No money? No degree.

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2014 by Eoin O'Mahony

I know that doing a PhD degree and (mostly) paying for it myself is a position of cultural and educational privilege. This makes the following a little trivial in the bigger scheme of things.

EDIT: I registered for the first time in January 2010. I handed my approved-for-examination thesis to the Exams Office at NUI Maynooth on February 26th last. The submission form was not signed by the Fees Office because I knew that they would not sign it. They had previously confirmed that I had to pay one more year’s fees (€3,427) before it could be ‘accepted’. The Exams Office took in the form and thesis volumes although phoned me later to say that the form was incomplete. Earlier this month, I went back to the Exams Office and collected the incomplete form but was not asked to take back the volumes. So the thesis has been accepted by the university’s Academic Council for examination but not by the Fees Office. The Registrar of the university will not send the thesis volumes to the approved internal and external examiners until I pay a fifth year of fees. No money? No degree.

According to a Graduate Studies online policy, a full time doctoral student can be examined following four semesters (two years) having paid €10,194 in fees. Why are part-time students asked to hand over €17,135 for a five year (it used to be six) period for the same outcome? In other words:

2 X years Full-time PhD, €5,097 p.a. = €10,194
5 X years Part-time PhD, €3,427p.a. = €17,135
There is no stipulation for full-time students that they must register for a minimum number of years. Right now I am asking the Registrar and Graduate Studies Office to justify the differential in fee structure at NUIM. I also want to know how the examination process on my thesis can be resumed as soon as possible.

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Conference season

In Uncategorized on March 19, 2014 by Eoin O'Mahony

Like decorative gourd season, conference season is upon us again. This year it is odd for me to be planning on presenting papers at two, maybe three, conferences. I am not really any longer a student of geography at NUIM (but I wait for the viva date) and I am not an academic or researcher in a university. So, here are the abstracts for two forthcoming conferences. It was odd putting them together and at times it seemed like I was writing nonsense just to make a deadline. Oh right. That was the PhD. 


Conference the first: ISASR 2014 “Religion and remembering”, Belfast, late May.

Religion, place and memory in Ireland: the substitution of ordinary time for higher time.

Memory is a central part of how people make place. People draw upon recent and distant memories to create place and share the significance of places with others. This is particularly evident in the ways in which religious place is made. Memory is not just drawn upon in religious place making, it is often constitutive of the ‘right way’ to do religious place making. There is a longer duration of time (Taylor’s higher time) employed in the recreation of these religious places. In this paper, I want to examine how religious place, memory and time interact in an Irish context.

Arising from data conducted during my doctoral fieldwork, I propose that religious place making is often marginalised for being ‘out of time’. Where place making is contested between religious and secular meanings, religious places are relegated to a past. In this process, the higher time of religious place making is cut short, evacuating it of its other meanings. The paper presents a case for a more open-ended understanding of how religious places and secular places are co-produced.

Conference the second: CIG, Dublin, earlier in May. 

Contested landscapes of the sacred and the secular: three cases from Ireland. 

More than a decline of religious practice, secularisation is about how some places continue to be religious while others are made secular. Distinctions drawn between places as secular or religious place them in relation to each other. Secular meanings in place do not replace religious meanings but remain as sites of ongoing contestation. Place-making occurs through struggles over resources and symbols. This relational understanding of place foregrounds the continued contestations of religious and secular practices, sites and landscapes. These contestations about place-making allow geographers to go beyond the micropolitics of religious spatial expression. It enables geographers of religion to connect contestations over place to broader political processes.

In this paper, I explore three different contestations over religious and secular place-making in Ireland. The first of these is the maintenance practices at statues of the Virgin Mary sited on public land in Dublin city. The second set of place-making relations I examine are at sites of pilgrimage performance: a small island in a lake in the north west of Ireland called Lough Derg, a walk around a Norman castle in Wexford and an arduous climb up a sacred mountain where St Patrick preached. Thirdly, I examine Catholic primary schools, places where children are made both as faithful and as citizens. Together, these three contested landscapes make up a changing geography of religion in Ireland. However, in different ways, they connect with larger political processes. The paper concludes by examining these processes and proposes a new way in which the geography of religion can move beyond simple dichotomies to adequately represent place.


Tired. Emotional.

