If you did a SWOT analysis of the world (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats) the threats would include the fact that one nation, China, has become the world's factory while a second real danger is narcissistic amoral leaders. Opportunities include the option to adopt global socialism and for profiteering (between nations and within nations) to be classified as a war crime. Weaknesses are, at a glance, our very human desire for an easy life (laziness) and our propensity for greed. The world’s greatest strength is its natural environment and, for now, the fact that we, its highest ape, have a common humanity, a need for tribe, a need to belong.
© Alison Hackett 25 March 2020
50 ways to please your mother
(with apologies to Paul Simon; A, D & N)
1. When you slip out the back, take the rubbish with you.
2. Learn how to do your own laundry (see 3-11).
3. Bring the dirty clothes to the washing machine. Put them in it.
4. Put the powder in and start the machine (40º works for everything.)
5. Come back later. Take the wet clothes out.
6. Hang them out on the line to dry.
7. Take them in from the line.
8. Iron them or fold them.
9. Put them away in your wardrobe.
10. If it starts to rain during stage 6 move to stage 7. When it has stopped raining repeat from stage 6.
11. Wash your bed sheets. Hint: they are dirty when you can see the dirt.
12. If you are four years old go to bed when she asks you to.
13. If you are four years old and you are reading this, ask her to sign you up for a gifted children programme.
14. If she asks for “three wedgies” in a loud voice in McDonalds explain to her what a wedgie means - and that it is not the same thing as the potato wedges on offer.
15. Let her know her when words like hop, disco and dance are no longer in fashion.
16. Teach her the difference between the album name and the group name of the latest bands.
17. Make a new plan when you leave school/college/job/girl/boy/home.
18. Try gardening - with or without her.
19. Learn what a waste paper bin is for.
20. Use the wastepaper bin(s).
21. Don’t eat too much.
22. Don’t eat too little.
23. Don’t sleep too much.
24. Don’t sleep too little.
25. Don’t shower too much (it costs too much).
26. Don’t shower too little (particularly if you are a teenage male).
27. Avoid unwashed long hair/dreadlocks. She won’t cope well.
28. Don't cut your hair too short.
29. You don’t need to be coy - offer her feedback as a parent. She gives you feedback all the time, whether you want it or not.
30. Find a job you love and set yourself free.
31. Find a job you love and put a bridge over her troubled waters.
32. If you and Julio were in trouble down at the school-yard tell her the truth before the principal does.
33. If you are thirteen or older stop telling her everything.
34. Let her know how twitter works (see 35).
35. Be very concerned when she tells you that she once asked in a coffee shop if a small picture of a bird alongside @kaphsc.ie meant that their email address was email@example.com.
36. Make her a meal. She’ll almost die of gratitude.
37. Ditto if you voluntarily vacuum/sweep/clean the toilet/shop/tidy/empty the dishwasher.
38. Unplug your chargers.
39. Turn off the lights.
40. Admit it if you scratched the car.
41. Don't go faster than 25kmph if she’s teaching you to drive. She’s terrified. See 42.
42. When she gasps and flinches (on the passenger side) - it’s not about you. Just you as a baby driver.
43. Bear in mind she changed your nappy for years. You may have to change hers sometime.
44. If you are over 30 and still living at home, leave home. ASAP.
45. Help preserve her dignity when she stops making sense. This is her world now.
46. Understand that at a certain age every caring bone is leaving her body: she may no longer care about whether your stomach is full or not.
47. Indulge her fondness for her first album - even if it is Cat Steven’s Tea for the Tillerman.
48. If it is Wednesday morning at 3am, don’t call home.
49. If you are a student who has just moved out think carefully before sending her the text: “Hi Mum, just wondering how to make a French dressing. We have olive oil, balsamic vinegar, French mustard and honey. Can anything be done with these?” She may reconsider your allowance and you will have to move back home. You may also receive shouty texts from her with a lot of capital letters about her NOT KNOWING what balsamic vinegar was when SHE was a POOR student.
50. Even if you’re not called Betty, she won’t mind it if you call her Al.
© Alison Hackett posted 22 March 2020. This blog was first posted in 2015 and can be viewed on the archive blog
Everything has changed. Changed utterly. Has the corona virus, Covid-19, broken capitalism? Perhaps. Business and financial experts argue that we must keep the show on the road: Reduce interest rates to almost zero. Print money. Keep everyone spending. Save the airlines, the motor car, tourism, roads, cruise ships, burn oil. Spend, spend, spend. Shore up the economy. We mustn’t fall into a depression. But why would we want to return to the flawed system of the last century? The hamster wheel of growth is harming the planet and most of our psyches.
