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Is everything just palaver?

By Mindo - 25th Apr 2019

Multiple white hands are pointing index fingers from the right to the left at one set of hands. The pair of hands that are being pointed at are up in a defensive pose, with fingers to the sky and palms towards the pointing fingers.

Dr Paul Heslin argues that society needs to find ways of moving forward to open up space for civilised debate 

“Palaver. Don’t make such a palaver.” This is what the elderly patient said when we asked for a simple thing. We just wanted to be paid for our work. All we needed was her to fulfil her part of the deal, the contract. All she had to do was to bring a medical card to the out-of-hours consultation. Costing her nothing. Would of course cost the Government almost nothing too, when you consider seeing a trained medical professional at 10pm on a Saturday night. Try a plumber and see his rates.

You see, medicine is beneath money. It is not politically correct to talk about income and fair play. Money is dirty and tainted. It must not be discussed in the same breath as healthcare. We all know care is a calling, a profession. It comes from godlike figures who need no food to eat, no clothes to wear and no house to live in. So, doctors making a fuss about being actually paid, is undignified. Wrong. Such a palaver!

The dictionary says palaver is “unnecessary fuss and bother about the way something is done”. That was her telling me. Sorry!

I am the first to agree that I am not always right. Sometimes I even disagree with myself. More importantly, I might be both for and against an argument at the same time. Like the palaver lady, I also think the system sucks. Sometimes. Especially when I am tired, or sick, or over-worked. She is frustrated with the system that demands that she bring a valid medical card with her. Me too.

In any case I had not heard this expression “palaver” in some time, and, like fashion, the lady is giving away her age and her era. My own mother’s era. You could say that her expression is of a time and of an Ireland almost gone. Is this culture? Different times and values. Different use of words and language. People don’t talk of the “age gap”. Some older people feel like minorities in the modern culture of youth. And teenagers can feel isolated and lost in our culture as well.

In recent national discussions we have been invited to think about identity and ethnicity. What is an ethnic group? Do ethnic groups have the right to special treatment? The dictionary says an ethnic minority is “a group within a community which has different national or cultural traditions”.

In this national discussion about ethnicity, what becomes more apparent is the place of political correctness. Can we have a truly inclusive discussion if certain things are already excluded? Political correctness worries some because of the fear concerns and even confusions cannot be verbalised. The fear is certain things cannot be said. Certain things cannot be explored or talked about.

Should any group be given special status within the rules and norms of a society?

Many people feel this is happening already. The situation is complex, but what is missing seems to be a place to have a meaningful conversation, where there is space to be wrong and where discussion can occur. To have a place to learn different points of view. To hear and be heard. Even if the view is not popular.

Take the new Irish in America and the obstacles they faced. “No Irish need apply.” We Irish wanted to be treated like the Americans and have the same right to work. It is not that the Irish immigrant wanted to be employed if he was not willing to work, but rather to be treated fairly and like local Americans. The same rules applying to all, regardless if they were an ethnic minority, or not.

Maybe the issue is not about ethnic minorities being treated the same or being treated differently. Maybe we all need to find the rules we can all agree on, that represent respect for each other. Rules that offer inclusion in our multiple differences. We need to find ways to speak and move forward without shouting each other down, including ethnic minorities and ethnic majorities. Fair play. Some palaver that!

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