Less about the world, more about me.

Category: Media (Page 2 of 11)

Column: Information super-highway puts us on a fast lane to the ‘post truth era’

As published in The Kerryman 31-08-16

kerryman-column-1

There is a lot to be said for this technological era. Many parents in Kerry can now speak ‘face-to-face’ with their children half a planet away. Not so long ago, emigration to the US or Australia meant an almost complete loss of contact between family members. Technology not only helps us maintain relationships, it helps forge new relationships, regardless of geography.

This technological wonder also makes an unimaginable amount of information available to all and sundry. The problem is knowing how to wade through all this information, deciphering truth from fact, expert analysis from propaganda and data from opinion.

There is so much rubbish being paraded as fact that it would make one almost nostalgic for the old days when we trusted people in authority. A time when we didn’t think it necessary to second-guess. When we didn’t automatically look for independent confirmation. Or always have to wonder who was paying this so-called expert.

This scientific wonder of mass communication has freed us from the experts, it has made facts, democratic and elevated feelings to the same level as knowing. This gift of science has in fact made us less scientific than ever before. All that freely accessible information and the result has been we are now in what is called the ‘post-truth’ era.

In the UK they had a referendum to decide if they should leave the EU, the Brexit Referendum. I, like most people, didn’t take much notice because leaving the EU was obviously a nonsensical idea. The referendum was nothing more than an expression of tensions within the Tory party. It would be crushed and we would carry on as if it had never happened.

Oh how wrong I was. In 2016 it is now permissible to make things up and not have to worry about being called to account for it. The ‘Leave’ side promised an extra 350 million pound would be saved if the UK voted to leave. Money that would go to their NHS. Experts pointed out that this wasn’t true. They showed the numbers, explained the facts and sat back thinking that would be enough.

The Leave side complained about the terrible burden that migrants were putting on the UK tax-payer. Only outside the EU could migration be halted. Again the experts pointed to the figures that showed migrants being net contributors to the UK exchequer. They also explained that outside the EU, the UK wouldn’t have access to the EU common market without free movement of people.

Facts and figures. In response, the leave side said there had been enough of experts.

In America, Donald Trump somehow managed to become the nominee for the Republican Party. How did this buffoon become so powerful in an era of so much information?

He railed against crime, gun-control, Muslims, women and the state of the economy. Again and again, the rubbish he spewed was checked and found to be almost always wrong. He just got more popular. His fans (and politicians shouldn’t really have fans) love him for his straight-talking.

I’m not nostalgic for the days when old men in suits decided what was fact, what was important, what would happen. If I’m honest I don’t know if there was ever time when facts ever mattered that much. I am however amazed that the more information has become available, the more we choose to use our feelings to make important decisions. And these are decisions are as profound as who to vote for, our attitude towards immigrants and whether or not to vaccinate our children.

It’s such a terrible waste of a revolution.

Being Married to Someone who is Bisexual

being-married-to-someone-who-is-bisexual

(This was published in the Cork Pride guide 2016. Paula wrote about being bi+ living in Kerry)

What is it like to be married to someone who is bisexual? It is something I am still processing but thus far I can describe it using four key words.

The first word is challenging. I consider myself to be a very open minded and cool dude. Or as open minded and cool as a middle aged man who uses the words cool and dude can be i.e. cool in theory but never tested. I grew up in a rural area and despite living in Dublin for ten years, I’d met precious few people who were gay or bisexual. I never imagined I’d meet, much less fall in love with and get married to someone who’s bisexual. I’d have considered it a ridiculous notion. And yet that is what happened.

The second word is titillation. The shortest unit of time known to our species is the gap between a man meeting a bisexual woman and the prospect of a threesome entering his head. OK, perhaps that’s just me, but I’m hoping I’m not uniquely juvenile.

The third word is inconsistency. When my partner glances at another woman I experience the deep satisfaction of knowing I’ve died and gone to heaven. If it’s a man, I suddenly feel my knuckles dragging along the ground and itching for a crude club with which to assert my unbridled manliness.

The last word is pride. I’d assumed when we met, I’d assumed when we began dating, I’d assumed when we moved in together and I kept on assuming when we married, that I got it. That I understood that sexuality was a spectrum. I knew my place on it and I knew her place on it. Then I watched her, already married, braving the scorn of strangers to campaign for marriage equality. I watched as her sexuality was side-lined by those she was supporting. I watched her persevere, a minority within a minority, identity erased for the greater good.

