Still Waters Run Deep

A treat this Friday, as the Irish Times’s resident philosopher returns. It begins:

STRANGE, HOW similar events can have such different connotations in different circumstances.

Strange indeed! Ever notice how running into the ladies’ toilets when you’re absolutely bursting for a slash and undoing your zip as you run so as to save time can draw all sorts of aggressive comments and funny looks from the other users? Fundamentally it’s the same biological necessities at play, the same technologies, but whereas men scarcely pass any remarks, women.. tsk.

A sage point to begin, then. But it continues:

You would think the prospect of new life would be everywhere an occasion of unambiguous rejoicing but the past week has told a different story

You would, wouldn’t you? But people everywhere seem hell-bent on ingesting all sorts of chemicals and using all sorts of implements, including calendars, to avoid it. Good point, sharply made.

If it is not an act of laesa maiestas to paraphrase such formidable reasoning, the next few paragraphs are about how you need to lock up mothers of small children who commit serious crimes, because if you don’t you will have women using their capacity to bear children as -quite literally- a get out of jail card. Next thing you know we will have a proliferation of female serial killer vampires who will smile, and murder while they smile, and then get knocked up when they’re caught. And this is so unfair! What about the men?  Shouldn’t female and male serial killer couples should have equal access to their offspring? The cautious, nimble navigation of the slippery slope is a joy to behold here.

It is all a feminist liberal conspiracy:

I eagerly anticipate, in 12 months’ time, at least one senior female politician and several female journalists launching a campaign to have Una Black released early on compassionate grounds. The emotive power of the idea of her baby being snatched from her arms will render this case difficult to answer.

We should no allow the seemingly commonplace nature of the implied point -wimmin, eh?- to blind us to the formidable brilliance on display.

The dizzying global sweep of Waters’s vision speeds us to America,  where women shoot wolves from aircraft.

A woman who has just been announced as the running mate of the Republican candidate in the US presidential election revealed within days that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant and will shortly marry the father of this unborn child. The kind of commentators who would be first in the queue to march for the early release of Una Black were to be heard sniggering behind their hands because Sarah Palin is, as they euphemistically reminded us, “a woman of socially conservative views”.

True. I could barely hear myself think on the northbound commuter the other day for the behind the hand sniggering from the usual commentators, he said euphemistically, “commentator” being a euphemism for ball-breaking man-haters and their spouses.

What “woman of socially conservative views” is a euphemism for, I cannot conceive. But no-one studies Waters for his simplicity. Perhaps it is a cunning euphemism for a woman of socially conservative views. You know how wishy washy these liberals can be with their euphemisms.

And it’s good to see the rod not being spared on their hideous hides:

Of course, mindful of the risk of seeming hypocritical, liberal opinion has been careful not to express any explicit judgment on the putative moral dimensions of the situation, instead merely pointedly reminding the public of the facts while ostensibly focusing on John McCain’s “judgment” and alleged failure to vet his choice properly in advance.

How liberal opinion -that most sickeningly elusive of subjects- can express any explicit judgment on anything is something that only the most imaginative of us can fathom. How it distinguishes between the moral dimensions and the putative moral dimensions is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. And it has unhelpfully chosen not to reveal whether it is capable of knowing the meaning of the word ‘putative’ in this context, opting instead for another bout of hypocritical sniggering.

A stirring defence of John McCain ensues, in the face of the liberal onslaught:

But how does this reflect on McCain’s judgment?

Why should John McCain have bothered to find out whether any of Sarah Palin’s daughters was pregnant?

What would liberal opinion have demanded of him had he asked such a question and learned in advance that Bristol Palin was five months gone?

Indeed, had it come out that he had learned of the pregnancy beforehand, and as a result decided against having Bristol’s mother as his running mate, he would now find himself indicted on a far more serious charge.

Where babies are concerned, a man just cannot win.

It is immediately clear that there is one point here on which even the most cretinous of us could agree: there is no point questioning McCain’s judgment, since the man is crackers and thinks the best solution is to deploy more boots on the ground, even when the problem is what to eat for breakfast. And there is a shrewd, razor sharp use of couterfactuals here displaying an incisive insight into how presidential vetting works: if John McCain had held a conversation with Sarah Palin -and it is perfectly imaginable that he did because that is the way these things work- that went as follows:

“Do you want to be vice-president?”

“Yes”

“OK, is your daughter pregnant?”

“Yes”

“Maybe next time, then. Nice antlers.”

Then he would be up for a charge of sexual discrimination once removed, and a host of other things from the man-hating cliques that run this world. The only concern here is that Waters’ scabrous use of the straw man (reality-obsessives will crow that very few people actually think John McCain should have asked Sarah Palin if her daughter was pregnant) may detract from the brilliance of his insight.

The real meat to this tour-de-force is how the the two diverse situations described -Irish prison baby, American presidential baby- in which the only thing they seemingly have in common at the outset (the existence of a baby) are judiciously opposed, thus revealing a universal truth: ‘where babies are concerned, a man just cannot win’. I was crying, reading this.

Look on his words, ye mighty, and despair.

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8 Responses to “Still Waters Run Deep”


  1. 1 Seán Báite September 7, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Babbies – isn’t the poor man’s fixation with them all that Sinéad O’Connor wan’s fault ??
    Patapopulopsychologist…

  2. 2 Hugh Green September 8, 2008 at 9:05 am

    Yes, where shaven-headed singers who rip up photos of the Pope are concerned, a man just cannot win.

  3. 3 coc September 9, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    I was crying, reading this.
    But why would anyone read JW? Without analysis and annotation (as provided here by your good self) I find his output to be as mad as a bottle of chips. Irishtimes.com really should pay you to do this.

  4. 4 coc September 9, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    It turns out he died in the famine too. Poor bastard.

  5. 5 Hugh Green September 9, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    In an unguarded moment this weekend, I found myself asking the question “what sort of sad bastard parses John Waters’s comment pieces -unpaid?”. You are right: the man is as mad as a bag of cats. It’s a futile exercise and I don’t know why I bother. There’s always the danger that it gets construed as a crude and affectionate homage. In fact, I think he’s an unlikeable bell-end.

  6. 6 Seán Báite September 10, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Hugh, I was referring to her having sort of used him as a live sperm donor some years back – and then, according to him, having treated him rather shabbily regarding access to the chiseller.
    Being the pop psychologist I am, I reckon this has something to do with his obsession with paternity / maternity as illustrated in your digest of his column..
    Hadn’t you heard of this episode ??

  7. 7 Hugh Green September 10, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Yeah, ‘course I had. Sure she did the exact same thing to me.

  8. 8 Seán Báite September 12, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Ye lucky f@@@er ye – she wouldn’t go near me due to my gene contribution coming from the Northside….


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