The Westport Conversation

Elvis or Jesus? Elvis AND Jesus! 

The link below is for an edited version of a four-hour conversation I had with Fr Brendan Kilcoyne who hosts the Brendan Option YouTube channel, in Westport, Co Mayo, on May 20th. It may be assumed from the identity of my interlocutor that it relates to ‘religion’ or ‘spirituality’. It does, though not in the senses that these words have acquired in recent culture: something like the exploration of a cul de sac of human culture and everyday reality. Our focus, rather, is on those dimensions of human existence that are of the absolute, eternal and infinite kind, and which relate to the essential structure and nature of the human person. We speak of religion, though as a structural sine qua non of the human condition, rather than, as is more usual, as a political, ideological, doctrinal or devotional phenomenon. 

I have repeated many times and will continue to: Whereas the individual requires to think and study and reflect and absorb things like facts, information and experience in order to think straight and therefore to converse adequately, something quite different may be said of societies. A society cannot ‘think’ as an individual does, and is therefore dependent on a collective process of dialogue, interchange, argument and exploration to enable it to ‘think’ in the only way it can. In other words, with a society, the conversation needs to precede the collective thought process, a sequencing that therefore requires tentativeness, speculation, hypothesising, experiment, as much as facts and data, but ultimately with a view to clarity and voluntary consensus. 

This truth has been occluded in our country — and elsewhere — by nefarious and mendacious interests which do not have the well-being of our nation(s) among their priorities. What we have are not so muhc public discussions as dramatised confrontations designed so that the ‘good’ guys (as decided by the vested interests) always get to win. The downstream result is an almost entirely one-sided babble on virtually everything, leading to a non-consensual consensus, an increasingly dangerous and potentially explosive situation.  

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It is a strange ‘coincidence’ that this conversation took place in Westport, where I worked as a railway clerk some four decades ago. Over the years since then, in discussion with fellow journalist as to the failure of journalism adequately to reflect the true nature of our culture and country, I would often challenge them to say whether they believed that, if the newspaper (or radio/TV programme) we worked on claimed to represent and speak to the Irish nation, did they think its content would be unchanged by virtue of having been produced in an office or studio looking down on Bridge Street, Westport, rather than in on a city-centre street or leafy suburb of Dublin? In other words, could they have produced the same edition of the day in question from that location as the one they had produced in Dublin? They never answered, but their silences provided their own answers. 

The cultural pull of the capital, with all the prejudices, evasions, ideological biases and animuses to be found in that quarter, together with the near monopoly of that city in matters relating to the national conversation, have resulted in the stunting of our public discourse, which now excludes virtually everything that is most vital to the survival of our people, nation and civilisation. 

The location of this conversation between Fr Brendan and me is therefore, by a process of what might be taken for happenstance, capable of being seen as a symbolic offering of what is most essential if Ireland is even to begin to recover from its current plight. This particular conversation, though nearly three hours long, is neither definitive nor exhaustive, but merely the notional beginning of a venturing down a path that has not been traversed in pubic in this culture for some considerable time. I hope it helps people to tune into a wavelength which, if we could but locate it, allows the most essential things to be talked about still. I hope also that it provides some kind of stimulation or impetus to continue the conversation in other ways and other places.