Yeats in the Offing

It may only be week 5, but I feel like my brain has left town, with the eagerness of a Labrador at the beginning of the grouse shooting.

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Is anyone else’s brain smashed?

No! Wait, I don’t mean literally! But that sense of ‘Oh dear, everything inside my head is turning to moosh, and I don’t like it.’

To put it another way, I am glad that my skull is made of bone, therefore, is unlikely to combust into thin air. The result is, which to my great excitement includes a word I never knew existed before, a ‘quaggy‘ mess.

It may only be week 5, but I feel like my brain has left town, with the eagerness of a Labrador at the beginning of the grouse shooting. Please do excuse any mixed metaphors. They are floating about my head for a somewhat, understandable reason: this semester has seen my almost-full-body submersion into poetry. Therefore I grant myself full liberty within any metaphorical landscape from here on in.

At the present moment in time, I am supposed to be writing an essay on the symbolism of W.B. Yeats; one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century, among the top Irish, and international, writers that we have ever produced, or as I now call him, ‘The-Reason-For-My-Head-Being-In-A-Quaggy-Mess’.

 

William Butler Yeats

 

To be fair, it’s not all of his fault.

I did sign up for this.

Yes, I am a class-A idiot. Specifically, an ENG531 Class-A idiot.

Let me explain.

wooster is miffed at jeevesWhen I started looking at the module selection for third year, I noted that there was a module devoted to ’20th Century Irish Writers’. Smiling with the certainty that some type of Wodehousian-fate would love, I passively acknowledged that it looked good, but I would never take the class. Another bout of Irish literature? Please, let’s just not.

Yet as online enrolment loomed around the corner, and I had little-to-zero interest either of the modules I was considering as a third option, I could almost hear P.G. Wodehouse narrate this paragraph of my biography:

‘Despite the quiet reluctance of a cat on a hot tin roof, Nesta saw that she either had to brave the fray, or spend the next semester knee-deep in Knitters Digest in a last ditch move towards sanity. After all, when one puts these things into perspective, some writers from the motherland couldn’t damage her as much as an accidental prod of a knitting needle to the chest, in an attempt to alleviate the boredom.’

Yet, it was not as hum-drumly practical as this alludes to. Ulster may not be the forefront Irish university, nor may it shine the brightest on the world’s stage, but it is an Irish university. As such, I thought that I had better commit myself to a semester of Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett, as a slight penance for not biting the bullet in previous years. In an odd sense of patriarchal nationalism, I felt that it was almost a duty to spend time looking into Irish writers.

After my A-Level experience (which had no marks, or tarnish left from a totally joyous experience of school, where everything always went the right way), I had walked away believing Irish writers to be self-obsessed, and narrow minded. Self-obsessed, as most of the work was personal to their own circumstances and opinions; narrow minded, as they constantly referred back to Classical literary tropes, which I then had to learn off my heart to include in essays that used as much brain power that would power a G-Wiz for 15 minutes.

Needless to say, I was bored, stressed, and unhappy for these years.

The last thing I wanted to do during the last year of my undergrad, was to relive all of those experiences. Uni has been my best experience of education; one that has not helped in the total decline and demise of my mental faculties.

Entering Lt10 on Thursday morning of week one, was the closest I have felt towards dread (concerning my studies) than I have felt in a long while. As I sat down, lifting my file-block, pens, and endurance onto the table, my brain clocked out. I sat like this for, roughly half-an-hour, when suddenly, something the lecturer said, caught my attention;

‘It’s important to look at Irish writers, for not only have they shaped the international literary climate; they have also shaped the perception of Ireland. Yeats may as well, could have worked for Sligo’s tourist board, Joyce Dublin’s, and Beckett, a particular view on a very Irish mindset. They helped put us on the map: I [the lecturer] therefore think that every student from Ulster, or another Irish university, should spend at least one semester looking into their work. Not only is the writing to an international standard, but these writers helped to shape the world in which literature is alive in the modern age.’

That may be paraphrased, but it was the jist of my struggle: overlooking my prejudices, and accepting that maybe there is something more to Yeats than his Leda, Joyce’s all-over-the-show-formwise masterpiece, and Beckett’s streams-of-consciousness. I needed to build a bridge, have some patience and compassion, and get over it.

A few weeks later, I still am wrestling with Yeats. I still am rolling my eyes to 360-degrees whenever someone talks about ‘the symbolism in Yeats’ poetry on loss/Ireland/women etcetc’; but I am beginning to have respect. Not just for what Yeats achieved in his lifetime, but what he achieved in his poetry.

