Jack by Marilynne Robinson

The love relationship that grows between Jack and Della is like a love between outcasts.  Jack is already an outcast because of his mis-spent youth and his alcoholism.  Yet he is heroically trying to live a “harmless” life as a poor white man scraping a living at the bottom of his society.  Della on the other hand is a dynamic English teacher who loves her job and family.

This is the fourth novel in a series which includes Gilead, Home and Lila each going back in time to follow the story of a faith-filled community in rural America.  Once again, Robinson creates a lyrical and poignant portrait of a host of characters in her last novel “Jack”.  The crucial difference in this last novel is that the heroine, Della Miles, is black while Jack Boughton is white but not innocent. 

The love relationship that grows between Jack and Della is like a love between outcasts.  Jack is already an outcast because of his mis-spent youth and his alcoholism.  Yet he is heroically trying to live a “harmless” life as a poor white man scraping a living at the bottom of his society.  Della on the other hand is a dynamic English teacher who loves her job and family.  Yet she chooses to let all her comfortable life and position go, in order to love and live with Jack.  At that time in the States, it was illegal for whites and blacks to marry so they have “to marry” themselves and live as outcasts both from the white and black communities. 

This novel can only be read slowly as each section needs pondering.  We can feel the stresses and strains on both Jack and Della.  We are afraid that Jack will crack again.  But he doesn’t.  The family of Della send her aunt Delia to speak with Jack in order to break-up the relationship.  It seems to work for a while, but the pair continue to find their way back to each other no matter what obstacles are put in their way.

It is interesting to note that the anguished conscience of John Boughton, Jack’s father, about the fate of his son’s soul finds it’s counterpoint here.  His father’s faithful but distant love is like a thread linking Jack to all that is good in the world.  The novel recounts the love story of Della and Jack, as two flawed souls escaping from the confines of their similar religious background of black and white. Yet by embracing each other, they incarnate the essential religious teaching of that common background.  God’s provident care does not depend on belief or unbelief, God is always and everywhere benevolent to all both black and white.   In loving Della, Jack may find redemption and escape predestination.  This may have happened long before the family’s anguished consideration of the question in the novel “Home”. 

The love affair proceeds by polite conversations in unusual places and at unusual times.  In this sense the novel is properly “old-style” while managing to speak love and religion in a modern idiom. 

Dark Blue;

Shane Carthy wants to help other young people who suffer from this inner sickness but who are too ashamed to speak about it to anyone.  His honesty and integrity shine through on every page.  His fundamental message is “don’t be afraid to talk about it”! 

In his book “Dark Blue”, Shane Carthy is a man on a mission.  Carthy is a young, gifted sportsman yet he tells the story of a psychological battle with depression.  The sub-title of the book makes this clear; “The Despair behind the Glory, my journey back from the Edge”. 

Shane Carthy wants to help other young people who suffer from this inner sickness but who are too ashamed to speak about it to anyone.  His honesty and integrity shine through on every page.  His fundamental message is “don’t be afraid to talk about it”!  The dedication at the beginning of the book emphasises this point clearly, “To all of those who are suffering in silence in the hope that these words might help the light to shine”.  

Shane Carthy grew up in Portmarnock village, on the North side of Dublin City, where my own mother and sister’s family are now living.  My nephew and nieces attend the same primary school that he attended.  My nieces are in the same club of the Gaelic Athletics Association (GAA).  It is clear that the Carthy family was a happy one and Shane and his sisters, Stephanie, Mairead and Michelle were loved and cared for by their parents, Gerry and Angela.

They were a “sporty” family and Shane was encouraged to try different sports. He was good at them all.  He had to choose between soccer and Gaelic football.  After he chose Gaelic he played for his local club. Later he was selected for the Dublin Minor Team and then for the Dublin Senior Team.  This all happened while he was still at secondary school, so he became a hero and a legend to many other young people.  He followed the advice of his Dad; “anything you do, do to the best of your ability” but not that of his Mum; “you’ve got to broaden your horizons.  Open your mind and see what life has to offer outside of football”.

Even while enjoying this success, Shane began to notice that his mood changed dramatically and suddenly from time to time.  “Dark clouds” would come causing him to feel desperately sad and disconnected.  For a long time, he held back his tears.  He found it increasingly difficult to live up to the image that people had of him.  His grandparents died just at the time that he had decided to tell his parents so he delayed telling them.  The panic attacks got worse.  Sometimes he felt like his “inner demons” were telling him to end his life.  Later he would learn the words “suicide ideation”.  He wept more and more often.  He tried to harm himself. He never harmed anyone else.

Eventually, after a climatic two weeks of psychological chaos amidst sporting success, he told his mum about his sickness.  Then his parents and sisters and friends rallied around to help him.  He needed to receive psychiatric care in St. Patrick’s Mental Hospital.  He stayed there for eleven weeks. He was on the “secure ward” twice.  He slowly recovered his mental balance and perspective but now he was shy and reserved in meeting people whereas before he had pretended to be confident.

