The scum gentry alternat.., p.1
The Scum Gentry Alternative Arts & Media E-Zine Issue 1: March 2014, p.1
The Scum Gentry Alternative Arts & Media E-Zine
Issue one: March 2014
Farewell Father Welfare
Rise and Fall
Garret O’Gorman’s a-MAZE-ing Take on Irish Life and Society
Fair City Stories: The Carrigstown Review
Arts from the Inside: Kevin Higgins
The Scum Gentry Poetry Hole
Our Lady of Refuge, Rathmines
Death of a Star
Warrior’s Guide to Worm Strike!
A Morose Fable for these Modern Times
Without Respect for the Law
The Scum Gentry Guide to Living Foolishly
Hello there, please help me…
Hey you! Yeah you! You with the disease, you with the hunger… Come over here. Give me a hand up. Oof! Thank you. Hey, I owe you one buddy, you’ve really helped me out of a jam this time. Listen…
Listen, I don’t usually do this, but let me ask you a question…
Let me tell you a story…
This. This is… Welcome to this is the first edition of the official Scum Gentry Alternative Arts & Media E-Zine – an entirely free (if you’re on our email list or downloading through Smash-words) compendium of art, poetry, prose, journalism and other varied and deranged creative produce, all with a slightly west-of-madness flavour, originating in the wilds of Ireland but with contributions from all over.
All of the content that awaits you beyond this textual gate, while undeniably varied in style and tone, is unified by a certain underlying attitude, a certain “je ne sais que c’est ni ce qu’il fait mais je l’adore”, which combines and summates the collected content into something synergistic and expansive – something bigger and better than any or all of its singular pieces. But what is that exactly? And more importantly: how do you know that you’re going to like it like we liked it enough to, like, put it all together, man?
Rest easy. Here’s a quick checklist to see if you’ve come to the right place to get your overwhelming arts and fantasy fix:
1.Have you found the world lacking in outlets for new and creative material from subversive, outsider and original artists and writers? Does it piss you off a little?
2.In what realm lies the sole and only key to unlocking the mysteries of the multiverse?
If you answered yes to both of these questions then give yourself a fatherly pat on the ass and take a deep breath and sit back down again. You might be here for a while – but only because you belong here, you belong here forever.
(P.S. if you answered no to these questions or yes to one and no to the other, or if you looked to somebody else first to see what they were going to say before deciding yourself, then you better just get lost. Because listen, no offense, but clearly you’re already lost.)
Ahhhh. Oh boy. This is going to be fun. Have we got a treat in store for you. Beyond these words, beyond this page of code and digitalia, reside journalistic essays both serious and satirical; a selection of howling pomes frome the famede Scum Gentry Poetry Hole; fictional tales of horrible and horrified men written by the same; puzzles, comics and other hard-to-pin-down madness; and a personal conversation with poet, critic and workshop facilitator Kevin Higgins.
Besides all this we’ll be showing you a sneaky peak at the interactive Scum Gentry “Video-Game” Opus “WORM STRIKE!” as well as giving you the chance to win this month’s Scum Gentry mystery prize hamper, a draw which takes place every month and offers a bizarre, incredible and delicious selection of goodies personally chosen by the rogues and rakes of the Scum Gentry.
(This hamper contains alcohol, tobacco and dulse products and is therefore available to entrants over the age of 18 only).
Ok, I can feel myself slipping away again so let go of my hand and I’ll let you wander on to the wonders that await you. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine back down here in the mud, I’ll just wait for the next traveller to come along and pull me up so that I may impart the secrets of the tome to them too. Why, I can smell them on their way already… So long, friend.
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This week I got a job (pause for a collective gasp of astonishment from all who know me). It is undoubtedly a happy occurrence but also one which elicits the type of feelings that accompany tearful farewells to loved ones. For this week, I must bid adieu to my benefactor over the last few years; the Department of Social Protection, also known as “Father Welfare” or to most, simply, “the dole”.
Since I completed a degree which offered no discernible career prospects Father Welfare has looked out for me; keeping a roof over my head, smoke in my lungs, food in my belly and loose change in Paddy Powers. We have had our disagreements of course; he once forced me into a drawn out and pointless computer course and I once jeopardized our relationship by neglecting to sign on for two months. But he is a forgiving father, even if the resources he has doled out have diminished over the years. In my final article as an unemployed, I would like to pay him tribute and investigate the reasons for his generosity.
The standard social welfare payment in Ireland is €188 per week. For this we should be grateful. If I had the misfortune to be unemployed in the United Kingdom I would receive only £71 or roughly €84 per week. In Spain the basic weekly rate is €124 and they receive no rent supplement. Living in Donegal, €188 per week is quite adequate for those without high levels of debt or children. Donegal is the cheapest county in Ireland – rent is relatively low whilst the price of food and drink, although rising, reflects the close proximity of Northern Ireland. On €188 per week a single person in Donegal can live like an early Medieval King – eating red meat, exotic Italian pasta and, of course, cheese most days of the week. On weekends he/she may drink red wine and smoke imported tobacco whilst still having enough change to buy a bag of porridge to stay alive until the next dole day.
