It has often been said that we on this side
of the Atlantic – and in this island (Ireland) in particular – lag something
like ten years behind America in our thinking, practice and political fads.
Probably not anymore. Google, Facebook, Twitter were with us in the twinkling
of an eye and with them, in the twinkling of an eye again, comes everything
else. We are now in the middle of it as soon as it happens – economic collapses
and all. Good, bad or a matter of indifference? Definitely good and certainly not
To be always coming from behind is not the
best option – although to talk of options is now somewhat wide of the mark.
There is no longer an option, neither economically, culturally nor in any other
way. Geographically cocooned cultures in the developed world – little pockets
of culture protected by artificial shells with greater or lesser resistance to
the forces battling around them are no longer possible. Cultural values will
now largely have to stand on their own two feet – or whatever it is cultures
stand on. This is good. Good, but clearly dangerous.
It is good because it makes us think and
makes us really live by and understand the values which we might previously
have defended with various institutional structures – but then fail to appreciate
for their true value.
Take the conundrum of the hour, marriage.
On this topic we are in the most complete muddle imaginable. The details of why
and where might go to clear up that mess is for another day.
Take religion. The connection between the
practice of religion and the human condition as it is reflected in the debate
in the public square of this little cocoon on the eastern shore of the Atlantic
is so wide of the mark as to make one despair for the human race.
So welcome to the new global world and
welcome to the great reassembly of forces for the cause of truth and sanity
which it offers us. Good-bye to a world where we lived in our cocoon, went to
sleep in one decade and then awakened in another to find strange forces
invading our little space without knowing how to cope with them. Now we live
and fight shoulder to shoulder with fellow warriors across oceans – from the
Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean and back to the
Whence this epiphany? Twenty years ago I
had to wait for my friend to come home to Ireland for his vacation to find out
what was afoot on the other side of the Atlantic. Meanwhile I lived on in quiet
desperation with the local media establishment selecting what I read or
listened to and offering me their agreed opinions on the same .
Today I open my laptop in the morning and
look up The New York Times, The Washington Post or the The Wall Street Journal.
I then check The Irish Times to see what the locals are up to and invariably
find my blood pressure rising at the spectacle of one-sided myopia scrolling
before my eyes. I then slip down to Sydney from where MercatorNet emanates and
gives a varied commentary on events.
The enormous significance of this new way
of living and looking at our world – for it is nothing less than that – was
brought home to me last week when I stumbled across an item in The New York
Its front page offered a link to their
“bloggingheads” feature where they flagged a
short discussion between Mollie Ziegler Hemingway and the utterly heterodox
Catholic, Frances Kissling. There were examining the future of the
Christian left – in America, ostensibly, but in the new context that I’m
proposing, it can be anywhere. I had previously watched a similar discussion
between Ziegler Hemingway and another blogging head on the incipient and
inevitable conflict – as MZH saw it – between the gay rights movement and
Two things were very attractive about both
of these discussions. Firstly there was the way the discussion progressed. Both
presented their arguments in an utterly respectful way, above all respectful to
each other as persons. Secondly there was the reassurance I felt at the
conclusion when I heard Ziegler Hemmingway present such a rational, wise and
friendly take on where orthodox Christians are or should be on these issues.
This was not the Summa Theologiae but in
this sound-bitten age it was close enough to its spirit to make me say a
heartfelt Deo gratias.
I then looked further. Who is Mollie
Zeigler Hemmingway I asked? Where is she coming from? How did she get here?
What else is she saying? Google of course led me to some answers and I found
her among a great group of people – no least her husband and her two little
children. It was all there –who she writes for, where she studied. She is a
Washington-based writer, contributes to The Wall Street Journal, Christianity
Today and the GetReligion website. She is a Lutheran and the kind of Lutheran
about whom an orthodox (small “o”) Catholic will have to look closely to find
the points of difference between the one and the other. But the bottom line is
that she talks a lot of sense.
But that is not all. She is a Robert Novak
Journalism Fellow of the Philips Foundation – about which, again, I knew noting
until I started following the MZH trail. The Phillips Foundation is a
non-profit organization founded in 1990 to advance constitutional principles, a
democratic society and a vibrant free enterprise system. In 1994, the
Foundation launched its Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship Program to award
grants to working print and online journalists to undertake and complete
projects of their own choosing, focusing on journalism supportive of American
culture and a free society.
In 1999, the Foundation launched its Ronald
Reagan College Leaders Scholarship Program to provide renewable cash awards to
college undergraduates who demonstrate leadership on behalf of the cause of
freedom, American values and constitutional principles. That description will,
of course, make it an anathema to some. So be it.
Its website lists all its other Robert
Novak fellows and I now return to my original epiphany: there are a lot of good
people out there who are also talking sense and make those of us who may have
felt somewhat like Davy Crockett in the Alamo, now feel a lot less beleaguered
and under siege, indeed feel very much on a winning side.
Kirke is a freelance writer in Dublin.
He blogs at Garvan Hill.