He explains how “Cognitive Behavioural Therapy” (CBT) and the “Young Adult Program” (YAP) were used in his treatment.  The Psychologists and Nurses helped him acquire more tools to deal with the depression when he felt his mood changing and the dark clouds coming.  It was interesting to hear Shane describe his feelings as he started the YAP program.  “Will they judge me, will they think I’m weird, will they think I’m different”?

While Shane does not really share much about the content of his conversations with the Psychologists and Psychiatrists, it seems that he began to listen to his mother’s advice which he had previously ignored.  At one moment during his recovery, he interrupted his father who was chatting on about sport.  He asked his Dad about growing up in East Wall.  (East Wall is an old working class community of Dublin which used to be home to dockers and railway workers). His dad, surprised at first, responded.

Even after he left the hospital to return to “normal life”, Shane was not afraid to seek further help when he felt he needed it.  He added more time to his “Mindfulness” meditation periods.   When he travelled to meet the Psychologist again, he called this his “top-up”!

I am left wondering what would happen if Shane Carthy met with Scotsman, Eric Liddell, whose story was represented in the film “Chariots of Fire”.  (Liddell refused to run his 100 metres heat in the 1924 Olympic games as it took place on a Sunday, which was the Sabbath or the Lord’s Day.  Another British athlete let him run the 400 metres race instead).  Would a conversation with Liddell remind Shane Carthy of what his ancestors may have whispered to him long ago about God who loves and redeems him.  

If he heard Eric Liddell talk about his baptism, about his dying and rising to a new life, would Shane Carthy hear this as a new message or would he remember it as an old truth that he has not yet paid attention to? Could his life journey become more meaningful and his resolve to help others broaden, if he developed a personal relationship with God?

Apeirogon

Rami’s thirteen-year old daughter, Smadar was blown up by a Palestinian suicide bomber while out shopping with her friends, while Bassam’s ten year old daughter, Abir, was shot by an Israeli policeman while out buying candy with her friends near her school. From these two true stories, McCann has created a wonderful, hard-hitting yet tender novel, that seems to respect both traditions, cultures and religions.

Two men, Rami Elhanan, an Israeli and Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian, have both lost a young daughter to the violence of the conflict between the two Nations.

Rami’s thirteen-year old daughter, Smadar was blown up by a Palestinian suicide bomber while out shopping with her friends, while Bassam’s ten year old daughter, Abir, was shot by an Israeli policeman while out buying candy with her friends near her school. From these two true stories, McCann has created a wonderful, hard-hitting yet tender novel, that seems to respect both traditions, cultures and religions. 

The two men join a fellowship for parents of who have lost children to the conflict.  They become friends.  They share their stories together.  They find that they understand each other on the deepest human level.  It is as if they choose to become brothers.

Each man rows against the current of public opinion on their side of the fence in order to embrace the truth on the other side of the fence.  In this way, instead of remaining small and insignificant cogs in a war machine, they become giants in the creation of peace and understanding.   

Yet Rami and Bassam are nothing without their wives, Nurit and Salwa.  Each woman develops a uniquely intimate understanding of her husband.  The solidness of this love encourages each man to become free to reach the best of himself.

The novel places Rami’s and Bassan’s stories in an evolving political and ecological drama.  The tragic history of both nations is remembered and the geography of the land is nurtured.  In this way, the novel becomes an extraordinary hymn of hope arising from the ashes of the most violent and intractable conflict on the planet.  The novel draws the key to the Kingdom in lyrical prose.

If you read one book in 2021, Apeirogon is the book to read.  Gabriel Byrne is right.  This is Colum McCann’s masterpiece. 

a million little pieces

He does not spare us the gory details. There is plenty of blood, urine and vomit each day. His aggression and humour ensure that we are led on a roller-coaster journey of pathos, violence, serenity and fear both inside his head and in the clinic. Frey wants us to understand the mind of an addict. Perhaps he succeeds.

In this novel, James Frey, describes the inner experience of a twenty-three year old alcoholic and drug addict who is brought by his parents to a rehabilitation clinic in Minnesota.  James tells his story of withdrawal, encounters with the other inmates and care staff. He recounts his progress through the 12 step recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).  He does not spare us the gory details.  There is plenty of blood, urine and vomit each day.  His aggression and humour ensure that we are led on a roller-coaster journey of pathos, violence, serenity and fear both inside his head and in the clinic.  Frey wants us to understand the mind of an addict.  Perhaps he succeeds. 

During the story he makes new friends, especially with Leonard, the crime boss, who rescues him from self-destruction but also with Joanne, the one social worker who seems to understand and trust him. The clinic arranges for the addicts to meet the parents and guardians and James bravely tries to reconnect with the parents whom he abandoned so long ago.  The ambiguity of these encounters is not glossed over and we are left wondering if the reconciliation is real and long-lasting.

