Saturday 14 December 2019

Let's make sure we know how to vote, not just for whom

Voters must be informed about not only the many candidates, but the voting system itself
Voters must be informed about not only the many candidates, but the voting system itself

* The local and European elections are now just a fortnight away and there will be wall-to-wall coverage on the candidates and likely winners and losers. What won't be covered is the electoral system itself, because apparently the body politic assumes that voters know how to vote despite nobody telling them.

Ireland is almost unique in having PR-STV (proportional representation, single transferable vote), but when was the last time you saw an information advert or received a booklet in the letterbox explaining it? We have public relations campaigns on road safety, smoking, mental health, and so on, but no PR about PR (excuse the pun).

How many readers know the answers to the following questions? What does 1, 2, 3 mean? Is there tactical voting and how can it be done? Why are candidates disappointed when voters say they will "give them a vote"? Why are candidates terrified of journalists saying that their seat is safe? Is it alright to give a protest candidate your number one, and your preferred candidate a number two? Why are there multiple counts? Are transfers important, and are transfers from eliminated candidates better than from elected candidates? Do foreign voters know that, unlike in their home country, you don't place an X beside the party or candidate of your choice, but write 1, 2, 3 and so on in order of your choice?

Since we don't have an electoral commission to educate the public, perhaps the media could explain how PR-STV works?





* Colm O Torna accuses me of having a "blind spot" regarding the existence of a merciful God. I keep an open mind and consider any evidence or arguments presented to me. All I ask is that the faithful do the same.

It is the faithful, who seem to have very clear ideas about God, that have the blind spot. Surely, in any debate about the existence of something, the onus of proof rests on those alleging the existence of the thing – in this case a theistic, personal, all-powerful, all-benevolent God (it is, after all, difficult if not impossible to prove a negative, eg that something doesn't exist). The evidence points against the existence of a theistic, personal, all-powerful, all-benevolent God, but faith covers the blind spot when it comes to the evidence.

Colm blames "nature" for "horrific injuries" suffered by people. The God of the Bible (both the Old and New Testaments) can and does control nature. Moving on from that minor detail, I quote Epicurus:

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

"Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

"Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

"Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"

It may provide solace and strength to believers to think that they are part of 'our Creator's family', but the rest of us, on behalf of the thousands of children who die in the world every day (among others), question what kind of family this could be. A very dysfunctional one, I would submit. And paradise awaits, but for whom, and on what grounds? One institution's rules? What about hell (which is still mentioned on the Vatican's website), and for whom and on what grounds?

These concepts have terrified generations unnecessarily. Luckily, there is not a shred of evidence that hell exists. Why the silence on these matters from the church these days? You'd swear people were copping on.

Colm mentions Nazism and contends that it was anti-religious. The Wehrmacht Oath of Loyalty to Adolf Hitler was an oath sworn "by God". Wehrmacht soldiers carried the slogan 'Gott mit uns' ('God with us') on their belt buckles. In Chapter 2 of 'Mein Kampf', Hitler says "By fighting off the Jews, I am doing the Lord's work" – and his truly awful book is littered with references to God, the Almighty, the Lord and heaven.

Colm mentions Auschwitz. There is no evidence that hell exists, but Auschwitz certainly did exist. I have been there twice. When I was there, I could not help thinking, "Where was God?"

The gods many of your letter-writers speak of vary from the theistic to the deistic to the pantheistic. Whatever about deism or pantheism, I have not heard a single persuasive argument to support the premise of the existence of a theistic, personal, all-powerful, all-benevolent God. The God of the Bible is certainly not all-benevolent – the injunction to Abraham to sacrifice his son to prove his devotion, or the injunction to Saul to massacre the Amalekites ("Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants") being just two examples.

If there is an all-powerful and all-benevolent God outside of the Bible, he is at the very least guilty of gross negligence.





* It is a measure of the generosity of the American people that they are always prepared to lend their power to right a wrong and aid the helpless. Those who kidnapped schoolchildren in Northern Nigeria, and who now taunt the world with their obscene plans, are deserving of immediate retaliation. The children must be rescued and justice must be done.

I'm not sure that the 6th Cavalry with all its power and publicity is the best choice for this operation. They will be venturing into unknown and difficult terrain against indigenous guerrillas who have the best bargaining tool in the world: helpless children.

I think there might be a better way. Can anybody spell Mossad?





* Seeing the result of the Eurovision semi-final on Thursday reminded me of how, last May, I felt compelled to write the following to your Letters page, which you were kind enough to print: "'The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.' Albert Einstein. Has anybody in RTE considered applying this wisdom to its continuing involvement in Eurovision?"

It would appear that my rhetorical question received a negative response.





* It wasn't all over for us . . . until the bearded lady sang.





* It is hard to believe that the Vatican has decided to wheel out "the devil" as their saviour once again.

It would appear that demonic possession manifests itself (among other things) by "babbling in foreign languages" – is this a reference to Russian oligarchs, or, bless my soul, President Vlad himself? Or maybe those who utter business-speak, or equally meaningless jargon in politics or any other profession you care to mention?

I cannot help but think that all those jobs becoming available for "exorcists" must be sorely tempting for all those devil advocates who have been previously defrocked and are now wandering around looking for new employment opportunities.

The truth is out there, but it won't be found in the halls of the Curia.



Irish Independent

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