Some years ago, one of my cousins posed this question:
"OK So you know everything ... Why are we so unlucky then?"
Thinking on this for a time, I replied:
Your question has stayed with me. Tonight, over dinner, Paddy observed to me that all his life he has been upsetting everyone and he doesn't know why.
Today he got yet another suspension from school. He explained to me, it's not because he does bad things, it's because he breaks the rules. If the rules made sense, he conceded, he could understand. But mostly they don't. They're made up - he says - by monkeys who live under the quadrangle!!!
I didn't say so but, of course, I agree.
The car dominates our lives these days, so an example from driving serves to demonstrate:
I remember staying for a few days in Adelaide some years ago and being amazed at all the lines painted on the roads. They seemed to be screaming at the people who use the roads, "Don't think! Just do what you're TOLD".
In the few days I was there I saw more road accidents than in the years since. Isn't that what you would expect to happen when people stop thinking?
On the other hand, after being trained to be stupid here, I was appalled when I first went to live in Paris and found I had to drive there. Can you believe it?.. NO road markings!!
Beyond belief too, people drive very fast in Paris; and so close together you can't post a letter between the cars. I remember going around the Peripherique (a circular motorway around the city) in an aged Peugeot taxi at 150kph, in the rush hour, with little cars and big vans diving on and off the motorway, by picking tiny gaps in the fast nose to tail procession.
Now THAT'S INTELLIGENT STUFF. YOU CAN'T DO THAT SORT OF THING BY BEING STUPID!
After a few days there I was still in real difficulty. I knew I was a nuisance to my fellow man. I told a client about this and said "Sam, please tell me how to drive here."
Sam listened to my anxieties about people who passed me on the right to turn left immediately in front of me and others who passed me on the left at the same time to turn right and so on.
Sam said, "Chris you make it too complicated. No one can drive the way you're trying to. Just remember this: "there are only TWO RULES that matter:
1) Number One is: Don't hit anyone in front of you and
2) Number Two is: Don't hit anyone on your right.
everything else is down to someone else. Turn your mirrors away until you get used to it."
That worked for me! I got to be able to cut my way through log jams like a hot knife in butter. In all that time in France I never saw a single major accident. Isn't that what you would expect to happen when people start thinking?
I know. This doesn't seem to be about bad luck yet ... but it is.
My brother has been a lot of things, but among them he studied family therapy. I was having a discussion with him one night about something and I said, "ok! my dog's a German Shepherd and he pulls strangers to the ground by their sleeve just like Rin Tin Tin did - but he was never taught to do that and he has never watched television. Before that, we had a retriever and he used to carry the shopping from the car. He'd never stick his nose inside a bag even though it might be fresh meat inside - he was never taught either. Behaviour must be inherited, so are ideas therefore. Just like physical appearance too"
My brother said, "Its true, when you study extended families you see the same cycles happening in each branch even though they might have no contact with each other. You even see it over generations - just like behaviours in dogs".
My point is, I think I know the answers to Paddy's conundrum (Why do I keep screwing up?) and yours ("Why are we so unlucky"). I think the answer is also the same to the question "Where do we get our anger?"
We might be 3rd or 4th generation Australians but our DNA is Irish. And the Irish just are different ... like the Australian Aborigines are different, to the English who created the State we live in.
As Irish people, our heads work in a different space. We have different values. We are imprinted with the code of Brehon Law, not Westminster Law. Brehon Law was the essence of Irish civilisation until it was finally put down by the English just a few hundred years ago. It is an extremely sophisticated system of Law and it is a strategy for maintaining cohesive, culturally rich society. Brehon Law covers every aspect of life and relationship. But it is the complete opposite of English law. Intuitively the Irish consciousness that is printed onto our DNA is coded with Brehon Law. Our values are still set in Brehon Law.
You have three dining tables joined together (my cousin has 12 children) because of Brehon Law. In Brehon Law the supreme seat of authority is not the king. Not even the high king. It is the head of the family. Under Brehon law we enjoy all good fortune I'd say. When I see you at home, or I talk with old Joe, it is the same. All the talk is about the generations of the family. Joe's lot mostly lived in very humble circumstances and often with great difficulty, but his stories are all full of laughter and humour. Whatever the external circumstances, good fortune is found in the family life.