Perhaps the most poignant relationship in the novel, is the friendship between James and Lilly, a pretty crack addict, brought to the clinic by her grandmother.  The two addicts learn to support and respect each other.  After Lilly hears that her grandmother has cancer, she breaks down and flees.  In one of the most dramatic moments of the novel, James defies all the odds to run after and rescue her from a “crack-house”.  This act of love saved Lilly once but the real tragedy of the novel is that it is not enough to save her twice.

All through his recovery, James furiously resists the 12 step program as he refuses to believe in a “Higher Power”.   Nonetheless, by having to formulate his arguments against the program he enters into real communication with other human beings who are different from him.  He learns to appreciate the beauty and silence of nature in the park around the Clinic.  He drinks in silence and peace from it.  Somebody gives him a book of Taoist sayings.  He ponders the deeper meaning behind the apparent paradoxes.  It seems that Taoism offers him a sort of Emptiness that functions like the Higher Power in the 12 step recovery program.  James insists that only his decisions will heal him and bring him recovery.  As soon as he is released, he asks his brother to give him money to buy a drink which he inhales and pours down the sink.  He is able to say no.

At the end of the novel it is clear that James Frey is no longer an alcoholic or drug addict.  However it is not yet clear if James has become an “other-centred” person or not.

There was significant controversy about this book in the States about fifteen years ago where is was originally marketed as a “memoir” rather than a novel.  Many people blamed James Frey for dishonesty since he made up some details and added them into his story as if they really happened.  Once you read this novel as he first intended, you do not need to worry about the details.  It is still a wonderful story about addiction and recovery!

The Beekeeper of Aleppo

The most dramatic aspect of this novel is the secret journey to Istanbul in Turkey and then across the sea to an island off Greece. The couple eventually reach Athens where Nuri has to engage in clandestine work to earn enough to pay the smuggler who will arrange for them to reach England

The “The Beekeeper of Aleppo” by Christy Leffteri tells the story of Nuri and Afra, a Syrian couple, who flee Aleppo after their young boy, Sami, is killed by a bomb explosion. Before the explosion, Afra refused to leave Aleppo because it was the home of her ancestors and a dynamic centre of Arabic culture and Islamic religion.  Even after the war destroyed the city and their friends Mustafa and Dahab left, Afra refused to leave.  When Sami was killed, Afra went blind.  She could see no more.  Only when the Islamic militia came to recruit Nuri to fight in the war did she agree to escape with him first to Turkey, then to Greece and finally to England.

Afra cannot see but she knows what Nuri is feeling.  Nuri can see too much.  He notices, Mohammed, a dark boy who joins them on their journey.  Nuri has many conversations with him.  But Afra knows that Nuri’s mind is not working properly.  The boy is imaginary. Nuri and Afra make this long and arduous journey across Europe to reach England. However the novel really charts their journey from a loss and grief that has torn them apart to a deeper love that reunites them.  Afra begins to paint again even before she can see.

Yet, the story is not a romance.  The vicious cruelty and violence of the war in Syria has destroyed not only their young son, Sami, but also their city, livelihood and shared past.  The one thing outside the marriage of Nuri and Afra that the war has not destroyed is Nuri’s friendship with Mustafa. He is the beekeeper who has already fled Aleppo with his wife after they lost their own child.  Mustafa prepares a way for his friend Nuri to join him in England.  They will become beekeepers again.

The most dramatic aspect of this novel is the secret journey to Istanbul in Turkey and then across the sea to an island off Greece.  The couple eventually reach Athens where Nuri has to engage in clandestine work to earn enough to pay the smuggler who will arrange for them to reach England.  The description of the people they meet on their journey, both the cruel ones and the kind ones, is realistic and credible.  The novel highlights the hypocrisy of European refugee policy in that the only way that Nuri and Afra can claim asylum in the United Kingdom is to arrive there by illegal means and then destroy all trace of their journey.  In order to claim asylum as a refugee, you must first become a criminal.   However if your criminal activities are discovered, then your asylum claim will be rejected.

Hamnet

Maggie O’Farrell’s latest book, “Hamnet”, is quite different and distinct from all her previous creations. Her other novels have revolved around modern families in crisis. This new novel seems to tell the story of William Shakespeare’s son Hamnet.

Maggie O’Farrell’s latest book, “Hamnet”, is quite different and distinct from all her previous creations.  Her other novels have revolved around modern families in crisis.  This new novel seems to tell the story of William Shakespeare’s son Hamnet. He died as a child and supposedly provided the inspiration for Shakespeare’s famous play “Hamlet”. 

However the novel really tells the story of the enigmatic Agnes, Will’s wife and Hamnet’s mother.  She is an interesting and unorthodox country woman with “elfic” tendencies.  She knows the medicinal and healing properties of the local flowers, plants and roots.  She communes with nature like an alternative priestess even after falling in love with Will.  She moves to live with his dysfunctional family.

