The world of work can be a pretty rotten place. That’s even setting aside the boring tasks, colleagues with bad breath, and unpleasable bosses. But at least it’s work. Work is turning to a monster for many people because of the conditions imposed on them to hang on to that job, and a wage that continues to shrink – if you get a wage at all. Unpaid internships have ballooned out of control, and here in Ireland unscrupulous employers have been quick to jump on the government’s ‘JobBridge’ bandwagon to grab staff for nothing. (In JobBridge, the person employed is paid only €50 a week on top of their social welfare transfer. See also Scambridge, a website which tries to expose the failings of the scheme.) These morose ruminations came as a result of a seminar on employment and a living wage, organised by Irish Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, and colleagues in the Labour Party.
There’s been a lot of buzz generated by Lean In, the snappy book from Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO (and if you don’t know what COO stands for, the book is perhaps not for you).
It means “chief operating officer”, which makes Sandberg a Very Important Person indeed in modern corporate America. And the world, given Facebook’s claimed billion users, with around 650 million of those active daily.
The title refers to a Sandberg exhortation to women in business to “lean in” when they’re at meetings, rather than hanging back, not speaking, lurking in the corners of the room. It’s a manifesto for career women to stop accepting second place, Seize the Day, and the balls of the alpha males. And it’s good.
Setting aside the relentless energy and obsession with work – which Sandberg acknowledges – the book has a lot of universal truths about the respective roles of men and women in society, whether dressed up as equality in western countries, or blatantly unequal in other regions. When it talks about women downgrading their skills (often internally), not going for the big job, dropping out of a promising job because they can’t juggle children and career, it makes a lot of points easily recognizable by any woman who’s worked outside the home in the last 30 years.
Plans announced to clean up Ireland’s 6,000 taxi drivers with criminal convictions astonish Angela
In Ireland, after you’ve hailed a taxi, the driver who takes you home might be a sex abuser (convicted), or a thief (convicted) or violent (convicted).
Just when we living on the Emerald Isle thought we couldn’t be shocked about the incompetence of the authorities (two and a half years into our economic bailout, each of us paying €14,000 to make up to rich speculators) – along comes the news that 6,000 licensed taxi drivers here have criminal convictions. That’s about one in six.
A version of this article originally appeared in The Irish Times, Friday October 19, 2012.
By Angela Long
Times are tough: many of you reading this are worried about the mortgage, the bills, the future. But imagine a nasty situation blows up in your street or estate, so nasty that you have to head for the airport and leave the country. When you arrive in a seemingly civilized destination, you have to tell an inquisitor the original name of Croke Park stadium, before you are allowed stay in the country.*
Absurd? It might be, but this is the equivalent of the type of question considered suitable as a test for people seeking asylum in Ireland. And, if the person cannot answer correctly about their home country, they are deemed to be ‘unreliable’ or mendacious, and their case takes a turn for the worse.
The 5,000 people living in our country today seeking asylum are at the bottom of the pile of concerns for legislators, authorities and the average citizen. But that should not mean they suffer inhumanitarian treatment. And the way they are treated by the Irish ‘system’ is nothing less than racist and cruel.
Innocent people can be put in limbo for three, six, even 10 years while a lethargic civil service dabs occasionally at their cases.
On September 27 a Congolese man who has been awaiting a decision on his refugee application for six years took his life at the refugee hostel in Mosney, Co Meath – a pleasant setting, but a remote location, like most of the hostels.
Suicide is a regular feature of the so-called system whereby Ireland lives up to its obligations under international treaties. Another, deportation, is the target of a new campaign for justice launched by asylum-seekers and their supporters.
The old chestnut of Hitler’s mental state has re-emerged. Angela heard interesting takes on it at a London conference
WERE THE Nazis mad? Was Hitler possessed by some demon of the mind, which enabled him to carry a nation with him in his genocidal campaigns?
The answer is often a lazy ‘yes’. Collectively we cannot accept that such inhumanity to fellow creatures could be a sustained campaign for a whole nation.
But Jose Brunner of Tel Aviv University begs to differ: madness would have undermined the project. An incompetent or weak mind could not have sustained the huge undertaking which was the Second World War, and the extermination of whole races of people.
“Why do people say the Nazis were mad?” Brunner challenged a conference on totalitarianism in London. ‘They could not have prosecuted a war of that magnitude, over all those years, if madness was the prevailing condition.”
Likewise, says Brunner, a philosophy professor, the comfortably dismissive notion of Hitler as a madman distinct from society does not wash with his career. “If Hitler had been just mad, he would have lived his life in a garret, would never have been able to do what he did.” Read more…