Friday, 29 March 2013

Photo Consciousness 6

A contribution to the conversation about gender equality, courtesy of the Straits Times

Profound statement about the human condition goes here.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

My Drinking/Your Drinking/Our Drinking

By Emily Longworth.

Nobody told me when I first started drinking that I was making an irreversible life choice. The ‘Drink Responsibly’ tagline in the shadows of alcohol endorsements and on the fine print of the unassuming tin would more suitably say ‘Welcome to your New Life of Alcoholism!’ because once you take a sip from the chalice of Chronic Excessive Drinking, you may never again return to your former self. 

Or at least, this is what I've learned in the past two weeks, when I made the very foolhardy decision of publicly announcing my intention to take a casual break from drinking. Apparently, this is not my decision to make. Many of my friends have severed ties with me, until I decide to ‘start being fun again’. This in itself is an insult, because I have strong kleptomaniac-tendencies coupled with an unshakeable partiality to fried food at the best of times, I'm definitely one of the people who doesn't need the elixir of alcohol to fuel my efforts in stealing and eating. If anything, my abstinence would be for the good of the colony; many fewer people would be subjected to the theft and subsequent consumption of their stuff.

Apparently the opposite is true; my drinking to excess on an on-going basis is now an integral part of our society. Without my contribution to sustaining the National Average Blood Alcohol Concentration, everyone else’s drinking is rendered futile. This is no exaggeration. Try it yourself – announce to any one of your friends on your next night out that you are decidedly abstaining from drink and they will interpret it as a challenge. This is the language of ‘Ah go on’, ‘You’ll have one’ and ‘Sure it’d be rude not to’. Because here in Ireland, it’s more socially acceptable to pressurise a person into drinking than it is to abstain from drink. Last time I checked, that was the opposite moral standpoint to every other country worldwide.

But this is not the fault of the individual – I’m not blaming you, dear reader, not by any means. Don’t put down that casual lunchtime naggin just yet! This is the fault of our entire Nation. Ireland has collectively dealt with its countrywide dependency on alcohol by embracing it. Drinking is an integral part of our heritage; sure didn’t Hugh O’Neill himself stop for a pint before he fled with the rest of the Earls? I’m sure I heard that he did. 

We accept the reality we are presented with, and for Irish people, that reality is a lifetime of closet alcoholism, which is self-propelling and community-dependant. I understand how this came to be, but I hate it. And so do you. Because this is far from what I anticipated when I was a younger, more innocent, less fashionable version of myself, supping on a feeble tin of Frosty Jack’s White Cider behind a shed somewhere, presumably. Whatever I thought drinking was then, I certainly didn't imagine it to be a commitment. Until last orders do us part, alcohol!

And I won’t deny that alcohol has served me well in our time together; ‘Two Naggins Longworth’ was a prominent member of the drinking community. I have no regrets about drink, and neither should you. But if your liver needs to take a break every so often, life should still go on. Ireland will have a pint ready should you change your mind.

This article originally appeared in the University Observer.

Saturday, 16 March 2013's Misinformation about Mental Health

Earlier this week, one of Ireland's most popular news and media amalgamation websites,, posted an editorial entitled 'Anti Depressants In An Age of Suicide'. Its attention focused on the inquest into the murder-suicide involving Shane Clancy in 2009, and the connection between anti-depressants and suicide. The piece linked to evidence published in 2009 by Marc Stone which concluded that "clinical trials of antidepressants in children and adolescents have shown an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviour relative to those who received placebo". This study showed differing results for those over the age of 25 who did not show such high instances of such behaviour.

The Broadsheet piece also linked to this report by the European Medicines Agency, which states that at a 2005 meeting of its Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use, (CHMP) it noted that 'suicide-related behaviour (suicide attempt and suicidal thoughts), and hostility (predominantly aggression, oppositional behaviour and anger) were more frequently observed in clinical trials among children and adolescents treated with these antidepressants compared to those treated with placebos'. The report then goes on to outline that in the clinical studies carried out by the CMPH that there were no reports of death due to suicide.

Most significantly, Broadsheet concluded the piece with this:

Dr. Patricia Casey, Professor of Psychiatry at University College Dublin attended the inquest and challenged the linking of anti-depressants of suicide. In response, reported that "She has stated that there is no evidence to suggest that anti-depressants cause suicide yet there is plenty of evidence from the FDA and EMA to contradict her."

Broadsheet have stated in the above sentence, that anti-depressants cause suicide. This shows a poor understanding of psychiatry, of the causes of mental-illness and the methods of treatment for it. It would be to suggest, as pointed out in the comments, that seat-belts are the cause of road fatalities. In Ireland, where suicide is killing more people than road deaths, misinformation such as this by Broadsheet only creates further difficulties for those facing mental-health issues. It's generally accepted that 90% of those who commit suicide were diagnosed with a psychiatric illness. Equally, receiving a diagnosis should not be equated with increasing the likelihood of suicide.