The drama of the novel however is found in the intimate relationship of Hamnet with his identical twin sister Judith.  It is in the description of this special dynamic that O’Farrell displays her literary mastery of the intricacies of close family encounters.  The manner by which Hamnet takes on Judith’s illness is surely poetic license rather than historical fact.   The intense grief of each family member at Hamnet’s passing almost causes the family to disintegrate.  It is only when Agnes realizes that, in creating the play Hamlet, her husband is transforming his grief into memory. Thus she can be reconciled with him.

The language and imagery of this novel is poetical and lyrical.  It reads beautifully.  The other characters emerge as realistic, the irascible and unpleasant father, John, the jealous and vindictive step-mother Joan, the rustic and reliable brother Bartholomew and the practical older sister Susanna.  However I found this novel somehow stilted and laboured unlike all O’Farrell’s other books.  I wondered why.

In most of her modern stories, an unusual sickness or medical condition casts a shadow or poses a challenge to her range of feisty, credible characters.  This detail furnishes a link with Hamnet.  In “After you’d gone”, one person is left in a coma. in “Instructions for a heat-wave”, one daughter has reading disorder.  In “The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox”, Esme spends her adult life in an asylum.  In “This Must be the Place”, the son has a serious skin ailment while his father is an alcoholic.  In O’Farrell’s autobiographical account of close encounters with death, “I am, I am, I am”, the most striking event occurs in Italy when O’Farrell and her husband race to find a local hospital to treat their daughter who is  having a severe allergic reaction.    

However in these stories, the inter-play of medical science and common sense work themselves out in a credible and realistic way.  Not so in Hamnet.  Agnes is powerless against the plague which attacks Judith first, before leaving her to attack Hamnet.  Somehow there is an inconsistency here.  Agnes has been presented as wise but “unorthodox” or as living outside the normal faith traditions of the community.  Their ordinary medicines never work anyway.  But now her own medicines don’t work.  It’s as if her “non-faith” is just as illusory as the others’ “faith”.   In this sense, the novel is hopeless.  It does not lead anywhere.  It offers no new way of reflecting on family difficulties and tragedies.  O’Farrell’s previous novels offered new insight.    More than this, one could sense in her previous works that disaster was averted (just about) because the characters’ malevolence was somehow curtailed by a benevolent presence hovering at the very edge of her stories.   Perhaps this presence is missing in “Hamnet”.

Spiritual Direction

From afar, it seems that they could be following a bright star on their spiritual journey even it leads them into the dark. It’s like Frodo and Sam entering the land of Mordor to destroy the evil power of the ring.

In Hong Kong, Mr. Joshua Wong and Ms. Agnes Chow and Mr. Ivan Lam, have chosen to plead guilty to a charge of unlawful assembly.  They are in custody awaiting trial having pleaded guilty at a pre-trial hearing.   These two young people are freely choosing to make a personal sacrifice in the struggle for democracy.  From afar, it seems that they could be following a bright star on their spiritual journey even it leads them into the dark.  It’s like Frodo and Sam entering the land of Mordor to destroy the evil power of the ring.  Only this struggle is for real.

Since returning to Ireland from Cambodia, I have been trying to discern a personal star in the sense of finding the next step on my spiritual journey.

Two books have offered much encouragement.  The first is an old book by a French Jesuit, Jean Laplace and the second is a new book by a Dutch Jesuit, Jos Moons.  Laplace’s book was published in French in 1965 as “La Direction de Conscience ou Le Dialogue Spirituel” which was translated into English as “Preparing for Spiritual Direction”.   Moons’ book was originally published in Dutch in 2019 with an impossible title (De Kunst Van Geestelijke Begeleiding) which has been translated into English as “The Art of Spiritual Direction”. 

Fifty-four years of rapid cultural development separate the two books yet they share some common themes.

The relationship of spiritual director or companion or guide to the searcher is individual and personal.   The key skill of the spiritual companion is the ability to “listen attentively” to what is moving the searcher.   The principal role of the guide is to help the searcher articulate these spiritual movements and to interpret their meaning.  The searcher discerns.  The spiritual director only helps this process.  He or she must remain neutral “like a balance” once a choice about action presents itself.

Both Laplace and Moons insist on the need to be patient and to spend time with the searcher.   The process cannot be rushed. Even the naming of the movements “from the Good Spirit” or “from the Bad Spirit” should come from the searcher.  Help can be offered when requested but the searcher makes the journey.  There are no short-cuts to enlightenment on the spiritual path.

Discernment is the task to be accomplished.  The gold or spiritual treasure that is being sought is goodness, peace, light, love, harmony, mercy and justice.  These will be signs of the Higher Power or God’s presence (or Dharma).   However we can find these signs in human form like in the gospels.  All that is hateful, vindictive, dark, violent and divisive is what is to be avoided and rejected.

Laplace emphasizes the need to situate the spiritual dialogue within the context of mutual prayer and the life of the Church.  Moons emphasizes the need to pay attention to the small details of the searcher’s daily life and their relationships with others. Each offer some practical advice on how to become a good listener and how to ask simple questions to help the searcher further articulate their own inner experience.