Post Corona let’s think about how we contribute to the social good (or how we “add value” to use the business speak). Most of us have lost the ability to understand the difference between what we need and what we want and so we prop up all sorts of derivative but inessential businesses that come loosely under the sectors of gambling, entertainment, narcissism, addiction, greed. They play on our desire for a thrill, a desire to celebrate our selves, our fears about the future and our need to avoid boredom.
Wants are things you desire, luxuries to spend your surplus on: fast food, horse racing, a punt, the lottery, TV sports, the stock market, fashion, beauty treatments, anti-aging face creams, drinking and eating out, drugs, fast cars, gyms, second houses, tourism, cruises; the entire world of financial derivatives.
Does it really add value to society being a celebrity footballer? Does it add value if you work in gambling? Stock market traders are gamblers but gambling with someone else’s money (most often your pension).
We can try something different after Covid-19. We could become a nation which no longer subscribes to the hard capitalism of winners and losers which favours the strong, creates a society where fewer and fewer people hold more and more of the wealth.
No better place to start than with the leaving cert this year.
Every leaving cert student could be given an amnesty: all awarded 600 points. When the places are allocated, in August, the universities, colleges and apprenticeships would take a random selection of the people who applied for that course if it was over-subscribed (as it would be in courses like medicine). If you do not get accepted this year in the random selection you will be in the first group to be selected for the following year. Or defer to the subsequent year if the course was still oversubscribed by the first year's surplus — and if you still didn't get a place, push to the following year again. The important thing is there is a guarantee that you will eventually get place in medicine if that is what you want to study. If not an oversubscribed course then a college could accept everyone who applied.
If a student had a change of mind and wanted to swap and reapply elsewhere that would be allowed. There is a high chance that the people who apply for a course will do well in it as we tend to know our own strengths and recognise our weaknesses. We self-select (make personal choices) wisely all the time. Why go for languages if you hate them or find them difficult?
Continuing the theme of universal points for students, imagine Ireland using citizen's assemblies to plan on how to become the first green nation; how to provide a universal income for citizens; to having random selection for taking your turn (like jury service) at being a political representative. We could have our own local Irish Euros as our currency (in our banks and on our contactless cards) and they could be exchanged for French Euros (Euro for Euro) in a clearing system at the border when a tourist returned to France, for example. The EU could set a single interest rate across the block. Ideally a single currency would extend to the whole world and end the industry of currency speculation.
Imagine Ireland as the first nation to become carbon neutral, the first nation to fully harness tidal energy, wind energy, solar energy, re-cyling, re-using, up-cycling. The swap industry is booming — the time is ripe for us to take advantage.
Like other nations Ireland could adopt a requirement for every Irish national to do their civic duty in the form of army training for UN peace keeping or doing community service for two years between the age of 18 and 25.
What do we need? Really need. Food, shelter (a home), electricity, health, public transport, clean air, clean environment, information, love, family, touch; and for your soul and self-worth we need books, art, music, gathering together in community, belonging, feeling you are contributing to the social good.
Some might call it communism. I’d call it fair.
#coronavirus #Covid_19 #CoronaCrisis
© Alison Hackett posted 20 March 2020
What does the Visual Time Traveller have to say about plagues and viruses? Quite a lot — they feature on at least 13 pages:
Alison Hackett 19 March 2020 Gallery of pictures on Facebook here
I once received a piece of junk mail of epic proportions. It came in the form of a beautiful glossy book with a cover almost A3 size. I wasn’t the only one. Ten thousand others had the same tome land with a thud on their doormats. Members of Congress. Libraries. Academics. Science Museums. Cultural Institutes. It happened when I was working as the Institute of Physics Representative in Ireland, a title that earned me the reputation of being a physicist although I was nothing of the sort – I just worked for them. My office was based in UCD – in a room I shared with the eminent physicist and founder of the Young Scientist Exhibition, Dr Tony Scott. Now Tony (if he is reading this) is hearing the full truth of this story for the first time. When it happened I might, at the time, have told him a little white lie in order to maintain his belief in my good character. Ahem.
I got a message that there was a large package for me to collect from the Post Office in UCD. I had to go over and lug it back over to Physics. Not easy with a 5.4 Kilo package. I open it up. It is a coffee table book called The Atlas of Creation by Harun Yayha published in Turkey. It is glossy with beautiful pictures. It looks like a popular science book on evolution. I’m flicking through. Wow. Expensive production. This would cost me about €75 to buy. Eight hundred glossy pages. A dream book for a school project on fossils and evolution. A sort of mega-sized National Geographic. And it has been sent to me for free. Unsolicited. Why?