I’ve never required pride. I am a straight, white, male. The only thing I can be proud of is not being quite as dickish as my privileges demand. I watched her slog and the spectrum began to lose its significance. She is at once someone who is bisexual and she is a bisexual. She is attracted to both men and women*. She has to be proud of that because there are so many people who would insist she feel shame. There are people who see her as less, as not legitimate, as selfish, as confused.

She never hides who or what she is and I am left feeling nothing but pride. Whatever unspoken misgivings I may have had about telling people in my part of the world her full story, are gone. I may be still adjusting, or more accurately my feelings may still be catching up to my thinking, but I am fortunate to have such a self-possessed guide, helping me to grow the fuck up.

*meaning all genders and none

Awestruck by Comments on Abortion

awestruck-by-comments-on-abortion

As appeared in Letters – The Kerryman – 3 August, 2016 edition

Reading Henry Gaynor (July 26) I found myself full of admiration for the man. In this Politically Correct World criticising two women who chose to end their pregnancies, in tragic circumstances, is just so rare. And to assert he does so because he is more cerebral than emotional is breath-taking.

I’m sure there are those who would accuse him of lacking basic human empathy. But as he explains in his letter, he is a contrarian who can see things others cannot. It seems he knows what is best for women enduring a diagnosis of Fatal Foetal Abnormality better than they or their doctors do. I only wish I could be so certain about something I’m incapable of experiencing.

It is no longer fashionable to sit in judgement of women, but Mr Gaynor seems to have no truck with fashion. He admits he has no medical training but that will not prevent him from expressing an opinion.

Ten women leave Ireland every day for an abortion, including one woman a week from Kerry. It would seem Mr Gaynor knows every one of those women is in the wrong and is proud to trumpet that opinion. I’m in awe.

Women Deserve Better

Kerryman 06-07-16

As appeared in Letters – The Kerryman – 6 July, 2016 edition

There are many things we prefer to keep private. Needing an abortion is certainly one of those things. This right to privacy was sacrificed by Amanda Mellet when she complained to the UN about her treatment by this country.

Ms Mellet was informed that her baby would not survive outside her womb. The medical team hinted that ‘travelling’ might be an option worth exploring. She decided that an abortion was in her best interests, forcing her and her husband to scrape together enough money to go to the UK. It was barely enough. They could stay in the UK scarcely a day, and she returned home, after the abortion, still dizzy and bleeding. Three weeks later, a courier arrived to her door with the ashes of the foetus.

The UN Human Rights Committee found her experience to be cruel, inhumane, degrading. It further found that she had suffered discrimination and that her right to privacy was violated.

For the 80% of the population, who’ve indicated a willingness to remove the 8th Amendment from our Constitution, this description of Ms Mellet’s experience does not require any further explanation. Unfortunately, our Fine Gael government and its Fianna Fáil supporters seem intent on catering only to those 20% who are content to see women return to Ireland, bleeding and traumatised. Content that Irish women, should only have abortions, if they can afford to go to the UK.

It is well past time for this government to allow the people of Ireland to decide what’s best for this country, rather than what’s easiest for spineless politicians to get away with. It is well past time for women to have to endure the cruelty of the 8th Amendment. Women deserve better than being shuffled off to the UK for treatment they should receive at home.

Still Hating (Part 2)

As appeared in Letters – The Kerryman – 2 March, 2016 edition

For some background, please read this post. I am also including a picture of the letters’ page from last week. There were three letters published criticising my previous letter.

Kerryman 24-02-16


I noted, with great interest, the number of letters (The Kerryman, February 24) condemning surrogacy for gay men. Surrogacy is a complicated subject that deserves careful consideration.

There are four basic stances one can take on surrogacy. First, one can oppose it in all circumstances. Second, agree with it, but only in limited circumstances e.g. when a close relative serves as the surrogate and no money involved. Thirdly, one may see commercial surrogacy, tightly regulated, as perfectly justifiable. Finally there are those who view surrogacy as a private enterprise that does not require State intervention.

All very simple and straightforward. Except it isn’t. To those four positions we must add the issue of gametes. Specifically, whose gametes? Do you support surrogacy if the commissioning parent(s) has no genetic link to the child or does that matter? On top of that we have the issue of genetic history for medical reasons. Does a child have a right to know their genetic progenitors, and if so, when? Does someone who acts as a surrogate or who donates their gametes have a right to anonymity? Do they have parenting rights?

