Sep 10th, 2007 by Donagh
Reading the writings of reactionary columnists is habit forming. In fact, its highly addictive. When you think about your dirty little habit you hate yourself, but you can’t help the sick pleasure it gives. The shitty need is too deep in your bones and finally you have to admit that you’re an addict.
So, with fingers shaking, you pick up the Irish Times of a Monday and read John Waters’ column (sub req). Once his crap enters your brain you can relax, knowing that its going to be bad, very bad, which is just what you need, right?
John Waters is talking about suicide again and this time its very bad indeed. Time (or impatience) does not allow me to go on at great length about how bad, and even down right dangerous the article is. I had thought about delving in to dismember it, but WorldbyStorm has done this already (and much better than I could), when Waters tried to write on the subject in a previous column back in August.
Waters’ argument can be drawn up thus: Western (and more specifically Irish) society is abandoning its core religious values in favour of more sexy secular ones. This jettisoning leads to the elimination of the eternal belief that God created everything, which leads inevitably to nihilism, as the ‘dominant culture’ forces people to see themselves merely as blimps on ‘the radar of time’ who will soon ‘be gone without trace’. This is what is making more people suicidal. However, its more of a male problem than a female one:
“Men feel this more acutely because women have a natural working hypothesis of their existences that men, for ideological reasons, are no longer permitted. Women bear children. Men donate sperm and then turn around to a culture intent upon questioning their humanity in every conceivable way.”
In general, Waters is not worth arguing with. But his use of suicide to make his case that ‘Ireland is going to hell in a doily lined handbasket’ is actually offensive. It’s insensitive to those who suffer from depression, a condition he doesn’t even attempt to respond to intelligently, and with his agenda driven drivel, hurtful to the families and friends of those who have fallen victim to suicide.
Or am I being too oversensitive? How can his arguments be offensive if he’s not taken that seriously? Am I giving Waters too much credit? Perhaps he is just there, plugging away at our need for spiritual values, to ‘balance out’ the thoroughly fashionable liberal opinion of the typical Irish Times reader? A release valve of sorts, to help ease the pressure on an older generation during a period of rapid change? But if that is the case, why was he trotted out on the Late Late Show in the run up to the election to offer his opinion? It was almost as if he had a sign ‘Leading Irish Thinker’ hanging around his neck.
However, there is one aspect of today’s column that I think is worth mentioning. The last time Waters decided to write on the topic of depression he felt he needed a ‘scientific’ authority to back up his argument, you know someone with Dr. in front of their name. The last time it was Dr. Theodore Dalrymple, someone who had worked ‘as psychiatrist in British prisons and mental institutions’. It also turns out that Dalrymple, aka Anthony Daniels is a reactionary columnist himself, having written many times on a similar subject for the Spectator.
As Crocodile puts it in one of the comments added to WbS’ article:
“[Dalrymple] weekly message was that the underclass among whom he worked had abdicated all responsibility for its own actions. Every prisoner claimed to be innocent because the culture of victimhood was so deep-seated that there was no room for guilt or even self-examination Their crimes had no motives because they were simply fulfilling their needs for drink, drugs etc - needs that ’society’ had created and, incomprehensibly, required them to work to satisfy. To ascribe ‘motives’ would be to credit them with too great a degree of free will. Of course all this is deeply reactionary and indicates a fairly bleak, Hobbesian view of human nature.”
So now Water is at it again, except this time he looked no further than the letters page of the Irish Times. Waters says:
“It was liberating, then, to read on last Tuesday’s letters page the succinct and cogent analysis of Dr Desmond Fennell. The increase in Irish suicide statistics since the 1960s, he argued, has to do not with mental illness but with “a steep increase in the perception of life as senseless”. In the past half-century, we have jettisoned the time-tested framework of sense, based on the principles of Western civilisation, which previously provided a reasonable basis for human life. “The new collection of rules”, Dr Fennell wrote, “thrown together pell-mell and containing many contradictions, does not make sense. As such, it offends the deep human need for a life-framework that does this. So consciousness of this presented, senseless life offends, and a sane desire arises to annihilate consciousness of it”.”
In the interests of thorougness I’ve read this paragraph a few times and I still can’t make any sense of it. Maybe, as a kind of self protective reflex I don’t want to. However, the sentence “The increase in Irish suicide statistics since the 1960s…has to do not with mental illness but with a steep increase in the perception of life as senseless” stood out as being particularly bananas and that need kicked in again.
So I went back to the original letter to get a pure undiluted hit, whereupon I found this:
“Sensitive young people are particularly attentive to the framework of rules presented to them. Little wonder, then, that many of them, over the past half-century, have practised various methods of annihilating consciousness temporarily - through drugs or drunkenness or reckless sex, through motorised speed or disco dancing or mass raves or rock concerts, or by means of personal stereos plugging ears and removing minds. And increasing numbers of them have opted for annihilating consciousness permanently.”
If you’re an addict of this stuff, the full letter is the equivalent of freebasing crack cocaine. Its so pure that it forces the veins in your temple to throb as you read.
But the good (non medical) doctor knows how to get the non-addict hooked. Give them a free taster, and then lead them to the good stuff. At the end of the letter Desmond Fennell says:
“In the current issue of the magazine Ireland’s Eye, I have dealt with this matter more amply.”
Excuse me, I think I need to take a shower.