The changing face of Dublin

Dublin is one of the world’s most beloved cities. It welcomes almost 6 million tourists every year. It’s changing rapidly. It has plenty of reasons for being on any architect’s travel list. On my walks I’ve noticed how the historical buildings are being supplemented or blended with modern architecture. The city’s red brick buildings, pretty parks and modest Georgian tenements stand proudly alongside buildings by some of the world’s largest tech firms. What do you think?

A Principle to live by on July 4th

” We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

— The Declaration of Independence – July 4th 1776.

America was founded on the racial idea that all men are created equal. According to historians and political scientists The Declaration of Independence was an astonishingly radical document. However this noble founding principle did not stop southern white men from going to war, almost one hundred years later. The Confederate rebellion failed but the country endured and African Americans, Chinese, Irish, Italians, Indians continued to expand their human rights and status.

As I look out from Ireland to America, my second home, on July 4th, I can’t help but ask the question.

Are you facing a similar rebellion today against that founding principle?

Are you ready and willing to defend the idea of human equality?

The men who signed the Declaration of Independence sacrificed a lot. Lincoln reminded Civil War Americans to “take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

This 150th blog lines up with Psalm 150 in the Psalter. It’s the last of 5 thanksgiving psalms and calls everyone, everywhere to praise God for his mighty acts of power and surpassing greatness. It’s a fitting psalm for today.

Happy Independence Day, everyone, everywhere !!

Saturday in Maynooth

St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth was founded in 1795. It was established by the government as a College for Catholic lay and ecclesiastical studies. As my Czehlak friend Jana and I walked through the grounds, it was fun to watch three year old John blow his bubbles towards the ancient rooftops. The paths we walked date to 1518 when the Earl of Kildare founded the College of St. Mary’s.

How to see

” We all fall victim to being prisoners of our own perspective”  John Rogers

I  love this view of Ireland’s Eye taken on a bike ride last week from Malahide to Portmarnock. The island is the closest point to Howth Lighthouse. Can you see the golden retriever swimming quite far out from the beach?

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It got me thinking about the points of view we hold in life. Some people hold onto theirs tightly. Others expect you to agree with and live out of theirs.  Why do we think our view is the right view? Is it a blind spot, the ego, manipulation, ignorance?

My friend Mahmmuda lives in Paris. I enjoy talking to her because she has a holistic way of looking at things. She thinks well and sees things from different angles. She found this insightful quote from the book “How To See.” 

“Relatively speaking, there are right views and wrong views. But if we look more deeply, we see that all views are wrong views. Any view is just from one point; that’s why it’s called a point of view. If we go to another point, we have a different perspective, we see things differently, and we realize that our first view was not entirely accurate.

We need to continue expanding the boundaries of our understanding or we will be imprisoned by our views. For example, if we are able to remove the notion of permanence, we may still get caught in the motion of impermanence ; we have to be free from both notions. This is why we say that Right View means removing all kinds of views, including the views of impermanent, non-self and inter-being.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Dublin can be heaven with coffee at 11

“People are wondering and anxious to get back to normal. A good question really is, ‘was normal that good?’ Can we build a better normal with deeper, healthier and more real relationships?”

General Martin Dempsey

It’s possible today to saunter through the streets of Lockdown Dublin city centre unimpeded by riots, heavy traffic and crowds.  There’s a sense of a Dublin past in the rarest of  times when life had a gentler, slower pace.

Granted it’s not good for business. The iconic Bewley’s Cafe on Grafton Street is closing permanently with a loss of 110 jobs. It opened in 1927.

We are moving into phase 2 of lifting Lockdown restrictions. As I reflect on General Dempsey’s words, I’m reminded of the famous song below Dublin can be heaven with coffee at 11. I’m curious to know:

What has the pandemic done for you?

What type  of healthier new normal would you like to see?

Feel free to share this post with your friends or colleagues. ☘️

©Jeanette Dean

SpaceX makes history

“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”

Elon Musk

I’m posting this for two reasons. First, my last employer in Sacramento before I came back to Ireland was Elon Musk, and his two South African cousins. Elon is the SpaceX CEO so I’m kinda proud of that. I was on a team responsible for mobilizing the world’s first and only vertically integrated sustainable energy company–Solarcity which became Tesla.