Broadsheet failed to point out the effectiveness of treatment for mental illness, that 73% of people who receive psychotherapy and 81% of those who receive psychotherapy in combination with medication have significant improvement in their condition. In what appears to be a personal agenda against Professor Casey, Broadsheet have succumbed to the lazy, sensationalist, tabloid-journalism that broadsheets are meant to counter.

(Article amended on the 21st of August, 2013. Link provided to 'the effectiveness of treatment').

Wednesday, 13 March 2013


I chose zips because they're the epitome of globalization. The complexity involved in something as simple as a zip is staggering: the ore extracted for the metal, smelted, moulded and transported, added to a garment and shipped around the world. It might have cost a couple of cent to produce but in the functioning of that Gucci wallet or Louis Vuitton purse, it's priceless. That two hundred dollar handbag isn't worth much if your possessions/loseables don't stay in it. You're being sold a lie: that a label is worth something, that a brand deserves respect.

Fuck. That.

When you buy those things, you're no more special than anyone else who has enough money to buy it. The truest form of who you are is found in the things you make. You're filled with all these thoughts and emotions and when you create something, that's the closest you'll ever get to having a physical representation of who you are. All those experiences you've had, the lessons learned and moments of realisation that've influenced exactly who you are, made real, tangible. No advertisement or label is ever going to tell you that.

The happiest people I know make things. My friends who are musicians, painters or photographers have a glimmer and a sparkle in their creativity. You're being advertised to all your life with this message that if you want to express yourself and be happy, you've to consume and that's a fallacy. If you want to show the world who you are, then make something.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Proliferation: North Korea and Syria

North Korea's stance of aggression was confirmed with the detonation of a third nuclear weapon last month. Sanctions, which have failed thus far in addressing the leadership of the nation, have been made more stringent and draw parallels with those previously applied against Iran. The imposition of a ban on financial transactions with Pyongyang, searches of suspicious shipments destined for North Korea and further restrictions on the sale of luxury goods have been promoted by the international community as well as the North's only former ally, China. A surprising stance to take, particularly since it's believed China previously supplied the vehicle necessary for the transportation of North Korea's road-mobile ballistic missiles.

While the North's recent statements of hostility have been of a new level, there has been no substantial escalation of the situation on the peninsula. Two previous nuclear weapons have been tested, with sanctions applied and the situation today is still very much the same as it was in 2006 and 2009. The government is uninfluenced by sanctions, happy to let ordinary people starve while it furthers its weapons programme. The UN's authority comes only from a nation's recognition and respect of it. This doesn't apply in the case of North Korea or Syria, with Kim Jong-Un happy to identify with the increasingly marginalised state.

The proliferation of a weapon much smaller, but with just as much capability of changing the international dynamic, has come to the fore in Syria. MANPADS, or Man-Portable Air Defence Systems have had an increasing effect on the conflict over the past few months.  Their source is still uncertain. Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch's expert in proliferation, stated in November that these anti-aircraft weapons were coming from overrun Syrian military bases. Despite that, video evidence has emerged showing what's believed to be a recently imported Chinese FN-6 MANPAD:

With the first imagery of the weapons has emerging in the past month, analysts have identified some of the weapons as imported SA-24 MANPADS. The Syrian military was never able to import the Russian built SA-24, which means that the rebels have received arms from a source other than a Syrian armoury. The logical conclusion being that an external, international actor is providing this latest generation of anti-aircraft weapon. The ability of rebels to challenge the government's aerial superiority may be the decisive factor in toppling the Assad regime.

Still from this video showing anti-Assad rebels with the SA-24 MANPAD

What this means is that there are now an increase in the number of people in the world with a violent agenda and a capability to shoot down planes. The possibility of the weapon's proliferation amongst terrorist networks is now far more likely. The instigation of the Rwandan genocide (which killed half a million people in 100 days) was the shooting down of President Juvénal Habyarimana's jet, killing him and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the President of Burundi with such a weapon.

During the Troubles, the Irish Republican Army controlled much of the territory of South Armagh by forcing the British army into the air. Roadside bombings were having such a devastating effect that bases were supplied and reinforced by helicopter for three decades. Left unimpeded, the Provisional IRA would became the world's most violent and destructive terrorist groups. Had the IRA greater access to anti-aircraft weapons, the situation in Northern Ireland would likely have escalated, further drawing out a prolonged and violent campaign.

The level of threat associated with North Korea is disproportionate. Proliferation of nuclear weapons, is slow, politicised and cumbersome. Their technology is accessible only to those with nations with the finance, infrastructure and military might to wield such a weapon. The lethality and effects of anti-aircraft weapons, however, will influence the world stage in a more pointed and noticeable way. Civilian airliners, the previous hard-target of terrorist groups, is quickly becoming within their grasp.  A man-portable, ground to air-missile requires relatively short amounts of training, can be carried by one man, transported in a family saloon and destabilise international relations in minutes. The United Nations will have no bearing on the greatest threat to international security.