In Cambodia, some Buddhist monks serve as spiritual guides to young searchers. The young people still  choose their form of action in society.

It is an amazing mystery to believe that the answer to our spiritual search is already there hidden in our experience just waiting for us to find it.  I wonder what the future holds for Mr. Joshua Wong and Ms. Agnes Choi.

Home is a Strange Place

In order to try to fill in the gaps in my understanding of how the island of Ireland has changed over the last 30 years, I have read three books; Seamus Mallon’s autobiography, “A Shared Home Place’; “Say Nothing” by Patrick Radden Keefe which follows the personal stories of those involved in the abduction and murder in 1972 of Belfast woman, and mother of six children, Jean McConville; and “The Education of an Idealist” by Samantha Power, the Irishwoman who worked as the US Ambassador to the UN under President Obama.

When I left Ireland in 1993 for Cambodia, the troubles in Northern Ireland were still inflicting murder and mayhem on both the Unionist and Nationalist communities there.  The media were constantly reporting on brutal atrocities followed by funerals, both Protestant and Catholic. 

When the peace process finally produced the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 thus ending the violent hostilities, I counted it as one of the most extraordinary miracles that I have witnessed in my lifetime.  I could never quite understand how Dr Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness could subsequently cooperate together in the governance of Northern Ireland while becoming “chucklers” into the bargain.

The Republic of Ireland has also changed beyond recognition over the thirty years that I have been away.  Gay marriage, legalised abortion and the turning away from the Catholic Church that happened in response to the clerical sexual abuse crisis are only the outer manifestations of a profound transformation of inner attitudes regarding social issues. Former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern once commented that there were three great “institutions” in Irish society, the Fianna Fáil party, the Catholic Church and the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association).  Now only the GAA has weathered the storms and continues to thrive.  The recent RTE (Raidió Telefís Ēireann) program on “New Gaels”, shows why.  I mean, even my seven-year old niece is into Camogie. 

On my last visit home to Dublin, I met the Protestant rector of my home parish on the 42 bus.  He cheerfully informed me that this year the number of Church of Ireland ordinations to the priesthood exceeded the number of Roman Catholic ordinations in the Dublin diocese for the first time since who knows when. 

In order to try to fill in the gaps in my understanding of how the island of Ireland has changed over the last 30 years, I have read three books;  Seamus Mallon’s autobiography,  “A Shared Home Place’; “Say Nothing” by Patrick Radden Keefe which follows the personal stories of those involved in the abduction and murder in 1972 of Belfast woman, and mother of ten children, Jean McConville; and “The Education of an Idealist” by Samantha Power, the Irishwoman who worked as the US Ambassador to the UN under President Obama.

In the first book, Seamus Mallon traces his political journey as SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) councillor and MP (Member of Parliament) with laconic wit and honesty.  He remembers all the killings and murders in his own area and attends all funerals both Protestant and Catholic even when his presence is not welcomed.  His story is one of perseverance and courage in a time of despair lived out over a life-time.  He is vilified and persecuted at different times by militant Nationalists and by militant Unionists who speak the language of hate.  He never flinches. Even the title of his book “A Shared Home Place” demonstrates his commitment to peace and harmony.  He articulates “parallel consensus” as a political principle to guide future discussions about the future status of the society in Northern Ireland.  Only when both Unionist and Nationalist communities agree on a way forward, can there be a way forward.  I sense that my Protestant forbears would concur.

In the second book, Patrick Radden Keefe, amasses a wealth of historical detail to weave together a tapestry of characters involved in the IRA (Irish Republican Army) of West Belfast.  By focusing on the Price Sisters, Dolours and Marian, Keefe is able to link, personalities, events and stories together over a period of nearly fifty years.  The Loyalist characters and British officials offer an alternative viewpoint throughout the narrative so it seems balanced in the end.  The wonder of the book is in fact the person of Dolours Price who listens to her conscience and instead of “saying nothing”, says something.  The something is not much, mind you, but Keefe follows each thread right to its end. He solves the mystery that the police force could not solve (the abduction and murder of Jean McConville).  The fact that certain key characters refuse to recognise the truth about what they did in the past, means that they lock themselves into their own world.  It’s the world of the living dead. No character in this long story is able to speak of forgiveness like Timothy Knatchbull did in his story “From a Clear Blue Sky”.

In the third book, Samantha Power, describes leaving Ireland while still a primary school student as her mother launches out into a new life in America away from her alcoholic father. Samantha’s candid love of both father and mother enable her to negotiate the family tragedies cheerfully.  She makes a new life for herself each time her new family moves.  During a trip abroad she discovers an interest in finding out the truth about conflicts that cause suffering to many people.  She spends time in war-torn Bosnia and learns how American political action can help or hinder the peace-process.  She returns to study Law and becomes involved in political action.  However it is the description of her time as US Ambassador to the UN, while remaining a dedicated mother of two kids, which is the most interesting.  She moves from crisis to crisis. Syria, ISIS, Ukraine, Ebola, etc. 

