Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Road safety in the dark days and nights

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column.

Micheal Commane
The days are getting shorter. It is dark in the morning close to 6.30am and it’s back to darkness again at 8pm. Not a nice feeling and there’s a lot of darkness ahead of us. There’s nothing we can do about it, that is, unless we head off to the southern hemisphere.

It’s that time of the year when we all need to be extra careful on our roads.

I had planned to write this column on a different topic this week, that is, until I was nearly knocked off my bicycle last week.

A passing car came far too close for comfort and it was also travelling at an unsafe speed. Please, can I call on all road users to drive safely. And you know what, a little bit of kindness and care goes a long way, whether we are driving, cycling or indeed, walking on the footpath.

It’s great to see extra cyclists on our roads. It is a pity we don’t have safer and better designed cycle paths but we have what we have so we have to make the best of it.

Of course pedestrians and cyclists are at the mercy of vehicular traffic. That goes without saying.

But there is a relatively new breed of cyclist on our roads and their behaviour has to be stopped ASAP.

Those clowns who consider the road a race track and are travelling at unsafe speeds on our roads.

 They are easily spotted: all that lycra gear and usually topped off with a camera fitted on the helmet. Other bits and bobs too.

A Dublin Bus driver said to me that that particular species is one of the most dangerous on our Irish roads.

The morning that the car came far too close to me some minutes later one of these ‘man-cycle-racers’ passed me, leaving millimetres between us. Had I as much as veered slightly to the right we would have collided. There was no cycling path where we were.

And the cycle paths we have are certainly not built for racing cyclists.

A cycling disaster is waiting to happen.

Cyclists must obey the rules of the road and if they don’t they should be penalised.

With shorter and darker days on top of us it’s time for cyclists to make sure they have properly functioning front and back lights. And these days they are so cheap and simple to attach. Every cyclist should wear a high-visibility jacket and a helmet.

It’s well worthwhile to visit the Road Safety Authority atwww.rsa.ie. And guess what, they will post you out a high-vis jacket and a cover for your back pack. And it’s all for free.

The RSA phone number is 096 – 2 50 00, Lo-Call, 1890 – 53 25 32. You can write to them at RSA, Moy Valley Business Park, Primrose Hill, Ballina, Co Mayo.

But a warning. If you try phoning them, you need a large dose of patience. When I called the Lo-Call number, I was told it was closed.

They also give another Lo-Call number on their website, 1890 – 40 60 40. The number did not work for me. That is not good enough. The RSA should be far more user friendly and lead by example.

Last year 15 cyclists, 30 pedestrians, 20 motorcyclists, 66 drivers and 26 passengers were killed on our roads, not to mention all those severely injured.

Please keep safe on the road, cycle carefully. Kindness and consideration go a long way. Good road behaviour saves lives.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Trump and a walk out in a church

This is a funny story.

Speaking yesterday on the Gospel in a Church of Ireland church a woman took exception to what I said about US President Donald Trump. She spoke her mind. I replied. After the service we shook hands.

Some moments later, while still speaking, a man in the front seat, got up and walked out.

Shivers, confusion set in at that stage.

Only later to discover he was heading to the bathroom.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

China and the Holy See draw closer

The Holy See is to recognise bishops appointed by the Chinese government.

It has been a long diplomatic road and something to which Pope Francis and his predecessors have given much time and  energy.

But what about all those Catholics who worked and survived in the underground church in China?

How must they be feeling today?

What will the retired archbishop in Hong Kong think and say? He has already spoken his mind.

It is a tangled web.

There are 10 million Catholics in China.

In Vilnius yesterday Pope Francis spoke courageously and strongly against populist politicians who are closing  their doors to migrants.

What will Germany's AfD say and how will the Bavarian government respond? There are elections in Bavaria in October where the AfD are expected to hoover up votes.

Germany's SPD and the Vatican on the one side. That's an interesting scenario.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Crack cocaine

In a war setting "combat is like crack cocaine."

