July 24, 2015

Why the Insurrection Happened

From The Insurrection in Dublin, by James Stephens, 1916:

It happened because the leader of the Irish Party misrepresented his people in the English House of Parliament. On the day of the declaration of war between England and Germany he took the Irish case, weighty with eight centuries of history and tradition, and he threw it out of the window. He pledged Ireland to a particular course of action, and he had no authority to give this pledge and he had no guarantee that it would be met. The ramshackle intelligence of his party and his own emotional nature betrayed him and us and England. He swore Ireland to loyalty as if he had Ireland in his pocket, and could answer for her. Ireland has never been disloyal to England, not even at this epoch, because she has never been loyal to England, and the profession of her National faith has been unwavering, has been known to every English person alive, and has been clamant to all the world beside.

Is it that he wanted to be cheered? He could very easily have stated Ireland’s case truthfully, and have proclaimed a benevolent neutrality (if he cared to use the grandiloquent words) on the part of this country. He would have gotten his cheers, he would in a few months have gotten Home Rule in return for Irish soldiers. He would have received politically whatever England could have safely given him. But, alas, these carefulnesses did not chime with his emotional moment. They were not magnificent enough for one who felt that he was talking not to Ireland or to England, but to the whole gaping and eager earth, and so he pledged his country’s credit so deeply that he did not leave her even one National rag to cover herself with.

After a lie truth bursts out, and it is no longer the radiant and serene goddess knew or hoped for – it is a disease, it is a moral syphilis and will ravage until the body in which it can dwell has been purged. Mr. Redmond told the lie and he is answerable to England for the violence she had to be guilty of, and to Ireland for the desolation to which we have had to submit. Without his lie there had been no Insurrection; without it there had been at this moment, and for a year past, an end to the “Irish question.” Ireland must in ages gone have been guilty of abominable crimes or she could not at this juncture have been afflicted with a John Redmond.

He is the immediate cause of this our latest Insurrection – the word is big, much too big for the deed, and we should call it row, or riot, or squabble, in order to draw the fact down to its dimensions, but the ultimate blame for the trouble between the two countries does not fall against Ireland.

The fault lies with England, and in these days while an effort is being made (interrupted, it is true, by cannon) to found a better understanding between the two nations it is well that England should recognize what she has done to Ireland, and should try at least to atone for it. The situation can be explained almost in a phrase. We are a little country and you, a huge country, have persistently beaten us. We are a poor country and you, the richest country in the world, have persistently robbed us. That is the historical fact, and whatever national or political necessities are opposed in reply, it is true that you have never given Ireland any reason to love you, and you cannot claim her affection without hypocrisy or stupidity.

You think our people can only be tenacious in hate – it is a lie. Our historical memory is truly tenacious, but during the long and miserable tale of our relations you have never given us one generosity to remember you by, and you must not claim our affection or our devotion until you are worthy of them. We are a good people; almost we are the only Christian people left in the world, nor has any nation shown such forbearance towards their persecutor as we have always shown to you. No nation has forgiven its enemies as we have forgiven you, time after time down the miserable generations, the continuity of forgiveness only equalled by the continuity of your ill-treatment. Between our two countries you have kept and protected a screen of traders and politicians who are just as truly your enemies as they are ours. In the end they will do most harm to you for we are by this vaccinated against misery but you are not, and the “loyalists” who sell their own country for a shilling will sell another country for a penny when the opportunity comes and safety with it.

Meanwhile do not always hasten your presents to us out of a gun. You have done it so often that your guns begin to bore us, and you have now an opportunity which may never occur again to make us your friends. There is no bitterness in Ireland against you on account of this war, and the lack of ill-feeling amongst us is entirely due to the more than admirable behaviour of the soldiers whom you sent over here. A peace that will last for ever can be made with Ireland if you wish to make it, but you must take her hand at once, for in a few months’ time she will not open it to you; the old, bad relations will re-commence, the rancor will be born and grow, and another memory will be stored away in Ireland’s capacious and retentive brain.