Power has a simple honesty which makes these complicated situations and issues easy to grasp.  While her account is personal, it does not seem self-serving and she is able to learn from her mistakes.  It is also interesting that for someone dedicated to dialogue for peace, the one outstanding regret regarding the Obama administration that she voices is the decision not to strike Syrian military targets after the regime used Sarin gas on the population of Aleppo in March 2013 until the US Congress approved such strikes. They crossed the “red line” and nothing happened. 

In a funny example of Democratic dis-connect, Power describes the house party she arranged for all the female ambassadors at the UN in her home on election night to celebrate the upcoming victory of Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.  She was not the only one who got it wrong.

These three books witness to the enormous transformations that Ireland has experienced over the last thirty years.  However a few long hikes up Lugnaquilla and Mullaghcleevaun in the Wicklow mountains have allowed me to savour the beauty and tranquility of what has not changed.  It will be a challenge to find the right words to speak to the new spiritual language being whispered here and there.

បដិវត្តពណ៌ (Colour Revolution)

មានកូនសិស្សមួយចំនួនបានសួរលោកគ្រូថា «តើបដិវត្តពណ៌​ជាអ្វីទៅ»?​​ នៅក្នុង Blog ខាងក្រោមនេះលោកគ្រូនឹងព្យាយាមឆ្លើយសំណួរព្រមទាំងពន្យល់អំពីប្រភពដើមនិង​លក្ខណៈសម្គាល់ចម្បងរបស់វា!

មានកូនសិស្សមួយចំនួនបានសួរលោកគ្រូថា «តើបដិវត្តពណ៌​ជាអ្វីទៅ»?​​ នៅក្នុង Blog ខាងក្រោមនេះលោកគ្រូនឹងព្យាយាម ឆ្លើយសំណួរព្រមទាំងពន្យល់អំពីប្រភពដើមនិង​លក្ខណៈសម្គាល់ចម្បងរបស់វា!

2. Serbia

ពាក្យថាបដិវត្តពណ៌សំដៅទៅលើ ចលនាបាតុកម្មពេញនិយម ដែលលេចចេញនៅប្រទេសខ្លះ នៅអឺរ៉ុបខាងកើតនិងអាស៊ីបន្ទាប់ពីការដួលរលំនៃរបបកុម្មុយនិស្តនៅប្រទេសរុស្ស៊ីនិងអតីតសហភាពសូវៀត។ មានបដិវត្ត «ឈូសឆាយ» (Bulldozer revolution) នៅប្រទេសស៊ែប៊ីក្នុងឆ្នាំ ២០០០។

3. young serb

មាន បដិវត្ត «កុលាប» (Rose revolution) នៅប្រទេសហ្សកហ្ស៊ីក្នុងឆ្នាំ ២០០៣ និងបដិវត្ត «ពណ៌ទឹកក្រូច» (Orange revolution) នៅអ៊ុយក្រែនក្នុងឆ្នាំ ២០០៤។

4. rose-revolution

5. georgia

6. Ukraine 2

7. ukraine-protesters

បន្ទាប់មកមានបដិវត្ត «ផ្កា​ tulip» នៅ ប្រទេស Kyryyzstan ក្នុងឆ្នាំ ២០០៥ ។

8. tulip 2

 

ប្រទេសឯករាជ្យថ្មីទាំងនេះ ធ្លាប់ស្ថិតនៅក្រោមការគ្រប់គ្រងរបស់គណបក្សកុម្មុយនិស្ត នៃសហភាព សូវៀត។ ដូច្នេះទោះបីជាពួកគេមានសភាជាប់ឆ្នោតយ៉ាង​ណាក៏ដោយ ក៏លោកប្រធានាធិបតី នៃប្រទេសទាំងនេះនៅតែគ្រប់គ្រងកម្លាំងប្រដាប់អាវុធ ប៉ូលីស និងសេដ្ឋកិច្ច (ពន្ធនិងកម្មសិទ្ធិដីធ្លី) និងសេវាស៊ីវិល (សុខភាពនិងអប់រំ)។ តាមរយៈការប្រើប្រាស់អំណាច លោកប្រធានាធិបតីបានគាបសង្កត់ប្រព័ន្ធតុលាការនិងប្រព័ន្ធច្បាប់។

លោកប្រធានាធិបតីបានចាត់ចែងប្រព័ន្ធផ្សព្វផ្សាយពណ៌មាន ដើម្បីដាក់សម្ពាធលើ ឥស្សរជនប្រឆាំងរួមជាមួយនឹងអ្នកកាសែតស៊ើបអង្កេត។ តាមរបៀបនេះ លោកប្រធានាធិបតីបានក្លាយជាអ្នកដឹកនាំផ្តាច់ការម្នាក់ ដែលតែងតែមានសម្លៀកបំពាក់បែប ប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ។