It’s self-focused because poetry is allowed to show the soul of the poet, to be the external-processing needed whenever tragedy strikes, and to give himself focal points to immortalise into epochs in the narrative of Irish history.

And Yeats isn’t narrow-minded. At least, not in the ways in which I used to think he was.

So now, as my quaggy mess of a brain starts to churn back into it’s working mode, and as I delve back into my work, I just want to encourage you to be open minded to the things that you’ll learn. Guard your heart (Pvb4:23) defiantly, but be wise. Don’t shut doors because of bad experiences: don’t close down a chance because you’re afraid of the consequences: don’t stop learning.

It’s how we grow up.

 

Love,

Nesta

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Tick Tock

There is a famous line in the history of American television drama; ‘Decisions are made by those who show up’. This show talks about freedom of speech, how we as a people in a democracy have a responsibility to take actions that determine how our country functions and especially, how we are privileged that no matter what our gender, colour, beliefs, ways-of-life and education are, we are each given the use of our voice and a vote.

Of course, I am talking about The West Wing.

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As I am home from uni and with some time on my hands, I am reacquainting myself with Josh, Toby, Leo, C.J. and President Bartlett, along with John le Carré’s exquisite work, The Night Manager. Nothing like a bit of light reading and entertainment to get you into a summery mood. Yet, they both have been excellent food for thought during this never ending, voyeuristic experience of the lead up to the EU referendum.

Don’t worry, I am not here to scare monger, nor am I here to reveal to you my vote, thanks to the 1872 Secret Ballot Act. This is for two reasons: frankly it is no-one’s business to pry or poke anyone into revealing their voting tendencies. Feel free by all means to shout your allegiances from the roof tops if you’re comfortable with that, but there is no longer any legal requirement to do so. Secondly, I love having an impartial debate and forum to discuss ideas, so let’s just bear this in mind as we continue on from this preamble.

The line ‘decisions are made…’ has several roots, Truman being one.

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Harry S. Truman – 33rd President of the Unites States of America

I however am not going to get into the particulars of it’s source. As far as this is concerned, Jed Bartlett, a fringement of Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant mind, said it. It is one of the most relevant points that was ever made regarding voting, not only in The West Wing but in the whole of democratic politics, in the west, over the past twenty years.

In my notes for this post, I ended up comparing the function of the quote in a democracy, with going to the local deli to choose a sandwich. Bathos? Yes. Relevant? Of course.

Bearing in mind they were written around 11pm last night and I was rambling to myself, this next bit may not make much sense. Bear with me though.

If you are in the middle of a hard day’s work and you fancy some food, do you go to the deli and choose what you want or ask someone who is already going to pick you up something. The chances are that you will go, pick, choose and eat the sandwich you decide upon, if you’re anything like me, because sending someone else to pick out my food is a big risk. What if they get you a sandwich with white bread instead of brown? Or instead of mayonnaise they use margarine to compliment your salad sandwich? Would you be happy enough if the order you placed, or the food you wanted, came differently to what you had imagined? I know that I wouldn’t.  As my mum has always mentioned whenever I didn’t do a job she needed done to the standard which she expected, ‘if you want the job done, do it yourself.’

Now, I am not blaming anyone for getting me the wrong sandwich, neither is my mum after I didn’t do the job correctly. Sandwiches and odd jobs can be remade or done over. This EU referendum cannot be ‘fixed’ in three weeks, three months or thirty years time.

What get’s my goat with elections, especially in good old Northern Ireland, is that there are so many people who think that we, the electorate, are never heard. Until recently there was no opposition in Stormont and this complaint was (and can still be) relevant, as there is hardly any major news about the daily goings on in the NI assembly due to a lack of debate, oppositions and frankly, arguments within the chamber. However this is different in the case of June 23rd, 2016.

In this referendum, all of our votes matter.

Every.

Single.

One.

Whether you’re black, white, Christian, Muslim, man or woman, what you have as a British citizen is a right and an obligation to get down to the polling station, make a decision and then cast your vote.

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This is the biggest political decision that all of us will ever make and especially us ‘millennials’ who were born from the 1980’s up to 2000. We are the generation that will be most affected economically, politically and socially from this vote. Whether we remain in the EU or leave, our jobs will be affected, for better and for worse on both sides of remain and leave. Our children will be affected, our healthcare will be affected, our education will be affected, our student loans, our bursaries, our social lives and our pensions will all be changed whether we remain or leave the EU. How do I know this? Because we live in a democracy  and this is what it does.

