LIKE. most Dubliners, I have nothing against the Orange Order. We do not feel threatened by the sound of the Orange flute and the lambeg drum, as Ulster Catholics do. If Orangemen wish to express their "freedom, religion and law" — as The Auld Orange Flute puts it, they should be entitled to do so.
I can even see fine aspects of the Orange tradition. The Orange Order once expressed working-class solidarity in the same way as the guilds and it helped give the Protestant proletariat a sense of respectability, decency and self-improvement.
But the Orangemen's marching season today is dismaying. In the first place, it gives religion in general a bad name. 1 hate to see the word "hymn" coupled with "hatred" in the tabloid headlines.
My belief is that religion improves and refines the brutish element in man. A religious education can turn a thug into the Aristotelian ideal — a man who lives a reflective and examined life. Alas. the Orange Order's recent manifestations have shown a distinct decline in the Aristotelian impact. Secondly — and this is part of the reason why matters have become so unedifying — the Orange Order itself has become decadent.
There was once a decent element within Orangeism both David Trimble and Ken Maginnis have been Orangemen — but such leadership has largely drifted away from it, allowing the unreformed thugs to dominate.
Celebrations around July 12 have now become a routine drunken orgy, with the brutes and the yobs hopelessly drunk and abusive as they walk under the very banners of Victorian temperance.
The women who follow along —the "Orange Lils" are, if anything, worse. Yet there are none, any more, among the clerical leadership to restrain this loutishness. Which, unsurprisingly, is linked with Loyalist terrorism.
Orangeism, which was once related to Presbyterian virtue, is now simply becoming part of yobbish underclass culture, of which any meaningful religious significance has been emptied.
IT WAS disappointing that South Africa did not win the right to hold the 2006 World Cup. It would have
been such an important boost to Africa itself which is brimming with potential world-class footballers — and it seemed shameful that the individual with the casting vote, Mr Charles Dempsey of New Zealand, abstained.
The received view of Africa itself is that it is riddled with corrupt politicians. But it must seem to Africans that Europe is not above string-pulling and behind-the-scenes stratagems when it comes to deciding on great sporting events.
Africa is a dolefully neglected continent in many ways. I went into my local library recently and asked to see what books they had about Africa: virtually nothing published after about 1980. At the bookshop, they offered an explanation: "There isn't. sufficient interest."
This too is shameful. To me, there is a big gap in the market for someone to write a big, meaningful book on Africa today, explaining honestly and without a covert political agenda, just what has gone wrong.
For example, I still do not understand why Africa, alone, is so plagued with AIDS. hi Western Europe, only 0.23 per cent of the population is HIVpositive. In Botswana, more than 35 per cent of the population is affected.
Are Africans that much more promiscuous than any other group of people? Or are Africans genetically more vulnerable to the illness, which apparently can be linked with TB?
IHAD A most wonderful treat last Sunday. I was taken to a performance of The Tempest, starring Vanessa Redgrave, at Shakespeare's Globe theatre at Southwark. This fabulous theatre is built exactly as it would have been in Shakespeare's time, in the round, and with an open-air central bit in which the "groundlings" stand. If it rains, it rains: you put up with it.
There is a marvellous interaction between the audience and the actors: and because there are virtually no props, far more is done via the imagination.
The great Vanessa was, to be truthful, a little patchy as Prospero, but even at her patchiest, she is ever watchable. Caliban — played by Jasper Britton — stole the show.
The Tempest is a peculiar play with a thin plot, but full of famous good lines: "How beauteous mankind is! 0 brave new world, That has such people in't!"
And beautiful ones: "Our revels now are ended. These our actors/As I foretold you, were all spirits, and/ Are melted into air, into thin air. . ."
Shakespeare's Globe can be visited during the daytime, and it's a much better trip than the Dome.
pEOPLE ARE dying of heat in Romania and Cyprus, and shivering with cold in the British Isles. Blame global warming.
I try to do my bit by scolding motorists who keep their engines running while their cars are stationary, but for some strange reason, this is seldom appreciated and I am cursed to hell and back for my trouble,