Thursday, March 22, 2012

This is my Truth - Tell me your Narrative

Tell me your truth and I’ll tell you my narrative.  The idea of one person’s truth trumping another’s is surely passé – a little presumptuous.  But, the difficulties that ensue when objective standards of truth are abandoned, was brought home to me yet again as I listened to the radio this past Saturday evening.

I was listening to “This American Life” the popular National Public Radio show that retells strange but true stories that highlight the extraordinary things that happen to ordinary people – proving that fact is indeed often stranger than fiction.

Ira Glass, the host, began the show with an apology:

This American Life are not happy to have done anything to hurt the reputation of the journalism that happens on this radio station every day. So we want to be completely transparent about what we got wrong, and what we now believe is the truth. (1)
In one of the most popular episodes ever of This American Life, contained a report by Mike Daisy, a writer and actor, on the practices of Apple suppliers.  Mr. Daisy has been performing a stage monologue supposedly based on his visit to various Chinese manufacturing plants that supply Apple.  The NPR show used excerpts from his monologue, taking them to be true factual accounts, which they later found out to be fabrications.

This American Life found the Chinese translator who had accompanied Mr. Daisy on his trips to the Chinese factories, and on most points her account contradicted Mr. Daisy’s.  Veteran journalists also found many of the details in Mr. Daisy’s account hard to believe.

You can listen to the show or read a transcript here.  But, what interests me most is Mr. Daisy’s responses when pressed by Ira Glass about the glaring inconsistencies in his story.  Here is a short extract from the transcript where Glass is taking Daisy to task for not disclosing that some elements of his stage monologue used by "This American Life" were not factual:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

St. Patrick's Day

Many nations celebrate a national holiday - a day that defines their nation.  Often the anniversary of a significant historical event that represents a seismic shift in a nation's history.

In the United States, where I live, the Fourth of July is celebrated as the day Jefferson's Declaration of Independence was signed; a document that reflected on the philosophical underpinnings for the right to declare independence from Britain.

The French, celebrate July Fourteenth, Bastille Day, the storming of the Bastille - a celebration of the power of the people.

The Irish, and this is most relevant to me, being born and bred in Ireland, choose to celebrate St. Patrick's Day as our national holiday.  For those who associate every March 17th solely with green rivers, Guinness, Irish dancers wearing curly wigs, and Kiss Me I'm Irish t-shirts, let me provide some brief information on St. Patrick.

Patrick was born in Roman Britain.  He was kidnapped and brought to Ireland where he lived as a slave for many years.  He eventually escaped but returned to tell the Irish about Christianity.  None of this would be very remarkable, except that his return had an extraordinary effect.

Here is an excerpt from his confession, which he wrote before his death:
How is it that in Ireland, where they never had any knowledge of God but, always, until now, cherished idols and unclean things, they are lately become a people of the Lord, and are called children of God; the sons of the Irish and the daughters of the chieftains are to be seen as monks and virgins of Christ. (1)
The island of Ireland embraced the Christian faith that Patrick brought and abandoned the religion of the druids.  Some have a tendency to think that Christianity was historically imposed by imperial power - Patrick was not accompanied by a large military force.  His message that challenged the prevailing social order was freely accepted by the Irish.

So, March 17th celebrates a dramatic paradigm shift in the national consciousness of Ireland - a national day of freedom if you will.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Shona Daoibh…

(1) St. Patrick's Confession available at

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Closed Door

Burn the boat before
Putting down anchor
Not losing doesn’t mean you win

Sometimes a door must shut
Before we decide to take to leave
But sometimes we have to close the door and walk away.