July 18, 2015

CAITH: wear, wear out, consume, use up, spend, throw …

From Foclóir Gaedhilge agus Béarla, 1927, by Patrick Dinneen:

Caithim, -theamh, caitheachtain, caith (Inishm.). p.a. caithte, v. tr. and intr., I pass (as a day, my life, a place, etc.), practice, make a custom of; use (as tobacco, etc.); wear (as clothes, etc.); carry (as a stick, etc.); consume, waste, wear away; spend; eat, drink; take part in (as a festival, etc.); I shed; I throw, hurl fling, cast; shoot (U., Con.); ó chaith an long an t-oileán, as soon as the ship cleared the island (Aran); tá sé ag caitheamh na hochtmhadh bliadhna, he is in his eighth year; c. mé féir suas ar, I throw myself on the mercy of; c. Corp Chríost, I receive Holy Communion (F. F.); c. as mo cheann, I give up thinking about; c. tharam, I throw away, give up (Conem.); c. uaim (M.), id.; caith tharad an caoineadh, give up lamenting; c. le, I behave towards (M. B.); mar caitheadh leo, how they were treated (id.); chaith an obair bliadhain ar bun (ar siubhal, &c.), the work lasted a year (Con. M. B., etc.); c. éadach, I wear clothes; c. biadh, I take food; c. mo shaoghal, , aimsear, I pass my life, a day, time, etc.; c. airgead, I spend money; I give premature or still-born birth to; c. gamhain, I give birth to a still-born calf; chaith sí leanbh mic, she gave birth to a still-born boy; c. amach, I throw out, evict; I throw out of the mouth; c. suas, I throw up, I vomit, al. I estimate, tot up, calculate; caithim cloch, &c., le, I hurl a stone, etc., at; caithimís uainn é, let us change the subject of conversation (see under cleamhnas); nár chathair do ghol, may you never cease crying; c. ciall le, I deal sensibly with; c. tuairimí, I advance opinions, guesses, etc.; c., id.; c. focal, cainnt, &c., I speak a word, a speech, etc.; I must, I am obliged to; c. bheith im shuidhe go moch, I am obliged habitually to be up early (more common in future than in present); caithfidh sé gur, &c., it must be that, etc. (Con.).

From Foclóir Scoile, 1998, An Gúm:

caith kah vt & i wear (out), consume, spend; throw, cast, shoot, píopa a chaitheamh to smoke a pipe, tá na blianta á gcaitheamh the years are passing, chaith sibh go maith liom you entertained me well, bhí sí ag ~eamh i ndiaidh an linbh she was pining for the child, léim a chaitheamh to take a jump, ag ~eamh ó thuaidh drifting north, tá an aíll ag ~eamh amach the cliff is overhanging, ag ~eamh anuas ar dhuine belittling a person, ~fidh mé imeach I must go

Also see entry at: Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla, 1977, by Niall Ó Dónaill

July 9, 2015

Constans de Markievics against the ‘treaty’

Dáil Eireann Debate on the Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland, signed in London on the 6th December 1921, ratified by the Dáil on the 7th January 1922, 64-57: Sessions 14th December 1921 to 10th January 1922.

Tuesday, the 3rd January, 1922:

