Tuesday 12 December 2017

Article vs Speech Part 1

We live in an era of unprecedented freedom - 'Mary Murphy'. Photo: Getty Images.
We live in an era of unprecedented freedom - 'Mary Murphy'. Photo: Getty Images.

Evelyn O'Connor

It can be difficult to wrap your head around the difference between writing an article for publication and writing a speech to be delivered to a live audience. In order to help you to grasp the difference, I've taken the same topic, used the same structure and made the same points, but one is an opinion piece for publication in a newspaper and the other is a speech.

 Read them both and then play SPOT THE DIFFERENCE.


Mary Murphy*

Mary Murphy is a lawyer, a journalist and a human rights activist. She blogs at www.freedomfightersireland.ie or you can find her on facebook/freedomfightersireland or twitter @marymurphyindo

(*Mary Murphy is an entirely fictional character)We live in an era of unprecedented individual freedom. Unhappy with your parents? Divorce them. With your gender? Change it. With your life? End it.

The question begs to be asked, however: is unlimited personal freedom a good thing for society? The answer, resolutely, is no. We are too eager to glorify people's right to choose, too willing to ignore the reality that many people's choices are often limited or foolish or self-destructive. In the very worst cases, they are sometimes all three. So, despite my fond notion that I am free to do what I want, in reality I know that my freedom is in many ways a construct of a good education and a well-paid job. Without these two pillars of security in my life, my 'choices' might look very different indeed.

Let's consider, for example, the idea "it's my body and I should be allowed to do what I want with it". At the simpler end of the spectrum, I can decide to shave my hair off for charity. I won't really be hurting anyone – or myself – because the hair will grow back. Slightly more complex might be my decision to donate a kidney to a family member or friend. I get the warm fuzzy glow of saving a life, and, hey, it turns out most people can survive perfectly fine with just one kidney! So, even though it won't grow back the way my hair did, who cares? Perhaps I could use my body as an incubator, could carry a baby for my fertility-challenged sister, or for my gay brother and his partner? There is no greater gift on earth than to give someone who would otherwise be childless the opportunity to experience the joys of parenthood.

So, the freedom to do what I want with my body is a good thing, right?

Well, only if I remain resolutely blind to the selfless utopian bubble I've created above, where motives are always pure and bodies and minds remain unharmed by the choices we make. This is simply not true. Many people sacrifice parts of themselves they would much rather keep sacred, through economic necessity. To really understand a person's level of individual freedom, what matters is not so much what we do but rather why we do it.

Hair these days is big business. If I've got long locks, I can sell my ponytail for about €100. If my hair is blond, the rarest shade, I'll get closer to €1,000 for it. The hair extensions industry in Ireland alone is estimated by Hallinan Beauty Group to be worth about €2.5 million and significantly the vast majority of it is imported from abroad. But where does this hair come from? In most cases, it's shave or die of the worst kind, where women in India, China and Eastern Europe sell their hair to stave off hunger and poverty or to pay for a better education for their children. In a world where long hair is still the benchmark of female beauty, this isn't about personal freedom, this is about lack of options, lack of money, lack of choice. Or to be more precise, so that women in the developed world can feel beautiful, can have the 'free choice' to wear

someone else's hair and pass it off as their own, women in the developing world are making the not-so-free decision to value food, shelter and education over their own 'beauty'. They are every bit as selfless as the wealthy Westerner who shaves their hair off for charity but they are entitled to feel bitter that extreme poverty makes this not a choice but a necessity.

The freedom to do what I want with my internal organs is even more fraught with difficulties. Of course I can – and should – carry an organ donation card with me. If I die before my time, I might as well give my body parts to someone who can use them. But what about auctioning off my organs to the highest bidder whilst I'm still alive?

