Is this an open letter to Oliver Callan? Maybe.
Chances are you awoke on Wednesday 5th of October to the chimes of another opinion piece on the ongoing Repeal the 8th campaign. This time it’s the turn of Oliver Callan to introduce some middle ground fence sitting to make many feel better about having their heads firmly buried in the sand – at least for the moment. If you have not read the piece, I can give you a brief synopsis. It begins with a catchy sneering kind of intro, “Is there any way of aborting the abortion campaign?” and flows into a pontificational rant on the virtues of campaigning and how to not ram an issue down his throat – one which he says himself “almost completely concerns women.” It goes on and on. A lament against having being forced to serve some rational thought on an issue which, I am sorry to say, may certainly concern someone he knows, a neighbour, a colleague, their children into the future – or your own, perhaps.
You can read the piece here, if you wish http://www.thesun.ie/irishsol/homepage/irishcolumnists/7244207/Oliver-Callan-Its-time-to-Repeal-the-Hate-from-the-abortion-debate.html
Callan ignores the bills on fatal foetal abnormality which were defeated in the Dail arguing that actually Repeal the 8th have no idea what to replace it with. He suggests that, since he is a man, and sees this as a women’s issue it therefore has nothing to do with him. He ignores the fact that some women might need an abortion, and, actually, I doubt many women actually “want” an abortion Oliver. What if this person is someone he knows closely – is it still none of his business then? Though my own response is not to support or prop up any argument either side of the debate, and it may read as much, but it’s about something more than that. Oliver’s piece stinks of the kind of “bury my head in the sand and come up for oxygen when someone has answers for me” that is endemic in Irish referenda.
Callan ignores that he has a right to vote in this referendum – regardless of whether he likes it or not. Whether he sees it as an issue for people with wombs or not. Oliver, you have a right to vote in this referendum which means you have a duty to seek out the information you need to come to a reasoned conclusion – if thats not too much bother to you, after all it’s just an issue for people with wombs. It seems like on this duty to consider the points of the arguments, to seek out information, to not be spooned arguments (after all, he seems unhappy with the kind of spoon-feeding he is receiving currently) rather than bury his head in the sand does not apply to him. On the final day will Oliver say, “I never had enough information to make a decision, it is not an issue that concerns me, and therefore I will not vote”?
Because that to me seems endemic of an Irish attitude: to be spoon-fed, to sit on a fence, to mind your own business, to bury your head in the sand (regardless of whatever side you are on). It signals an ignorance and inability to consider arguments for yourself. Ignorance is defined as lacking knowledge or awareness, confronting a problem with a shoulder shrug and passing the buck to others to teach you. It reminds me of kids who have no knowledge of their subject due to a bad teacher, yet ignore the plethora or study aids on the internet and elsewhere. I find it rather peculiar and strange that people like Oliver Callan, who sit on fences judging till the final minute, demanding to be spoon-fed arguments day in day out, in a respectful and dignified way refuse to consider their duty to become informed – after all you do have a right to vote and a duty to be informed. Has Oliver contacted either campaign for literature on their stances? Has he even spoken to a pro-choice or pro-life campaigner? I mean the kind of talking to that challenges your opinion, that forces you to rationalise your own thoughts and present them in a meaningful and coherent argument? I doubt it.
Oliver, you don’t have to listen to “irritating” Katherine Zappone, or engage in a forced visit to Colm O’Gorman in his wigwam and share his muesli paradise – there is plenty of ways to become informed about a debate other than being spoon-fed information and spit it out when it is distasteful. But actually I agree with you on one thing Oliver. This does feel like a replica of the marriage equality movement and referendum. Remember the Marriage Equality referendum? I remember being told to shut up, to put forward a good argument and when I do then “we can talk about it”. I remember being told that it was “none of my business” by a man who chose to ignore the fact that he had LGBT* relatives.
Throw away your spoon Oliver and come off the fence, and whatever side you do fall down on, I hope you can argue your way to hell and back for the side you chose.