Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The taming of the Tiger Cubs.

RTE's "The frontline" with Pat Kenny on 22/2/2010 featured a panel of two "young" Politicians facing an audience of a representative section of Ireland's Tiger Cubs; young, newly graduated, newly skilled and unemployed.It was an evening of frustrations and misunderstandings and the Tiger Cubs were angry.

Thomas Byrne of Fianna Fail and Lucinda Creighton of Fine Gael both agreed with this audience's agenda for CHANGE, though differing in their view of what actual changes could happen.Byrne had the better of the exchange with a clarity of communication, three solid points and a speech without notes. Neither Politician could offer radical enough plans to satisfy this audience. A need to mobilise the unemployed, harness the educated, nurture and retain Ireland's investment in youth skills and training was, of course, widely agreed. But there was a gulf of understanding and a youthful frustration at the slow pace and extent of change which reflects the difficulties facing these young Politicians attempting to exercise power in a multilayered system of bureaucracy, vested-interest resistance and tradition.

Both TDs argued that becoming involved in existing political channels IS the most effective way to influence change. The increasing disillusionment and disengagement of younger citizens in Politics will lead to a self-fulfilling cycle which will only serve to enforce the status quo through an increasingly older electorate electing older Politicians.

Frustrations and misunderstandings were also manifest amongst the contributors. Bill Cullen was frustrated that this group, highly educated and highly skilled in the professions and trades, lacked the self-reliance, initiative, Can Do attitude and resilience of HIS generation. Architects, engineers, business graduates, carpenters,physiotherapists etc should do more for themselves argued Bill. A creed of self-responsibility which was met with sullen misunderstanding and a rejection of his perspective as that of an establishment capitalist.

But Bill is right. Most of that group have the skills to make their own living. Most have the tools, gained by education and training in the good times, to set up their own businesses, hang their own plinth, ply their own trades in their own neighbourhoods. What many of them dont have though is the street sense, people skills,ability to improvise and the practical survival instincts that Bill Cullen's agegroup have.

We have channelled the Tiger Cubs through well-oiled educational and training systems. Their fees were paid. Summer jobs were plentiful and cushy.Apprentices were well paid and valued. We instilled them with a sense of entitlement that they would never be subject to the inequalities, dead-end jobs and the emigration of our past. But the consequence of prosperity is that the well-funded, well-meaning, well-signposted scaffold of Ireland's social supports has domesticated the Tiger Cubs to see only the safe and structured channels. The expectation that the Government should provide is a clear legacy of the boom years.

The people "before profit" and the TCD student union heads and the soft-socialist young labourites like to think they are radical. But the wildest voice in the room last night was Bill Cullen's.The entire collective of Cubs failed to match Bill's passion.The most radical thought in the room was Bill's message of the mastery of one's own fate. The Cubs have been domesticated and tamed. But there is a solution.

The most innovative and visionary speaker in that room last night was a young software entrepreneur. The cross-pollination of Bill Cullen's school of hard knocks with the mosern globalised IT savvy of that young entrepreneur is needed to finish the Cubs education.My solution? Put business parks IN universities. Allocate incubation pods to IT startups IN Science faculties. Rent office space in business schools to entrepreneurs and to last years graduates. Incorporate participation in successful business projects into undergraduate work.
The Tiger is dead? Long live the Tiger!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Jungle Book- We be of one blood you and I.

A young fella of about 19 came into the surgery in Kildare on saturday morning carrying a large open-necked and heavy-looking sack.what did the sack contain? I was expecting the common story of the family pet which had died overnight, now brought to me for cremation. As I ushered him into the consulting room with a greeting "come in, come in, what have you got in the bag?"I got a surprise. Without reply the young fella,now grinning broadly as I warily stepped back, emptied a coiled, surly, growling,three mtr and ten kg python onto the floor.

Even diseased or dull, the supple power, luscent pattern and very mystery of a rare serpent in the banal setting of a domestic Vet Clinic elicited a sharp intake of breath.