MADAME MARKIEVICZ: […] And what do the Southern Unionists stand for? You will all allow they stand for two things. First and foremost as the people who, in Southern Ireland, have been the English garrison against Ireland and the rights of Ireland. But in Ireland they stand for something bigger still and worse, something more malignant; for that class of capitalists who have been more crushing, cruel and grinding on the people of the nation than any class of capitalists of whom I ever read in any other country, while the people were dying on the roadsides. They are the people who have combined together against the workers of Ireland, who have used the English soldiers, the English police, and every institution in the country to ruin the farmer, and more especially the small farmer, and to send the people of Ireland to drift in the emigrant ships and to die of horrible disease or to sink to the bottom of the Atlantic. And these anti-Irish Irishmen are to be given some select way of entering this House, some select privileges – privileges that they have earned by their cruelty to the Irish people and to the working classes of Ireland, and not only that, but they are to be consulted as to how the Upper House is to be constituted. As a Republican who means that the Republic means Government by the consent of the people [hear, hear]. I object to any Government of that sort whereby a privileged number of classes established here by British rule are to be given a say – to this small minority of traitors and oppressors – in the form of an Upper Chamber as against all, I might say, modern ideas of common sense, of the people who wish to build up a prosperous, contented nation. But looking as I do for the prosperity of the many, for the happiness and content of the workers, for what I stand, James Connolly’s ideal of a Workers’ Republic—

A DEPUTY: Soviet Republic.

MADAME MARKIEVICZ: —co-operative commonwealth, these men who have opposed everything are to be elected and upheld by our plenipotentiaries; and I suppose they are to be the Free State, or the Cheap State Army, or whatever selection these men are, to be set up to uphold English interests in Ireland, to uphold the capitalists’ interests in Ireland, to block every ideal that the nation may wish to formulate; to block the teaching of Irish, to block the education of the poorer classes; to block, in fact, every bit of progress that every man and woman in Ireland to-day amongst working people desire to see put into force. That is one of the biggest blots on this Treaty; this deliberate attempt to set up a privileged class in this, what they call a Free State, that is not free. I would like the people here who represent the workers to take that into consideration – to say to themselves what can the working people expect in an Ireland that is being run by men who, at the time of the Treaty, are willing to guarantee this sort of privilege to a class that every thinking man and woman in Ireland despises.


Now, personally, I being an honourable woman, would sooner die than give a declaration of fidelity to King George or the British Empire. I saw a picture the other day of India, Ireland and Egypt fighting England, and Ireland crawling out with her hands up. Do you like that? I don’t. Now, if we pledge ourselves to this oath we pledge our allegiance to this thing, whether you call it Empire or Commonwealth of Nations, that is treading down the people of Egypt and of India. And in Ireland this Treaty, as they call it, mar dheadh, that is to be ratified by a Home Rule Bill, binds us to stand by and enter no protest while England crushes Egypt and India. And mind you, England wants peace in Ireland to bring her troops over to India and Egypt. She wants the Republican Army to be turned into a Free State Army, and mind, the army is centred in the King or the representative of the King. He is the head of the army. The army is to hold itself faithful to the Commonwealth of Nations while the Commonwealth sends its Black-and-Tans to India. Of course you may want to send the Black-and-Tans out of this country. Now mind you, there are people in Ireland who were not afraid to face them before, and I believe would not be afraid to face them again. You are here labouring under a mistake if you believe that England, for the first time in her life, is treating you honourably. Now I believe, and we are against the Treaty believing, that England is being more dishonourable and acting in a cleverer way than she ever did before, because I believe we never sent cleverer men over than we sent this time, yet they have been tricked. Now you all know me, you know that my people came over here in Henry VIII.’s time, and by that bad black drop of English blood in me I know the English – that’s the truth. I say it is because of that black drop in me that I know the English personally better perhaps than the people who went over on the delegation. [Laughter].

A DEPUTY: Why didn’t you go over?