But our intuitive sense of how things go together has become contorted and distorted trying to fit into the shell of English law and English values. English Law is all about what is forbidden and how transgressions must be punished by the English crown. In English Law we are chattels of the king - or the monarchy of the day. We haven't any intrinsic rights or moral authority or moral duty. Only rules and punishments. These Laws do not encourage anyone to think. They demand instead that we lay down our minds and comply. They encourage stupidity. This probably accounts for the ease with which England has always been able to arouse the necessary mindless fervor to recruit armies to wage wars of aggression.
And, as victims of English aggression (that’s why our ancestors had to leave home to come here) we are still angry inside.
Where Brehon Law operated there was no need for armies or police. The law informed the society. The society accepted the law because it was fair and just . Its process for being determined, written and judged was earthy, common and above corruption. Brehon Law made moral decision a personal and proper way to live. Moral decision making is only possible when people think. It necessitates individuals' use of Reason. It does not demand mindless compliance. Under Brehon Law, transgressions were dealt with appropriately within the families by the family head, who was responsible for safeguarding the family's honour in the eyes of his community. Honour was not only the key to stable community it was also the currency that produced better rates of exchange. Honour was safeguarded by Brehon codes of common principles. Ireland was four stable, independent, collaborating kingdoms operating honourably under the same Law until the English era. Brehon Law was bigger than king or kingdoms.
But there was weakness in Brehon Law. It gave no protection against foreign invasion ...... It depended on good will and personal intelligence: enlightened self interest.
Some time ago I began to read Irish history. Until then, I had no idea of the scale or horror of the atrocities committed by the Anglicans in Ireland. I simply never learned. I know now why I didn't learn. I didn't learn because subjects of Her Majesty are only told what is useful to have them know. Since 1866 our schools have been largely funded by the Britannic State and kids have been taught ONLY from the texts authorised by the State. Under New South Wales Westminster Law, those text books and curriculums had first to be approved by the British Colonial Office as suitable for use in Ireland. That is, as children we only received education intended to make us compliant tools of the Britannic State. Even as England has collapsed as a world power, our Westminster government has continued to pursue the same policy direction. Our knowledge has always been heavily censored and education has always been the primary tool of Brittanic propaganda.
But to get angry, or feel alienated, we don't have to "know" our kin and kind were reduced from 8 million to less than half a million over a few years, by the unrestrained torture and murder of our families, perpetrated rightously and brutally under Westminster Law. That memory is programmed into us. Like untrained dogs we just know how we have to conduct ourselves when we are in front of other Law systems - our way is often rebellious - its nearly always independent. We think for ourselves. We flout the rules. We run guerrilla wars of our own. There is a Jungian archetype of this character. His name is Jack Doolan - the boy from Castlemaine.
A few years ago, in an absurd demonstration of spinelessness, the leader of HM government in Australia - an Anglican - an officer of her Britannic Majesty's Court - referred to “Irish larrikinism” as the foundation stone of the Australian character. He told the world this when he paid Ireland a majestic and self aggrandising State visit. This is the sort of tomfoolery that happens when you carefully cultivate ignorance but you forget to invent devices to prevent it from directing the nation. In any case the Irish had done their homework and they stayed away in droves when he went to their parliament to deliver his speech.
So of course we are angry. And rebellious. And larrikins. But unlucky?
In other words, being rebellious, we take our chances. It is not necessarily that we are more unlucky. It is that we expose ourselves to getting caught by the chances we take. Australian gaols have always been full of aboriginal Australians and Irish Australians. But if you asked Darcy Duggan if he thought he was unlucky do you think he would have agreed? Or do you think he would have angrily told you to get f....!
Today, as we try to pretend we belong to the middle classes in a British social system, we encounter all manner of loss. Many of us break our hearts early and over and over again. Despair still comes easily to us.
We also torpedo our opportunities to win the rewards for compliance. We should instead be striving to retain our culture and influence this English system we live under. Instead, we observe our sons and daughters wandering about without direction. They have lots of toys ... but they are zones of spiritual emptiness. They will have more and more years of anxiety to occupy their shrinking consciousnesses because more is considered to be better in this English system. But this is not bad luck.