Kerryman 02-03-16
Then there are the issues of economic necessity and economic exploitation. There are inter and intra jurisdictional issues. Passports and birth certificates might become problematic. And there are biological and constitutional imperatives to consider.

All that and then we have to think about IVF. This is the most common method of facilitating pregnancy in surrogacy. It is expensive and stressful. Who pays for it? What happens in situations where there are multiple foetuses? And in today’s world we now need to ponder genetic manipulation.

Surrogacy is a wondrous gift, but a gift fraught with practical concerns. Dealing with it requires an engagement on an intellectual, scientific, philosophical and moral level. It requires the full weight of our informed attention. It is an issue of supreme complexity and emotion. But there is a way out. There is a way to avoid contention and compromise. We can simply say, gay men can’t do it.

Still Hating

As appeared in Letters – The Kerryman – 17
February, 2015 edition

Usually when I add a published letter to my blog I just put up whatever text was actually published. I don’t include the original letter or even mention how an editor may have chosen to edit it. It is always their prerogative to change a letter, either for brevity or to avoid a libel. I think that’s a frustrating but perfectly understandable policy. I’ve also never felt it necessary to refer to the letter (if there was one) that I was replying to.

In this instance however I feel the need to do things differently. The letter I replied to, was so ugly, so nakedly discriminatory that even ten days later it is picking away at me. I only wish The Kerryman had more of an online presence so I could link to it. Instead I will quote from the letter.

It was about surrogacy, addressed to Kerry’s election candidates and was signed by over 40 people. Yep, over forty.

“…the Bill would enable male couples to ‘have’ a child using the services of a surrogate. That child…would be left without a mother to love and care for him..”

“…he may struggle with feelings of loss and abandonment..”

“…this painful outcome…would be the inevitable consequence of two men calmly deciding to conceive a child in that way.”

“…this heartbreaking scenario…”

“…the child will suffer in her absence.”

“…heart-rending outcomes…”

“…children will suffer.”

“We ask now that the possibility of ‘surrogacy for men’…be definitively ruled out…”

“…this unconscionable policy.”
I don’t think this letter can be interpreted as anything other than the ‘h’ word, but as we are not allowed to use that word anymore, homophobes being famously thin skinned and litigious, we must settle for discriminatory. Calling for gay men to be excluded from accessing a particular service because you know, gay men, strikes me as being the dictionary definition of discriminatory.

Despite my anger and disgust, I penned what I consider to be a very mild rebuke. It pained me to be so retrained, but I didn’t want to give the newspaper any excuse not to publish it. I do support free speech, so I have no problem with the above letter being published, but I am aware that free speech in this country only extends to saying homophobic things, but not to calling someone a homophobe.

This is the letter I sent:

I was surprised to read (Letters 10 Feb) a letter urging our TDs to discriminate against gay men. Many people had perhaps assumed such naked prejudice was a thing of the past. Obviously this is not the case. Fortunately, as with most demands for discrimination, there’s little in the way of facts in support of this call.

As was repeatedly stated during the Marriage Equality Referendum, every study to date has shown children raised by same-sex couples thrive in the same way as their peers raised by opposite-sex couples. This evidence was presented to the people of Kerry during the referendum. They overwhelmingly accepted it. Rejecting the unfounded scaremongering of those opposed to equality.

Surrogacy is a complex and sensitive issue, worthy of informed debate. It should not be used as a ploy to rehash Marriage Equality. That argument has been won and those who lost, should find the courage to move on.

This is what was published:

I was surprised to read (Letters 10 Feb) a letter urging our TDs to “publicly oppose” “surrogacy for men”. Many people had perhaps assumed such views were a thing of the past. Obviously this is not the case.

As was repeatedly stated during the Marriage Equality Referendum, every study to date has shown children raised by same-sex couples thrive in the same way as their peers raised by opposite-sex couples. This evidence was presented to the people of Kerry during the referendum. They overwhelmingly accepted it, rejecting the unfounded scaremongering of those opposed to equality.

Surrogacy is a complex and sensitive issue, worthy of informed debate. It should not be used as a ploy to rehash Marriage Equality. That argument has been won and those who lost, should move on.
Kerryman 17-02-16

Marriage Equality (some people still haven’t gotten over it)

As appeared in Letters – The Kerryman – 25 November, 2015 edition

As I read Frank O’Meara’s (Letters to the Editor, November 18) attack on marriage equality, I must admit to some confusion. He seems to be saying the government is changing the Roman Catholic Church’s definition of marriage. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Roman Catholic Church retains the right to define marriage in whatever way it chooses.

