‘Programming’ of young minds

Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 01:45

Sir, – Breda O’Brien expresses concern that internet sites like Tumblr and Spiked, where young people may express any ideas they wish but where a few opinion leaders set the tone, “may be socialising young people into near-absolute conformity when they have not yet developed sufficient maturity to realise what is happening” (Opinion & Analysis, July 19th).

Has not Ms O’Brien just described what religion has been doing in this country for centuries? The Catholic Church has been trying to socialise young people into near-absolute conformity with religious doctrines, particularly on sexual matters, when they have not yet developed sufficient maturity to realise what is happening.

This effort at programming begins in primary schools and has always been led by “a few opinion leaders” – clergy, nuns, bishops and popes, who “set the tone” by endeavouring to instil in students an “informed conscience”, that is a conscience which is not their own.

Ms O’Brien fears that internet free speech is leading many younger people into attemptingto close down all kinds of “respectful debate”.

But what is “respectful debate”? Much of what the Catholic Church teaches is not “respectful” of women, or of gay people. The debate this organisation engages in poses as being respectful, but it is essentially abusive. One cannot engage in respectful debate when respect for the full equality of the other is lacking. An abuser is not in a position to demand respect.

At least these internet sites which Ms O’Brien fears do not set themselves up as morally infallible, nor do they impose silence on those who disagree with them.

And therefore young people have a better chance of personal growth and of developing a conscience which has not been interfered with by an all-knowing hierarchy. Yours, etc,

DECLAN KELLY,

Whitechurch Road,

Rathfarnham,

Dublin