I thumbed through Kipling's "Jungle Book" over the weekend.Our python patient promptd me to remind myself of Kaa the Rock Python, a deep character of dark jungle mystery from one of my childhood favourite writings. The story of Mowgli the Man-Cub reared by wolves and mentored by Bagheera the Panther and Baloo the Bear.The chapter on Mowgli's snatched kidnapping by the Bandar-Log or Monkey people and rescue by Kaa, an awesome 30ft Rock Python captivated me again."And they the Bandar-Log fear Kaa the Rock Snake. He can climb as well as they can. The whisper of his name makes their wicked tails turn cold.Let us go to Kaa".

"They found him stretched on a warm ledge in the afternoon sun admiring his beautiful new coat,for he had been in retirement these last ten days changing his skin and now he was very splendid- darting his big blunt-nosed head along the ground, and twisting the thirty feet of his body into fantastic knots and curves and licking his lips as he thought of the dinner to come."He has not eaten" said Baloo as soon as he saw the beautifully mottled brown and yellow jacket" Be careful Bagheera!".

Reading parts of Kipling now as a forty year old I picked out social commentary and satire that was lost on me as a ten year old. "Listen man-cub" said the bear " I have taught thee all the law of the jungle for all the peoples except the Monkey-Folk who live in the trees.They have no law. They are outcaste. They have no speech of their own but use the stolen words which they overhear when they listen, and peep, and wait up in the branches.Their way is not our way. They boast and chatter and pretend that they are a great people about to do great affairs in the jungle, but the falling of a nut turns their minds to laughter and all is forgotten".This could be a commentary on our modern papparazzi or the tabloid media and those who inhabit its world.

There are also echoes of Victorian morality in Kipling which a ten year old boy might assimilate. Kaa the great aged Python assisted Mowgli's escape from the monkeys and afterwards surveyed the small boy."Have a care manling that I do not mistake thee for a monkey some twilight when I have newly changed my coat"." We be of one blood, thou and I"Mowgli answered."My kill shall be thy kill if ever thou art hungry, O Kaa".The Python dropped his head lightly for a minute "A brave heart and a courteous tongue. They shall carry thee far through the jungle, manling".True today as ever;even jungles have a code of ethics.

The attraction of owning an exotic pet such as Kaa the powerful python is hard for the faint-hearted to understand. But the challenge of caring for and gaining the trust of a complex serpent or reptile has its own rewards for some. My Python visitor had severe fungal pneumonia which I was able to treat with oral liquid antibiotic medication. He had lost weight, lost his lustre and a caseous scum across nose and eyes indicated severe debilitation.I was able to sherlock holmes my way to tracing the source of this disease to inhalation of mold grown on straw, an inappropriate bedding for a snake in a humid tank.

The snake hadnt eaten in a month. "What does he normally eat?" I asked his young owner. "Rats, the biggest whole ones you can buy frozen and defrost!" replied the young fella in gleeful Dublinese.I suspect a more gothic fascination with serpentine habits may motivate some exotic pet owners. To give him his dues though, he was under no illusions about his snake's potency and expertly restrained the python with extreme care as I gave the first antibiotic dose.

Anthropomorphism is a phenomenon we see in pet owners all the time.It means the attribution of human motivation and behaviour to animals.In fairness to this Python owner he was in no way anthropomorphic about his snake.But apparently thousands of owners are killed every year by their own exotic pets. Trust is their fatal weakness. Mowgli too was guilty of anthropomorphism as he initially was attracted by the monkey-people who play all day. Later however he cried bitterly as he realized their treachery "All that Baloo has said about the Bandar-Log is true. They have no law, no hunting call, no leaders- nothing but foolish words and little pickish thieving hands. If I am starved or killed here, it will be all my own fault".Kipling, the Victorian moralist now sounding like a 21st century ecologist.

One of those urban myths of a veterinary nature which I heard once at a Vet's conference goes like this- a python owner in the states had a snake for years and it grew to twentysomething feet long, grew to trust its owner and she it.The snake spent long periods of time out of its tank until the owner eventually let the snake pretty much have the run of the house and go in or out of its tank when it wished. Anyway by the by,she would wake up in the morning and find the snake on her bed which was not the least disconcerting for her. Instead, as a person living alone she found it strangely comforting. One morning she found the snake lying alongside her, cheek to jowl in the bed and happened to tell her Vet this tale of snakely companionship.