In Uncategorized on February 17, 2014 by Eoin O'Mahony

On Saturday I had a conversation with someone who detected one of the significant features of political culture in Ireland: the over personalisation of public debate. If I understood her correctly, and alcohol was involved, there seems to be little sense among many in Ireland of a public interest. Even if normatively defined as ‘things that we might disagree about’, this public interest is external to individual interests and resides somewhere as an abstracted public. I have long speculated that in Ireland, a public sphere exists but it is an atrophied kind of public sphere. It is bisected by so many competing interests and whatabouterries that it can be hard to recognise. And then this morning, I noted Richard’s question about how matters of democratic deliberation are often left hanging in mid-air as if nothing can be done about Shatter or Callinan or Burton or Irish Water: “it isn’t just a matter of outlining how dreadful [Shatter] is, but at the very least to pose the question: how do we eject this f***er from office?” The ideas seem to be linked. There is a disabling politics at work here: isn’t it dreadful that Shatter comprehensively abuses his office and misrepresents issues but “sher, what can we do about it? Aren’t they in charge?”

I’ve been listening to this disabling politics for about three decades now. In a state where a Centre for Public Inquiry can be skewered by rumour alone and where all it takes to shut down a debate is to throw a lawyer’s writ across a table, how do we get beyond the idea that elected power is unassailable? One of the most awful symptoms of this is when anyone half-way articulate stands up at a meeting and expresses a coherent opinion, people ask afterwards if they’re a politician. The ability to speak in public, even if not encouraged through the Best Education System in the World, is thought to be the preserve of a class of individuals who can only be understood in the narrowest of terms of what politics means. Another terrible symptom of this is the notion that the mildest of NGOs like the ICCL or the Penal Reform Trust are committed to overthrowing the dominant ideological system as opposed to asking mundane questions about policies that matter to all of us. They are always irritants in the smooth functioning of a system that makes the visit of Brian Hayes to a flooded Limerick the sign of regal mercy itself. “These people are never happy, are they? Always whinging about their rights and justice” goes the line. A further symptom of this disabling politics is that the local elections and the European elections can be held on the same day without any regard for what a FF-dominated council means for Roscommon because really, local councils do not matter. They’re sorting stations for the bigger game; the bigger game that hoists prematurely-ageing males aloft as they crawl over the line in Dublin south east. And yet, we are told, all politics is local. I don’t hate The Local but I want it my local to have meaning in your local.

Alan Shatter should resign as minister, Callinan should go too. And they should do this not because they are bad people or because they are mean. Or even because I think they are incompetent. They should do it because they have poorly served us. Having watched the two of them in Templemore grinning alongside each other, the worst part of this GSOC thing is not that the office was bugged but that they think we do not care. They gurn and patronise their way into the game, the terms of which they themselves believe they set. They don’t. We set those terms. The disabling realpolitik that valorises the tallyman while denying restitution to the women of the Laundries  is our politics, not theirs. We have to own it first and then destroy it. In recent weeks, we have witnessed the colonisation of a developing political terrain of this politics in the silencing of Panti. The terms of this argument were set early on by the deployment of the law by some parties. When this worked financially, but not emotionally, some relied on tearful victimhood. There is no doubt that being argued against by a student must be quite difficult for a teacher, particularly when many teachers rely on students’ cultivated supplication for most other things. I am not saying that emotions should have nothing to do with political opinion forming. I am saying that there are bigger things than your hurt feelings. Which is kind of what Panti was saying from the Abbey’s stage.

(WARNING: I’m not going to get into class here, that’s another post. Can you handle that?) This local elections we need to take the issues that matter to us all to those who look for our vote. I’m forever fulminating about candidates dropping calendars with their serious features plastered on them through my door. This is stupid politics. It relies on the idea that they are the brokers to things that we all collectively own and maintain. I know what day of the week the third Thursday in March is and I can look it up if I want to. A political party doesn’t need to tell me that. We need to make politics in Ireland about really mundane things. Boring public resource kinds of things: water access in this area, not what John Tierney said. How the continued payment of promissory notes means that people I know cannot get treated for cancer. This is why politicians like Shane Ross are also part of this disabling politics: it is not about issues, it is about us. I want Richard’s children to have a better education and cleaner air. Not because I know Richard personally but because it is in all of our interests, as members of the public. The sooner we rip back the curtain and reveal the man with the levers and a megaphone the better. To me, it cannot come soon enough.

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Responses to ‘Love and Socialist Politics’.

