It is time to hear more optimistic voices than Alex Kane

Parliament Buildings at Stormont

Parliament Buildings at Stormont

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Alex Kane is unfair to John Brewer.

Most studies indicate that the media in western societies largely reinforce the status quo, and in a divided society such as ours this inevitably means that these divisions are not seriously challenged because each tribe finds enough media confirmation of its own prejudices.

The concept of balance means that Orange and Green opinions dominate the media, whether it is in the traditional morning newspapers or in confrontational discussions on Nolan, Talkback, and the like.

Those of us who seek to transcend these traditional loyalties struggle to get our voices heard above the cacophony of whataboutery. Or else, we opt out altogether in disgust.

As opinion polls demonstrate, the majority of the population display a greater tolerance and willingness to compromise than the majority of local politicians, yet they are largely squeezed out of public debate by this misplaced obsession with political ‘balance’.

They are also ahead of most local politicians on issues such as abortion, integrated education, same sex marriage and the right to die.

Thus, for example, in February a motion to allow abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality was defeated in Stormont by 59 to 40. Yet in a show of hands on the TV Nolan Show soon afterwards, only 4 out of an audience of 100 or more opposed it.

Alex says that he can’t think of one person who is offering anything new or challenging. Clearly he is wrong. Maybe he also should read the Humanist Proposals, recently presented to the main parties in the run-up to the election (at humanistni.org).

It offers an agenda for a tolerant pluralist society, a vision where reason, compassion, justice and ethical living prevail in a liberal environment that acknowledges both human diversity and common humanity.

It envisages a society where each individual is able to choose his or her own identity and lifestyle, provided that they do not harm others; and a society where each individual is granted basic human rights and human dignity, while also accepting his or her responsibility to others as members of the same community.

It argues for a whole plethora of progressive policies, including an integrated and more secular education system and a more humane and positive philosophy of personal morality that encompasses the right of women to choose in relation to their own bodies, same-sex marriage, and a regulated system of assisted dying.

Yet it goes much further, also advocating measures to improve community relations, including a commission of historical clarification and a truth commission; and it addresses local and international issues, including a universal basic income, a climate change act, a register of animal cruelty, the banning of hunting and an end to the enduring myth of redemptive violence.

A divided society cannot progress towards a better future unless its people examine their own positions critically. That can only be done when the large constituency that seeks progressive alternatives is given a fair hearing in the public arena.

Alex has managed to get a cynical toe in both printed camps as well as a finger in almost every talking pie shop. Maybe it is time for him to be less ubiquitous and let other more optimistic voices have their say.

Brian McClinton, A Director, Humanist Association of Northern Ireland

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