Over the years I have done hundreds of free gigs for left-wing orgs, homeless charities including serial rapist Anthony Flynn’s ICHH, campaign groups, squats, occupations etc, and roped dozens of other poets into doing same. I’ve done free gigs for trots, tankies, anarchists, republicans, ecosocialists. The whole lot, because I support the working class left in general and want to put my shoulder to the wheel alongside everyone else who is standing up.
Besides this I have edited & written for many associated publications & provided vast ammounts of professional standard online content – audio, video, text.
All in all it’s a huge ammount of unpaid labour, for which the thanks are often minimal. And no left-wing gig come without the sneering contempt of the small but always-with-us contingent who believe poetry, other than hymns to coal-miners, to be the pursuit of frivolous dandies.
But that never bothered me too much as the causes were good & i was certain the money was going to a good cause.
What a fucking eejit I am heh?
I’m afraid that on too many occasions, in my direct experience & in what I have been told by trusted others, & in a trend that seems to be seriously worsening of late, elements of the leaderships of too many of these organizations have evidently behaved in ways completely inconsistent with their stated aims & values.
The left-wing Omerta which is a far too common response to revelations of misdeeds among political leaderships – until it is no longer tenable – is also unstomacheable. Witness the rush of statements condemning the serial rapist Anthony Flynn in the last few days AFTER the rte prime time show, when everyone in left wing leadership circles knew the substance well before. Puke, right? Absolute puke.
As someone whose vocation means I am doomed to have to sometimes move in circles that are decidedly & vomitously duplicitous, I am used to moral hypocrisy. Poetry & the literary arts in general are the showcase activities of moral hypocrites and career saints in Ireland . When the libertine DJ Eoghan McDermott, a hugely popular figure among our literati twitterati, was outed by one of his female victims, none of the literary hypocrites of Ireland had a word to say about it. If it had been a powerless working class person in the Arts whose plainly dodgy sexual interests had been revealed, careerist poets would have been climbing all over each other to produce the most retweetable condemnation. Comrade Eoghan – as one avid tweetsaint used to refer to him during Repeal – did not get told to Cop On. Interesting, isn’t it?
But that’s what neo-liberal culture us – morals are a weapon to be deployed for career advancement whether one is a poet or a politician on the make. You do not expect similiar on the left and the fact that it is happening is surely a sign that the career motive has taken over much of the left.
And of course Eoghan’s criminal compulsions were well known by some of his admirers BEFORE he was outed.
One cannot avoid at least the suspicion that had Flynn not been outed by his victims and the press then he’d have been let carry on as he wanted regardless of who knew about him in ICHH or anywhere else on the left. The horrifying possibility that there are more or multiple abusers operating in left wing and charity hierarchies in Ireland, all covering up for each other, perhaps even co-operating, as there was in the Catholic Church, even if it seems counterintuitive & outlandish at first thought, cannot be absolutely discounted given the drip-drip we are getting about Flynn, with each revelation more disgusting than the last. At the very least I find it hard to believe that at least some people in positions of trust and responsibility didnt know Flynn was a sex-vampire BEFORE he got caught.
Meaning therefore, inevitably, that me & my artistic colleagues are in effect often raising funds for more or less opposite reasons to the ones we have been led to believe; and much worse, leading others to believe in the saintliness of rapists!
The presence of bullies & bad faith actors, & maybe even worse, among organisational hierarchies, particularly their upper echelons, is evidently a widespread phenomenon, though of course, at least one hopes, not a ubiquitous one.
The trouble is who can now honestly tell which is which?
I really don’t want to be contributing to anyone’s career as an abuser of any kind!
And to be honest, for the first time in my life I am beginning to take seriously the long-standing critique that institutional hierarchy itself, in any kind of group which needs such a hierarchy – left, right, or indifferent – inevitably & organically produces institutionalized inequalities, untransparencies, intrigues, abuses of power, miniature tyrannies & cases of ‘leadership psychosis’ all over the place.
Can only shit rise to the top? Looking at the evidence of life itself – of my life, my experiences, I find this proposition more & more difficult to refute.
So, for the time being I am taking a sabbatical from volunteering my vocational services in this particular regard, although I will continue to volunteer in other respects & in other contexts.
I also believe that the role of poets when it comes to the left can no longer be one of simple cheerleading – we have to be mercillessly critical instead, to preserve the dignity and the honour of our vocation.
Much love and respect to all my friends and comrades who continue on the frontline of the many vital movements out there – see you on my next rotation! 😊