Continental European reaction was relatively low key, though in some cases attributing Mr Haughey’s motives to bitterness in Anglo-Irish relations. The Irish Press chorused support, the Irish Independent grumbled and Mr Gageby’s editorials in The Irish Times were unsurprisingly laudatory. All of this was I suppose, at least in retrospect, predictable.
One can say that Gorbachev was not up to the task before him, if only because he did not fully understand it. But, it has to be added, nobody else did either. The Soviet Union had become a sclerotic case where any reform would have threatened the whole structure, because it came too late. Gorbachev was the man who tried to remove a brick from a tumbledown building in order to rebuild it better, only for the whole construction to come down around him.
The heroes of these books are anguished men who nurse large grievances, battle grasping wives and dominating fathers, and are out of sync with the rah-rah optimism of the times. They make their way through an America at the zenith of its postwar prestige, pre-Vietnam, with the dollar supreme, gas at thirty cents a gallon, and a military-industrial complex so powerful it frightened even the old warhorse Dwight Eisenhower. Within this purring beast of a nation, so at ease with itself on the surface, Bellow found disquiet.
Pinker believes that the growth of empathy has much to do with increasing literacy – reading profoundly deepens the understanding of the perspective of others – and attributes to this the “humanitarian revolution” of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries which saw the first campaigns against cruelties such as torture and slavery.
Ironically, in a referendum the people rejected a recently proposed reform – the so-called “Abbeylara” amendment which would have enhanced the power of the Oireachtas relative to government. A recent study of the reasons why people voted as they did finds that a plurality of voters couldn’t recall why they voted Yes or No.
In spite of his bitterness, Dedalus nevertheless betrays a lingering fascination with Catholic vocabulary and concepts, as is pointed out by an acquaintance later in the novel: “It is a curious thing, do you know,” Cranley said dispassionately, “how your mind is supersaturated with the religion in which you say you disbelieve.”
Yet it is quite inadequate to approach child abuse as a sin; it is a compulsive behaviour, it harms children, and it is a crime. For those who see child abuse as a sin, repentance and absolution might wipe the slate clean, but, turning from the soul to the body, it is evident that a firm promise to sin no more offers little guarantee that the abuser will not in fact offend again. However satisfactory spiritually, the sacrament of confession is ineffective as therapy.
The same year Rodrigo Borgia, one of the most controversial of the many controversial Renaissance popes, became Pope Alexander VI. As Unger notes, he “was on intimate terms with … Greed, Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, and Pride”. He was widely reported to have turned the Vatican into a brothel. Alexander’s son, Cesare Borgia, of whom, Capponi writes that “deceit, corruption, fraud, and murder were merely part of a very pragmatic approach to politics”, was to cast a long shadow over Machiavelli’s thought.
Burnside’s poems inhabit places at the shifting and hazy intersection between the visible and invisible worlds, a zone where the dead “have more friends than the living”. Their aura of quiet fragility and gentleness can be deceiving; there is no demurral when it comes to the violence in nature.