Coping: So you think I’m a member of the left-wing media ...

That’s what I was accused of on foot of last week’s column. Interesting

Batman v Superman: it had looked, from the trailers, like the worst film ever made and, reassuringly, it was

Batman v Superman: it had looked, from the trailers, like the worst film ever made and, reassuringly, it was

 

Last week I wrote a column positing that we don’t have the “right” to an opinion, although we are at liberty to express whatever we wish to. The response was enormous, but the aspect of this that most fascinated me was the number of people who contacted me to accuse me of being a member of “the left-wing media”. This accusation was made without a single shred of evidence from the column, which, rather than bothering me, was interesting.

Each week I try to couch this column in the thinking of some philosopher or other. This week I thought it might be useful to clarify my own position. Although many people in our current climate identify themselves as being on the left, I am – in the philosophical sense – broadly classically liberal. This means that I advocate maximising personal freedoms (within reason), and minimising state interference in the exercising of those freedoms (again, within reason).

I say this in the consciousness that “left”, “centre” and “right” are not fixed positions, but on a scale. No matter which position we advocate, there will be fallout, and almost every person I have encountered – regardless of their position – holds it with the genuine intention of doing overall good. There is just a lot of disagreement about what good is, and how to achieve it.

Superman spoiler alert

So I support people exercising their freedom to make their own choices, unless those choices harm others or unless the chooser is compromised in some way. Sometimes, however, that can be a difficult position to hold. Last week I found myself dragged to a showing of Batman v Superman at my local cinema. It had looked, from the trailers, like the worst film ever made and, reassuringly, it was. If you fear spoilers, stop here.

As we sat in the cinema, I noticed all the children – mostly male – sitting around. Hardly surprising. Almost all were over 10, and the film is rated 12A, which means a child under 12 can see it with an adult, but it’s recommended for children over 12.

A short way down the row, a very small boy sat with his mother. He was about four – small enough to be standing with his back to the screen, pointing up in awe at the shaft of light dancing from the projection-room window. He jabbered in the annoying and endearing way that little children do, and as the film started I felt a pang of concern that he was really too young to be here, and some cursory research on the film by his parents would have saved him what was undoubtedly going to be a negative experience.

Mass death

The film progressed. Alien corpses floating in amnion, violence, chaos, suicide bombers and mass death all followed. The tone was quite dark, and the boy became increasingly distressed. He clung to his mother, who was using the Facebook app on her phone for most of the film, and he cried at several points.

I said there would be spoilers – this is your last chance to look away. At the end of the film, Superman dies in the arms of Lois Lane, and the boy down the row simply couldn’t handle this.

“Mammy, he’s not really dead, is he?”

“No, of course not. He’s Superman,” she responds.

Cut to the scene of Superman’s wooden coffin juddering down into the damp earth on an old rope.

“Mammy, are you sure he’s not dead?” The tone was raising in pitch, and his small, soft arms were starting to flap in genuine upset.

The film ended, and the boy walked out beside his parents with the glazed expression of a seasoned war veteran. It made me uncomfortable.

After the film, we went to Eddie Rocket’s for a burger, and at the table next to us a boy of about seven – old enough to know better – was removing straws from their holder, licking each one, and putting it back. Next to him, his father was engrossed in his phone.

Sometimes people will use their freedoms poorly, and the way some people parent is a classic example. I had to remind myself that others will make their choices, and asked the waitress for a new straw while pointing at the licker.

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