One of the most dispiriting aspects I find of public debate is the use of proxy arguments. Those with the most vested of interests resort too regularly to such polemic.
To justify something that impacts you, which you don’t like and you don’t want to see happen, you shun arguments that relate to you lest you come across as the selfish actor you are.
Arguments become more convincing, it is believed, when they are applied to the disadvantaged, the put upon or the neglected.
Shamelessly done, white, middle aged middle class men become most comfortable in claiming to be protecting the interests of others, when it is the status quo they really want to protect.
Any group will do. Older people, children, people with disabilities, even cuddly animals are not immune from this abuse. It can be defensive as in “hit me now with a child in my arms”. More likely it’s about creating a fear than will discourage change and allow for business as usual.
I fear that as we distance ourselves from COVID this type of behaviour might become more pervasive again.
The only bright spot that living through a pandemic has provided us has been the opportunity of thinking how things could be different, and we might be able to bring such change about.
Life has we had lived it suited some people just fine. It may have been unbalanced, unequal and unfair, but life has been peachy for the I’m All Right Jacks.
Prepare to hear plenty of appeals on behalf of the less fortunate made by the most fortunate. The problem is that recent history has shown us that this works. It brought us Trump. It created and sustained Brexit.
How can it be countered? It would be better if we questioned those argument makers as to what are their motivations. What are their vested interests?
Of course it is in failing, by us all, to safeguard minorities and the unprotected that provides oxygen to these arguments. That deepens the disrespect allowing those who don’t give a damn appear as if they do.
It allows for the creation of alternative villains to play to the myths created. Thus the threat to pedestrians are not most posed by one and half tonne machines travelling many times faster than walkers, it is from those rampaging cyclists dressed in lycra – a velopedian Ku Klux Klan.
In this context everything that is said should be taken to mean the opposite. Will someone please think of the children should be more properly read don’t you realise how this affects me.
When the false enemy doesn’t prove effective, watch out for the evil twins of exaggeration and diminution. Thus little Ireland can do little about climate change and if we did it would send us back to the Stone Age.
When distortion doesn’t work the final card in the deck of mishappenchance is that of denial. Having created uncertainty and distrust and when ignoring those identified as the enemy doesn’t work, denying anything they say as being approximate to the truth might work.
Sadly it usually does. Truth becomes the Mandy Rice-Davies dictum of ‘They would say that wouldn’t they’. It Isn’t the news that is fake, it’s the way we choose to tell it.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle