after, and even immediately prior, to his death. Despite being held up as a paragon of scepticism, rationality, and honesty, in the last decade of his life Hitchens was none of this. Instead, his rational faculties were seemingly suspended as he became a right-wing cheerleader for American-led Western invasions in the Middle East directly after 9/11.

Palestine, Palestinians, and Israel

Definitions of citizenship and what it means to be a citizen of a particular nation has been used to justify discrimination against various groups of people for centuries. These people are generally in the minority in a particular region and are seen as an underclass, and/or something to be dealt with in whatever manner those in the majority deem appropriate. History is full of examples where this thinking has led to egregious levels of discrimination and violence aimed at the minority or undesirables; from the Catholics in Northern Ireland to the Tutsi in Rwanda, where in both cases discrimination and ostracisation eventually led to full-blown violence. This is also the case when it comes to the Palestinians in what was historic Palestine and is now, for the most part, considered the modern state of Israel.

Ron Paul: Liberty or Tyranny

(Originally Published in the UCC Express in February 2012)

It’s somewhat difficult to believe that Barrack Obama won the U.S presidential election in November of 2008. This difficulty arises because it seems as if it was just yesterday that it happened. Time has a nasty habit of doing that; passing by at a rate so fast that the next thing you know, there’s another election looming. Obama personified hope during the 2008 election campaign and he marketed it as such, as that’s what the U.S presidential elections boil down to: marketing. Everyone believed in this concept called “change” that he promised he would bring to the U.S political landscape. His followers were fanatical in their devotion with “Yes We Can” becoming their mantra, which if they repeated often enough, would ensure that the opponents of their idol were crushed. Well now, just over three years later, there appears to be another man who has captured the collective imagination of the voters across the Atlantic. The man in question is of course, Ron Paul.

Tunisia, One Year On

(Originally Published in the UCC Express in February 2012)

Just over one year ago, on January 14th 2011, Tunisia finally managed to oust presidential despot, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, after a relatively short but explosive struggle. His regime came crashing down around him as the Tunisians revolted in a way not seen in 30 or so years. His fifth term as president came to an inglorious end, after he rose to the position in the aftermath of “the medical coup d’état” or the “Jasmine Revolution”, with Ben Ali of course preferring the latter term, in 1987. The incident which provided the metaphorical and literal spark for the uprising was the self-immolation of 26 year old street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi. He had been harassed by the local police and bureaucrats for years with the climax of this abuse being reached on December 17th 2010 when his cart and produce, his only source of income, were confiscated by the local authorities. Bouazizi’s family have also claimed that he was verbally abused by a local female municipal official who spat in his face and tossed aside his cart before it was confiscated. The latter incident has been disputed and we will probably never know exactly what happened, but what happened next is something which will be recorded for decades to come. He ran to the Governor’s office seeking the restitution of his goods where upon the Governor ignored him. Bouazizi then went to a local gas station, filled up a gas canister and then returned to the Governor’s building. He stood in the middle of traffic, doused himself in petrol, shouted out “How do you expect me to make a living?” and set himself alight.

Blasphemy, Ireland and an Irish University

(An edited version of this post should be appearing in print later next month. I’ve reproduced it here as some of the more “controversial” parts have been edited out of the version which is going to be published.)

On the 1st of January 2010, Ireland took a remarkable step backwards when the so called Blasphemy Law came into effect. One of the main results of this has been that many people feel that their freedom of speech could be curtailed by potential legal action and a substantial fine if something they express is deemed to be blasphemous towards a particular religion. To say that this opened a can worms is an understatement and it rather succinctly showed the complete lack of common sense in the then Fianna Fáil led government.