The greater part of the Irish people on the other hand, have decided to define marriage as something more inclusive and instructed the government to open this institution to same sex couples.

The argument is over, all that remains, is for Mr O’Meara to show a little more dignity and move on.

Kerryman 25-11-15

Kerryman Letter re Syrian Refugees

As appeared in Letters – The Kerryman – 9 September 2015 edition

I remember when I was in school, being taught about the horror that was The Great Famine. A million dead, millions more fleeing and a British government that simply stood by and let it happen. At the time I didn’t have as much access to world news as children have today. So I didn’t really know how bad things were for other people.

It makes me wonder if these tech savvy students look at their teachers and think: how is our government different to those terrible Brits back in 1847? What are we doing to help the Syrian refugees?

The population of Ireland halved. Half the population of Syria has been reduced to refugee status. A small portion of these people have sought haven in Europe. We sent our millions on Coffin Ships to the US. Now we bolt our doors against drowning children.

Do we require teachers to instil hypocrisy in our children? To tell them that what happened in 1847 was wrong but refusing to help the Syrians is different because, well just because.

Do we need to teach our children that ambition, sacrifice and solidarity only exist in books? That in the real world, we watch people suffer and die without offering aid, because it has nothing to do with us.

The centenary of The 1916 Rising is fast approaching. What are we teaching our children about what it means to be Irish, when we turn our back on our duty as humans?

Kerryman 09-09-15

Kerryman Letter re The Angelus

As appeared in Letters – The Kerryman – 1 July 2015 edition

There has been talk about RTE changing or indeed replacing the Angelus. This has caused some upset and, surprisingly that upset is shared by those most attached to the Angelus and those most keen to see it changed.

It may seem a strange issue to be concerned by. The Angelus, on RTE, is a decades old tradition. It has become a part of the fabric of Irish culture. It harms no one and is dearly loved by many. What sort of joyless character would demand it ends? Those of us who are irked by RTE broadcasting, twice daily, a Roman Catholic call to prayer, must come across as arrogant barbarians.

Most atheists and secularists in my experience, however, do not give the Angelus a second thought. Any concerns we may have on the subject are simply resolved by switching the channel. Out of sight, out of mind.

Within the atheist and secularist communities, there are two ways of looking at this issue. There are those who see the Angelus as ‘low hanging fruit’ on the road to a more inclusive Ireland. Then there are those who see this as an unnecessary and potentially harmful distraction on the road to a more inclusive Ireland.

What does unite the atheist and secularist communities, is our segregated education system. A problem most keenly felt by those of us in rural counties like Kerry. That our children’s access to education is hampered by religious segregation is something we will not stop highlighting and campaigning about.

Personally, I don’t care about the Angelus. If it changes or stays the same, it will not impact on me. What I do care about is our Constitution, our education system and our health system, continuing to discriminate against anyone who isn’t a Roman Catholic.

Kerryman 04-07-15

Kerryman Letter re Liberalism

As appeared in Letters – The Kerryman – 17 June 2015 edition

It was with some amusement that I read J. O’Donaghue’s (June 3) attack on liberalism.

Mr O’Donaghue appears to have missed the irony of his position. That he was allowed to write to a newspaper, with the expectation that his opinions would be published, is a gift of liberalism. That he (or any of us) is even able to write is again, another advancement that can be credited to liberalism.

Of course we could return to the pre-Enlightenment utopia of Judeo-Christian ‘humanism.’ Those were the days of burning uppity women at the stake, the Divine Right of Kings to rule, slavery and torture. Liberal progress towards universal health care, education and suffrage came later.

The passing of the Marriage Equality Referendum was not a victory for the LGBT Community or unsupported feelings. It was more a realisation that our enmity towards that community was based on ideas not backed by facts. It was an enmity that was illogical. It was nothing more than a prejudice, maintained by emotion and tradition.

Yes, liberalism is messy. It lacks a holy book of instruction. And it has a lot of blood on its hands. Some of that blood being members of the LGBT Community.

But it is an ideology that learns. Slowly, often painfully slowly, but it does, by freeing the individual, encourage and promote progress. Though the greatest strength of liberalism, is that beyond a firm belief in personal freedom, you can’t get two liberals to agree on anything. That’s probably why conservatives, Roman Catholics and Marxists hate it so much. It is a very human idealism.

Kerryman 19-06-15

 
 
 
 
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