Of course not everywhere is as cheap as Donegal. In cities like Dublin or Cork, it is considerably harder to get by on €188 per week and some of the luxuries I mentioned above must surely be forsaken. Similarly if one is burdened with an expensive mortgage €188 per week is a pittance and must seem almost like an insult to someone who spent years working and paying tax only to be thrown on the scrap heap of the Great Recession. This is not to mention the fact that if you are 25 you only receive €144 and if you’re younger than that you only get €100 per week. That being said, the dole in Ireland ensures a minimal standard of living for those without work and this is particularly important in an era of permanent high unemployment.
It is fair to say then that Father Welfare is concerned for our wellbeing. He is part of a European social democratic tradition, alongside affordable healthcare and universal secondary education, that seeks to protect the living standards of poorer members of society. However, he has other less noble motivations for his generosity and these reasons ultimately serve to protect the rich rather than the poor.
In a country like Ireland, with its high unemployment and stuttering recovery, the economic importance of the dole cannot be overemphasized. In my opinion it has been the difference between outright depression and the stagnation that we currently endure. Obviously, the main beneficiaries of this are those at the bottom rungs of the societal ladder since it is they who receive the cash. However, the diffusion of money to poorer people undoubtedly also benefits the rich. Put simply, the more money that circulates in a country, the more profit business owners can make. Dole payments therefore act as an indirect support for the economic elite in this country and it is in their interest to ensure that they continue at, or close to, current levels. Since we have a government which is ideologically committed to capitalism as an organising principle of society, it would be naive to assume that this reasoning does not figure prominently when they decide on the level of social welfare to be paid. In short, the dole supports capitalism by enabling the unemployed to consume capitalist goods and services. If I were I to get the double dole that comes just before Christmas, a sizeable portion of it would’ve ended up in the fat-cat stockings of Tesco, Diageo and Marlboro (I must now sell my labour for that privilege). But there is another more subtle and indirect way in which Father Welfare protects the interests of the rich.
A lot has been made of how placidly the Irish have accepted the immoral and corrupt bailout of the banks and the continued prioritizing of bond-holders above the needs of citizens. Comparisons have been made with Greece and Spain where social discontent has erupted into riots and ongoing street protests.
A major difference between these countries and Ireland is the level of unemployment assistance they hand out. To take the example of Greece, they have the highest level of unemployment in Europe but weekly dole payments there amount to only €90 per person. The Greeks have taken to the streets numerous times over the past two years and the second biggest party in the state is the far-left anti-capitalist Syrzia. Wherever material deprivation exists, there is a chance for social revolution. For example, the Arab Spring followed on from sharp falls in the standard of living and other famous anti-establishment revolutions throughout history (the French Revolution, the October Revolution in Russia) followed on from declines in material wellbeing.
Is the €188 per week the unemployed (it seems strange not to be saying “we”) get in Ireland the difference between people taking to the streets or not? I believe it to be. A deprived population is infinitely more likely to revolt than one which has certain essential needs (food, shelter) met. Try to imagine what would happen if there was no dole in Ireland; people could not afford to eat, let alone save up for a plane ticket to Australia. Acquiescence to the capitalist order, rather than being paid for by Father Welfare, would have to be enforced by Professor Police Brutality and Mr. Political Repression, as is increasingly observable in Greece.
Whether the government has made this calculation or not is irrelevant to the function that social welfare performs in society. It is, however, worth noting that the one group which has suffered significant cuts (the young) is also the most politically apathetic. It could be argued that in Ireland there exists a tacit social contract between the government and the unemployed. The government commits to meeting the basic needs of people who are without work and in return, the people – with a strong dose of apathy – allow the government to pursue policies that benefit the elite, both globally and locally.
As I say farewell to Father Welfare, I remind myself that despite his deep desire for all his children to be well fed he does have ulterior motivations. He ensures that an inefficient capitalism, one that periodically designates thousands of people as surplus to requirements, continues to function. He facilitates the continuation of rampant consumerism. He makes sure people don’t go hungry enough to start asking why. He’s a wily fucker really. Nonetheless, he leaves me with fond memories of endless queuing and mindless bureaucracy – and above all – FREE MONEY!