Now I start reading. What’s this? The word “God” is on every page. Oh dear. I think it is advocating creationism. A sort of evidence-by-pictures proof of Creationism. An anti-evolution treatise. A creationist believer's book! I dip in to find out more. I’m distracted by the photographic plates dominating every page, but there are descriptions underneath. Mostly brief and repeated throughout the book – telling me that life forms on Earth have never undergone even the slightest change over millions of years; have never developed from one form into another. Pictures of million-year-old fossils alongside pictures of modern-day animals stating that they are identical. And each page rounded up with a sort of Q.E.D. in the form of: “therefore God created the universe and everything in it. Down with Darwin.”
Oh, but it is beautiful. What will I do with it?
It is not scientific. It is junk mail albeit expensively produced junk mail.
Why has it been sent to me, unsolicited?
Can I have this book on my desk and work for the Institute of Physics in Ireland?
Better call Saul. I mean Sheila, my colleague, a real physicist. She’s here for a meeting tomorrow. She is a proper physicist. She will know what to do. Tony isn’t here. Can’t ask him.
Sheila is horrified by the book.
“This is dangerous” she says. “If this gets into the hands of children they will believe it. That is how indoctrination happens. We can’t let it get out there.”
“But shouldn’t we put it down in the Physics library.” I try. “Let the scientists judge it for themselves. They’re smart people.”
“No. It is lies. It is false. It is propaganda. It is selling a false message using beautiful pictures.”
“Could I return it?”
“Yes. Mark ‘return to sender’ on it. And post it back.”
Now this is where my inner laziness gets in the way. I’d have to wrap it back up and lug it all the way back over to the post box. I’d probably have to pay to return it. It could cost about €40 to post back. It had come from Turkey. “That would be a pain in the neck. Haven’t time.”
“We mustn’t let it get into children’s hands.” Sheila continues.
“So what else can we do? Throw it away? Second hand shop?” And then I whisper. “Destroy it?”
“Yes.” Says Sheila firmly. “It must be destroyed.”
“Tear it up?” I ask weakly.
I look at the book again. Everything is screaming at me that it would be the most terrible thing to tear a book like this up. Who tears up books? Who burns books? Oh God. I’m in a medieval horror film.
I go first. Have a look at the cover and try to pull it off. It isn’t going anywhere. This is a well glued spine and strong hard cover. Okay open the book. Try tearing a single page. A beautiful fossil torn in half. That worked. Into the bin. Tear a few more. Sheila takes one side. I take the other. We start to tear several pages at once. And all of a sudden we are moving fast. We have torn up the whole book and rip the front and back cover off the spinal remnants. It is in tatters. We are sweating. I put as much as will fit in the bin and the rest in a plastic bag. Down we go for a coffee. Neither of us says a word about what we had just done. Sheila heads home.
I bump into friend and physicist, Emma Sokell, on the way back to the office. I confess to her. I need some affirmation. “I could never tear a book up.” She says. She is appalled. I can tell I have gone right down in her estimation. Oh no. What will Tony think?
I test out the story over the weekend on my family and friends. Everyone is horrified. “You TORE it up? A beautiful coffee table book? You should have let us see it. That is like burning books. How could you?”
I tell my friend – Fraser Mitchell, a botany professor, in Trinity. “Oh. We got that book too. I brought it down to the coffee room for students and staff to look at it. You can’t destroy books. Let the people judge.”
At a dinner party that night there is a major row. everyone is screaming about the tearing up of the book. A few days later I am back in UCD. Tony is there.
“Good morning Alison. Where did you park the Maserati this morning?” I sneak a glance towards the bin. It’s empty. Evidence gone. Phew. But did he see it torn up in the bin?
“Did you see the huge book that was on my desk a few days ago?”
“No.” Says Tony. I have to tell him.
“A beautiful book about fossils and creationism. It’s weird. I was sent it free. It was completely non-scientific. Enormous – a stunning production. But it was not scientific. NOT SCIENTIFIC. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t keep it in Physics. Physicists would hate it. It was so heavy. It was so glossy. It wasn’t science.”
“What did you do with it?” Pause. I can’t say it. Not to Tony.
“I returned it to the sender. Some guy in Turkey.”
A lie I’ve carried with me until today. Sorry, Tony.
© Alison Hackett posted 11 March 2020
Illustration © Alison Hackett March 2020