The Vet was luckily experienced in the ways of the footless hunter. He spoke with sharp and sudden urgency" Get that Python out of your house and into care immediately. Do not enter your home to get that snake on your own!".Kaa the Python had coldly reasoned that the time had come.He had been measuring up his owner and biding his time, sizing her up to swallow her whole.We be of one blood you and I.But trust is a weakness!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Can you teach an old Dog New tricks?

The new show on MIDLANDS 103 FM on MONDAYS at 11.20 exposes me to more unvetted commentary than the radio coverage of George Lee's long goodbye. Yesterday's on air phone-in heard the case of the lady with four house cats, two male and two female, which were all neutered and of varying ages. Her problem was the particularly smelly and unhygienic case of the eldest male cat who insisted on coming indoors to relieve himself each day.

This behaviour is known as spraying and is normally a territory-marking habit of entire male cats. In this instance I surmise that this Tom was neutered too late for his characteristic male sexual behaviour to change.

My answer was simply not to tolerate this, to keep the cat outdoors, to prioritise the comfort and hygiene of your own home over the disrespectful moggy's egotistical territoriality. My motherin law who is a farmer with a commonsense innate knowledge of animal behaviour texted me after the show. Her solution to that lady's cat issues would involve the combination of an open back door, a large boot and a feline projectile. There is a time for diplomacy and a time for action to paraphrase Ian Paisley and King Solomon.

Speaking of old dogs and old cats and new tricks, an owner of two springer bitches lives across the road from the clinic in Portarlington. Yesterday morning before heading to Tullamore for the radio show I stitched a few nasty bite wounds on the older bitch of the two who is now being bullied by the other bitch, her former friend. These new hostilities began after bitch one had a litter of pups which are now all weaned and are some four months old. One could speculate on the reasons for the new fights.Perhaps it is jealousy or perhaps the younger bitch now wants to assume the alpha or dominant role. Undoubtedly the recent presence of the pups changed the dynamic between the pair.

Our client collected his bitch this morning and against our advice put the first one straight back into the yard with the aggressor. Ten minutes later he appeared back in the clinic with his bitch newly lacerated and standing in a pool of her own blood. More triage followed. Now the course of action will have to be separate yards, a new fence and a period of acclimitisation across the fence before these two can MAYBE become pals again. OR maybe not.

Speaking of acclimitisation and indeed decontamination, the Boy George was very naive to think his self-proclaimed talents would automatically gain him a controlling role at the centre of Oireachtas power. George was hardly fulsome in his compliments of any of his Dail colleagues in his work with RTE. More loose cannon than messiah, in my view George's high decibel indignation as a reporter did more harm to Ireland's foreign credibility than good over the last couple of years.Both his own political colleagues and other parties'were therefore bound to keep him at arms length for a while until he gained some allies or victories. In any organisation the new boy has to use his elbows, his diplomacy and due diligence to gain management's trust. Why would Fine Gael be any different to any working environment?

In the climate of hype and hyperbole that the national media perpetuate the other argument we hear is that " George's talents" should have been "used". To do what exactly and how? The fact is that George is one of many well-qualified economists in the country. Economics is an inexact science. In economics the right answer is often only evident after the fact. Many more qualified economists than George have proffered as many different opinions as there are PhDs out there on the world economic stage. To pull one lever of economic policy is often only as wrong or as right as the political philosophy underpinning the policy. Trade unions, banks, brokerages, as well as political parties all have economists as well qualified as George. The best place for George is behind a microphone- dont mistake that talent for political talent.

Richard Bruton is still there and holding his counsel. The one shining light of the current government has been the finance minister Mr Lenehan. It is however likely that Mr Bruton will be minister for finance in the next government.
The old dog for the hard road.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Its a few weeks since my last post on this site. But more regular commentary will resume now on a little and often basis as I begin an exciting new PETS CORNER feature on MIDLANDS RADIO 103 FM every second Monday at 11.20 am.
This mondays first show will feature a chat about coursing and stag hunting, the new animal legislation as well as on air phone-in.
KFM's VETSLOT continues to grow in popularity every friday at 11.05.
I plan now to use this site to raise issues and answer queries that arise on air each week.