Hardcore for Nerds

"Why sneer at the intellectuals?"*
punk music, left politics, and cultural history - previously found here.
contact: gabbaweeks[at]gmail.com (sorry, no promos/submissions, thanks) or ask
Dublin/Galway, Ireland. 27, history graduate & human rights student
HFN | Best New Punk | HFN 2012 2011 2010 2009 | HRO 2k9 | Hoover Genealogy Project | @HC4N
*from the title of a review of Arthur Koestler's Arrival and Departure by Michael Foot, Evening Standard, Nov. 26, 1943.
Oct 31
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Memory, indeed, constitutes one of the greatest sources of interrogation bequeathed to us by the twentieth century, with its cortege of mass crimes and fateful experimentations with totalitarianism.

'Of Memory and Testimony', Address by President Michael D. Higgins at La Universidad Centroamericana, San Salvador

Read this speech earlier in the week for its human rights (and history) interest, this part struck me in particular. I like the poetic image of a ‘cortege’, with its association with funeral and death - so also appropriate this Samhain night, remembering the dead in a way that is more in struggle with modern horrors than our premodern fears, and reaffirming a common humanity: 

"The act of naming summons up the person’s singularity. The calling of the name is an antidote against reification. It is a means to rebut the reduction of a loved one, neighbour, or fellow citizen, to the heartless, indifferent category of the ‘subversive,’ the ‘enemy’, and to refuse the subsuming of the loss in the all-encompassing denomination of ‘the war’, ‘the conflict.’"

Michael D. Higgins history
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Oct 23
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"Mr Higgins praised the new economic thinking emerging from Latin America that are deconstructing the “big dogmas” that led to the most serious economic meltdown since 1929.

“Some of the freshest and most creative thinking is coming from Latin America, where economists, political and social scientists are not afraid to question prevailing orthodoxies,” he said.

They are debating “alternative models and paradigms for the connection between economy and society and for the relationship between the market and the state,” he said.

“There is an intellectual fall-down often missing in those parts of the world where antipathy to the role of the state has offered unregulated markets as an ideology to be followed without question while the consequences in poverty and unemployment ravage their societies.”

Mr Higgins urged the students from the University of Mexico, the biggest in Latin America, not to “sink into any melancholy” when considering their future.

The Irish Times reporting on President Higgins’ visit to Central America (note however the positive gloss they choose to focus on in their headline - or even that last remark above, which is almost in itself melancholy).

Michael D. Higgins economics politics
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Jul 24
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I can’t quite believe this is front-page news for “Ireland’s best-selling daily newspaper”. My theory is that their frustration at not being able to have a Royal Baby headline - as you can see, it’s a popular subject here, but it’s a bit un-nationalist to actually admit it - has been channelled into taking umbrage at some accidental republican lèse-majesté. Hence this kind of po-faced reportage (“happily married” and “four kids” are trotted out as well):

"The extraordinary nature of the claim in such a prestigious publication astounded personal friends and political associates of the President.
The President maintained a dignified silence last night.”

but…

"I don’t think he’d be all that offended really," a Labour Party source said.

I can’t quite believe this is front-page news for “Ireland’s best-selling daily newspaper”. My theory is that their frustration at not being able to have a Royal Baby headline - as you can see, it’s a popular subject here, but it’s a bit un-nationalist to actually admit it - has been channelled into taking umbrage at some accidental republican lèse-majesté. Hence this kind of po-faced reportage (“happily married” and “four kids” are trotted out as well):

"The extraordinary nature of the claim in such a prestigious publication astounded personal friends and political associates of the President.

The President maintained a dignified silence last night.”

but…

"I don’t think he’d be all that offended really," a Labour Party source said.

irish Michael D. Higgins
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Jul 23
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Hey America, your magazine just called our President gay (not that it’s really a problem…)

Forbes magazine:

"The eighth president of Ireland was another redhead, Mary McAleese (1997-2011), widely celebrated here for her passionate work to diminish sectarian strife in Northern Ireland, but sometimes derided for her heavy rhetoric on behalf of various liberal causes. The question of what are Catholic views in Ireland is changing fast. The current president of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, is a poet, acknowledged homosexual, and nearly as outspoken as his predecessors.”

Either the author has a) found some hitherto unacknowledged meaning in Michael D.’s poetry or b) is confusing the actual President with the unsuccessful candidate David Norris, who is definitely gay (but more of a Joycean than a poet).

(via

irish Michael D. Higgins
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Jun 20
Permalink history Irish Michael D. Higgins NO PAST 1913 lockout
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Apr 21
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Today, citizens in Europe are threatened with an unconscious drift to disharmony, a loss of social cohesion, a recurrence of racism and a deficit of democratic accountability

In full: President Michael D Higgins’ speech to the European Parliament

I read this when it came out a couple of days ago; it’s a curious mixture of the depressing and the inspirational, because it sets out some frank truths (the Irish President and the European Parliament are each relatively powerless, or at least overshadowed by more powerful executive branches) and points in the direction of some solutions (resisting ‘logistical’ economics  and the technocratic usurping of parliamentary democracy, and promoting ‘emancipatory scholarship’) but I don’t get the sense they’re anywhere close to be achieved or that there’s even a meaningful path towards doing so. I’d love to be able to take part in advancing those goals if I knew how, and particularly if it meant a useful job, but I’m pretty lost. I’m glad people like Michael D.’s words and I hope that means more people read them, but it increasingly feels like a carefully crafted cry in the political wilderness. 

irish europe politics Michael D. Higgins
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Mar 26
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thewoodquarter:

Ladies and Gentlemen, the president of the Republic of Ireland.
(Nonsense Context)

thewoodquarter:

Ladies and Gentlemen, the president of the Republic of Ireland.