MADAME MARKIEVICZ: Why didn’t you send me? I tell you, don’t trust the English with gifts in their hands. That’s not original, someone said it before of the Greeks – but it is true. The English come to you to-day offering you great gifts; I tell you this, those gifts are not genuine. I tell you, you will come out of this a defeated nation. No one ever got the benefits of the promises the English made them. It seems absurd to talk to the Irish people about trusting the English, but you know how the O’Neills and the O’Donnells went over and always came back with the promises and guarantees that their lands would be left them and that their religion would not be touched. What is England’s record? It was self aggrandisement and Empire. You will notice how does she work – by a change of names. They subjugated Wales by giving them a Prince of Wales, and now they want to subjugate Ireland by a Free State Parliament and a Governor General at the head of it. I could tell you something about Governor-Generals and people of that sort. You can’t have a Governor-General without the Union Jack, and a suite, and general household and other sort of official running in a large way. The interests of England are the interests of the capitalistic class. Your Governor-General is the centre for your Southern Unionists, for whom Mr. Griffith has been so obliging. He is the centre from which the anti-Irish ideals will go through Ireland, and English ideals will come: love of luxury, love of wealth, love of competition, trample on your neighbours to get to the top, immorality and divorce laws of the English nation. All these things you will find centred in this Governor-General. I heard there was a suggestion – there was a brother of the King’s or the Queen’s suggested as Governor-General, and I heard also that this Lascelles was going to be Governor. I also heard that there is a suggestion that Princess Mary’s wedding is to be broken off, and that the Princess Mary is to be married to Michael Collins who will be appointed first Governor of our Saorstát na hEirennn. All these are mere nonsense. You will find that the English people, the rank and file of the common people will all take it that we are entering their Empire and that we are going to help them. All the people who are in favour of it here claim it to be a step towards Irish freedom, claim it to be nothing but allegiance to the Free State. Now what will the world think of it? What the world thinks of it is this: Ireland has long been held up to the scorn of the world through the British Press. According to that Press Ireland is a nation that lay down, that never protested. The people in other countries have scorned us. So Ireland can bear to be scorned again, even if she takes the oath that pledges her support to the Commonwealth of Nations. But I say, what do Irishmen think in their own hearts? Can any Irishman take that oath honourably and then go back and prepare to fight for an Irish Republic or even to work for the Republic? It is like a person going to get married plotting a divorce. I would make a Treaty with England once Ireland was free, and I would stand with President de Valera in this, that if Ireland were a free Republic I would welcome the King of England over here on a visit. But while Ireland is not free I remain a rebel unconverted and unconvertible. There is no word strong enough for it. I am pledged as a rebel, an unconvertible rebel, because I am pledged to the one thing – a free and independent Republic. Now we have been sneered at for being Republicans by even men who fought for the Republic. We have been told that we didn’t know what we meant. Now I know what I mean – a state run by the Irish people for the people. That means a Government that looks after the rights of the people before the rights of property. And I don’t wish under the Saorstát to anticipate that the directors of this and the capitalists’ interests are to be at the head of it. My idea is the Workers’ Republic for which Connolly died. And I say that that is one of the things that England wishes to prevent. She would sooner give us Home Rule than a democratic Republic. It is the capitalists’ interests in England and Ireland that are pushing this Treaty to block the march of the working people in England and Ireland. Now, we were offered a Treaty in the first place because England was in a tight place. She wanted her troops for more dirty work elsewhere. Because Dáil Eireann was too democratic, because her Law courts were too just, because the will of the people was being done, and justice was being done, and the well being of the people was considered, the whole people were behind us. You talk very glibly about England evacuating the country. Has anybody questioned that? How long did it take her to evacuate Egypt? What guarantee have we that England will do more than begin to evacuate Ireland directly the Treaty has been ratified? She will begin to evacuate, I have no doubt; she will send a certain number of troops to her other war fronts. Now there is one Deputy – not more than one, I hope – who charged that we rattled the bones of the dead. I must protest about the phrase of rattling the bones of our dead. Now I would like to ask where would Ireland stand without the noble dead? I would like to ask can any of you remember, as I can, the first time you read Robert Emmet’s speech from the dock? Yes, it is all very well for those who now talk Dominion Home Rule to try to be scornful of the phrases – voices of men from the grave, who call on us to die for the cause they died for. I don’t think it is fair to say what dead men might say if they had been here to-day. What I do think fair is to read the messages they left behind them, and to mould our lives with them. James Connolly said, the last time I heard him speak – he spoke to me and to others – a few phrases that very much sum up the situation to-day. It was just before Easter Week in 1916. We had heard the news that certain people had called off the Rising. One man wishing to excuse them, to exonerate them, said: ‘So and so does not care to take the responsibility of letting people go to their death when there is so little chance of victory’. ‘Oh’, said Connolly, ‘there is only one sort of responsibility I am afraid of and that is preventing the men and women of Ireland fighting and dying for Ireland if they are so minded’. That was almost the last word that was said to me by a man who died for Ireland, a man who was my Commandant, and I have always thought of that since, and I have always felt that was a message which I had to deliver to the people of Ireland. We hear a great deal of the renewal of warfare. I am of quite a pacific mind. I don’t like to kill. I don’t like death, but I am not afraid to die and, not being afraid to die myself, I don’t see why I should say that I should take it for granted that the Irish people were not as ready to die now in this year 1922, any more than they were afraid in the past. I fear dishonour; I don’t fear destiny and I feel at all events that death is preferable to dishonour, and sooner than see the people of Ireland take that oath meaning to build up your Republic on a lie, I would sooner say to the people of Ireland: ‘Stand by me and fight to the death’. I think that a real Treaty between a free Ireland and a free England – with Ireland standing as a free sovereign state – I believe it would be possible to get that now; but even if it were impossible, I myself would stand for what is noblest and what is truest. That is the thing that to me I can grasp in my nature. I have seen the stars, and I am not going to follow a flickering will-o’-the-wisp, and I am not going to follow any person juggling with constitutions and introducing petty tricky ways into this Republican movement which we built up – you and not I – because I have been in jail. It has been built up and are we now going back to this tricky Parliamentarianism, because I tell you this document is nothing else. Pierce Beasley gave us to understand that this is the beginning of something great and that Ireland is struggling to be born. I say that the new Ireland was born in Easter Week, 1916, that Ireland is not struggling to be born. I say that the Irish language has begun to grow, that we are pushing it in the schools, and I don’t see that giving up our rights, that going into the British Empire is going to help. In any case the thing is not what you might call a practical thing. It won’t help our commerce, but it is not that; we are idealists believing in and loving Ireland, and I believe that Ireland held by the Black-and-Tans did more for Ireland than Ireland held by Parliamentarianism – the road that meant commercial success for those who took it and, meaning other things, meant prestige for those who took it. But there is the other stony road that leads to ultimate freedom and the regeneration of Ireland; the road that so many of our heroes walked and I, for one will stand on the road with Terence MacSwiney and Kevin Barry and the men of Easter Week. I know the brave soldiers of Ireland will stand there, and I stand humbly behind them, men who have given themselves for Ireland, and I will devote to it the same amount that is left to me of energy and life; and I stand here to-day to make the last protest, for we only speak but once, and to ask you read most carefully, not to take everything for granted, and to realise above all that you strive for one thing, your allegiance to the men who have fought and died. But look at the results. Look at what we gain. We gained more in those few years of fighting than we gained by parliamentary agitation since the days of O’Connell. O’Connell said that Ireland’s freedom was not worth a drop of blood. Now I say that Ireland’s freedom is worth blood, and worth my blood, and I will willingly give it for it, and I appeal to the men of the Dáil to stand true. They ought to stand true and remember what God has put into your hearts and not to be led astray by phantasmagoria. Stand true to Ireland, stand true to your oaths, and put a little trust in God.

