By Gary Elbert
Journalism Psychology Sociology and Political Science Student
Its that time of the week. You are given the task of producing 500 words of wisdom under the guise of a Mature Students Diary. As you mull over what to discuss it strikes you; When you set down to write there is an overwhelming urge to start complaining. I could do so now. The lack of technological acumen of some lecturers-yes that could be a lively 500-word moan fest based on genuine concern.
In one of my modules they barely bother disguising their lack of passion for the subject. They upload a batch of narrated slides where the reader literally reads every single word on the slide while desperately trying to infuse the pronunciation of some words with meaning.
Narrated slides, pre-recorded.
I could write about how lazy that is, how utterly cynical and soulless that is, how it debases what education and learning could be. Its only magnified because other lectures do try to do their jobs commensurate with the salaries they earn. And those lecturers show genuine interest and work on stimulating engagement. Basic competence seems almost heroic when the general standard of others is so low.
So yes, the blank page does seem to coax that instinct to moan, to give out, to complain. I remember 90’s journalism characterised by passionate and outspoken opinion pieces, the more outrageous the better. This was an Ireland emerging from cloak of silence and hidden abuse. Eamonn Dunphy led the charge. Greats such as Vincent Browne also stood up while readers of the Sunday World could luxuriate in the bucolic prose of the legend himself Con Houlihan.
The written word medium retained its power then, its centrality. Now however all has changed, changed utterly. I yawn at the opinion pieces churned out in general. Stifled by ideological tribalism once you read one you have read them all. I struggle to think of a writer now who makes me rush to buy the paper like I once did. Maybe now those anger and fire fuelled opinion pieces no longer resonate anymore.
I recall the first time I decided to no longer buy a daily newspaper. That decision came with some of the articles written by sneering horse racing columnists and GAA critics lobbing their over egged melodramatic words on the world of Conor McGregor and MMA. I knew then that mainstream Irish media outlets were no longer worth investing in. It was the ignorance, the bitterness, the confusion between straight up resentment and intellectual perception. I still see it in the media every week including this one. Moaning under the guise of critical thinking.
I tried not to moan today upon resting my eyes on a blank page. I think of Con Houlihan’s writing. Back then it always stood out. His love for life, his love for Ireland shone through yet he was also a realist.
Author Colum McCann wrote fondly of the Kerry man
“He was a legend in… every paper he worked for… He sat at the sports desk; the big blue anorak draped over his chair. No typewriter. No notebook. He… wrote in huge letters on a sheet of paper – sometimes he would only fit a single sentence on the page.
“There was something of the bear about him, but if you approached, he showed his huge shyness. He spoke with his hand across his mouth. His pale eyes darted about. He had a deep Kerry accent: you could hear the turf in it.”
RIP Robert Fisk and Con Houlihan