Talking Marriage Referendum - How Jon Ronson reminded us to play nice.
May 21, 2015
This isn't about theatre. It's about something that is very important to a lot of people in White Label and a lot of people working in theatre in Ireland.
On Tuesday night, Jon Ronson gave a talk at the O'Reilly Theatre (that's theatre related, right?) as part of the International Festival of Literature. He commented that he sometimes thinks the world is divided into two kinds of people. Those who prioritise ideology over humans. And those who prioritise humans over ideology. He wasn't talking about the marriage referendum but as voting day approaches, it hit home with much of the audience.
The human experience is most certainly too complex to be pinned down by ideology. Sure, ideology has a place. It can underpin many of our most important decisions. But when it is trumping the experience of ordinary human beings it is redundant. In such cases, trying to pin people down to a nebulous system of ideas is like trying to lasso a cloud.
Jon Ronson's talk was actually about the dangerous culture of public shaming that has built up on the internet. How, with the still nascent technology of social media, we are crucifying each other over our differences. With little hard evidence, we are creating villains online and destroying them in a juryless court while we simultaneously hold up heroes and venerate them without acknowledging that we are all deeply flawed. So in the spirit of Jon Ronson's talk, let's cut each other some slack for a brief moment.
If you're thinking of voting no on May 22nd or if you're having doubts about voting yes, this blog post will not try to argue with you. It has been a long campaign. You've probably heard all the arguments already and every person is of course entitled to their opinion. Democracy even gives us a right to vote with that opinion. Perhaps you find it difficult to vote yes because your ideology - be it religious, moral or civic - is preventing you from doing so. Or perhaps you fear the possible long-term impact on family law and children's rights. Presumably you have been told that this referendum has nothing to do with that and for your own reasons you're not buying it.
We should all know at this point that the law of this land allows for a gay man or woman to adopt children and that there is currently no law preventing them or anyone from availing of surrogacy either. It's clear many of you aren't particularly happy about that and may wish to change the situation. Let's just assume for a moment that you're right and your worst case scenario occurs. Some time in the future, this country tries to pass a law that would prioritise the right of a heterosexual couple to avail of adoption and surrogacy services in order to guarantee every child a father and a mother. Let's even assume that you're right and this referendum makes that difficult or impossible to do.
Great. That's the assuming done!
We've all argued enough about whether that scenario is actually possible or whether 'prioritising heterosexual couples is fair or just. We've certainly argued over whether this issue is in any way relevant to the debate at all. You're not convinced. That's clear. At this late stage, you may never be convinced. Let's just agree that what this is is an IDEA of what might happen in the future. Kids having a mother and a father, for you at least is an IDEAL. It is all IDEOLOGY.
All this blog post is urging you to do is to not prioritise ideology over actual present human experience. It is a fact of human experience that some people love other people of the same sex and want to get married to them. Not allowing those people to get married has and will cause them much personal pain and anguish and make them feel marginalised and unequal. The LGBT 'community' is telling the country loudly, proudly and passionately that changing the law so that they can marry would mean a great deal to them in ways that few in the 'straight community' can really fathom. That is their actual present human experience. The reality of course is that there are no separate gay and straight communities. We are all neighbours, colleagues, friends, cousins and family members. Don't let a fear of the vague possibility that the world might not quite be ideal in the future, trump actual present human experience for the people around you in your own community.
We at White Label are a group of independent theatre makers. We are a disparate group. We believe all sorts of different things and we believe them deeply, often loudly and sometimes we quite literally make a whole big show about them. Beliefs are important. But not when they override compassion. The world is a complicated place. No ideology will ever simplify it and make it ideal. Don't give up on basic human decency to try to lasso a cloud.