We need to ig­nore the tribal drum­beats in abor­tion de­bate

Irish Independent - Farming - - RURAL LIFE -

TRIB­AL­ISM can be a source of great sport. The tribal cham­pion un­wit­tingly sets him­self or her­self up for all kinds of dev­il­ment and can ex­pect to feel the poke of fun at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. The pas­sion­ate Manch­ester United sup­porter or the dyed-in-the-am­ber Kilkenny cat are favourite tar­gets, along with those who wear their po­lit­i­cal al­le­giances on their sleeves.

Trib­al­ism is also an af­flic­tion that causes much an­guish. On our own is­land it has sent peo­ple to the grave and made life a liv­ing hell for many. At its most vi­o­lent it turns some hu­mans into vic­tims and oth­ers into per­pe­tra­tors.

In the United States, tribal pol­i­tics has paral­ysed the coun­try and smoothed the path to the top for Trump. Repub­li­cans, who three years ago would have been ap­palled at the things he says and does, are now cheer­lead­ing for the man, be­cause he is of the tribe and their tribe is in power.

On the other side, it is hard to find a Demo­crat who be­lieves there is such a thing as a good Re­pub­li­can. In tribal pol­i­tics there is only vic­tory or de­feat, win­ners and losers.

The trib­al­ists are so locked into the ad­vance­ment of their own tribe they only have eyes for win­ning while be­com­ing de­void of the ca­pac­ity to ap­pre­ci­ate or savour any­thing less than vic­tory.

This can also be true of the pas­sion­ate sports fan. Very of­ten they can­not ap­pre­ci­ate a good game — they have to win and will choke be­fore they com­pli­ment the skill, tech­nique or per­for­mance of op­po­nents.

When it comes to pol­i­tics in this coun­try it can be tribal to the core. Staunch Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael sup­port­ers will sel­dom if ever give their re­spec­tive par­ties credit for any­thing. Even the cur­rent con­fi­dence and sup­ply ar­range­ment is con­stantly in dan­ger of com­ing apart on the rocks of one-up­man­ship.

It is to be feared that the same trib­al­ism will ap­ply when it comes to the ref­er­en­dum on the Eighth Amend­ment. I’m not talk­ing here about party pol­i­tics, I’m talk­ing about en­trenched po­si­tions on this is­sue that have been es­tab­lished over the decades be­tween so-called con­ser­va­tives and lib­er­als. Over the years they have shown sparse signs of lis­ten­ing and learn­ing. Mean­while, fur­naces of heat are gen­er­ated in the dark with lit­tle light shed on any­thing.

I was heart­ened by the early stages of the de­bate where some of the ini­tial dis­cus­sions were very in­for­ma­tive and civilised. Now, though, it ap­pears to be drift­ing to­wards the ran­cour and ca­coph­ony that marked other ref­er­en­dums around sim­i­lar is­sues.

Some weeks ago I was in com­pany and the topic of the amend­ment came up for dis­cus­sion. One per­son be­came very ex­cited and took off on a rant that went some­thing like this,: “This one is not go­ing to pass. We’ve given in on ev­ery­thing on the lib­eral agenda; we’ve given in on di­vorce, on Ar­ti­cles 2 and 3, we’ve even let the gays get mar­ried but we are not giv­ing in on this one. The lib­er­als will not have their way this time.”

He pro­ceeded to name a num­ber of peo­ple known for their lib­eral cre­den­tials and de­scribed in no un­cer­tain terms how the very sight of them gives him blood pres­sure.

This would all be very amus­ing were it not so se­ri­ous. There was no thought about the plight of women with an un­wanted preg­nancy, about the mas­sive de­ci­sions they have to make. As far as this per­son is con­cerned, this is a tribal war.

Then there are those who see the ref­er­en­dum as an op­por­tu­nity to put a decisive nail in the cof­fin of the Catholic Church, end­ing what they re­gard as the tyranny of theoc­racy foisted on the coun­try by the Church of Rome since the foun­da­tion of the state. This is trib­al­ism too, a trib­al­ism of ide­ol­ogy while the plight of the wo­man with the un­wanted preg­nancy is at best ig­nored and at worst used as am­mu­ni­tion for the fi­nal as­sault on the citadel of Catholi­cism.

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