From top: Margaret Cash and her children (from left) Johnny, Miley, Jim, Rocky, Andy and Tommy; Anne Marie McNally
I’ve been trying to stay offline as much as possible over August. Mostly off twitter to be honest because politics is one of those jobs that it’s hard to actually take a break from.
News doesn’t stop and for those of us who generally love the cut and thrust of the job; it’s difficult to switch off entirely – it only takes one tweet or a news headline to suck you back into feeling like you ‘should’ get involved.
I was reading a piece the other day about Swedish work practises and how employers insist on you taking three consecutive weeks during the summer in order to maintain a healthy work/life balance. It makes sense.
This year more than others I’ve really tried to keep these few August weeks sacrosanct. It’s been a tough year with plenty of stress and the usual round of 10-12 hour working days being the norm and so the break is not only advised, it’s required.
However, with all the best intentions in the world, it’s been difficult for me to ignore some of the major issues arising not least the Summerhill occupation and the case of the homeless family in Tallaght Garda station.
For my mental well being I’ve tried to stay away, as much as possible, from the sick blame game that has played out across social media – and in some cases mainstream media – but it has become harder and harder to ignore. I’ve seen people I respect say silly things and make judgements that are ill-advised.
In a conversation with trusted friends the other night we spoke about the judgements that every single one of us make on a daily basis. It is normal and it is human nature.
What is dangerous however is to rush to those judgements and not question the basis or the legitimacy of those judgements.
Many online went went with the bigoted ‘ah…traveller’ narrative yet how many of you in the past have openly questioned why women allow themselves and their children to be subjected to some of the mysogonistic and abusive elements unfortunately prevalent in much of traveller culture.
Did it cross your mind that maybe this woman had made the difficult decision to escape from that?
She had been living settled in private rented accommodation prior to it being repossessed and her made homeless so clearly she was trying to live a settled life. Either way, did you question the basis of your ‘ah…traveller’ judgement?
Then came the ‘breeding responsibility’ types. To those I’d point out,he sorry state of sex education in this country.
However, even ignoring whether or not the woman wilfully chose or not to have her children, it’s worth remembering that it’ pretty much only our parents and in some cases grandparents generations who were mostly brought up in one or two bed flats of corporation houses, oftentimes in families of multiple children – up to 20 in some cases I’m personally familiar with, was it ideal? Of course not, did most of those people go onto become productive members of society? Absolutely.
I’m not naïve, nor am I a saint. I make and made judgements but I challenge myself on those judgements and I challenge others on theirs.
This woman’s unfortunate case is just the example for this piece but the concept is broader. It’s always so easy to look in at a situation from the outside and view it through the prism of your own privilege or lack thereof, but it’s always worth reminding yourself that things are never as straightforward as they seem.
And while some of the judgements we all make on a daily basis about others may be valid; are they really necessary? I think the woman at the centre of this case summed things up pretty well when she said “all these people are saying I should be ashamed of myself, but I already am ashamed.”
Who does it benefit for you to pour your scorn into a tweet or a comment section? Yourself? Really?
Does spewing hateful stuff about a stranger make you feel better? If it does you need to look long and hard at yourself.
Does it help the woman or her children? No, it further adds to an alienation from society that is already well underway.
And unless we arrest that alienation and turn judgement into positive action, those children today will be adults of the future about which another headline is almost inevitable. We cannot continue to demonise children and expect angels to emerge into adulthood.
Pic: Colin O’Riordan/ Inner City Helping Homeless