9. Burma 3

 

បដិវត្តពាក្យ«ពណ៌លឿង» (Saffron revolution) ត្រូវបានប្រើដើម្បីពិពណ៌នាអំពីការបះបោរ ដ៏ពេញនិយម ដែលដឹកនាំដោយសកម្មជននយោបាយនិងព្រះសង្ឃនៅប្រទេសភូមាក្នុងឆ្នាំ ២០០៧ ។  លោកស្រីអ៊ុងសានស៊ូជី (Aung San Suu Kyi) ត្រូវបានរធ្ឋអំណាចឃុំក្នុងផ្ទះ ទោះបីគណបក្សលោកស្រីបានឈ្នះការបោះឆ្នោតយ៉ាងណាក៏ដោយ ក៏ប៉ុន្តែលោកស្រីមិនដែលសូមចាកចេញពីប្រទេសភូមាទេ។

 

ដូច្នេះក្រុមអ្នកតវ៉ាចង់បញ្ចប់នូវរបបផ្តាច់ការយោធានិងចង់រវិលត្រឡប់ទៅរកលទ្ធិប្រជា  ធិបតេយ្យសភាវិញ។ កងទ័ពបានប្រើវិធីសាស្ត្រឃោរឃៅដើម្បីបង្ក្រាបបដិវត្ត។ នៅឆ្នាំ ២០១០ លោកស្រីអ៊ុងសានស៊ូជីត្រូវបានដោះលែងពីការឃុំក្នុងផ្ទះ។ ពេលខ្លះពាក្យ «បដិវត្តពណ៌» ក៏ត្រូវបានប្រើដើម្បីពិពណ៌នាអំពីចលនាបាតុកម្មដែលបានកើតឡើងនៅអាហ្រ្វិកខាងជើងក្នុងឆ្នាំ ២០១១។ ជាធម្មតាគេពិពណ៌នាចលនាទាំងនេះដោយប្រើពាក្យថា«រដូវផ្ការីកអារ៉ាប់» (Arab spring)។

10. tunisia 2

រឿងទាំងនេះគឺជាស៊េរីនៃចលនាទាមទារលទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យដែលបានកើតឡើងនៅក្នុងប្រទេសម៉ូស្លីមរួមមាន ទុយនេស៊ី ម៉ារ៉ុក ស៊ីរី លីប៊ី បារ៉ែននិង អេហ្ស៊ីប។

Morsi supporters rally in New York to mark Rabaa and Nahda massacres

ដើមកំណើតនៃចលនាទាំងអស់នេះបានចាប់ផ្តើមជាមួយនឹងបដិវត្ត «ផ្កាម្លិះ» នៅទុយនីស៊ីក្នុងខែធ្នូឆ្នាំ ២០១០ នៅពេលដែលអ្នកលក់ដូរតាមចិញ្ចើមផ្លូវម្នាក់ គឺលោកម៉ូហាម៉េដប៊ូហ្សាហ្ស៊ីបានដុតខ្លួន បន្ទាប់ពីប៉ូលីសរឹបអូសរទេះរបស់គាត់ពីព្រោះគាត់មិនមានលិខិតអនុញ្ញាត។

 

បន្ទាប់ពីប្រជាជនបានតវ៉ាយ៉ាងខ្លាំងនៅទូទាំងប្រទេសទុយនីស៊ី ក៏លោកប្រធានាធិបតីផ្តាច់ការបានភៀសខ្លួនទៅអារ៉ាប់ប៊ីសាអូឌីត។ ព្រឹត្តិការណ៍ទាំងនេះបានជម្រុញចលនាតវ៉ានៅក្នុងប្រទេសជិតខាង។ បដិវត្តឆ័ត្រដែលបានកើតឡើងនៅហុងកុងក្នុងឆ្នាំ ២០១៤ គឺស្រដៀងគ្នាទៅនឹងបដិវត្តពណ៌ពីព្រោះវាពាក់ព័ន្ធនឹងមនុស្សសាមញ្ញដែលកាន់កាប់ទីសាធារណៈ ហើយទាមទារប្រជាធិបតេយ្យនិងនីតិរដ្ឋ។

12. hong kong 2

 

សព្វថ្ងៃយើងឃើញថាមានយវជនតូចតាចពីរនាក់បានក្លាយទៅជាអ្នកណែនំាដ៏ក្លាហានកំពុងប្រឆាំងជាមួយនឹងអំណាចគណបក្សកកុម្មុយនិស្តចិន ពោលគឺលោក Joshua Wong និងកញ្ញា Agnes Chow។

