“Wittgenstein realised [that] no conclusion could be more horrible than solipsism.” – David Foster Wallace.
Complacent solipsism is becoming the defining characteristic of the 21C. Kathy Sheridan in The Irish Times picks up the baton after columnist Niamh Walsh lammed into three female FF parliamentarians, simply for how they looked:
The point-and-laugh piece included tired old tropes such as outrage/hilarity at false tans, hairstyles, outfits, shoe-shapes and to avoid the woman-bashing rap, a mention of male bellies and boring blue suits.
One of the women, Senator Erin McGreehan, then went public with her personal response. Writes Sheridan…
That took gumption in view of the expectation that politicians will suck it up because we all know they have the skin of a rhinoceros – all of them – and they put themselves out there after all, airing their views, making screamingly public mistakes, debating and contributing to public policy and getting money in return for it and so deserve anything that’s coming to them.
Did Mo Mowlam care about the personal abuse? She once said in response that she was “bad at colours” and disliked shopping to the point that she asked her security people to help her choose clothes – “but I don’t like looking a mess because I represent people and therefore I should look as smart as is possible”. So yes, even Mo Mowlam cared.
And she finishes on the vital point, imho…
There’s a reason why we don’t zero in on people’s appearance and it’s not down to shruggy fearlessness. Erin McGreehan makes the point that if we want politicians to be empathetic and to be human, the worst thing we can do is to desensitise them.
We will also deprive ourselves of good people in public roles. One way or another, it will come back to bite us if only because in 20 years’ time that piece will still be there for all to see. [Emphasis added.]
It does take gumption to stand up to this class of infinite jesting at the expense of others, but also courage to stand up for the freedom and the right to be human… Without it, we will lose the wood in the trees.
“If we go into the pain we will come out of it with others. It we mask it we will continue revolving on our existential carousel, ever jesting, perhaps forever.” – Jessica Manuel
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty