Shameless Plug #1: LookLeft

It is shameless plug time but can you blame me? Some of you will already be aware that I’ve begun writing for LookLeft Magazine. It’s a 32 page mix of progressive news, views and solutions dealing with politics, culture and sports.

Anyway Issue 4 has just hit the shelves and it is the first copy I’ve contributed to. This years Hard Working Class Heroes Festival comes under my watchful gaze, taking a close look at bands like Kill Krinkle Club, Enemies, Jogging, Nouveanoise, Conor Mason, The Lost Brothers, RSAG, We Are Losers and Kid Karate .

There’s also a selection of handpicked legally free music from Max Tannone, We Are Losers and Captain Moonlight. Finally I’ve run a tentative eye over the ‘Policing Dialogues’ exhibition from the ‘What’s The Story Collective’ in The Lab, Dublin.

There’s lots of great content from numerous excellent scribes, all for just €2. For more info on what’s in issue 4 and where you can pick up your copy go to the LookLeft Website.

Faithless, Dublin & The Right To Work Campaign

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I’m no fan of Faithless’s music and know very little about the personalities either but judging by their ‘Tour Diary’ they’re obviously not pricks. In the Dublin edition David Randall speaks about two news stories which caught his eye; Elvis Costello’s boycott of Israel in protest over their treatment of Palestinians and the Right to Work Campaign, which along with its demos  (I was in attendance last week) have been all over the news in Ireland and Randall has a very interesting chat with campaign organiser James O’ Toole about it and others issues.

Very surprised on discovering this, I never really thought bands on tour would be that interested in local issues and the like but fair play – The Right to Work Campaign marches on the Dáil for the third week tonight @ 7.30pm.

Headshop Hypocrisy

This is my latest article for the Voice. The views expressed here are solely my own and not reflective of any group, party or campaign I have or am involved with.

Ireland is in the grip of a national frenzy. No, it’s not NAMA, or HSE, or the evil Crystal Swing: it’s “headshops” and the “legal highs” they sell.

This moral crusade has been led by a somewhat unusual alliance of community groups, independent politicians, and political parties. Granted that many of the products on sale in these outlets are probably not good for you; but it’s the hypocrisy of the manipulative and ill-informed arguments that are problematic, preventing a real discussion on the issue from taking place.

In a country with a renowned problem, or love, of drink—depending on what way you look at it—the same moralistic crusade to shut the bars, pubs and off-licenses doesn’t exist; yet the misuse of alcohol does untold damage to individuals, families, and communities, not to mention the cost to the taxpayer.

The disparity of media coverage is much to blame. Moral compasses such as Joe Duffy have whipped up hysteria they can’t control: look at the number of attacks, including arson, on headshops, which put ordinary workers at serious risk.

The protests against the shops have received more coverage than they are worth. Larger protests calling for the nationalisation of Corrib gas, for example, are frequently ignored. These people claim to be working to protect the “youth,” when their time would be better spent campaigning for social, sporting and creative centres to provide an alternative to both drugs and drink.

One of the most frequently used arguments is that the shops are providing a “gateway to drugs.” Headshops have been around for maybe five years, yet the use of drugs has been with us a lot longer than that. Many are convinced that by shutting the shops the problem will go away; in fact they will force people back to buying from dealers—the only people who’ll benefit from the closure of the shops.

As one of the few growth areas in our economy, shops are springing up throughout the country, creating jobs and contributing much-needed taxes to a very unhealthy exchequer. It wasn’t possible to track down some figures on this, but it raises the simple question: do we want the money to benefit our country by paying for public projects or continue to flood in to the criminal world?

The ever-changing ideological chameleons, the establishment parties, continue to follow the right-wing neo-liberal economic model of non-intervention and non-regulation when it suits them, or their lobbyists. What happened to leaving markets alone and the market being above all? Why can’t they take similar stringent actions against bankers, speculators, and other fiscal miscreants?

Lest we forget, these are the parties (excluding Sinn Féin) that scaremongered the passage of Lisbon 2, which enshrines the market’s needs above all, yet they pay no heed. And if “we” are all European, why not begin to liberalise laws on drugs, like other EU countries?

This façade has raised some serious issues that need to be dealt with in a calm and relaxed fashion, not the knee-jerk reactionary response we have witnessed thus far. The prohibition of drugs appears to have failed; perhaps it’s time we as a society re-evaluated the state’s position on drugs. It’s unclear at present what the answer is, but it’s apparent that many people are willing to buy and use drugs, so we should look at how we can take control of the trade, regulate it, making it safer by introducing standards and quality control—much like alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical drugs.

The first thing on the agenda should be the regulation and licensing of “headshops,” the introduction of a minimum age for products, and curbing opening hours in line with off-licences.

The true origins of this campaign are unclear, but it may have been a clever political ruse on behalf of someone in Fianna Fáil to distract attention from their economic incompetence and pitiful attempts to run this country. If so, it’s worked.

The greatest crime of all is that parties have rushed to the streets to protest against the “headshops” yet are unwilling to do the same against NAMA and the slashing of wages, services and benefits, not to mention the quisling-like giveaway of our natural resources.