Evolving. Changing. Growing, shrinking, emerging, surging and so much more.

Our country, the whole UK is crying out for involvement from all of her citizens. Not just the Young Democrats or the Labour Youth movements, with their selfie sticks and internet savviness. Not just the local representatives, who frankly have no idea about what they stand for part of the time because their constituents only kick up a fracas whenever there is something that they don’t agree about happening in government.

This is why the referendum is good for the country. It has generated debate among all social positions, races, genders, ages and many more. Maybe it is because there is a Presidential race happening over the pond from us, or maybe it is because this is an issue that people genuinely have an interest in. It doesn’t really matter why we are talking: what matters is that people are talking.

There are debates outside of the TV studios and debate societies, people are reading about the short and long term impacts of the leave and remain campaigns. For the first time in years, people are taking an interest on what makes the patchwork unions between the countries in the UK work. Well, not really the first time, Scotland started the debates last year with their vote to leave or remain in the UK – thanks for getting the ball of democracy rolling on that one guys! Not even a peep for major calls of violence and bloodshed from over here in Norn Iron along with the debates, proof that we all must be growing on from hitting the nearest person to us, when they knock us over or tell us off. Good job humanity.

‘Decisions are made by those who show up.’6b17292c07c50f50ecb8ad8133d38565

The Telegraph has just released a poll this afternoon with the remain camp up two points on the leave camp. They’re predicting that there is a 51% remain vote tomorrow with a 49% leave vote. However, I have not sat here for the past day and a half thinking about what to write in this post about who you should, or should not, be voting for. There are really more pressing matters that I need to deal with, like doing the laundry, vacuuming the house or getting up to my meeting in Ballymena that is starting in twenty five minutes. This lecture, that sounds like a poli-sci talk from someone who has only read about such matters, is to encourage not to preach.

Your vote matters.

Your vote counts.

You have to make a choice about what you think is right and if you decide that not voting tomorrow is right then you cannot, will not and shall not be allowed to complain about how the election turns out.

Going back to my sandwich analogy, if you get the wrong sandwich because you didn’t want to get up, then what is the point of going over to your mate who made the call with the bread and mayo, to demand why on earth they got the two things that you didn’t want? You may as well walk into a factory, go to the manager and say ‘Hey! Excuse me! Yeah this product, it doesn’t work for me, can you just go to customer service and they can fix it for me,’ instead of picking up the phone to call the number, be put on hold for most of the day and finally get your problem sorted out.

It’s nuts! This country, no sorry, this culture in the west of throwing your hands up and complaining as soon as the going gets tough with calls of ‘I didn’t even vote because it’s nothing to do with me’ does not make up a useful democracy.

imgWinston Churchill once said that democracy was the best of a bad lot. It’s the only one that works, unless you think that the Soviet’s hit is bang on with communism and that Terrorists who rule with religious zealous tendencies, that are as far removed from their actual religion as the KKK were from ‘real’ Christians in America, set a brilliant example of living in terror and fear of what their government will do next, you’re disagreeing with quite a clever man who helped the UK through two world wars. That was diplomacy in itself.

Another poll was run in The Guardian in April, asking how likely would you be likely to vote on a scale of 1 to 10 and they answered as follows:

52% of 18-34 would vote,

66% of 35-54 would vote,

81% of 55+ would vote.

No harm to everyone over a certain age, but the changes will impact the next thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years. I am pretty sure that of that 81% they are thinking about what we will be facing when they are our age. You can’t even argue that the 66% and the 81% are larger numbers of electorates because they have free time, what with retirement and days off. Last time I checked unemployment between 16-24 year olds is up 16% and there are a good lot of students out there will beautiful summers like mine, reaching from May to September. There is literally no excuse not to vote because anyone is ‘too busy’ (I apologise to anyone who actually is too busy, but you had a chance to postal vote so I take that back.)

Everything will change. You have to go with what you think is right. It’s your decision, make it count. Read, listen, watch, hear, talk and discuss to help evaluate your stance. Don’t just go with who your family is voting for. They don’t have to know. Look up the Leave and Remain websites and look at their arguments. Become an active voice in the country because whether we remain in or leave, tomorrow your voice will join history.

Do you really want to be left out of it because you couldn’t be bothered.

‘Decisions are made by those who who up.’

 

Nesta