Thursday, April 30, 2009

Some remarks on blasphemy or the laughter induced by the sight of naked emperors and Ireland's theocratic constitution


'Blasphemy is an epithet bestowed by superstition upon common sense' wrote Robert Green Igersoll. But alas,superstition is now a legal obligation in holy Ireland! Atheists in Irish society ought to keep their mouths shut from now on lest they be accused of blasphemy! Yes, according to new legislation “A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000.” This is the atavistic hysteria of a dull-witted government going through some form of existential crisis. But more worryingly, it is a shameless attack on our fundamental liberties to think and speak whatever we wish and clearly violates articles 7, 21,18 and 19 of the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.However, from a Irish legal perspective, the new legislation is perfectly in accordance with our theocratic constitution.

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, We, the people of Éire, Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial

You might have thought this was the opening address of President Athmadinejad to the United Nations with minor changes in nomenclature and mythological reference. Wrong! this elaborate nonsense is in fact the preamble to Bunreacht na h’Éireann, the document that provides the legal framework for the oxymoronically entitled Poblacht na h’Éireann or Republic of Ireland. An oxymoron is a contradiction in terms. As you can see from the preamble Ireland is officially a theocracy. The word republic comes from the Latin res publicae -matters of the people and is the Roman equivalent of the Ancient Greek concept ‘ democracy, rule of and by the people. The preamble states that the legal articles to follow are ‘in the name of the Most Holy Trinity’. This pious rubbish is perfectly appropriate for a catachism but we are talking about a national consitution here!

The authority, then, of the legal articles which follow is determined ipso facto by the three persons contained in the Judeo-Christian deity ‘to whom, in the end, all actions both of men and States must be referred’. The use of the word ‘must’ clearly indicates that belief in god is legally binding and universal to all ‘men and States’. It therefore enjoins other nations to take heed of divine law. Secular nations of the world, hear ye oh hear! Thus the articles which follow are laws of the Irish theocracy, their ultimate authority emanating from ‘the Most Holy Trinity’ and not from the Irish people.

If you come from a republic or a more intellectually mature civilisation, you might think this is a joke. How can religion provide the basis for civil society, I hear you ask. To anyone of reasonable intelligence, the preamble to our constitution is nothing short of a thundering absurdity. It makes a mockery of the Irish state and is a flagrant violation of any laws worthy of the name ‘civil.’ The laws of a republic are brought about by the rational consensus determining the best interests of all the citizens of that polity, regardless of whether or not they believe in gods, spirits , goblins or other supernatural entities. The constitution of a republic can provide the conditions for the free practice of all religions but cannot presuppose a theological interpretation of human nature.

The preamble to the Irish constitution not only legalises religious belief, it clearly favours one form of this psychological delusion, namely Christianity. Muslims, Jews, Hindus and all the rest are therefore legally bound to the laws of the Christian deity in its Irish manifestation. As for atheists, they obviously have no constitutional status. In fact it is questionable if they have any rights under the Irish constitution. If the laws of the land are subject to the laws of God and atheists reject the latter, are they not in contempt of the constitution? Is it illegal to be an atheist in the Irish theocracy?

The veracity of people testifying in Irish courts is still determined by placing one’s hand on the Bible. So, if I am arraigned before an Irish court for a minor offence, the basis of my credibility hinges on my belief in one of humanity’s most incredible fables! You are therefore only believable if you are a believer. This kind of thing would be laughed at in other countries such as France or Germany. But France is a real republic. The French theocracy was overthrown in the Revolution of 1789. The French constitution of 1791 opens eloquently with the declaration of the rights of man. There is no reference to the rights of God. It begins by stating that ignorance and contempt for the rights of man are the sole causes of public misery and the corruption of governments. The moral of the story? For the French republic ignorance is misery, for the Irish theocracy ignorance is 'bless'!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ireland and the poverty of ideas

"Je vais te raconter l'histoire de la philosophie. Pas toute, bien sûr, mais quand même ses cinq plus grands moments. Chaque fois, je te donnerai l'exemple d'une ou deux grandes visions du monde liées à une époque afin que tu puisses, si tu le souhaites, commencer à lire par toi-même les oeuvres les plus importantes. Je te fais, d'entrée de jeu, une promesse : toutes ces pensées, je te les exposerai d'une façon totalement claire, sans le moindre jargon, mais en allant à l'essentiel, à ce qu'elles ont chaque fois de plus profond et de plus passionnant. Si tu prends la peine de me suivre, tu sauras donc vraiment en quoi consiste la philosophie, comment elle éclaire de façon irremplaçable les multiples interrogations qui portent sur la façon dont nous pourrions ou devrions conduire nos existences..." Extract from French ex-minister for Education and philosopher Luc Ferry's book.
Our ex-minister appears on the right above conversing with the agents of Irish stulification. Read on!

While Minister Ferry was promoting the reading of Plato, Descartes, Kant and Nietzsche in French schools a couple of years ago, his Irish counterpart was sending a copy of Diarmuid Ferriter’s quasi-hagiography of Eamon De Valera to every school in the country, the very man who censored any ideas which contradicted our ‘holiest traditions’. The contrast couldn’t be more depressing
One often hears the expression ‘ time for new ideas’. But what is a new idea? What are ideas? Let’s narrow the question down: what conditions are necessary for the creation and advancement of new ideas? First of all, it presupposes an ability to excogitate, to think critically, to examine, dissect, reflect, elucidate, extrapolate etc. But critical examination of the world on an abstract level is disgracefully neglected in the Irish education system; one could go so far as to say it is scrupulously avoided. Although the Irish are wont to cite our superior education system as one of the key factors for the successes of the Celtic Tiger years, the Irish education system is, on the contrary, one of the State’s most conspicuous failures. An example of this failure is the falling number of students taking history as a subject for the leaving cert. We won’t mention the state of Irish and foreign languages! Although the study of history has increased marginally in the past few years, the numbers are significantly smaller than those sitting the exam in the 1980s. Of the 50 thousand students sitting the leaving cert this year, less than 10 thousand will write essays on history, compared with over thirty thousand in 1989. But the lack of interest shown by Ireland’s youth in history is only part of the problem in Irish education. We are facing the bleak prospect of a new generation well-versed in all the intricacies of market economics, technology and natural sciences, while ignorant of the world in which they live. It is the prospect of the ‘mindless moron, immunised for life against the contagion of thought’, as Professor Joe Lee so eloquently put it. Critical thought as a ‘contagion’ rather than an asset is widely nurtured in Ireland. But the lack of historical knowledge is only part of the problem. ‘Enterprise culture’ is what the Irish education system is about. One goes to school to learn skills that will enable one to make lots of money when one leaves. In such a society education simply becomes a byword for material enrichment.
The commercialisation of Irish education is a deeply worrying development. The problem is that the Irish state does not have a philosophy of education. State schools are left to the Church to run; here it is hoped that the combination of a ‘ Catholic ethos’- a term meaning ‘the mindless indoctrination of questionable values’, and ‘enterprise culture’- a term meaning ‘ the tendency to see the goal of life as the production of profit’ , this rabid anti-intellectualism is what the Irish education system fosters and nourishes. In France the contrast couldn’t be more pronounced. There the study of history, geography and philosophy are obligatory for all students sitting the French equivalent of the Leaving Cert. All French students have to spend at least a year studying philosophy before leaving school. That is why France has contributed more than any other country to the domain of the human sciences, philosophy, social science, political science, anthropology, sociology etc. This level of intellectual debate is essential in a multicultural society. The former French minister for education Luc Ferry is himself a highly acclaimed philosopher.
In Ireland, philosophy is not only not obligatory, it is not even an option on the curriculum. Critical thinking is subject to a priori exclusion. This is one of the reasons why multiculturalism in Ireland could become a problem in the near future. When an ‘enterprise culture’ is promoted over a philosophical culture, in other words, when mindless mercantilism triumphs over critical reflection, minds close early on and prejudices ossify. This ignorance about our own past and that of the world, coupled with an inability to think for ourselves constitutes what Joyce called a metaphysical ‘hemiplegia’ or paralysis affecting Irish society.
Morevover,the continuing centrality of the Catholic Church in Irish education is nothing short of a national disgrace, and this absurd situation will ensure the continual stultification of Irish society into the future.