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Waters' sobering dig at our drink culture

ON Tuesday's 'Newstalk Breakfast' Alan Flanagan, from LGBT Noise, made a coherent case for allowing same sex marriage, the gist of his argument being that there is no good reason not to. He pointed out that studies about child rearing suggest gay parents are as competent as straight parents, that gay relationships are no different from straight relationships and that most people surveyed would happily see their gay friends and relatives marry.

However, on its own, Alan's argument might have been too reasonable, so commentator Susan Philips was brought in to argue for calling farmyard animals by their correct names. It was an idiosyncratic approach to the debate. She disagreed passionately with people "saying a sheep is a goat" and later lamented a scenario in which "my sheep is suddenly called a cow and my cow is called a sheep because it's got four legs and gives milk".


At this point, it seemed everything could be quickly resolved by Susan agreeing to same sex marriage and Alan Flanagan agreeing not to misname her animals. But over the course of the debate Susan dropped a bombshell -- she owned the word 'marriage'. It was, she said, "my word".

"It's not your word!" said Alan Flanagan, slightly taken aback.

"It is my word," said Susan.

"You do not personally own the word 'marriage'," said Alan, sounding exasperated.

However, as a formerly married woman, Susan apparently did own the word 'marriage' and for other people to use it, she said, was "discriminating" against her. Now, this might seem like political correctness gone mad, but copyright is a complicated issue and if Susan does indeed own the word, she can do with it what she will.

She even went on to suggest she had no problem with gay people marrying as long as they called it something else ('hens' probably), because if they called it marriage this would devalue the divorce-prone marriages of straight people.

Anyway, Alan disagreed with Susan's point because... well, because it was stupid and selfish. And if you think I'm being harsh -- I actually own the words 'stupid' and "selfish" and can use them however I wish.

I think the increasing rights of gay people indicate a society that is, in many ways, getting better. Others believe things are just getting worse and worse. Indeed, John Waters was on The Right Hook again this week to rail at modern Ireland as Statler to George Hook's Waldorf. I sharpened my pencil with glee as they discussed the ejection of drunken Irish fans from the New Zealand rugby match.


And yet... John Waters' attack on Ireland's thoughtless, passionless drink culture was actually eloquent, powerful and sobering. "I would say that the pub in Irish life has been far more reactionary than anything in the Catholic Church, anything in Fianna Fail, anything in the GAA, anything in country and western music," he said.

"The pub has been the most reactionary force in Irish life. It has done more to hold us back individually and collectively than anything else. Because it keeps us stupid. It keeps us locked. It stops us from expressing our inner creativity. It stops us engaging with reality as it really is."

This week's Curious Ear was a movingly realist Father's Day special compiled from older interviews. Two people spoke about their deceased fathers and a third interacted with a parent who barely recalled who she was.

That one of these people was Bono was almost beside the point, but the epiphany he had while watching his father die is worth repeating. "The two most important events of your life, being born and dying, are very messy," he said. "I suppose that was the insight. Dignity is maybe a human construct. It's a bit like cool. It might be vain ... Maybe humility is the eye of the needle that we all have to pass through."