The astronauts arrived at the  launch site in a Tesla car.

Second, these are hard times. I want to show something positive and pure about America, my second home and a country that gave me citizenship, wonderful relationships and gifts.

This is what we can do when we work together.

Before this historic achievement today the only way for astronauts to reach the International Space Station was through Soyuz. NASA was paying Russia more than 90 million per seat for rides to the agency for the last nine years.

For further reading go here:

https://time.com/5842445/spacex-crewed-launch/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=editorial&utm_term=science_space&linkId=89787832&fbclid=IwAR2H4QWr2uef142NwRtAH7iSQeYwT57ezBUIyU7pYOX8aHhFzgQNibrxmCo

Or here;

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2020/05/29/elon-musk-is-not-a-lunatic-revisiting-the-dawn-of-spacex/?utm_source=TWITTER&utm_medium=social&utm_content=3382726663&utm_campaign=sprinklrForbesMainTwitter#4e9489646828

Processing white supremacy in America

“For five minutes we watched as a white officer pressed his knee into the neck of a black man who was helpless,” the mayor said. “For five whole minutes. This was not a matter of a split-second poor decision.” Jacob Frey.

I was hesitant to write about Ahmaud Arbery. There’s enough sadness in the world today. Ahmaud was shy of his 26th birthday when he stepped out into the sun and ran 5,000 steps for the final time upon this earth.

Then a friend in Pomona, California reminded me, after the George Floyd  murder in Minneapolis, WE must speak out against injustice like this. “There was no need to crush a man’s throat with your knee when he’s already on the ground handcuffed.”

I’m a disciple of Jesus. I’m called to speak up for the oppressed, marginalized and vulnerable in our society.

Four Minneapolis police officers were fired Tuesday, authorities said, amid protests and outrage after a viral video showed one of them kneeling on the neck of George Floyd who was handcuffed. Floyd cried out that he could not breathe and later died. I have friends in Minneapolis who live right in the neighbourhood where it happened.

I was struck by Pastor Moss’ “The Cross and the Lynching Tree: a Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery” in which he explores historical patterns in US history from a black perspective. Some pertinent questions arise;

Is the cross an ancient symbol of lynching? 

How do we develop a moral economy?

Are we hypnotized by an Americanized form of Capitalism that masquerades as Christianity?

 

Chillin’ out in Skerries

The 33 bus from Abbey Street in Dublin goes along the scenic north Dublin estuary to the beautiful coastal town of Skerries in Fingal. It’s a pleasant bus ride. It was so good to see and smell the sea this week, after two months of strict quarantine.

Skerries is derived from the Norse words, “Skere” and “ey.” In Irish “Na Sceiri” means Rocky Islands. Skerries is surrounded by 5 islands including St. Patrick’s Island below. This is where the Irish patron saint landed and began his mission to convert the country to Christianity.

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In 797 AD Vikings carried out one of their earliest raids in Ireland when they plundered the monastery on Church Island. There was a fair bit of coastal rescue helicopter activity around this island when I was there.

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When I arrived at The Captain’s Swimming Place the teenage girls in the feature photo were bravely diving or climbing down the iron ladder into the sea. I chatted with a few of them and promised Kate I’d post their picture 💗.

After a beach walk I sipped on a silky Mocha coffee. I shared a freshly baked sausage roll with my traveling companion. We had a great conversation on Basic Christian Communities, social issues and attitudes in Ireland whilst staring at a seal on a far flung rock. Can you see it? My photography could be better!

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The Queen’s Speech and the Governor’s Press Conferences

This is a guest blog from my dear friend of 20+ years — Karine Schomer. She has a PhD and is a writer, speaker, scholar, and a political and social commentator, amongst many other things.

It wasn’t until I heard Queen Elizabeth’s April 5 address, and started following California Governor Gavin Newsom’s daily Coronavirus briefings, that I realized how much we need to hear genuine leadership voices during times of peril.