- Karl Marlantes a veteran of the Vietnam War

Friday, September 21, 2018

Jean Vanier's 10 rules for making life more human

From the current issue of 'The Tablet'
I’m just somebody who was born ninety years ago and will die in a few years time and then everybody will have forgotten me. This is reality'
Jean Vanier, the Canadian philosopher and theologian and the founder of L'Arche communities, turned ninety this week.
To commemorate the occasion he released a YouTube video laying out his “ten rules for life to become more human” by sharing his thoughts on life and on growing older. He speaks about success, vulnerability, listening, fear and love. 
1. Accept the reality of your body
Vanier says, “For a man to become a man he has to be at ease with his body. That body is fragile, like all bodies. We are born in weakness (as a little child); we will die in weakness. And when we get to a certain age – ninety – we begin to get weaker.” He adds, “I have to accept that I’m ninety. I’m not fifty, or forty, or thirty.”
2. Talk about your emotions and difficulties
He acknowledges that men in particular “have difficulty expressing their emotions.”
3. Don’t be afraid of not being successful
Vanier adds, “you have to discover you are beautiful as you are” regardless of whether or not you are successful.
4. In a relationship, take the time to ask “How are you?”
“Has he married his success in work, or has he married his wife? What is the most important? Is it to grow up the ladder in promotion?” asks Vanier.
5. Stop looking at your phone. Be present!
To young people he says, “You are people of communication.” But then he asks, “Are you people of presence? Are you able to listen?” "To be human is to know how to relate," he adds. 
6. Ask people “What is your story?”
Vanier emphasises the importance of relating to people and listening to them. He says, “To meet is to listen: Tell me your story? Tell me where your pain is? Tell me where your heart is? What are the things you desire?” He adds, “I need to listen to you because your story is different to my story.”
7. Be aware of your own story
“You are precious. You have your ideas: political, religious, non-religious, you have your vision for the world. Your vision for yourself,” says Vanier. He acknowledges that when we fear our identities, worldviews, and cherished opinions are being taken away from us we are liable to become angry. He adds, “we have to discover where our fears are because that is the fundamental problem.” He asks, “Maybe in your story there is a story about fear?”
8. Stop prejudice: meet people
Vanier says, “The big thing about being human is to meet people.” We need to “meet people who are different” and “discover that the other person is beautiful.”
9. Listen to your deepest desire and listen to it
Vanier says, “We are very different from birds and dogs. Animals are very different.” He says that unlike with animals there is a “sort of cry of the infinite within us. We’re not satisfied with the finite.” He asks, “Where is your greatest desire?”
10. Remember that you'll die one day 
“I’m not the one who’s the king of the world and I’m certainly not God,” says Vanier. “I’m just somebody who was born ninety years ago and will die in a few years time and then everybody will have forgotten me. This is reality. We’re all here, but we are just local people, passengers in a journey. We get into the train, we get out of the train, the train goes on.”

Vanier set up his first L'Arche community in 1964 by welcoming two mentally disabled men into his home in the town of Trosly-Breuil in France. Today, L’Arche has grown into an international organisation of 147 communities in 35 countries. Its aim is to create homes, programs and support networks with and for people who have developmental disabilities.
Vanier, the author of over 30 books, suffered a heart-attack in late 2017. He is said to have been resting in his home in France. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

RTE and BBC mispronouncing Salzburg

Why are most people at RTE and BBC mispronouncing the name of the Austrian city Salzburg?

It's not a posh S√°lzburg, rather a common Salzburg.

In favour of 'general absolution'

From The Tablet of September 18.


Call for return to general absolution in Confession
Cartoon by Jonathan Pugh 
'Priests can be too inquisitive in Confession...don’t cross-question. If someone is sorry, give them absolution'
On his recent visit to Ireland, Pope Francis gave a “clear signal” to priests that the Church needs a different format for Confession, according to Fr Brendan Hoban of the Association of Catholics.
Recalling the Pope’s visit to the Capuchin Day Centre for the Homeless in Dublin, Fr Hoban said the Pontiff had remarked in an aisle: “Priests can be too inquisitive in Confession. Like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, don’t cross-question. If someone is sorry, give them absolution.”
The County Mayo-based parish priest said the Pope was “sending a clear signal to priests that we need a different format for Confessions, not the traditional ‘number and kind’ fixation of some priests but a format more acceptable and more respectful to penitents.”
Speaking to The Tablet, Fr Hoban said that some priests were already using general absolution while “many priests are using a variation of it”.
He added that he was not surprised that the bishops didn’t comment on the Pope’s remark on Confession because they had been “complaining” about priests’ use of General Absolution “for years”.
Censured Redemptorist, Fr Tony Flannery, has said that he was beginning to change his mind on the matter.
Fr Flannery noted the proposal of Australian writer and commentator on religious affairs, Paul Collins, that in future the Church should decree that general absolution would be the only permitted way to celebrate the sacrament.
That might be a way of side-stepping the challenge to the seal of confession following the Royal Commission report on clerical child abuse in Australia, he said commending the proposal as a good idea.
He recalled that general absolution had been fairly common in the seventies and early eighties, but that Pope St John Paul ll had “put an end to it”.
He also noted that the Vatican in 1973 had approved three forms or ways of celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation.
One is the traditional one-to-one with the priest, usually in a confession box; one is general absolution, where the absolution for sin is celebrated with a gathering of the believers without individual confession; the third is Form 2, which he said is “a sort of a compromise” between these two, offered to a specific group.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Vietnam: all the lies and dishonesty

'The Vietnam War' is a 10-episode series on the history of the United States war in Vietnam. The film, available on Netflix, includes how the US first got involved in the country. 

It is a powerful but worrying account of the realities of war.

I am a child of the Vietnam generation.

On the day in 1975 that the war ended and Vietnam was liberated from US aggression I took part in a celebratory demonstration in Rome.

The film tells many stories, among them how far removed the political and military hierarchy were out of touch with what was happening on the ground. And both the White House and the Pentagon refused to believe what soldiers in the field were telling them.

As early as 1966 they knew the war was unwinnable. Both politicians and military kept the full story from the people, in other words, they told them lies.

One of the strongest advocates of the war, Secretary of Defence, Robert McNamara eventually realised his folly and retired from politics.

Interesting how three future US presidents never saw service in Vietnam. Clinton, Bush and Trump were all age-eligible to have been sent. That tells its own story. 

And Trump, who is constantly roaring about his patriotism, respect for the flag and his devotion to the military, was and is a draft dodger.

War never makes anything better, it makes it worse.


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Road safety in the dark days and nights

This week's Independent News & Media Irish regional newspapers' column. Micheal Commane The days are getting shorter. It...