Garret FitzGerald, RIP

by Maria on May 19, 2011

Garret FitzGerald, Ireland’s Taoiseach in the 1980s and a beloved family friend, died early this morning. Politically, I think of him as the man who took Thatcher’s condescension on the chin to create the Anglo Irish Agreement, and the man with the courage to call time on the Catholic Church’s unquestioned dominance of social policy and moral thought in Ireland. Personally, while I can appreciate that Garret had what we call a good innings, wasn’t ill for very long, and enjoyed a final few hours of joyous clarity with some of the people he loved the most, I both wished and believed that he would go on and on.

People think of Garret as a dizzy academic, and not the resolutely calculating man he could be when it came to tallying odds and gaming a scenario. This was the man who coolly reckoned at the beginning of his career that while he was constitutionally more suited to the Labour Party, he would achieve less at the head of it, and so joined Fine Gael. His first job was writing the timetable for Aer Lingus, long before there was software for that kind of organisational nitty gritty. He had an extraordinary memory for this sort of thing; on a walk near Cahersiveen a decade ago, he explained to me the old train route there, the stations it called at, the time of each train and effect on the local economy. He giggled when I said we should call him Rainman instead. [click to continue…]

Emotions and Uncertainty

by John Holbo on May 19, 2011

One thing we’re getting a lot in the Strauss-Kahn case, which we always get in the early days of any high-profile case, is a lot of conditional expression of emotion. ‘Our sentiments are firmly with the alleged victim, if indeed she proves to be one.’ ‘I am profoundly outraged by DSK’s behavior, should he prove to have behaved in this manner.’ This is appropriate, even obligatory, but also somewhat absurd. There is no such thing as conditional anger. There’s just anger. Either you are angry or not. It’s not as though you will find out how you are actually feeling now only at some distant point in the future when the facts are in.

OK, you get the point. So what is the appropriate emotional state to be in now, when you are in a state of uncertainty? Should everyone be emotionally neutral but laying down markers promising high emotionality after the trial? ‘I’m cool as a cucumber, but, should the victim prove to be one, I will feel a sudden upsurge of sentiment on her behalf.’ Or, alternatively, if you are 80% confident that DSK is guilty, at this point, should you feel the level of outrage that would accrue to actual guilt, but discounted 20%, affectively. So, in effect, you ought to be as outraged now by DSK as you would be if you were 100% certain he had done something 80% as bad?

What’s the right way to feel, under uncertainty?