The Queen’s Speech

Queen Elizabeth’s televised speech on the Coronavirus crisis — a whole long month ago — was directed at the people of the U.K. The immediate context was the news that both the British Prime Minister and the Prince of Wales were infected. It was broadcast around the world, however, and spoke eloquently to many in other countries.

I know it spoke to this American, who has a strong sense of both our own history and that of the remarkable island nation we revolted against two and a half centuries ago.

Listening to that short address (only the fifth such special broadcast by the Queen in her long 68-year reign), you couldn’t miss the echoes of Winston Churchill’s great World War II speeches, in which, in the unforgettable words of the American wartime broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow, he “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”

Though the Queen has none of the charisma and eloquence of her first Prime Minister, and her delivery is as flat as it has always been, I’ve played the speech over and over again as an antidote to the collective uncertainty and fear we’ve all been feeling since the pandemic became real to us.

I also play that speech in order to wash from my mouth the bad taste left everyday by the televised spectacle of President Trump using the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings to aggrandize himself before a U.S. national audience, attack his enemies and the press, pander to his political base, contradict the information provided by the experts, improvise ungrounded and misleading optimistic scenarios, promote dangerous false cures, and display the full extent of his meandering and irresponsible mind.

The Governor’s Press Conferences

At about the time I first heard the Queen’s speech, I started tuning in to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s live press conferences on our state’s response to the crisis. These have been going on from early March, but especially since California’s March 19 statewide Stay At Home order — the first in the U.S. — went into effect.

Streamed live daily on the California Governor’s Twitter and Facebook feeds between 12 noon and 1 PM, and via satellite and pool footage to radio and TV stations across the state, they have become a trustworthy anchor of stability in the midst of all the uncertainty, chaos and fear.

Every day, I turn on my local public radio station, KQED, and listen to the Governor’s press conference while preparing lunch. The reassurance I feel makes me think of what it must have been like in the Great Depression to hear President Roosevelt’s famous fireside chats on the radio.

I’m also heartened every day by the detailed information the Governor provides about large-scale actions and plans being put in place. And by how the many resources of expertise, capital, capacity, government and the private sector available in this resource-rich state are being mobilized to work together on solutions.

Once again, I find myself thinking about the era of The New Deal, with its famous ‘alphabet soup’ of ambitious programs which, in the aggregate, saved the economy and built huge positive capacity for the future.

Each news conference opens by the Governor addressing the people of California with words of empathy and encouragement, and thanking all the front-line contributors to the state’s effort to slow the pandemic.

He next runs through the latest events, facts and statistics (whether encouraging or discouraging) and outlines in clear, detailed language the state’s progress to date, and the latest initiatives that have been or will be launched.

Newsom then hands over the microphone to various state and local officials, community leaders, epidemiological experts, philanthropists, or leaders in the private sector relevant to the briefing of the day, and they fill in with more detail.

The rest of the press conference is open to phone-in questions from reporters ranging from local media and major state newspapers as well as national newspapers and wire services.

Each question is treated respectfully and in detail, by both the Governor and the other people participating in the briefing, without attempts at any kind of spin or obfuscation.

(Incidentally, the social-distancing format has the advantage of doing away with the unseemly clamor of reporters shouting to be recognized in the old ‘normal’ face-to-face press conferences of the past!)

I find something wonderfully refreshing and inspiring about all this straightforwardness, order, compassion, strategic action and sheer competence in the art of governing during a time of crisis.

When I hear the Governor of California and his team reporting to us on progress and setbacks, and calling on us to continue our collective participation in the effort, I temporarily forget the sorry scene from the White House, and the travails of the embattled Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has to try to guide our national response under the shadow of a President who is utterly unable and unwilling to provide the kind of leadership at the federal level that is so desperately needed.

‘The Dignified’ vs. ‘The Efficient’

Like many people nowadays, my husband and I spend inordinate amounts of down time watching (and rewatching) movies and TV shows on Netflix.