With laws on the way to outlaw many of the products sold in these shops, much of the hype and guff is simply political opportunism on a colossal scale. To curb such hypocrisy, mandatory drug testing should be introduced for the proponents of these campaigns; this might make them less excitable.

The closing of these shops and outlawing of certain substances will not tackle the overall issue and problem of drugs in our society. It’s simply the quaint Irish attitude of sweeping it under the carpet. If history can teach us anything, this will solve nothing.

Editor Notes: The article was submitted by a young person active in his community, attempting to engage with and involve young people in standing up for better facilities at the community level. He is expressing views that are shared by many thousands of young people throughout the country and raises some interesting questions that need to be discussed and debated within communities, trade unions, and political parties. We are witnessing a growth in the use and abuse of drugs, from legal ones such as alcohol, in the rise of binge drinking, to illegal ones such as heroin. State provision for the rehabilitation of drug abusers is minimal. One thing is clear: present policies are not working. If you wish to respond to the issues raised in this article, e-mail them to cpoi[at]eircom[dot]net; fifty or a hundred words (maximum).—Editor.

 

IELB Get on Down

A shameless bit of plugging here today for one of my favourite online haunts, Irish Election Literature Blog, a pretty amazing archive resource of Irish political leaflets from way back when to the present day. It’s got plenty of stuff for any of you interested in politics or design but there are piles of hilarious ones too, remember Clifford T Reid’s Euro Campaign?

It’s a blog that I’m delighted to say I have been donating some stuff to lately, it’s definitely worth checking out and if any of you have old election materials lying around send them on.

Elections? Sure it’s always the same result.

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David Cameron ‘Common People’

With just ten days untill voters in the UK go to the polls I’m pretty sure lots of you have already seen this but I hadn’t until today. Someone has cleverly remade Pulp’s classic ‘Common People’ as though David Cameron was singing it, unsurprisingly he isn’t portrayed favourably, it’s no William Shatner version but it’s definitely worth a giggle.

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Che Guevara In Ireland – RTE Interview (1964)

This isn’t really a music post but it’s an interesting historical nugget from the RTE vaults of the legendary revolutionary leader, Che Guevara. Guevara who was no stranger to Ireland having Irish roots, making a number of visits including one in Kilkee in 1962 where he met artist Jim Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick would go on to created the iconic image of Che, which the world over is familiar with. According to Fitzpatrick:

in 1963 while a teenage student at Gormanston College he worked a summer job at the Marine Hotel pub in Kilkee, the remote town of his mother’s birth. One morning Che Guevara walked in with two Cubans and ordered an Irish Whiskey. Fitzpatrick immediately recognized him because of his interest in the Cuban revolution. Knowing about the Irish diaspora and history in Argentina, Fitzpatrick asked Che vaguely about his roots. Che told Fitzpatrick that his grandmother was Irish and that his great-grandmother Isabel, was from Galway, with other family being from Cork.

Anyway on this occasion bad weather forced Che Guevara to land in Dublin and as luck would have it he spoke to RTÉ reporter Sean Egan while Aer Lingus air hostess Felima Archer acted as interpreter. During the short interview Guevara answers questions about the political situation in Cuba and recent threats on his life.

Same Shit, Different Tory

Having spent a number of years across the water I still keep an eye on political developments in Britain amongst other things. Britain is currently gearing up for a general election and the apathy is palpable as they ready to go to the polls in May. Politics in Britain may never have been at lower ebb spurred by the expenses scandal and of course the long-standing issue of the first past the post voting system that realistically insures rule by one of two parties, Labour or Conservative. Since the dash to the centre right by Labour under the guidance of Tony Blair and his ‘New Labour’ project, people in Britain are faced with a choice akin to two cheeks of the one arse I can wholeheartedly understand the apathetic nature of the British electorate.

For all the negative connotations and failures of ‘New Labour’, I have been once again reminded that they are a slightly (and I mean slightly) better prospect than a Tory government by an unlikely source, Paul Weller. The ‘Mod Father’ Paul Weller is interviewed in the latest edition of Hotpress tells it like it is, here’s a short extract from the article:

Although a relatively happy bunny these days, Weller blew a gasket recently when David Cameron said of his time at public school, “It meant a lot, some of those early Jam albums we used to listen to. I don’t see why the left should be the only ones allowed to listen to protest songs.”

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – which part of ‘Eton Rifles’ doesn’t he get?” Paul snaps. “They can re-brand all they want, but there’s fuck all difference between the Tories now and the way they were under Thatcher.”

I don’t think I need to go through a history lesson on what Thatcher did, we’d be here forever (let’s just say I agree with Galloway) but fair play to Weller for speaking out and speaking the truth. We have plenty of our trouble but it’s a pity our musicians don’t speak out, considering Bono was a special guest at the recent Tory conference and Geldof has been an advisor to them in the past, it speaks volumes really.

In the late 70’s/80’s music attempted to confront Thatcher and the Tories in a number of ways from the Rough Trade label to Billy Bragg, The Specials and Gang of Four. Below is a link to a BBC Radio documentary ‘Stand Down Margret’, music’s response to Thatcher. It’s not exactly the greatest but it gives you an idea of the lengths people went to oppose her and if it went on the quality of bands for/against her, the opposition would have won by knock out in round one.

Mp3: Stand Down Margret

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