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God is dead – but Ani DiFranco is very much alive
The Catholic Church may snatch the bodies of non-believers and dodge responsibility for child sex abuse, behind a cloud of legal obfuscation – but the heathens are growing in strength.
Eamonn McCann, 25 Jun 2003
I don’t suppose Ani Difranco is the first performer to ponce a joint from an audience in Dublin, but nobody’s ever done it with such style.
“Now let’s get talking reefer madness/Like some arrogant government can’t/By any stretch of the imagination/Outlaw a plant/Yes, their supposed authority over nature/Is a dream/C’mon people/We’ve got to come clean.”
DiFranco is a mendicant troubadour bringing momentous intelligence from faraway places. So up to the instant she’s ahead of the news-flash.
“Yes, the goons have gone global/And the CEOs are shredding files/And the democrans and the republicrats/Are flashing their toothy smiles/And uncle tom is posing for a photo op/With the oval office clan/And uncle sam is rigging cockfights/In the promised land/And that knife you stuck in my back is still there/It pinches a little when I sigh and moan/And these days I’m thinkin I could just as soon use/The time alone.”
One’s thoughts drifted unbidden towards home-grown rock celebs hugger-mugger with presidents and press-barons and CEOs of subterfuge. There’s two sides to every question and they’re ever on the other one.
DiFranco is direct as a half-brick hurled at a bank made of marble. She conveys thoughts on the overthrow of global capitalism in phrases like, “the overthrow of global capitalism.” Then talks dreamily of US cities “where you can walk for hours and not see anybody in love.” She has the personal and the political interpenetrated perfectly.
“She lifts her chin and squints at me/To assess what I think I know/She says my heart has some dangerous neighborhoods/So beware where you try to go/And they say that the truth will set you free/But then so will a lie/It depends if you’re trying to get to the promised land/Or you’re just trying to get by.”
At Vicar St. the Saturday before last, her voice was, again, as supple and athletic as Annie Ross in scat-illogical mode. She hits an acoustic guitar as hard as a jack-hammer, then strokes it like a vulnerable lover. Tough as an anvil, so soft a puff of breath would blow her away. She’s finessed the Red-skin ambition, walks like the Clash, sings like the Supremes, with the sensibility of Pete Seeger. Did I mention she’s more unfeasibly gorgeous than ever?
I see that Archbishop Sean Brady has issued an edict restricting who can say the eulogy at Catholic funerals.
A generation ago, only priests pronounced eulogies. Now, it’s usually a relative or friend. Brady thinks this detracts from the sacred character of the proceedings. He wants the laity shut up.
Many will be surprised that an institution so recently shown to be seething with corruption should have had the brassness of its neck so rapidly restored. But that’s not the main point. The point has to do with snatching the bodies of non-believers.
A few weeks ago, a close friend died after a long illness. Long enough for us to have discussed funeral arrangements. Nothing morbid. The one serious thing he was set on was that there be no religious element to the proceedings. “All that cheeses me off about there being no afterlife is that I couldn’t come back and fuck with anybody who started with prayers and holy water.”
To no avail. Literally within minutes of him heaving a last breath, arrangements were in train for a requiem mass. One section of close family and friends was appalled. But the row which then erupted speedily reached such a pitch of emotion that those who wanted to honour his wishes backed off. It seems this is fairly common. The Catholic Church, with which my friend had had no association in his adult life, had enveloped him in death.
It is this type of haughty arrogance Brady was reflecting in his decree. The underlying issue is hugely important to the Catholic Church, as to all institutional expressions of religious unreason. If they can control how the people they target are presented in death, they will have confirmed their “right” to dictate the living of life.
What we must do is leave written instructions against the intrusion of mumbo-jumbo when we finally turn sideways to the sun. It’s never too soon. Thou knowest not the day nor the hour. What thou dost know is that, given half a chance, the ghouls will swoop upon your mortal remains and misrepresent your life, the better to continue to distort the lives of the still living.
To continue: The latest attempt by the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin to dodge responsibility for child sex abuse by its priests will have come as a useful corrective to a casual assumption that the RC Church has learned the lesson of the last 10 years.
Responding to a case taken by two victims of the late Father Noel Reynolds, the Archdiocese has pleaded: (a) that, legally, Reynolds was not an employee of the archdiocese; (b) that the archdiocese had no responsibility in law for supervising his activities; and (c) that Cardinal Desmond Connell was not legally answerable for his actions.
Reynolds had confessed to abuse of two girls before his death just over a year ago. The abuse began when one was six, the other seven, and continued for almost seven years.
The stance of the archdiocese is in obvious, sharp contradiction of the repeated pledges by Church officials to look sympathetically on the plight of clerical sex abuse victims and not to hide behind the law in an effort to evade responsibility. It bears out warnings given here that the Church’s apparent contrition was phoney and that Connell and his ilk would try to weasel their way out of their obligations just as soon as the public spotlight had shifted.
Individual members of the faithful, including a sizable number of clergy, may be genuinely remorseful at the savage perversity shown by some priests towards children. But the Church as a corporate entity has never been contrite. At the highest level, the allegations have been seen as a trial to be endured by the Church, by virtue of its divine mission – the contemporary equivalent of “dungeon, fire and sword.” The Church has seen itself as the victim, not the villain.
To John Paul and the junta around him, the key question is not the damage done to the bodies and souls of innocent children but the damage done to the embodiment on earth of the Almighty – which they see, literally, as of infinitely more importance.
This, and not some personal moral or psychological deficiency of Connell’s, is what has prompted the latest manoeuvre against the victims of Church abuse.
Dicrimination against atheists is rife
A Gallup poll across the water reveals that 40 percent of 16 to 25-year-olds in Britain are either atheists or agnostics. Ireland being at least as sensible a country, it’s likely the figures here are as healthy. This suggests that discrimination against atheists and agnostics is rife in our schools, colleges and universities.
There is scarcely an educational institution in the land where atheism and agnosticism are acknowledged as valid bases for good living. The notion that disbelief or doubt should be celebrated is way off the radar. Yet the contention that religions should be celebrated, even by adherents of rival religions, has become a touchstone of tolerance.
Against this background, let me recommend Atheism Central for Secondary Schools, a web-site aimed at young people looking for help to challenge irrational ideas. It’s learned, witty and easy to find your way around. Check it out at www.eclipse.co.uk/thoughts/