(Nonsense Context)

irish sex Michael D. Higgins
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Mar 18
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At least there’s one thing we stand behind.
There’s still an ecosystem right? And here’s this sound system.
We dusted it off. Electronic is just one place in the body. We went temporarily acoustic.
We made our own instruments. We took an old bedspring, a microphone and:
“Stay out here…”
Now we’re bending our voices to sound like Emily R., who recorded the track on her cellphone speaker.

This The Knife album manifesto is an interesting read. (h/t likeapairofbottlerockets)

Also on the subject of the cultural potential of sound, I just started watching Michael D.’s Glaoch - The President’s Call, it looks pretty good as a presentation of Irish music and meaning (despite Bono). 

the knife Michael D. Higgins
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Feb 20
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"Culture and creativity should take centre stage in discussions on how to build more fulfilling and peaceful societies, President Michael D Higgins has said.

On a visit yesterday to the Paris headquarters of Unesco, the UN’s culture and education agency, Mr Higgins was greeted with cheers and a standing ovation after he gave an impassioned critique of the dominance of neo-liberal economics. Assumptions about unregulated market freedom had “exposed our world to poverty and insecurity”, he said.

[…]

Unesco is suffering from a severe financial crisis caused largely by the decision of its biggest contributor, the US, to cancel its support in protest at the body’s decision to grant the Palestinians full membership.

Against the background of debate about the organisation’s future, Mr Higgins warned that supporting culture was as important during a recession as in times of economic growth.

“Unesco cannot afford to fall into the pseudo-romantic trap of believing that devoting less resources to the broad cultural space is in any sense beneficial or constructive,” he said. “Starving artists in attics may make for entertaining operatic librettos, but such a myth is as destructive of social value as it is of the individual artist’s life.”

Mr Higgins called for better dialogue between western intellectuals and moderate Islam, which he saw as “one of the most urgent intellectual issues” of our time. “It is past time that they supported each other, confronted the politics of fear and exclusion … and worked together to achieve the sustainable, peaceful planet we need.”

Unesco’s director general, Irina Bokova, described Mr Higgins as “an intellectual and a great political leader”, and said his speech made her proud to belong to the agency.”

(via)

The Irish Times gave a summary of his speech to the Sorbonne in its editorial yesterday, finishing with the telling line “How close Mr Higgins’s radical analysis is to our own Government’s is, however, another matter.” (The Irish Presidency being independent from, and virtually powerless in the traditional political sense relative to, the executive and parliament). The speech itself, ‘Defining Europe in the Year of the European Citizen’, is here; it’s wide-ranging to say the least, but focuses on familiar themes of scholarship and intellectual opposition to neoliberalism, seen through a lens of French and European history:

Scholarship is at its best when it is emancipatory, when it enables, assists, and confers freedom.  We need that scholarship now as we together must work for, and envision a future for the European Union.  Such new and emancipatory scholarship is already emerging at global level even if it is not on the ascendant in Europe.

Just as Diderot, Kant, Herder and others saw the flaw and consequence of empire at the heart of the European Enlightenment, many scholars around the world have seen the flaw and the consequences of a single hegemonic model of international economics, having been accepted, built on the mythical model of unregulated markets.

Such a model, be it in its Von Hayek or Friedman versions that argued for a limited state or, in its ordoliberalist version, demanded the use of the State to institute state arrangements for a de-peopled market economy, was presented as the only acceptable alternative to the social and economic democratically-based models of social economy that emerged after World War Two and that were offered, bet it with success or failure in an accountable way by the elected representatives of the people.

Jurgen Habermas puts it succinctly when, seeking to address the challenge as to what we might do in the European Union if we are to save and develop in a truly humane way, a Europe he describes as ‘our fragile project’  he writes:

“My hope is that the neoliberal agenda will no longer be accepted at face value but will be open to challenge. 

The whole program of subordinating the life world to the imperatives of the market must be subjected to scrutiny ….  The agenda which recklessly prioritises shareholder interests and is indifferent to increasing social inequality, to the emergence of an underclass, to child poverty, of a low wage sector, and so on has been discredited.  With its mania for privatization, this agenda hollows out the core function of the state.  It sells the remnants of a deliberative public sphere to profit maximising financial investors, and it subordinates culture and education to the interests and moods of sponsors who are dependent on market cycles.”

I believe that what Jurgen Habermas is responding to is more than just, as he would see it, a fragile project.  It is a social crisis.  It is the emergence and the acting out of what the great German social theorist of the nineteenth century Max Weber saw as that ‘bleak winter’ that would replace ‘the promise of Spring’ when a perversion of rationality became irrationality, as consciousness was numbed, when what was oppressive was unquestionable, and came to be suggested as inevitable, was received as natural.

The crisis to which the earlier work of Habermas pointed was a ‘legitimation crisis’.  The signs of this rationality that has become irrationality are there today in our European Union as spectacle replaces discourse, as the length of communiqués shorten, as managing the media replaces open discussion, or amendment of shared or differing policy positions, as alternative political options that might have generated such a discourse as would be inviting to the citizens of Europe to participate, share, be creative, be responsive to global issues, be they issues of poverty, freedom, democracy or environmental intergenerational responsibility, are rejected, are relegated to the past, ignored or dismissed.”

I can’t say how proud I am to have this guy as my president. Even though I don’t know how ‘emancipatory scholarship’ is going to translate into a job (or even a career!) for me anytime soon.

irish politics Michael D. Higgins
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Nov 04
Permalink Michael D. Higgins irish language
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