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Let’s just walk through it, shall we...? Down all the years I’d known him, I’d never once seen him laugh heartily as though he was truly enjoying himself. It wasn’t something you would notice straight off, obviously, but having been in his company over the course of a few days or a number of weeks, this behavioural curiosity became a glaring characteristic. It’s strange looking back on it now, considering all that’s happened, but what I remember most from those days when we would all be together, in a pub or on holidays or whatever, is the laughter that would constantly surround us as we talked and joked from dawn till dusk. But I suppose we always look back on our lives with rose tinted glasses, don’t we? Well most of us do anyway. But even looking back on these memories I can still see Mooney’s unsmiling face through the streams of cigarette smoke and the sound of laughing friends. Mooney had this personality trait you see, but in reality it was probably more like an illness or a disability, in that he absolutely never laughed. The most he would ever do was grin knowingly, like he had to reluctantly agree that something was amusing and he didn’t want to be the only one not laughing. It particularly pained him when he had to laugh at somebody else’s witticism. He despised in a subtle way the ability of others to be quick-witted and acerbic, as he knew that these were qualities completely absent from his own personality and he found particularly displeasing, the constant raconteuring of William P Foley.
It’s difficult to say why he took such a dislike to Willy P in particular. God knows there were plenty of smart arses among the lot of them and there could be several tense and even dangerous moments in a matter of minutes during the course of a night, as the lines became longer and the drinks became shorter. There was just this aura around Mooney, when it became clear that he didn’t like someone. I can’t be sure if everyone was aware of it but it always seemed obvious to me. He never trusted a single syllable spoken by Willy P and would sit in an uncomfortable stupor as the man he perceived to be more of a rival than a friend, regaled us with tales of daring and sexual conquests. I’m sure Willy P could stretch the truth to fit a story, of that I’m certain, but that wasn’t what really bothered Mooney. Mooney just couldn’t handle the way Willy P captured everyone’s attention and held onto it like he was nestling a sleeping kitten in his arms. The pure envy in Mooney’s eyes would be plain to see as he looked shiftily from face to face, searching for a comrade to return an understanding glance. I suppose it was this constant grating aversion which caused Mooney to feel the way he did about Willy P rather than any one or number of specific incidents. The way things were going, it was obvious something was going to happen. So when it did, it wasn’t really much of a surprise.
I honestly didn’t know a hell of a lot about Mooney’s family. I went to school with his brother, Phillip, who was an odd enough character, even as a young fella. He would seldom have lunch in with him and he could barely read or write and struggled with just about every subject. I got the impression that the family were very poor, back then anyway. He was the kind of fella that nobody wanted to sit beside because he smelled, and you’d have to give him some of your lunch and help him with his work. Mooney himself? Well he was older so I didn’t really know him back then. He certainly wasn’t one to watch, so to speak. You never would have thought that he’d end up the way he did. Although the family seemed a bit dysfunctional, none of them were ever involved in anything like that. It was Mooney who discovered all that for himself.
I started working for him when I was sixteen. Myself and a few of my mates were always trying to make a few quid any way we could. Nothing major obviously. A little bit of wheeling and dealing, that was all. We all knew of Mooney at that stage anyway. He drove around in that white BMW and the house was done up in expensive, tacky decor. Real criminal chic, but I wasn’t going to be the one to question the man’s sense of style. He was a vicious bastard, have no doubts. There was the famous incident of course in the Old Oak when he glassed the young Stephens chap and blinded him in both eyes. Nothing ever came of it, no witnesses. By that stage the entire area knew who Mooney was and nobody wanted to get involved. But the fact that he would do such a thing, in such a public place, shows what a hothead he was. Hotheads like that never last at the top. They’ll always get caught out eventually. If you want to stay at the top, you have to be more subtle and private in your viciousness. And revenge must leave your victims silent, not blind.
So I started running errands for him, small deliveries from place to place, then moving on to counting cash and packing. After a few years he took me on as his driver. He’d always been an insanely dangerous driver, so it made sense for him to assign someone to the position. I suppose it was probably a power thing as much as a safety issue as well. A man of his stature had to have a driver. It was a matter of propriety at that stage. The onset of paranoia had begun by then and I think he always felt safer in the passenger seat for some reason, although really it wouldn’t make any difference at all as soon as people knew that he had somebody driving him around. They’d know exactly where to find him all the same. The job itself was a cross between being his personal chauffeur, bodyguard and confidant. Not that he would confide much to me, or to anyone else for that matter. But I could see as time went by his increasing edginess and worsening paranoia began to alter his behaviour. He was probably using a little more than he should have at that stage as well, which obviously wouldn’t have helped his psychological stability. His increasing dislike of Willy P also became more apparent. I remember one night, when we were all enjoying a spring sojourn in Alicante, Mooney went for Willy P over the most trivial, bullshit comment. Willy P had made some remark about Mooney’s using. He turned like a rabid dog on his old antagoniser, foaming at the mouth like the coked-up lunatic he’d become. I had to bring him off to a bar down by the beach to try and calm the man down and he just kept repeating to himself, over and over: “I’ll get the fucking bastard. I will get that fucking bastard.”
The Scum Gentry Alternative Arts & Media E-Zine Issue 1: March 2014 by The Scum Gentry Press / Humor have rating 2.9 out of 5 / Based on35 votes