Archive for January, 2011

God as a retard

[Apologies for the non-book or song related title for the blog but it was too good not to use.]

Following on from the last post:

Now for some leaps of logic and thought (at least on my part)

If those with the learning difficulties bear the image of god what does that mean for me to know God as someone with trisomy 21? (incidentally – great photo when you follow the link)

God’s face is the face of the retarded

Suffering Presence P178

I confess God’s face is far more like mine. Mine after some ace photoshopping at least.



Suffering Presence – 5

The retarded suffer not from being retarded but being retarded in such a world as ours.

[I still cringe a bit inside every rime I hear the word retarded. Perhaps I recoil with shame at my childhood use of the word as an insult and my remaining discomfort with those with disabilities.

Hauerwas used the term in the early 80s because it was the preferred term at the time and an improvement on the terms “idiots” and “imbeciles” that were used before it. In the introduction to Suffering Presence he updates the term to “mentally handicapped” as that was what those who were so labelled preferred at the time.

I imagine the current preffered term is “learning difficulties”, at least it seems that way from my experience in the emergency department but I may be wrong.

I suppose the point is that all terms are problematic and are in many ways revealing about our moral opinions.]

Hauerwas suggests that the retarded are a good way of thinking about humanity and suffering as so many of our definitions of health and humanity include such normative standards as autonomy and capacity that those with intellectual disabilities do not fit into.

He goes on to suggest that it is more the world that needs changing rather than the elimination of those with leanring difficulties.

He also points to a problem with our imaginations:

unable to see like the retarded, to hear like the retarded, we attribute them our suffering. We thus rob them of the opportunity to do what each of us must do-learn to bear with our individual sufferings.


Pay for what you get

If you’ve talked to me then you’ll reaise that i’m not a big fan of private health insurance.

It seems like a money-making scam for the middle-classes to feel safe from tabloid-esque medical bungling

[medical-bungling happens, i’m just not sure private insurance stops it]

This Irish Times article covers a few of the issues of ireland’s private health care situation. I’ve been quoted greater than 50% for the number of Irish people with some form of private insurance.

I’ve not worked in the Irish health care system, given some of the stories you hear from people it sounds like it may be non-existent.

Perhaps it is a place were people are dying in droves without life-saving treatments, though I somewhat doubt it. A lot of the stories I hear about people being badly treated involved them not getting treatments that don’t work anyhow, or being denied tests that they didn’t or shouldn’t have had in the first place.

There are of course all kinds of nuances and subtelties in there, and there of course lots of medical cock-ups in there too.

But the interesting point that the article raised for me was what would happen if everyone ditched their private health insurance en masse?

Naturally there’d be a few less boob jobs and a few less parental tonsillectomies (the parents just really want the child to have the tonsillectomy…) and that perhaps be no bad thing.

But then there’d be all the important stuff that really needs done, but just gets done quicker in the private system. Who would pay to pick up the slack? Could the slack even be taken up in the system as it stands?

It seems that if the Irish people all chucked in their private health insurance then the public health system would collapse under the weight.

I find that kind of scary.

Suffering Presence – 4

our reason for living is not that we are sure about the ultimate meaning of life, but rather because our lives have been touched by another and through that touch we believe we encounter the very being that graciously sustains our existence

This makes sense of a lot of things for me. I’ve thought a lot about how to understand and think about death and i’ve always come back to thinking that we can’t have any conversation about it till we know what life is for in the first place.

So that’s easy then. We just figure out the meaning of life and we’re sorted…

I know that I’m not entirely sure what life is for. My own experience reveals that but I can definitely relate to what Hauerwas says.


Not a job

I do a teaching job. It’s not high powered. It’s not gonna advance my career. It’s not the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.

But I really quite like it.

Yet whenever I talk to my peers (mainly the medical ones) I seem to have some kind of out of body experience watching myself try to “talk-up” the job with vague pretensions toward research and academic qualifications. Either that or talk about how the job is good because it allows me to pursue all these other wonderul esoteric avenues of interest.

Now that may all be true but I know I’m only saying it at that moment because I feel some kind of need to justify it. Some need for me to build up an identity somewhat “sexier” (as sexy as dead bodies gets…) than that which it is.

As someone who has made multiple statements about being “anti-careerist” I realise I’m not quite all that.

Please make cheques with your approval of what I do payable to Andrew Neill…

Commuter Love – #12

Trains seem to have become extensions of the office for a lot of people. Especially the intercity to Sligo that I sometimes hitch a ride home on.

It’s one of the fancy new ones with the power points and trip switches so you can plug in your computer but not your hair straighteners.

There’s no plugs on the normal commuter trains. There’s sometimes no heat. Sometimes there’s no train. And there’s barely space to open a book never mind a lap-top.

On the fancy train it’s a different story and people come armed with lap tops with dingles, dangles and dongles hanging out of them.

So people are on their emails or on Skype or using the pinnacle of modern consumer electronics to play fullscreen minesweeper.


It does lead to some awkward moments and invasions of personal space.

People view the space up to the midline of the table as their rightful property. The back part of their lap top has every right to rest on that line. So does the person opposite.

And then comes the tilt in the screen. The tilt that’s needed to make the screen readable. Opposing screens touch. Everyone saw it, we just pretend it didn’t happen. It’s mere sabre ratlling. It’s like the bay of pigs all over again.

And in the unspoken and unwritten laws of train table ownership it’s not quite clear who has the right of tilt. I suppose it’s like those neighbors from hell who let their leylandii grow over your hedge and then you try and trim it back and it turns out you’ve no legal right and all of a sudden you’re putting out rat poison to knock off your neighbours dog and playing zeppelin at 4am to piss him off…

Something like that


Suffering Presence – 3

In Suffering Presence in an essay on rights duties and experimentation on children

rights are neccessary when it is assumed that citizens fundamentally relate to one another as strangers, if not outright enemies. From such a perspective society appears as a collection of individuals who of neccessity must enter into a bargain to insure their survival through providing for the survival of the society

The language of “rights” is fairly prevalent in any ethical discussion today. Rights are fine as far as they go but have completely dwarfed (if not erased) any discussion of duty.

We seem to live as beings of entitlement who are deserving of certain things. The idea that we live as beings who owe certain responsibilities to other beings is something we are far less familiar with in the discussion of ethics.

Yet these actions of duty and obligation seem to come naturally to us (more or less) in the setting of family and friendship.



January 2011