In Uncategorized on February 17, 2014 by Eoin O'Mahony

Partly because I have been trying to come to terms with these ideas myself, here are the responses to Ronán’s post about Love and Socialist Politics for those of you not on Facebook. I think these are really vital ideas for politics in Ireland today. Grab a cup of something hot, put it down and watch it go cold. This is not my (slightly edited) text but that of Kevin Hargaden and Ronán’s replies. Thanks to them both for consenting to have it re-published here. 

Kevin: This is a great read and I don’t want to be too critical. The final turn on how capital debases love is especially good. However there are some almost pedantic points to be made and one massive problem. 

Pedantry Corner:

The Liddell and Scott lexicon gives us four words for love in Greek. The author here has given us φιλία, ἔρως and ἀγάπη but forgot στοργή (storgé). 

CS Lewis’ The Four Loves is a much under-read popular book that treats how these ideas interact with each other in Greek thought. Some people argue that Lewis’ schematizing is too neat, but I think the general thrust of his argument holds. Of course they all mean love so there was overlap in how they were used. How and ever, broadly, on a blog, you can unproblematically claim that for the Greeks, φιλία was the supreme concern and it is in Christianity that ἀγάπη takes centre stage.

So the main problem is as follows:

The blog is to be highly credited for being that rare piece of writing that begins to sense how profoundly radical the New Testament is as a piece of political writing. 

Without getting too far down the theological hole, aligning Robespierre in the text alongside James the Brother of Jesus, the Beloved Apostle and Paul is deeply wrong-headed. The kind of political power that is formed by ἀγάπη-love is the power of Jesus’ incarnation. If God takes on human-form, the humanism of Christianity occupies a space where talk of mercy for some and justice for others gets revealed as the bogus power-play and man-pretending-to-be-God that it is. All are subject to God’s abundant mercy, which on the Cross is the result of God’s perfect judgement. 

So in other words, any attempt to mine the New Testament for a political theology of humanism that doesn’t do business with the long Jewish story of atonement which is transfigured by the claim of Incarnation is going to make… well, a reign of terror. 

This is one of the reasons why churches, when they get political power, so often begin reigns of terror. They themselves, as the author alludes to by his reference to Matthew Henry’s Commentary, have not grappled with how radical the text is.

Fundamentally, I think the author assumes that “love” is a word that has an easily grasped shared meaning. ἀγάπη-love in Christianity, as the author clearly states, has a specific shape. S/he doesn’t go far enough to actually test if they have accurately sketched out that shape. That shape is non-violent, humanistic, and worshipping. The first and the last clause make the middle phrase look very different from plain old Enlightenment emancipation. 

Ronán’s reply to this: My reading of Greek philosophy had only introduced me to those three classifications of love, and they are the ones that appear in my encyclopedia of the ancient Greeks under ‘philosophy of love’. But I see from a quick Google search that Kevin is correct and there’s a fourth – that’s an interesting discovery. I need to read more about storgé. My uneducated guess is that it might fit well into the schematic of love I’m trying to sketch out. At times ‘agape’ has been defined as a familial love. I was defining it as beyond the interpersonal. So it could usefully remove an obstacle to clarity on that point. 

If you have any suggested reading on it Kevin please forward it.

Major problems:

The aim of the blogpost is to clarify a /radical/ agape that fits within the context of socialist politics. It has two segments – before and after the ‘revolution’ image. 

In the first I frame the roots of the concept I’m aiming for within the Christian tradition. I’m borrowing here from Marxist-Humanists like Marshall Berman and CLR James who counterpose their humanism to structuralism, economism and vulgar materialism by engaging in reflection on the history of the philosophy of alienation and placing Marx’s work on the subject within that context. Clearly, Christian theology provides some of the most significant explorations of the question of human alienation. Its reference by materialists should also provoke us to ask deep questions about the boundaries of that materialism. I have never studied theology and had an almost entirely secular upbringing so I can’t engage on theological terms in any great depth. My understandings are based on autodidactism. But from that basis I appreciate Christian agape as transcendent of the interpersonal, and also as you define: non-violent, humanist and worshipping.

In the second segment I was asking, for me as a Marxist-Humanist, what elements of that conception can be a basis for a radical or anti-capitalist agape.

Certainly humanism. But its humanism should be a love of people and the people. A love of humanity (people) but a recognition that it is oppressed, alienated and in need of emancipation. This is rather than a love of every individual or group – which is to embrace the sum of particulars but, by forgiving the oppressors of humanity, betray the universal. And a love of the oppressed (the people) who are the guardians of the flame of humanity. But not a love for social categories of oppression. In this sense I side more with Camilo Torres than Paulo Freire. The bourgeoisie is an oppressive category by definition – there is no other way to conceive of a capitalist class. 