ដូច្នេះចំពោះប្រភពនៃចលនានយោបាយទាំងនេះ យើងអាចនិយាយបានថា បដិវត្តពណ៌បានកើតឡើងដោយឯកឯងក្នុងចំណោមប្រជាជនសាមញ្ញ ដែលធុញទ្រាន់នឹងទុក្ខវេទនាហើយចង់បានការផ្លាស់ប្តូរពីរបបផ្តាចការទៅជារបបប្រជាធិបតេយ្យពិតប្រាកដ។ ពួកគេចង់ជ្រើសរើសមេដឹកនាំរបស់ពួកគេដោយសេរីតាមរយៈការបោះឆ្នោត ក្នុងចំណោមគណបក្សនយោបាយផ្សេងៗគ្នា។ ពួកគេចង់បញ្ចប់នូវអំពើពុករលួយ។ ពួកគេចង់បញ្ឈប់អំពើហិង្សារបស់ប៉ូលីសនិងកងទ័ព ប្រឆាំងនឹង       ប្រជាជន។ ពួកគេចង់បានប្រព័ន្ធច្បាប់ត្រឹមត្រូវនិងយុត្តិធម៌។ ក្នុងករណីខ្លះ «បដិវត្តពណ៌» ទទួលបានជោគជ័យហើយក្នុងករណីខ្លះពួកគេបានបរាជ័យ។ ចំពោះលក្ខណៈសម្គាល់ចម្បងនៃ «បដិវត្តពណ៌» ទាំងនេះ យើងអាចនិយាយបានថាពួកគេត្រូវបានដឹកនាំដោយមនុស្សសាមញ្ញជាច្រើនកំពុងសហការគ្នា។ ជាទូទៅពួកគេតវ៉ាតាមរបៀបអហិង្សា    សូម្បីតែនៅពេលដែលប៉ូលីសនិងយោធាប្រើអំពើហឹង្សា ទៅលើក្រុមបាតុករក៏ដោយ។

13. hong kong 3

ប្រជាជនដែលពាក់ព័ន្ធបានប្រើប្រព័ន្ធផ្សព្វផ្សាយសង្គមដើម្បីទំនាក់ទំនងគ្នា ខណៈដែលរបបផ្តាច់ការគ្រប់គ្រងប្រព័ន្ធផ្សព្វផ្សាយរដ្ឋ (សារព័ត៌មានវិទ្យុនិងទូរទស្សន៍)។ ពួកគេមានទំនោររៀបចំបាតុកម្មទ្រង់ទ្រាយធំនៅតាមទីប្រជុំជននិងទីក្រុង ដូច្នេះប៉ូលីសនិងកងទ័ពមិនអាចគ្រប់គ្រងឬបំភ័យពួកគេបានឡើយ។ នៅពេលដែលអាជ្ញាធរសាសនាបានចូលរួម (គ្រីស្ទសាសនានៅអឺរ៉ុបខាងកើត ពុទ្ធសាសនានៅ ភូមា និងអ៊ីស្លាមសាសនានៅអាហ្វ្រិកខាងជើង) បដិវត្តពណ៌មានឥទ្ធិពលកាន់តែធំ ឡើងៗ ក៏ប៉ុន្តែ យូរៗ ទៅ «បដិវត្តន៍ពណ៌» ទំនងជាអស់ថាមពលទៅវិញ។

Le Démantèlement (The Dismantling)

The film tells the story of an old sheep-farmer, Gaby, who owns a small but beautiful piece of land with a prize herd of sheep in Quebec.  He manages on his own with the help of a young local lad and his faithful dog.  His wife left him long ago and his two daughters have made careers for themselves in the city far away.  They rarely come to see him on the farm.

Last night, the Cambodian One TV channel transmitted a film in French with English subtitles called “Le Démantèlement” or “The Dismantling”.  It kept me spellbound.  The film tells the story of an old sheep-farmer, Gaby, who owns a small but beautiful piece of land with a prize herd of sheep in Quebec.  He manages on his own with the help of a young local lad and his faithful dog.  His wife left him long ago and his two daughters have made careers for themselves in the city far away.  They rarely come to see him on the farm.

child feeds lamb

The older daughter Marie, who is living a comfortable life in the city, comes to ask for a loan of two hundred thousand dollars to help her by her husband’s share of their house as they separate.  Gaby decides to sell his farm, flock and house even though he knows that he will never be able to reach the amount that his daughter requests.  As he explains to his younger daughter Frederique, it is the nature of fathers to give.   His real goal in life has always been the happiness of his daughter, not his farm.

frederique

However this simple story contains another more universal story about the flight from stable rural communities to fragile city conglomerates.  The film catches the sadness of the simple farmers who see their friend’s life being destroyed by his own kindness to uncaring daughters. They know that the end will come for them soon.  It is like watching the end of an era not just the end of one farmer’s working life.

Gaby’s care of the sheep and love of his dog are not demonstrative at all but are all the more real because of his old-fashioned reserve.

This movie is like a parable of a prodigal Father with two uncaring daughters.  At least Frederique came to visit at the prompting of Gaby’s friend but Marie does not appear even to receive the money that Gaby has been able to raise for her.  He retires to social housing at the edge of the town far from his farm. The world is losing something of inestimable value without realizing it.

the land