Among the many riveting political dramas we see again and again are Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing (the fictional drama about the U.S. presidency that functions as a basic civics lesson on how our government is supposed to work) and The Crown (the brilliant historical drama about the reign of Queen Elizabeth and a lesson on the functioning of Britain’s constitutional monarchy).

Those of you who are also fans of The Crown will have been introduced to the famous distinction made by the 19th century political thinker Walter Bagehot. in his 1867 book The English Constitution.

The power of government, he says, has two different and equally important dimensions: ‘the efficient’ (the concrete political institutions and processes by which governmental decisions are argued over, made and implemented) and the ‘the dignified’ (the institutions and processes that have the intangible ability to inspire the hearts and minds of the people — to appeal to the civic sense that Abraham Lincoln called ‘our better angels’).
The Dignified at Its Best: The Queen Speaks ‘To Reassure and inspire’

The Queen’s speech of April 5, solemn and formal, was a classic example of the ‘dignified’ voice of leadership above politics. That’s why I can’t stop listening to it.

Queen Elizabeth addresses her nation on the Coronavirus Crisis — April 5, 2020

She started with a simple statement of empathy for the suffering:

“I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time. A time of disruption in the life of our country: a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all.”

Then came thanks to the people involved in essential services, and for the cooperation of everyone in the stay-at-home protection measures:

“I want to thank everyone on the NHS front line, as well as care workers and those carrying out essential roles, who selflessly continue their day-to-day duties outside the home in support of us all. I am sure the nation will join me in assuring you that what you do is appreciated and every hour of your hard work brings us closer to a return to more normal times.

I also want to thank those of you who are staying at home, thereby helping to protect the vulnerable and sparing many families the pain already felt by those who have lost loved ones. Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it.”

Finally — the most profound and brilliant ‘dignified’ rhetorical move in the speech — the Queen struck a note that, in the words of BBC news correspondent Jonny Dymond, “recast the coronavirus crisis as a defining moment for a nation which will forever remember its collective effort to save the lives of its vulnerable” — with all the echoes this had for the people of Britain to Winston Churchill’s words in his “This Was Their Finest Hour” speech rallying the people of Britain after the fall of France in 1940.

“I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any. That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country. The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.”

The Dignified and The Efficient in a Single Voice: The Governor’s ‘Stepping into This moment and Doing What We Can’

We Americans, of course, are without the structure of separate ‘dignified’ and ‘efficient’ elements in our governmental structures. Not at the national level of the Presidency, and not at the level of Governors in the states.

The repeated scene in The Crown where Prime Ministers come weekly for an audience with the Queen and are grilled on their actions is unimaginable. Whether this is something positive or not can be a matter of debate.

The inimitable British comedian Stephen Fry, in an an op-ed titled ‘Happy Birthday America — One Small Suggestion’, has suggested, only partly in jest, that we Americans might be well served if we had an unelected ‘first citizen’ called Uncle Sam, top hat with stars and all. Uncle Sam would be above politics and regional interests, embodying the ‘values, history, character, disposition and hopes of the whole country’, and the President would be required to go repeatedly to explain himself to this austere figure above the fray!

We don’t have this, but occasionally leaders do show up who are able to function well, and speak well, in both the ‘efficient’ and the ‘dignified’ voices. We’ve lucked out here in California, in that, at this crucial juncture, we seem to have just such a person in our Governor.

Like the Queen, Governor Newsom is not an eloquent orator with the power to bring audiences to their feet. His voice, too, is somewhat flat. It’s also often hoarse from his non-stop daily schedule of speaking to public audiences, work teams, local officials, the press, community leaders, business leaders and ordinary citizens as he tries to lead the mighty state of California through these hard times.

His speaking style is that of a type I’ve come to know through my years in management consulting. It’s the Silicon Valley CEO style — confident, fluent, detail-oriented, ex temp, rapid paced, colloquial, and informed by great amounts of complex knowledge as well as a laser-like sense of planning and strategy.

It’s also full of what some have termed ‘Bay Area cool-speak’ — with popular Silicon Valley expressions like ‘owning issues’, ‘socializing ideas’, ‘framing questions’, ‘success criteria’, ‘data points’, ‘baselines’ and ‘roadmaps’, ‘key indicators’, ‘success criteria’, and referring to different sectors of the economy as ‘spaces’.