Again, the issue of poverty, necessity and sometimes just plain old stupidity and greed raises its head, as a recent case in China illustrates, where a 17-year-old teen secretly sold a kidney for €3,500 before admitting to what he had done when his mother questioned how he could suddenly afford to buy a laptop, iPad and iPhone. His actions were not just a case of consumerism gone mad but were also unwittingly self-destructive, as his remaining kidney was subsequently revealed to have limited function. Ironically, he now finds himself on the organ donor waiting list alongside 1.5 million others, the organ shortage in China fuelling the very black market trade to which this boy fell victim to. Yes, he made a free choice, but one he will undoubtedly regret for the rest of his life. What all of this reveals is that sometimes limiting people's freedom is necessary in order to protect them from their own profound stupidity.

Nonetheless, there remain many miraculous things we can do with our bodies. Using them to create life is perhaps the greatest ability we have as human beings. We view the right to procreate as to be so fundamental that we are overwhelmed with sympathy for couples who are unable to conceive. Hence, many of us have no problem with the concept of surrogacy if the aim is to offer a childless couple the miracle of parenthood. However, once money enters the frame we become decidedly more squeamish. Is my body a commodity to be bought and sold? When I list my assets on my tax return, should I include my fully functioning womb? I can rent it out for maybe €15,000 per pregnancy. Heck, that's more money than I'd get on the dole! Yet the emotional, psychological and ethical fallout from surrogacy can be horrendous.

What if, as happened in a recent case in the US, the baby has foetal abnormalities? Can the surrogate be forced to abort the baby if the genetic parents decide they only want a 'healthy' child? If the surrogate falls ill, can she be forced to continue with the pregnancy against her will? Even if we put these relatively rare scenarios aside for a moment, the inconvenient truth is that most commercial surrogacy arrangements take place in poor countries where there is little regulation, countries like Thailand, Uganda and the Ukraine. Baby factories have sprung up all over India where the industry is worth $2bn and where estimates suggest 25,000 babies a year are born to surrogates. Many women are ashamed of their decision, hiding it from their existing children and in-laws but are lured in by the monetary reward which will give them a roof over their head or pay for an existing child's education. It also carries less of a stigma than prostitution.

However, despite the illusion that it is safer, many surrogates are risking their lives. Maternal mortality remains high in India, with 56,000 women dying during pregnancy or childbirth. Yet these women are being exploited, receiving only 10pc of the amount being paid by commissioning couples and signing contracts waiving their right to health care in the case of miscarriage or complications after the birth.

We still live in a world where "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others". So, the next time you hear the defence "it's my body and I'll do what I want with it", spare a thought for those who use their bodies for profit because they are the only item of value they possess.

*NOTE: some of the statistics I included I simply made up. Real journalists obviously can't do this, but as a student in an exam without access to Google, you've got no choice. You'll have to make things up. You may also decide to exaggerate for dramatic effect. For example, the story about the 17-year-old selling his kidney is true, but I invented the subsequent kidney failure to add dramatic irony to the situation.

Writing an article:

Here is the process I went through to create this opinion piece.


1. Choose a topic

2. Brainstorm ideas

3. Decide which side of the argument to support – this is an opinion piece so you cannot sit on the fence, you must decide what your personal viewpoint is and argue it vehemently.

Writing –a step by step guide


BYLINE – bio / blog / facebook / twitter

INTRODUCE AN IDEA – Statement followed by 3 examples which prove the statement.

PARAGRAPH 1 – establish your opinion and briefly outline why you feel the way you do.

PARAGRAPH 2 – now outline the reasons why people might hold a viewpoint different to your own. Give three examples, linked to the three ideas you intend to discuss in detail later in your article. (This is the 'things people say' part of your article).

PARAGRAPH 3 – explain in a general way why these examples don't tell the whole truth, or seem to ignore certain important facts.

PARAGRAPH 4 – establish why example 1 isn't giving the full picture (refute counter arguments).

PARAGRAPH 5 – establish why example 2 isn't giving the full picture (refute counter arguments).

PARAGRAPH 6 – establish why example 3 isn't giving the full picture (refute counter arguments).

CONCLUSION – return to the original idea from the start of the article and remind us why those who believe it are wrong.

REMEMBER: include facts & statistics, rhetorical questions, specific examples (with name, age, nationality and details of their 'story' that was in the news), contrast, repetition of a key phrase and so on.

Irish Independent Supplement

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