Sunday 4 December 2016

Waters has the right to be offensive

The under-fire journalist exists somewhere between extreme intellectual rigour and deep Catholicism, writes Brendan O'Connor

Published 20/04/2014 | 02:30

PHILOSOPHER FOR OUR TIME: John Waters is a guy who wasn’t too highbrow to write songs for Crystal Swing, a guy who didn’t lose touch with the soil of rural Ireland even as he became steadily more intellectual and abstract.
PHILOSOPHER FOR OUR TIME: John Waters is a guy who wasn’t too highbrow to write songs for Crystal Swing, a guy who didn’t lose touch with the soil of rural Ireland even as he became steadily more intellectual and abstract.

I never thought I'd find myself feeling sorry for John Waters. But life is funny like that, isn't it? I read John's interview with Niamh Horan in this paper last Sunday and watched his agitated encounter with her on Independent.ie with a certain amount of dismay. Here was a guy I used to respect, and used to defend to people around town, a guy I used to love having on the Saturday Night Show because he would talk intelligently about things that other people couldn't or wouldn't talk about, like faith, and the meanings of things. Here was a guy who wasn't too highbrow to write songs for Crystal Swing; a guy who didn't lose touch with the soil of rural Ireland even as he became steadily more intellectual and abstract. Here was a philosopher for our time. But last week I found him angry, defensive, histrionic, seeming to lack self-awareness, and moreover spouting opinions I found fairly offensive.

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I suspect if I were gay I would have found the things John Waters said about homosexuality, buggery and "the gay agenda" quite offensive. I certainly found his denunciation of depressives pretty offensive. The notion of depression as a cop-out and bullshit, as something that doesn't exist, is deeply offensive and daft. For me, it carries a suggestion that people who are clinically depressed are just copping out of life, making up a convenient excuse not to pull themselves together.

As it happens, I do think the word depression is overused these days. Sometimes it seems as if anyone, especially celebrities, who feels a bit down over anything now claims to be depressed. And I do think this overuse of the word does a disservice to people who are genuinely ill with depression.

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