The two dimensions of Governor Newsom’s leadership voice are evident in every one of his press conferences. I’m hooked. I join those who, in mid-April national polling about the performance of state governors on the Coronavirus, gave Gavin Newsom an 83% approval rating.

The ‘dignified’ in Newsom’s press conferences comes across in an unfailing return to a number of key themes: mourning the the loss of human lives, empathy for the economic hardship suffered by so many, concern to address the needs of all the segments of the state’s society, praise for those who are playing their roles in the collective effort, an unabashed sense of pride in the accomplishments and humane values of what he calls ‘the nation-state’ of California, and confidence in the people of the state to weather this storm together and come out stronger at the other end.
April 15, 2020 Coronavirus Press Conference, Gavin Newsom, Governor of California

Excerpts from the Governor’s briefings I found particularly affecting at the ‘dignified’ level include the following:

On the loss of life:

“We sadly lost 42 additional lives last night. Over the weekend we crossed that threshold of over 1000 people that have lost their lives. And now, as of this moment, 1208 human beings in the state of California have lost their lives to COVID-19. And so, again, we express our deep empathy and recognition. These are not statistics, these are human beings, stories, journeys, each and everyone precious, and our hearts go out to their families and loved ones.” (April 20)

On May 1, International Workers’ Day:

“This May Day is particularly special as we recognize essential workers who go to work every day to ensure that Californians are cared for in our hospitals and nursing homes and in their own homes, and that we can all access essential services like food, child care and utilities during this challenging time. At the same time, many California workers have been displaced and are struggling to get by. Today we thank our essential workers and let those who have been displaced by this virus know that we see you, we appreciate you, and we have your backs.” (May 1)

Announcing a relief package for undocumented workers:

“Our diverse communities in the state of California include our immigrant communities. I don’t know if many people know this but it’s a remarkable thing. One half of our children in the state of California are born to at least one member of their family that’s an immigrant. This is a state where 27% of us are foreign born. That’s diversity on a scale that doesn’t exist in any other state in our nation. Regardless of your status, documented or undocumented, there are people in need. And this is a state that always steps up to support those in need, regardless of status.” (April 15)

Meanwhile, at the “efficient” level of the Governor’s leadership, we’ve witnessed over the last couple of months a torrent of executive orders, policy decisions, appropriations, initiatives, agreements, partnerships, and other undertakings — all concentrated and orchestrated to stem the course of the pandemic, protect the health of the population, provide an economic safety net, and recover the state’s economy.

The rate, the scale, the complexity and the sophistication of this rollout have been reminiscent of President Roosevelt’s legendary ‘First 100 Days’ that launched The New Deal. And the impacts have been widespread.

May 4 Coronavirus Press Conference, Gavin Newsom, Governor of California

Governor Newsom in his ‘efficient’ voice continues to remind us that we are far from being ‘out of the woods’ on the Coronavirus — nationally and internationally of course, but here in California too.

But it seems that the plethora of bold governmental measures taken here under his leadership has averted the very worst immediate scenarios. And that, in this state at least, we’re on a slow, careful, methodical path to moving forward into some kind of gradual re-opening and recovery.

Not a return to to the unsafe, wasteful, stressful, environmentally disastrous and reckless ‘old normal’ but the judicious and introduction of a ‘new normal’ for a future of doing many things differently. A future in which the Governor expects California to lead.

This is what highly competent, visionary, honest, service-oriented leadership can accomplish.

This is leadership — in both the ‘dignified’ and the ‘efficient’ dimensions — that Uncle Sam could be proud of.

It’s leadership that gives me hope and motivation to continue to play my part in our collective effort against the pandemic.

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Karine Schomer, PhD lives in Berkeley, and writes on Medium at https://medium.com@schomer44. In her essays, she explores the worlds of society, politics, culture, history, language, world civilizations and life lessons. You can read her writer’s philosophy in The Idea Factory.