Congratulations to West Cork woman Louise O Neill on the publication of Asking For It, her second novel, themed around the reaction of a section of a small town population to the gang rape of 18 year old protagonist Emma by a group of popular local youths. The book may be found upsetting by some, but what worthwhile book isn’t?
O Neill’s fiction is marketed as YA, yet over the last couple of years I have encountered many widely read and not so young anymore adults who enjoy her provocative books. What is more interesting perhaps is that discussion of her work invariably leads to discussion of difficult but crucial issues of women’s oppression – such as the incredible failure of the Irish State to deal adequately with the crime of rape or to provide shelter, solace, justice and ongoing treatment to many victims of rape.
A legacy of our Christian past perhaps? The old testament contains quite a number of legitimisations for rape and gang rape. It’s not so long ago either that Gardai were abducting children from the homes of the Irish poor and delivering them to the industrial schools where everyone knew children were systematically beaten, tortured and raped – something Irish fiction has yet, with the exception of Patrick Galvin’s Song For a Raggy Boy, to come anywhere close to treating seriously. Perhaps O Neill’s pathbreaking work will inspire others to fuse literary eloquence with a fearless approach to social and political taboos – just as she does.
Speaking of Christianity, my guess is that it’s the last thing Christ would want to be associated with today. Being a Christian would put him in the same category as the Christian Fidesz party, who are attempting to transform Hungary into a police state. If Fidesz thought thought they would get away with it, they would most likely do to modern day refugees what their political ancestors in the Arrow Cross Party helped to do to Jews and Roma during WW11.
As well as toddlers fleeing warzones, Fidesz hate gays, the free press, progressive NGO’s and – once again like their predecessors – use state repression against all who disagree with them. None of which causes any problems for their right-wing colleagues Fine Gael in the absurdly named European People’s Party over there in the parliament of magpies and vultures in Brussels, capital of Ireland. Which is not all that surprising considering the far-right paramilitarism of FG’s Mussolini-loving founding fathers. Birds of a feather etc.
“Beneath the wild boglands of North Mayo lies the Céide Fields, the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world, consisting of field systems, dwelling areas and megalithic tombs. The stone walled fields, extending over thousands of acres are almost 6,000 years old, the oldest known in the world.” Nobody knows why the people who built the Céide complex settled there, or why, en masse, they left wherever they came from. Likely they were fleeing the ravishments of inter-tribal warfare – by that time, following the intertwined development of agriculture, surplus (i.e riches), and rigid social hierarchies, war had become part of human existence.
Or, under the guidance of some warrior-shaman, the Ceide people started out from part of what is now called France, or Andalusia, or Bavaria… for a promised land of peace and plenty in the un-discovered North. When they saw that mist-shrouded red sun setting into the vast Atlantic, with schools of porpoises leaping after and over it, they thought the promised land had been found – and who wouldn’t? They set to work, relying on courage, conviction, vision, and determination to build the mysteriously glowing future for themselves that is now part of our mysteriously glowing past.
Fleeing war and heading for a promised land tend to go hand and hand in the history of Human Exodus. At bottom, the idea of promised land has represented a place where one wouldn’t starve or be massacred and would be free to work, raise children, and pray or not pray without fear of repression. The Ceide people are long gone now, but let us think of them as in some way resurrected in the refugee exodus now taking place.
Ireland could be the promised land again if we wanted. Without famine and emigration Ireland would have a contemporary population of 40 millions or so. We have room for millions. We could do with least 3 new sustainably built and green-powered cities. We need to give these refugees, and I mean every single one of them without exception, land to build on, materials to build and trade with, and hope of a worthwhile future for them and their descendants. All it takes is courage, conviction, vision, and determination…all of which the refugees themselves have in droves.
Dave Lordan 6/09/15
“I was born on a storm-swept rock and hate the soft growth of sun-baked lands where there is no frost in men’s bones. ”
― Liam O’Flaherty