Ireland’s so-called treaty with England, patriotic recitation by Countess Markiewicz

Ireland’s dead leaders, patriotic recitation by Countess Markiewicz

July 7, 2015

The bull in the china shop

By courtesy of One Green Planet:

1. The majority of the world’s arable land is dedicated to livestock production. 26% for grazing livestock, 33% for livestock feed. (Worldwatch Institute)

2. We’re using precious land resources to produce food for our food. Not exactly efficient. 16 pounds of grain are used to produce 1 pound of meat. (Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat)

3. Only a small portion of all the grain grown in the U.S. actually goes to feed people. 70% is fed to animals in feedlots. (Global Issues)

4. If we fed these grains to people instead of livestock, it could make a huge dent in world hunger. If all crops used to feed livestock worldwide were redirected for human consumption, we could feed an additional 4 billion hungry people. (Gardeningplaces)

5. As the amount of land needed to grow livestock feed and graze cattle grows, the need to convert forests into agriculture land grows. This comes at a huge cost to native wildlife and plants. In the U.S., livestock grazing has an impact on 14% of threatened and endangered animals and 33% of threatened and endangered plants. (Center for Biological Diversity)

6. Animal agriculture has a similar record for water use. Agriculture uses 70% of the world’s freshwater resources. One-third of that (~23%) is used to grow feed for livestock. (Worldwatch Institute)

7. The bulk of our water footprints comes from “virtual” water in the meat we eat. 1 pound of beef uses 1,799 gallons of water, 1 pound of pork 576 gallons, 1 pound of chicken 468 gallons. (National Geographic)

8. In addition to land and water, fossil fuels are used to produce fertilizers for livestock feed as well as in transportation and processing of animal products. It takes 9 times the amount of fossil fuels to produce 1 calorie of meat than it does to produce 1 calorie of plant protein. (Worldwatch Institute)

9. Then there's other pollution. Animals raised for food produce 130 times more excrement than the entire human population. (Tufts)

10. When you combine the greenhouse gases emitted from fossil fuel use, deforestation, and the animals themselves, animal agriculture has a huge carbon footprint. Global greenhouse gas emission attributed to livestock production: U.N. estimates 14.5%, Worldwatch Institute 51%. (UN FAO, Worldwatch Institute)

The Problem With Wind

1. Wind is a diffuse source that requires massive plant to collect any useful amount at an industrial scale.

The U.S. generates more than 4 billion megawatt-hours of electricity annually. At a capacity factor of 25%, that would require at least 1,826,500 megawatts of installed wind capacity. That's more than 27 times the amount currently installed. And it would require the use of more than 170,000 square miles mostly of currently open and wild land.

2. Wind is intermittent and highly variable.

But because the wind doesn't blow steadily at that average rate – let alone in response to actual demand – you'd probably need 3 or 4 times that much, with thousands of miles more of new high-capacity powerlines, to ensure some regular supply. Even then, you'd need complete backup to prevent brownouts if not outright blackouts.

And then there's increased electricity consumption to be considered, especially with charging electric cars and fuel cells.

When the Sleeper Wakes

June 24, 2015

Anthropocentrism and the Technocratic Paradigm

Pope Francis writes (Laudato si’):


106. The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation. It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation. Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed, as if from its own hand. Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit. It is the false notion that “an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed”.

107. It can be said that many problems of today’s world stem from the tendency, at times unconscious, to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society. The effects of imposing this model on reality as a whole, human and social, are seen in the deterioration of the environment, but this is just one sign of a reductionism which affects every aspect of human and social life. We have to accept that technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups. Decisions which may seem purely instrumental are in reality decisions about the kind of society we want to build.

108. The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm and employing technology as a mere instrument is nowadays inconceivable. The technological paradigm has become so dominant that it would be difficult to do without its resources and even more difficult to utilize them without being dominated by their internal logic. It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same. Technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic, and those who are surrounded with technology “know full well that it moves forward in the final analysis neither for profit nor for the well-being of the human race”, that “in the most radical sense of the term power is its motive – a lordship over all”. As a result, “man seizes hold of the naked elements of both nature and human nature”. Our capacity to make decisions, a more genuine freedom and the space for each one’s alternative creativity are diminished.