We think we are unlucky only because we are operating on a phoney plane of consciousness. That's all. But that's not bad luck ... that's stupid. As well it’s hard. And if it's not hard enough, Luck is a funny thing... .
The English word "Luck" derives from the Norman French "lac" (Lake). Remember the Lady of the Lake? Well, whenever we speak of Lady Luck ... that's her.
Luck isn't random like we are taught to believe. In one of the King Arthur stories, Merlin and King Arthur are by the lake when a woman's arm comes out of the water brandishing in the air the magic sword Excaliber. The Lady of the Lake promises King Arthur that while he wears Excaliber, the magic in the sword will protect him (he will be "lucky") - at least while he is setting up his utopian kingdom based on just Brehon type law. (King Arthur was a celtic folk hero.)
In other words, in the old wisdom, luck was given to an individual. It wasn't random. It wasn't something that could be taken - like gamblers hope to do.
There is a similar legend from Ireland about Kerriwidden - the Goddess of Wisdom. She also lived on an island under the lake, where she forged wisdom (luck) and dispensed it to individuals to perform some task or other and ensure success.
So in our ancient understanding, luck is purposeful. It is given to an individual to win a right result. In modern psychoanalysis, the lake is our consciousness. Luck, that comes out from under the lake, is inspiration directed to a right purpose from the depths of our unconscious knowing of what is Right and True.
Luck is spiritual power and spiritual wisdom. It shields the True warrior.
We hear of "the luck of the Irish". I used to be puzzled by that expression. What's lucky about massacres, starvation, slavery? Well I think the answer is that we not only survived, we kept our culture intact and made big happy families wherever we rested. Despite the passage of many hundreds of years we did not give up the fight for what is right and best. Ireland may be one of the world's smallest nations and was one of Britain's smallest colonies but it was the first nation to bring military and political defeat to the British empire. The Irish found sufficient resolve and method, from among the tiny remnant of their people, to force the armies of the world's greatest power back across the water. Almost, .. and the battle for the 6 provinces of Northern Ireland will continue to be waged while ever there are larrikins who are impelled by distant memories to rid their people of English ways.
We might have gotten mad, but we never got beaten down or lost sight of the funny side. Our people carried the luck of Excaliber in their rebellious hearts.
Do we Australian Irish think are we UNlucky today? If we are, then where should we look to change that? What voices should we be listening to hear? How should we be teaching our children? Will we get a better more meaningful society through luck if we do not take luck as a coating blessed of right purpose and unrelenting courage?
So here is the reason people say, “Ah, the luck of the Irish”! And what a marvelous, mysterious and jolly thing it is too when it is worn brightly and rightly ....
Compare my notes:
I never won anything in my life by buying a ticket. I've had more financial worries and disappointments than most people could live with. But I can always find a parking place! Every time I've run out of petrol its been beside the bowser! Anytime I've gotten to the black bottom of a really deep crisis there has been a miracle waiting there!
In my family we all used to laugh at dad whose encounters with life were a report card that transparently tallied his fidelity to Lady Luck. He was devoted to his wide family and his friends and I never knew him to want for compassion. His generosity exceeded his means and his humour was a mirror that captured his frailties. Dad also used to run out of petrol at fuel stations, have punctures pulling into garages, would lose his wallet only to have it returned within hours. But, as relentless as he was in his defense of whatever he thought to be most right, Luck always abandoned him whenever his acquired middle class aspirations tempted him towards a calling that was alien to his culture.
Dad loved money and growing wealth. He loved playing the sharemarket as much as others love surfing or playing golf. He studied to be an accountant and then an economist winning international awards along the way, but he spent his life teaching the subjects he loved. His knowledge never made him a penny despite that he predicted the market movements with exact accuracy again and again. EVERY time he found himself on the brink of a windfall, Lady Luck stepped up to take possession of the moment.
Poor dad. Many would believe him to have been unlucky but there was never a man more open hearted and generous, willing to laugh at what befell him with a most curious mix of fun and frustration. I do not remember him as unlucky. I think he knew he was on a winning side and I always remember him as having extra-ordinarily good luck. I am indescribably grateful to have inherited his sword and scabbard.
© Bog O’Mullet 2007