‘I’m a believer of free speech.’ ‘I don’t judge.’ ‘People should be allowed to express their opinions freely...’ This is the current soundtrack to today’s society. It’s quite a beautiful tune if truth be told. Why wouldn’t one love to shuffle day to day through our sometimes monotonous tasks, through our rat-race paced city to this sympathetic and tolerant atmosphere? Do we not all have enough dilemmas, doubts and disputes without the addition of the judgmental, the joyless and the jaded?
No one needs an oppressive audience. However, there’s no point in enjoying a melody when the backing instruments are off. From the phrases heard in the pop cultural hub of Trinity’s courtyards to the new and fashionable philosophy of Dublin’s suburbia, to be thought as ‘liberal’ has become a most desirable label.
Being a politics buff and interested in current affairs in general, I have often pondered exactly what being a liberal means. It sounds like a very attractive and somewhat boho kind of concept. Who wouldn’t like to sit back at a dinner party in thirty years time, casually sipping Chianti exuding an artsy, devil-may-care aura and say with dramatic conviction, ‘I was a liberal at Uni and I’m a liberal now.’
I want to be thought of as open-minded. I want to be known as understanding, ￼accepting, and a beacon of our new trailblazing society. When we hear the word ‘equality’ or ‘tolerance’ we think of those who fan-girl over the people’s entitlement to same-sex marriage, abortion rights and religious, racial and gender equality. We think of these passionate people ( and we all know at least one) as our cultural forerunners, our pioneers. Are they?
To come back down to Earth for a moment, it must be said that not everyone possesses the intellectual scope to enjoy the sermon of one of our sophisticated, well-travelled and over-zealous lecturers (yours truly included). So, if one became bored and were to look up the definition of ‘liberal’ on Wiktionary whilst skimming between Facebook group chats, one would find it to mean, ‘concerned with broadening a person’s general knowledge and experience.’ A more concise definition actually says, ‘willingness to respect or accept behaviour different to one’s own.’
Is this truly so with our brave trendsetters? Is it only those who are part of the LGBT community, feminists, and the socially wronged that obtain our acceptance? Might we have neglected to acknowledge those we consider normal? Whether weird, wonderful or painstakingly ordinary, most of us were gifted with the ability to form opinions. However, lately, I find that the fluidity of liberalism has lost its fluid.
Those who consider themselves as liberal are in fact just another ￼side of social culture that doesn’t branch out to all the nooks and crannies as implied. It has almost become a contest of who can be the first at modernity’s frontier...but have we forgotten about acceptance in our race to impress? If we roll back to March and April of 2015, Ireland was on the cusp of the decision on the same-sex marriage referendum.
There was much tension between the two sides of the campaign if the debates on the Late Late Show and Prime Time were anything to go by. However, the spokespersons for each side had conducted their arguments with good grace and well-articulated points. The effects of this debate, on the other hand, had a vicious backlash amongst the Irish public.
‘No’ faction activists were daubed as ‘homophobic bigots’, ‘haters’ and pelted with eggs during their marches.
A group of the Irish public who had intended to vote ‘no’ were, according to an investigation by the Garda Representative Association, intimidated to do so for fear of losing their jobs. Marian Keyes, the best-selling Irish author, also hastily deleted her biting tweet directed at Anti same-sex marriage voters and the Roscommon region.
‘Tip?! I’ll give you a tip! Move to Roscommon/South Leitrim and pal around with your own kind! #OfHateFilledBigots.’
Does this smack of the equality people voted for? The same kind of attitude is replicated today with new socio-political issues such as the up and coming Irish campaign to repeal the eighth amendment, gender equality, and different political beliefs.
A certain trend of what I like to call ‘R.C Reproach’ also seems to have taken off among Irish young people due to recent and current tangles between the Church and politics. Being made ashamed or embarrassed of one’s religion is commonplace for some.
Nobody wants a Jesus-freak holding back their vote and as a result, religious freedom is put in jeopardy. The Catch-22 is that Catholicism can affect the opinions of a traditional faction and this, in turn, affects our politics which is, admittedly, unfair. However, despite Ireland still being classified as a Catholic state in 2016, opinions affected by religion are often dismissed and ridiculed. Is this also unfair?
Universities are hubs of controversy but should not be havens for shaming the truly diverse as opposed to the fashionably diverse. Those with an opposing opinion to a new cause should not be branded as ‘old-fashioned,’ or ‘misinformed.’ Before we begin to class ourselves as free-thinking and open-minded individuals, let us think about whether our opinion of someone would alter them in our eyes due to theirs.
Which begs the question: Are you are liberal or your kind of liberal?