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We go through life without paying attention to the messages of “what is not correct to say.” The problem is that those who don’t listen to criticism are always right.

On Christmas night, I watched this Christmas TV show. Musicians and artists shared the stage in a festive, emotional and positive atmosphere. At some point in the program, the presenter interviewed a couple of refugees from Ukraine and asked them, unsurprisingly, about Christmas away from their homes destroyed by war. The interviewees recounted the sadness and fear that had led them to leave their country and remembered the people they had left behind; they warmly appreciated the support and solidarity shown by people throughout the country. A big applause closed this emotional moment, or, as they said, “the show must go on”.

As the singers returned to the stage and the Christmas lights glowed in the studio, I wondered if I had heard everything these people had said.

Because while they clearly expressed that they were grateful for the economic, material and social support they had received, that could not be the whole truth. Why? Because as the good Alcaeus of Mytilene said, “the truth is not close when one does not hear what one does not want to hear”.

So, thinking of what was not said, I asked myself, what happened with the erratic actions of the government? With the accommodation crisis caused by the greed of some and blamed upon refugees? What happens to the refugees and asylum seekers in Dundalk spending this Christmas without knowing if they will be transferred to other centres or isolated rural towns? What about the growing atmosphere of hostility with which some communities have received the refugees?

It happens that this TV program opted to have refugees among their audience but decided not to say or ask none of these things. They opted not to speak the uncomfortable truths that could challenge the status quo. After all, they are talking to thousands of people. Instead, they decided to take the heartwarming road. The one that asks for common sense questions that call for answers that will make the audience feel good.

Do you miss home? How could they not? How have people treated you? Are you happy to be here; are you grateful for the help received? How could they not? Every one of the people from Ukraine who spoke that night felt thankful to the country that welcomed them and provided them with protection. But this is not the whole truth, and that is the problem.

The problem is that when we do what needs to be done without listening to criticism, we fall into a conformism that leads us to passivity. As a result, our problems do not rest but increase while we tell ourselves we have already done our best and whatever is left is not our problem. This is what happens with the refugee situation in Ireland. We cannot ignore the fact that there are severe shortcomings in the way in which the government, the media, the communities and each one of us has faced this “unprecedented” situation.

We cannot succumb to “self-praise” or force people to express their gratitude without giving voice to their criticism. We cannot turn a deaf ear to the possibilities of doing things better and more honestly by listening to criticism.

Photo: Sebastian Silva:






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