Sunday, April 15, 2007

Viva La Difference!

I understand that in many parts of Africa, men and women don't see women's breasts as sexually attractive. They are seen as glands for feeding babies. I listened to a radio piece not long ago which described an African woman's reaction on being told that western men found breasts exciting. "You mean that western men are like babies!!??" She could just manage to say this amid fits of laughter.

I heard an interview with an author (whose name escapes me) from one of the southern USA states. This black lady grew up in an environment where toilets were always outside the house. She described how she still finds it hard to get used to the idea that modern society can accept the stink of fecal waste from bathrooms inside houses - and in particular from an ensuite right beside where you sleep!

I'm merely making the point that it is not always as obvious as we think to see other people's ingrained traditions. But with a little patient listening, dialogue and thought one can easily enough begin to understand.

I watched a Questions and Answers program a few months ago on RTE which got me thinking on similar lines to the above examples. One question asked reaction from the panel to Enda Kenny's initiative for making immigrants to the country feel more welcome and integrate better. A simple and jokey opening contribution from the DUP's Jeffery Donaldson passed without any comment from others in the panel, but it stopped me in my tracks. This is a paraphrase but it went like....

"Well, I speak for my own people in the North who were also immigrants to this island and we have felt the need for an initiative like this for the last 400 years!"

Wow! All many of us southerners can think about the families from the plantation of Ulster is that they were invaders. Did we ever consider that maybe they saw themselves in the 17th century as immigrants who were unwelcome? Yes, before I hear howls of protest from nationalists - there are two sides to this story, I'm well aware of the history of it all (and indeed my mother was a nationalist growing up in NI who could tell many a sorry tale). But I'm just making a general point that ordinary families only integrate and fuse into a society when they feel they are welcome and both sides respect each other's viewpoint. Hostility breeds more hostility and you often end up with ghettos and polarisation.

We need to forget about a united Ireland until we unite in welcome and fellowship and seeing the other viewpoint. The unionists and nationalists in NI have more to share and enjoy than they perhaps realise. It's the small things - as always - which offer clues that it is slowly happening. A great example was Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams jointly signing a request to have the UK Government's Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain and his staff vacate their Stormont offices. This was wonderful in itself, but equally good was the little human story behind closed doors afterwards which as far as I can detect was only barely reported....

Gerry Adams it seems quipped to Ian Paisley that he never thought he would see the big man so eager to get the Brits out! In reaction we are told that Ian howled with laughter in his well known and unique way. Laughter together, what a wonderful start.

Different outlooks, but in truth - not so different really.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Granny and good vote management!

What motivates a person's General Election voting choice? It's the economy, stupid! Nah, not in this case...

My paternal grandmother was an invalid and when quite elderly she lived with us for a number of years in the early 1970s. On the run up to a particular general election an official looking gentleman arrived with a clip-boarded registration list of voters. He was very sorry to hear Gran was an invalid and thought it was only fair and proper for her to exercise her right to vote. He said he would organise transport for Gran to be taken to the polling station. I was about seventeen at the time and on election day I recall the burly volunteers arriving at the house with a big van.

In utter respect to my granny's complete freedom of choice to vote for whoever she liked - a range of candidate leaflets were handed to her to read. While the men chatted to my parents I went over to my gran to see what she had. To my surprise at the time - all the leaflets were for Fianna Fail candidates! It was a bit like the old arrangement in the USSR - you can vote for one party!

Equally interesting was Gran's selection process of the right person to vote for. She never had much interest in politics and had even less in her advanced years. She looked at one photo and then another and another. Did the person look honest, strong, too young, too old, devious, healthy etc. etc. She asked my opinion on a few, such as..."Does that fellow look like a crook?" "Does yer man look like he has heart problems?" etc.

So Gran was brought away in the van with her exceptionally well colour co-ordinated leaflets and returned safely in less than 30 minutes. I'll never forget the men's parting remarks to Gran...

"God bless you for voting Mam. There's many a country where nobody has a choice."

Friday, April 06, 2007

There's something about Marian!

Do you know any middle aged woman called Marian? If so, try saying to her... "You look well for a 53 year old!"

Chances are you will be right, or at worst she may be no more than a few years younger.

It's hard for us to grasp today the power which the 1954 Marian year had at the time throughout the Catholic World. Here in Ireland there must be hundreds of Marian shrines which were built that year in towns, villages and housing estates. This photo taken yesterday was in Monkstown here in Dublin. You can see the care and attention which is still put into the maintenance of this walled dedicated garden.

I was born a year later in 1955. In my late teens - as I went to discos with my shoulder length John Lennon hair, deep purple shirt and groovy bell bottoms - one of my cheesy comments if I met a girl called Marian was..."I can't be seen with an older chick!"

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Hi, my name is John and I've an addiction!

Sky after sunset
Originally uploaded by John of Dublin.
I've been meaning to blog more on a few subjects recently. I want to talk about Ian Paisley and also election philosophy. But since I've bought this new feckin' camera in February I'm back addicted to photography! So I'm easier to find on Flickr these days and it's taking up a lot of my time.

In the past I used to love taking photos and developing and printing in B&W. Also went through a big phase of slide photography. Had a few different Olympus SLR cameras and good selection of lenses. I was in a tricky hybrid state in the last 7 years using a mixture of good film cameras and average digital cameras. Now I'm Back to the Future so to speak with a brilliant digital SLR beast and great editing software. It's incredibly addictive now and I'm learning more things at a great rate.

I will keep blogging but it's gonna be mixture of photoblog and wordy wisdom for the time being!

I'm not sure whether to thank or curse a certain blogging lady named after a picture element of ruddy hue. Her impressive photographic work, which combines artistic and technical skills, was the final inspiration in me getting back with enthusiasm to this addictive madness!!

Photo taken out our front window this evening.