Monday, December 29, 2008

Check out this website if you're bullied in the workplace

Workplace bullies destroy lives. Employers, in my experience, usually lack the courage or the will to do anything about it.

So I was really pleased to see that the Management-Issues website has put up a micro-site on this scourge.

If you're a target of workplace bullying, or if you' re a union officer or HR officer, check it out here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Good radio from Speechification

If you're into radio, check out the marvellous Speechification blog with an eclectic selection of radio programmes, mainly from the BBC but also from English-speaking stations around the world. You can download the programmes as mp3 files. Some of my favourites include The Only Hooker in the Village, an ABC documentary about a primary schoolteacher turned sex-worker in small town in regional Australia; a BBC programme on Walter de la Mare's poem The Listeners - seems he wasn't too sure himself what it was all about; and I Was Douglas Adams' Flatmate on the early days of the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ireland's botched bank job? I hope David McWilliams is wrong this time

I really, really hope David McWilliams is wrong when he condemns the Government's bank rescue as a botched job which "will plunge Ireland into a much longer recession than is necessary" in this post on his blog.

"Make no mistake about it: our money will disappear in the next 12 months," he warns. "Irish bank shares will continue to fall steadily as the extent of the dire loan book is revealed and we, the taxpayers, will be asked to stump up again and again."

What scares me about this is that McWilliams was right, well before the event, about our current crash. And both the Government and the financial system are still being run by the people who steered us into this iceberg in the first place.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ronelda Kamfer - a necessary voice from South Africa

I discovered Ronelda Kamfer's work on the always excellent Poetry International Web. From the age of 10 she lived in Cape Flats, a place in which getting to school involved getting past three gangs. Cape Flats at one time had 150 gangs and perhaps still has. She saw a schoolmate shot dead in crossfire outside her school.

It's unusual to find a poetic voice coming from a background like this and I really like her poetry and recommend it to you. She writes in Afrikaans and there is just a handful of her poems available in English.

She developed her poetic style by compressing sentences into a few words to stop her little sister from reading her private stuff, according to this interview with Fred De Vries. I've never heard of that method before - but it worked.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A 58 year old married to an 8 year old - bad male behaviour in Saudi Arabia

A 8-year-old girl in Saudi Arabia has been married off to a 58-year-old man in Saudi Arabia, by her father, according to this report in The Guardian.

A judge has turned down her mother's plea to divorce the two. Instead the girl will have to enter a plea for divorce when she reaches puberty - but what's going to happen to her in the meantime?

The girl's parents are divorced and it seems that this sort of arrangement is sometimes made by men to get at their ex-wives.

What does this say about Islam? What does Islam say about this?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cloyne sex abuse scandal - who matters most, Church or child?

When I covered clerical sex abuse stories for The Irish Times in the 1990s it was clear that children who had been abused by clergy in the Archdiocese of Dublin and who later complained were seen as a nuisance and a threat to be sidelined for the greater good of the Catholic Church.

Judge Yvonne Murphy will shortly publish her report on abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese and I expect it will be devastating for the Church.

Meanwhile the latest report into clerical abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne shows that little has changed in that diocese. The response of Diocesan authorities makes the attitude clear: the Church matters more than the children.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What the Irish economy might not need: an attack on the public service

It seems to be taken for granted by many commentators that an all-out attack on the public service is needed to help get us out of the economic hole we have got ourselves into - but I'm not so sure.

If it is true that we need people to spend money to get things moving again, then how does it make sense to throw public servants onto the dole queues who could otherwise be earning and spending money?

Of course we need public service reform and we need to work out just what we can afford in pensions and other benefits in the future - but let's do it in a measured way and not in a feeding frenzy.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

'Tis the season to be narky

(This is the text of my That's Men column published in The Irish Times on Tuesday 16th December 2008):

WELL, THE season of peace and goodwill is upon us so stand by for lots of tension and rows in many households.

That's why I was glad to come across "10 rules for friendly fighting for couples" on the excellent Psychcentral blog.

I don't agree with all of them but even a few of them could help you move from a freezing doghouse to a blazing log fire for Christmas. Here they are:

1 Embrace conflict. There is no need to go into a three-day sulk just because you and your partner have had a row. Quarrelling is normal among human beings. Accept it and get over it.

2 Talk softly. Now, this doesn't mean scary softly as in Hannibal Lecter. It means conducting the argument, especially the beginning of the argument, softly rather than harshly. You don't change people's minds by shouting at them.

3 Make peace sooner rather than later. Dragging the conflict out, punishing your partner for disagreeing and so on is unpleasant and exhausting. Since rows are inevitable, the sooner you can make the peace the better - otherwise you are going to be spending a lot of time at war. Making the peace can mean resolving the conflict, agreeing to differ or just letting the matter drop.

4 Attack the issue not the other person. "You're such a daddy's girl/mammy's boy. Why don't you just move back home and let daddy/mammy take care of you." That's attacking the other person.

"I'd like to have Christmas dinner here and visit your parents beforehand/ afterwards." That's attacking the issue.

Attacking the issue doesn't guarantee agreement, especially over the dreaded Christmas dinner with the in-laws. But it's still a superior approach to attacking the other person which only harms the relationship.

To me, the four rules above are the important ones. The other six are:

5 Listen respectfully. Good advice but if it's a proper row you're unlikely to be listening respectfully - otherwise it wouldn't be a fight.

6 Get curious, not defensive and

7 Ask for specifics. These two very similar rules I would regard as a counsel of perfection. To actually ask for details of your partner's complaints while you are being scolded would require the saintliness of Mother Teresa and Padre Pio rolled into one.

8 Find points of agreement. Yes, very good but hard to do in the middle of a fight.

9 Look for options - ask for suggestions. Again, we are in Mother Teresa territory here. Most of us are more likely to make (unhelpful) suggestions than to ask for them in a fight.

10 Make concessions. Marie Hartwell-Walker, who wrote the piece on the Psychcentral blog, points out that even a small concession can help defuse a conflict and I would agree with her. Probably you are more likely to make a concession after the row has died down but even so, it's worth doing.

As Hartwell-Walker points out in her article at www.psych, couples in mature, healthy relationships seem to understand these principles. I suspect they learn them the hard way and that many relationships break up or are unhappy for want of following a few simple rules like these.

So take a look through the list and see if there's anything in it you can put to use. It might be the best Christmas present you'll get this year.

• Last week's piece on the often-hidden issue of eating disorders in men drew this response from Ruth NĂ­ Eidhin of Bodywhys - The Eating Disorders Association of Ireland:

"At Bodywhys we are keenly aware of the issues that can arise around Christmas, and in fact we tend to see an increase in calls to our helpline immediately after the Christmas period from people who have had difficulty over the festive season . . . It is particularly encouraging to see the issue of men and eating disorders being addressed, as we are seeing more and more men coming forward seeking support. The more we can challenge the stereotype of eating disorders as a 'women's issue', the easier it is for other men to come forward without fear of any stigma."

The Bodywhys helpline is 1890 200 444 and is its web address.

• Padraig O'Morain is a counsellor. His book That's Men , the best of the That's Men column from The Irish Times is published by Veritas.

(Please ignore the 'continue reading' link below).