Acknowledging the existence of capitalism tells me that radical agape should not be non-violent. This is not to advocate violence. But the imperative that a love of people and the people holds is that we must bring to an end class society. Class societies are not neutral grounds, however, they are sites of class conflict – initiated from above by those who would take the means of production which are meant to serve human society as a whole into private ownership. Capitalism is a system which advantages the bourgeoisie materially by affording them the social surplus. It necessitates their continuous internal and external competition in the process of the valorisation of capital. And so it cannot be overcome by appealing to their humanity. Rather they must be confronted and defeated. I would prefer for this to be achieved through non-violent means – but the entire edifice of the bourgeois order is based upon the right to violence in protection of their property. If, as has happened consistently throughout history, there is a violent reaction or counter-revolution from above it cannot be met with a willingness to be slaughtered in the name of non-violence.

I would hold the enlightenment line on worshipping too I’m afraid!

But a social love, transcending the interpersonal, that holds in special regards the afflicted is a basis for radical philosophies. And when matched with a love for humanity it is especially corrosive to the continued development of capitalism. Another of Che’s great quotes is that cynicism is capitalism’s chief trade in thought. Cynicism about humanity, predominantly. And so countering that with an optimism about humanity is a powerful thing. But perhaps more pertinent in the neoliberal world, where capital is aggressively driving atomisation, is that social conception of love that transcends the interpersonal.

Thanks for such a considered response to the blog. I think more engagement between socialists and Christians could be productive. Particularly if it could be in shared custody of the project that Paulo Freire outlined – facilitating “the oppressed, as divided unauthentic beings, to participate in the pedagogy of their liberation.”


And Kevin’s reply: I appreciate the way you have laid out the two-steps of your argument in the blogpost and I reiterate that I am heartened to see that first stage has you engaging with the humanism of the New Testament. As a socialist who is a Christian theologian, I think that Christians should be socialists and that socialists should at least be informed and enthuasiastic about Christ. In a more ecclesial idiom, “Preach it brother!”

The second segment is where I had an initial critique. I think that critique still stands. There are two directions in which that critique operates. Firstly, the New Testament is a set of writings that self-consciously site themselves within the bigger story of the Older Testament. That is inherently the story of a particular people, the Isrealites. It is hard to universalize that story so that it talks uncomplicatedly about “humanity” without making serious mistakes that have dire political consequences. The critique then pivots and goes in a direction that deepens the divide between the agape-narrative and your proposal. If the New Testament is sourced in the Old, the New Testament is centred around a particular individual. Jesus is the beginning and the end of the agape approach, or in the terms of the text itself, the alpha and the omega. 

This critique isn’t some grenade that seeks to explode everything you’ve said. Rather, I just want to suggest that the desire to generalise away from people groups and away from individuals is one that cuts against the grain of the New Testament argument. Theologically, we call this the scandal of Jewish particularity. The agape-love of Jesus, the Trinitarian conception of God, these are things that seem to me to demand an account of persons before classes.

That doesn’t make your reading impossible, but it does make it more difficult. Perhaps my critique is simply a theologian’s quibbles. And I’d rather see people grapple with the politcal potency of Jesus than lay down technical rules or historical qualifications that stifle that conversation. 

I completely agree with you that class society must come to an end and I am a Presbyterian so there isn’t a trace of naive hope in me that if only we appeal to people’s “humanity” that they might put down their violence of capital and inaugurate a utopia of fraternal love. But the political theology of the New Testament insists that the confrontation and defeat that brings about reconciliation is the confrontation with God and his defeat of our disodered desire to rule in his place. I recognise at this point I am preaching, and that therefore I’ve become mute to the political sphere. I at least have the consolation that I see the absurdity of my position. I call people to non-violence even to the point of death out of love for the ones who kill. 

Alongside Freire, I’d encourage you to consider tracking down the Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf. He is a student of Moltmann, who did this PhD on Marx. (Latterly he has sold out horrendously and taken a position at Yale…) But back in the late 90s he wrote a book called Exclusion and Embrace which would, if nothing else, show you some of the moves that throwback Christians like myself are compelled to make. 

