Opinion

THE SITUATION: The Irish have no class

I went to class on St. Patrick’s Day.

I’m not proud of it. Society decided that this particular day would be the one where we say “the hell with it” and go AWOL – and I spat in its face. I crossed the picket line of our collective alcoholic breakdown.

But then, sometimes we all have to make tough decisions. To realize that “right” has always been a relative term.

Take this whole “roll up the rim” thing, for instance. I use a reusable mug to get my coffee (well, four reusable mugs would be more accurate. They become disposable when they fall out of the poorly duct-taped water bottle holders on the side of my backpack and crumble on the sidewalk). But you can only participate in the “roll up the rim” contest if you get one of their earth-killing cups with your coffee. The I-want-my-children-to-know-what-flowers-are side of me says I shouldn’t. But if I don’t take a cup, that leaves more prizes for the non-environmentally conscious. Why do they get rewarded with cars and free coffees? From that messed-up perspective, it’s pretty much my duty to take that disposable cup and roll up its rim. Also, I could really use a free coffee.

Or food. I’ve seen Food, Inc. I’ve read about agribusiness, organics, local farming, fair trade and everything in between. And right now my moral compass is pointing towards starvation as the only decent option. Between chemicals, transportation, giant corporate monopolies, animal cruelty, farmer mistreatment, government subsidies, land misuse, antibiotics in cows, and all the things we haven’t found out about yet, I can’t even eat my peanut butter and banana sandwich without wondering if I’m hurting somebody. It’s a heavy burden to bear.

Or even writing. I’d like to hope that if I had been writing at some point in the past my views would have been on the “right” side of history, consistent with the morals that were heresy then and gospel now. And I’d like to imagine that my current opinions, especially the unpopular ones, are morally righteous and will one day be vindicated by history. But of course there’s a big difference between believing in our own virtue and having whoever creates history decide we had moral clarity. All I can really do is the same thing any moral luminary ever did – use the available information to try and fathom some sort of reasonable conclusion knowing that I may well be spouting absolute bull.

It’s almost enough to make me want to give up.

Almost.

There’s something comforting in the knowledge that we’ll never be burdened with a monopoly on truth. There’s also comfort in appreciating that people who believe with equal conviction in opposite beliefs are probably necessary in the same sort of way Jack Nicholson was necessary in A Few Good Men. There’s a lot of balancing involved in trying to come to terms with the idea that morality, right, and wrong, and designations like liberal, conservative, extreme, and moderate only exist in relation to each other. But balancing helps keep us humble and focussed. It adds perspective. And if my Wii Fit is telling the truth, balancing builds great abs.

We won’t stop believing in our not-quite-right opinions. We probably can’t – otherwise we would never be sure of ourselves when me make those hard decisions between lousy and lousier. And a life spent in total self-doubt sounds a lot worse than one constantly approaching the truth. Whatever that is.

All of which is to say that within twenty minutes of my class ending I was in Gert’s, beer in hand. I don’t know if going to class was the right decision, but at the very least I got a column topic out of it – and I did have one hell of a St. Patrick’s Day.

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