The Examiner ran a hit-piece, or rather a hit opinion piece, on [John Waters] this morning. It also targeted a few other prominent alternative voices in Irish society. I won’t name the journalist author other than to say, in my opinion, he’s average. He’s been an average journalist for all of my adult life-time and I don’t suppose he’ll be getting any less average as he hits the twilight of his career. Articles like this have become all too familiar over the last few years.

I must confess though that this hit & run job along with my encounter with the quiet man kicked-started the possibility of a new line of enquiry in my head. So, there was nothing for it but to buy twenty fags, hit the motorway and ascertain if I could develop these two sparks into a small flame to warm my hands over.

I guess to start I would frame John Waters writing and even his soft-toned speech patterns into a picture that looks similiar to jazz music. For some, like myself, appreciation of jazz takes time to develop. What you do come to recognize though is that the musician sometimes wanders down a maze of roads, byways and overgrown paths that ultimately lead to no fixed destination. The enjoyment is in taking the ride with them to watch them try.

However, sometimes these same musicians lead us to a new promised land of wonder. Maybe a series of fields or stretch of mountain that you never knew existed. Indeed, this new place may well not have existed before the John Waters of this world wrote it into creation. So the main takeaway I have is not to interrupt him while he is playing his music. Even when he is experimenting with his tunes. Appreciate the attempts and occasionally be consumed by the magic of his thinking.

As a result, I have limited patience when the average criticize and interrupt John Waters especially utilizing words that hurt my eyes to read — so banal and predictable is the composition of them. It would be akin to my local painter criticizing the mess they made, back in the day, of the Sistine Chapel.

I don’t personally know John Waters but he’s been on my auld reading radar for a long, long time now, not just as a writer but also as an original Irish thinker. There was a time when we celebrated and protected people like this in our society. The critical thinkers. The literary jazz musicians. No more it seems.

Waters self-publishes now and his writing is usually long, dense and packed with ideas and considered thought. Often his articles run well over the 5,000 word mark. Often too, I’ll need to read and re-read his thoughts to get the gist of what he is attempting to elucidate. It is usually worth the effort and I say that as someone that doesn’t always agree with his points of view or his line of thinking. Thinking is a good word actually —  his words have a habit of giving me pause for thought, a trait all great writers share in common.

Unsurprisingly, modern journalism sniggers at his offerings nowadays. The average watch and mock from the safety of their luxury cruise-liners as Waters paddles his own canoe into the tempest. Blind to the iceberg at their own backs, looming sharply into focus, from over the edge of the horizon. Busy as they are hanging over the starboard side vigorously pointing, deriding and ridiculing.

Sadly, average is celebrated in an above average fashion in Irish society today. Of course, this will collapse on itself someday but for the moment we must suffer them. Average doesn’t question. Average doesn’t think too deeply. Average accepts what it is told. And sure, when average is celebrated as exceptional, across every facet of Irish life, from the multinational sector, academia, journalism and political life — why would any of them seek to be more.

In my view, John Waters is the type of voice one must resist the urge to interrupt. That applies to both the people that agree and disagree with what his voice has to say. Trying to reduce such an expansive thinker down to a sound-byte is the errand of a fool. An average fool at that.

Gerry O'Neill

The West's Awake, Substack

An Intelligent Persons Guide to Modern Ireland ( by  John Waters)

Another of John Water’s deeply moving books about modern Ireland. Written over 15 years ago, Waters has yet to mature into the darker vision he has of Ireland today, but a great deal here is very rewarding and shrewd.

I, for one, suspect Waters will one day be remembered as a prophet for what he says of the tragedy of modern, globalised, capitalist Ireland.

Roger Buck

Jun 06, 2014

Give Us Back the Bad Roads  ( by John Waters )

Poetic, prophetic, pure as the blackbird’s song despite its doom-laden rhetoric, this eyewitness account of the decline of Irish and indeed all of Western civilisation by one of the very best journalists. Focussing on the tremendous upheavals in his native Ireland, where the breakdown of two millenia’s worth of culture is particularly evident, Waters eloquently dissects the malaise at the heart of society in Europe and throughout the First World countries, and provides an insider’s guide to the role played by the mainstream media in ushering in a nihilistic, sterile, topsy turvy, trash-politics culture where literally nothing is of intrinsic value.

As a journalist, and inhabitant of what used to be Ireland, I found myself stopping to reflect on every line. It is a book rich with meaning and with the wealth not only of his experiencend but his father’s. Written as a letter to his late father, the book spans four generations – and that’s its tragedy, because those who need its wisdom most, the millenials, will struggle to understand the references and even the words, relying on Google’s / Alexa’s robotic reconstructions of what was once the English language.

However, for anyone over the age of 35, especially those of us who have grown up in Ireland, it is full of “Aha!” moments.

Waters also explains in detail why he turned his back on his career in journalism. The anecdotes are a damning postmortem of the journalistic profession. If you are not a journalist, you will probably never buy a newspaper again after this book.

Anybody who hopes to understand 20th- and 21st- century culture, current affairs, history or the meaning of life & death, will gain precious insights from this book.

Buy it before it’s banned.

Geraldine Comiskey

Jul 14, 2019