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In Uncategorized on January 16, 2014 by Eoin O'Mahony Tagged: , , , , ,

By the end of this thesis, I have tried to identify a new politics of the secular, one that does not rely on opposition to the Religious. In the definition of where and what is Religious, everyday practices get scaled out of their political significance and which are then made public. Others are made to be private. This is part of a larger minoritising logic which is something that for now I will call a secularisation process. I am not entirely happy with the idea of a secularisation process in much the same way as speaking about ‘the Enlightenment’ is a problem. At the very least, a secularisation process implies that there is one of them. To become secular, places have to measure up to a standard, all the time planing away the local and the contingent.

Trying to identify such a new spatial politics of the secular is hard because the secular wants to scale the local ‘up’ to something akin to real social space. The designation of social space as real is a political process, bracketing some ideas while allowing others to achieve something called progress. One of the most destructive ideas in this conception of real social space is that secular people are freed from religion. It confines religious practice to a space that is often designated private space. When the practices and performances of this private space are deprivatised, this often occurs on terms set by political secularism. But where are these freed subjects of secularism located? Into what kind of space does this escape from the tyrannies of transcendence occur? As I have suggested already, one of the few ways to overcome this seeming paradox is to see the secular and the sacred standing in relation, not opposition. Which brings me to this post’s point.

In late November, my mother died. She had Parkinson’s syndrome since the mid-1990s. At first, the symptoms were manageable for her with some physiotherapy and medicine. Pills, lots of pills. Lewy Body dementia, often associated with Parkinson’s in the later stages, was the worst aspect of her decline. My mother drifted slowly away from us for years. At her funeral, my older brother described her dementia like being down a well and that we couldn’t reach her. She had hallucinations, initially knowing that they were just that. Later on, when they became more intense and mixed with a medically-enhanced depression, she could not tell what was real and what wasn’t. There were people upstairs, she would tell us, trying to steal her clothes and other, more upsetting, accusations. I remember her now, after her death, as the woman before all of this happened. The woman who held me and nursed me. And so, today, on my birthday it seems right that I remember the relationship I had with her, until her death. I don’t know where she is now. Although it took her a while to disappear from us entirely (from two years ago she could not speak nor open her eyes), I am still left wondering today where she is. She lives inside in me and within my family and her many friends. I don’t go for the heaven thing but she is somewhere else, just not here. I have been with others who stand alongside a grave and heard them speak to the dead. Are they disconnected from this world? Are they mad to think that the dead hear us? Of course not.

An understanding of our social and cultural life which does not, at the very least, take account of the deep sociality of these connections fails to be a secular understanding. I want a secular politics that does not define itself against the religious, which is also part of The Human. Here to me is the important bit: there is nowhere else other than this current reality into which we can go to escape enchantment. We are, in a sense, stuck with each other, in this place. We can, says Merleau-Ponty, “fly from being only into being”. Desires to escape from the barbarism of civilisation are only into a relational understanding of the healing powers of nature (Taylor, 2005) itself crossed by specific relationships and disenchantment. Being stuck in place, it can be so easy to scale ‘up’, to generalise to a level of analysis which evacuates the affective sociality of us all, together, here. To treat the world we live in and our inhabitation of it as objects would be a mistake because “the social does not exist as a third person object” (Merleau-Ponty, 1962). I want a secular politics that takes account of the expressive unity of our minds and bodies. Not a pantheism of the secular, but one that acknowledges the need for (and the missing of) each other. I know for sure that we are not self-owning.

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What my thesis is actually about.

In Uncategorized on January 16, 2014 by Eoin O'Mahony

One of the more frustrating aspects of engaging with reading for a doctorate is that the writing gets easier. At the beginning, I found that I was tentative, speculative and a bit seat of the pants. Over time, particularly in the last three months, my confidence as a writer of geographic thought has improved. I think part of the learning process of doing a doctorate is in crafting meaning from ideas that seem disconnected when first put down on a page. The writing I have been doing recently, just as my time is coming to an end, is better than before. It relies on shorter sentences and more structure. And I like it. So, here is what my thesis is actually about:

The secular and the sacred have long been placed in opposition to each other. This has been accompanied by a series of assumptions about the decline of religious faith and an increasing secularity. A re-evaluation of this is currently underway within human geography. This takes account of the fact that the secular does not so much replace the sacred as exist in relation to it. This is a productive relationship and is seen in distinctions made between private and public space. In her most recent review of the literature, Kong (2010) asks that geographers of religion go beyond the micropolitics of religious spatial expression to connect with broader political processes. I apply three examples from Ireland to show how a relational geography of religion can respond adequately to her call to move beyond the micropolitical. The boundaries between private and public space thus become more porous.