109. The technocratic paradigm also tends to dominate economic and political life. The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings. Finance overwhelms the real economy. The lessons of the global financial crisis have not been assimilated, and we are learning all too slowly the lessons of environmental deterioration. Some circles maintain that current economics and technology will solve all environmental problems, and argue, in popular and non-technical terms, that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth. They are less concerned with certain economic theories which today scarcely anybody dares defend, than with their actual operation in the functioning of the economy. They may not affirm such theories with words, but nonetheless support them with their deeds by showing no interest in more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations. Their behaviour shows that for them maximizing profits is enough. Yet by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion. At the same time, we have “a sort of ‘superdevelopment’ of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation”, while we are all too slow in developing economic institutions and social initiatives which can give the poor regular access to basic resources. We fail to see the deepest roots of our present failures, which have to do with the direction, goals, meaning and social implications of technological and economic growth.

110. The specialization which belongs to technology makes it difficult to see the larger picture. The fragmentation of knowledge proves helpful for concrete applications, and yet it often leads to a loss of appreciation for the whole, for the relationships between things, and for the broader horizon, which then becomes irrelevant. This very fact makes it hard to find adequate ways of solving the more complex problems of today’s world, particularly those regarding the environment and the poor; these problems cannot be dealt with from a single perspective or from a single set of interests. A science which would offer solutions to the great issues would necessarily have to take into account the data generated by other fields of knowledge, including philosophy and social ethics; but this is a difficult habit to acquire today. Nor are there genuine ethical horizons to which one can appeal. Life gradually becomes a surrender to situations conditioned by technology, itself viewed as the principal key to the meaning of existence. In the concrete situation confronting us, there are a number of symptoms which point to what is wrong, such as environmental degradation, anxiety, a loss of the purpose of life and of community living. Once more we see that “realities are more important than ideas”.

111. Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources. There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm. Otherwise, even the best ecological initiatives can find themselves caught up in the same globalized logic. To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what is in reality interconnected and to mask the true and deepest problems of the global system.

112. Yet we can once more broaden our vision. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral. Liberation from the dominant technocratic paradigm does in fact happen sometimes, for example, when cooperatives of small producers adopt less polluting means of production, and opt for a non-consumerist model of life, recreation and community. Or when technology is directed primarily to resolving people’s concrete problems, truly helping them live with more dignity and less suffering. Or indeed when the desire to create and contemplate beauty manages to overcome reductionism through a kind of salvation which occurs in beauty and in those who behold it. An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door. Will the promise last, in spite of everything, with all that is authentic rising up in stubborn resistance?

113. There is also the fact that people no longer seem to believe in a happy future; they no longer lies elsewhere. This is not to reject the possibilities which technology continues to offer us. But humanity has changed profoundly, and the accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls us in one direction. It becomes difficult to pause and recover depth in life. If architecture reflects the spirit of an age, our megastructures and drab apartment blocks express the spirit of globalized technology, where a constant flood of new products coexists with a tedious monotony. Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything. Otherwise we would simply legitimate the present situation and need new forms of escapism to help us endure the emptiness.

114. All of this shows the urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution. Science and technology are not neutral; from the beginning to the end of a process, various intentions and possibilities are in play and can take on distinct shapes. Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.


115. Modern anthropocentrism has paradoxically ended up prizing technical thought over reality, since “the technological mind sees nature as an insensate order, as a cold body of facts, as a mere ‘given’, as an object of utility, as raw material to be hammered into useful shape; it views the cosmos similarly as a mere ‘space’ into which objects can be thrown with complete indifference”. The intrinsic dignity of the world is thus compromised. When human beings fail to find their true place in this world, they misunderstand themselves and end up acting against themselves: “Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given, but, man too is God’s gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed”.

116. Modernity has been marked by an excessive anthropocentrism which today, under another guise, continues to stand in the way of shared understanding and of any effort to strengthen social bonds. The time has come to pay renewed attention to reality and the limits it imposes; this in turn is the condition for a more sound and fruitful development of individuals and society. An inadequate presentation of Christian anthropology gave rise to a wrong understanding of the relationship between human beings and the world. Often, what was handed on was a Promethean vision of mastery over the world, which gave the impression that the protection of nature was something that only the faint-hearted cared about. Instead, our “dominion” over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship.

117. Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of a disregard for the message contained in the structures of nature itself. When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, have blind trust in a better tomorrow based on the present state of the world and our technical abilities. There is a growing awareness that scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history, a growing sense that the way to a better future a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for “instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature”.

118. This situation has led to a constant schizophrenia, wherein a technocracy which sees no intrinsic value in lesser beings coexists with the other extreme, which sees no special value in human beings. But one cannot prescind from humanity. There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then “our overall sense of responsibility wanes”. A misguided anthropocentrism need not necessarily yield to “biocentrism”, for that would entail adding yet another imbalance, failing to solve present problems and adding new ones. Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued.

119. Nor must the critique of a misguided anthropocentrism underestimate the importance of interpersonal relations. If the present ecological crisis is one small sign of the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis of modernity, we cannot presume to heal our relationship with nature and the environment without healing all fundamental human relationships. Christian thought sees human beings as possessing a particular dignity above other creatures; it thus inculcates esteem for each person and respect for others. Our openness to others, each of whom is a “thou” capable of knowing, loving and entering into dialogue, remains the source of our nobility as human persons. A correct relationship with the created world demands that we not weaken this social dimension of openness to others, much less the transcendent dimension of our openness to the “Thou” of God. Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God. Otherwise, it would be nothing more than romantic individualism dressed up in ecological garb, locking us into a stifling immanence.

120. Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? “If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away”.

121. We need to develop a new synthesis capable of overcoming the false arguments of recent centuries. ...

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June 14, 2015

The thousand names of Greyhound

Whence comes the name Greyhound?

Webster: From Old English grighund and/or Old Norse greyhundr, the latter prefix from Indoeuropean ghru-, variation of gher-, to shine, whence also gray.

In other words, Webster ignores grig- and simply describes the derivation of grey-.

But the meaning to shine brings to mind the Irish for sun, grian.

Oxford English Dictionary (OED): “The etymology of the first element is unknown; it has no connexion with grey or with grew, Greek, nor with grey = badger.”

The OED does note that the Old English grig- or grieg- is equal to the the Old norse grey-.

It also notes that the variant grifhound is from variant pronunciation of grewhound (grew- being a corruption of grey with the idea of the breed having a “Greek” origin, i.e., an association with the origins of human civilization).

But perhaps the prefix grif- stands on its own. In French a griffe is a claw, as derived from the Frankish grif. In German, griff is a noun for catch, and greif is a verb for grasp. All of these fit the greyhound.

Further possibilities are suggested in Irish. Gadhar (pronounced “geyer”) means hunting dog. Gaothar (“g’ee-her”) means like the wind. Gaobhar (“g’eer”) means near, which is applicable as the greyhound was the companion of chiefs and kings: The legendary warrior Fionn Mac Uail’s favorite dogs were the greyhounds Bran and Sceólan; the name of the other legendary warrior Cú Chulainn, whose mythical cycle is that of the sun (grian), actually means the hound (cú) of Culann.

Rather than pinned to any of these, the name, and the creature herself, would seem to contain them all.

Irish provides yet another possibility with the word for hare: giorria (“giriyeh”). The word is geàrr (“gyarr”) in Scottish, from gearr-fhiadh, meaning short deer, which is the same in Irish and also meaning hare. It is pronounced “g’ariyeh” or “g’arig”, which is similar to the Irish pronunciation of grig-, “gurrig”. Since most hunting hounds take a name from their prey, this seems to suggest a likely derivation for greyhound.

Gearg, pronounced “gyerrig” is the Irish word for quail, but greyhounds are not retrievers (nor were retrievers used in hunting back when the word was taking form).

And Webster says hare comes from the Indoeuropean root kas [or has (whence ashen)], meaning gray! However, the OED says it is not related to similar germanic words for gray.