Firstly, I examine the geography of Marian statues on ostensibly public ground in Dublin city. Secondly, I outline how pilgrimage practice lies on the boundaries of tourism and religious devotion. Thirdly, I examine the discourses surrounding the re-creation of Catholic primary schools in Ireland as sites of the secular, within a broader political process. These examples show that distinctions between private and public space break down on some scales. However, in connecting the micropolitical with a broader spatial politics in these examples, how we conceive of scale is important. The political significance of spatial practice on one scale is often subsumed within other scales. Using Marston et al.’s (2005) work on geographic scale, I propose a new set of relations between the religious and the secular. In this way, I draw the outlines of a map which reconfigures the relationship between religion and the secular as open-ended and contested. 

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Not Data but data.

In Uncategorized on November 18, 2013 by Eoin O'Mahony Tagged: , , ,

Courtesy Mark Malone. Over the last two weeks or so I have been coding, collating, inputting and analysing the data coming from the questionnaires from the recent Left Forum meeting in Dublin ‘Does Ireland need a new left party?’ When the prospect of distributing a questionnaire arose in the organising group’s conversation I had to get involved. My area of expertise as a paid social researcher is compiling and analysing questionnaires. I am a trained sociologist and I have always seemed to gravitate towards the quantitative. I’m not one who believes in the innate power of numbers and I have spent some of my doctoral work arguing against the politics of numeric fetishisation in the social sciences. In my near-two decades of involvement with Left politics in Ireland, this is the first time I have seen anything resembling an analysis of needs and wants. Speaking with someone last week who is involved in Left politics in Ireland and elsewhere for much longer, she could not recall a single survey among Left wing activists in Ireland. Ever.

After the Provisional University meeting earlier this year where Stephen and I gave a decent talk about our dereliction project, it struck me that the Left in Ireland is crap at using data. We attempted to serve a larger political point about brownfield sites and circuits of capital by collecting some baseline data on Dublin city. We were trying to improve other’s work. It was relatively easy to do so but we felt it important to talk about something interesting with some ordinary enumeration. We are matching it with other data that Stephen has gleaned and publicly available data from CSO and Dublinked. We reckon we have a lot of data and this will be published hopefully next year. There’s NERI and TASC doing good econometric analysis and then there’s Unite doing excellent work through Michael Taft’s blog. And that’s about it in terms of political action. It seems to me that there’s an aversion to the use of ordinary aggregative data on the Left in Ireland, derived either from other sources or among the communities and organisations we work with.

It would seem to me that data (the stuff of all of our lives) has been allowed to be captured by the kinds of economists that we hear endlessly on RTE and other news outlets. This results in, for example, driving a coach and four through the idea of criticality and alternative analyses based on freely available data at the PRTB. (I think Ronan Lyons objected more to my questioning of his analysis than the analysis itself last week on twitter.) It allows said orthodox economists and other associated commentators to cite data without subtlely or distinction between various social classes and geographic contexts. This concedes too much political ground to those who erase the things that are worth struggling for. The ground is handed over again and again to those who never question the orthodoxy of ‘to cure the patient we have to kill him’. This is such that most journalists are left scrambling for anecdotal evidence in the absence of another view. Piaras McEinri from UCC recently demolished the low taxation woo of the ISMEs of this world on Primetime. He did this not by shouting them down but by presenting some ordinary facts derived from the project he is coordinating. To form grounded and effective consciousness among the only class that can beat capitalism we need to work hard to have these other views at our fingertips. These need to be grounded in reliable data. If there is no source of these data, how do we get it? Are there better ways to measure? There are too many Reinhart and Rogoff scenarios about right now for it to remain unimportant. Derivatives and other destructive financial instruments are ideological as well as scientific.

Why is data important? Because to see all of the parts in motion in this vast system of exploitation, we need to have as much control of the data as the system itself. I think the reason the Left in Ireland is crap at data is because we rely far too much on the rhetoric of mobilisation. How many political meetings or rallies have you been to where someone alongside you afterwards wildly overestimates how many were present? Sometimes by a factor of five or six. A rhetoric of mobilisation allows you to overclaim support but of course it also stands in the face of reality. A reality distorted will lead only to further disillusionment among people who have only so much energy. We have to be honest with ourselves first and foremost. As someone at that Left Forum meeting said in the small group sessions, we need a little humility.

I think we need a programme of research on the Left in Ireland. We need to do some counting of very ordinary things and ask some very ordinary questions. In the spring, I am going to start with some basic digital mapping workshops.


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