Juice from the sprawlings of the noodles in my noggin.

Month: May, 2013

I am a skeptic

Today, I sat down and watched a programme following Psychic Sally on her tour in the UK. As a skeptic, I demand to be convinced of something before I will believe it. There is not a single thing in this show that led me to believe Sally has any kind of supernatural gift. The only gift I saw was one of clever intuition and manipulation, which is mightily useful to Sally and those like her who sell out arena shows and make a living from their “talent”. But it’s not supernatural, not by any means.

The show consists of snaps from shows with short interviews from those who interacted with her explaining further detail about their loved ones/lives, as well as recordings of one-on-one sessions with people at her house, again, including short interviews where the customers explain their situation. I managed to jot down a fair bit of information in between being absolutely infuriated by the content. So, here we go.

The first one I saw was a lady named Carol Anne who went for a private reading at Sally’s house. In a short interview with the crew immediately outside the house, the lady explained that since her father’s death, there have been schisms in the family with quite a lot of people not talking to her. She said her reason for coming to Psychic Sally is to hear from her dad that the fights are not her fault.

Sally starts by asking “well, who’s adopted then”. Now, it’s quite obvious that she has a lot of information in advance, of course given to her by the person. She knows that the lady is having fights with her family, and clearly has an indication of the family’s past. So the lady explains that she’s always had a feeling that she was adopted, that she feels her dad was her real dad but that her mother never had any maternal feelings towards her. She explains that her mother got a copy of her birth certificate and gave it to her. Pretty good evidence that she’s not adopted. So, no one is adopted. Sally hasn’t made a real hit. Shocking. Moving on.

Sally asks who Michael is, or why she’s hearing the name Michael. Michael is the lady’s father. She has brought a photo book with lots of photographs of her family. Sally mentions something about a tragedy in the family, a woman committing suicide. The lady says “Well, yes, a female”, indicating that the person was actually a girl, not a woman, as she was very young when the tragedy occurred. The lady’s daughter’s half sister tragically committed suicide in Lanzarote when she was twelve, as she explains in one of the interview sections, away from Sally. There is a photo in the book of the girl. Sally neurotically paws at the photo and whines and cries saying “THAT’S WHY, THAT’S WHY, BRING HER BACK HOME”. Sally then proceeds to ASK THE LADY IF THE GIRL IS IN SPIRIT. Now, I don’t know about you, but I thought the ENTIRE FUCKING PURPOSE of a psychic is that they’re supposed to be able to give YOU that information? Sally continues with this weird, crying baby talk, pawing photos in the book, making very little sense. And then the session ends. She hasn’t given any real information about the tragedy.

In the final interview to the camera, the lady says it’s a “great reassurance” to her to know that her dad doesn’t hold her responsible for the fighting in the family. Sally already knew that that is precisely what the woman wanted to hear. And so, she gave her that information, and everything else was inaccurate. But no matter, we’ll just ignore the inaccuracy, everyone makes mistakes, right?

The narrator then announces that Sally is about to play a sold out show to 1700 people. Now, based on statistics, it’s highly improbable for her not to get any hits when she has that many people in front of her, providing she uses names used commonly in Britain, as she always does. Also, considering the programme was only an hour long, they clearly edited the best bits from her shows. By best bits, I mean bits where, you know, SOMETHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS. In a pre-show interview, Sally asserts that when she goes on stage, somehow, “magic happens” and she gets “all these thoughts” in her head. Truly inspiring.

When people believe in magic, and they believe that only certain people are keepers of that magic, several problems arise. You instantly become more vulnerable. You’re handing over power to someone you believe to be above you in ranking, and you are allowing them to use you, which in turn, leads to abuse. The techniques that people like Sally use are obvious, if you step back to look at them objectively, even for a minute. She is highly intuitive. She throws out names to crowds of 1700 and hopes for a hit. If she gets a hit, she continues with vague information, and the mistakes are ignored, because the people are so desperate to believe that the magic is real, that they really are able to communicate with the dead. To see people in an audience shaking and crying, barely able to speak through tears as this woman gives them information that their dead child or mother or brother is “all around” them is , to me, sick. It’s preying on the vulnerable, and it’s downright evil.

If Sally really and truly is psychic, then why would she need to ask whether or not people she had named were “on the other side”? I’m sorry, but I just can’t hack that. There is a basket of photos on stage with her in some shows, which the audience have submitted in the hopes that she’ll pick them. You can tell A LOT about someone by looking at a photograph of them. In one case, she picks a photograph and asks who submitted it. Two ladies stand up. Sally asks them if the person was called Benny or Bernard. The ladies giggle a little and explain that it’s actually a photograph of their Nana, she just looks quite masculine as she suffered hair loss due to treatment for cancer. Sally GOT THE GENDER WRONG, but continues as though that were a minor mistake, and now she has the real nana talking to her. I’m failing to understand the communication barriers of the spirit world, I really am. And I’m failing to understand why people excuse this shit as “harmless”. Manipulating the vulnerable and lying to them about their dead loved ones is either dishonest or a sign of mental illness.  People pay these psychics money to hear unverifiable information. It is a form of emotional abuse, and it’s not ok.

If you truly believe that your dead relatives are still alive in some sense, in some place that we can’t know about, I disagree with you. It’s fine if you want to think that, it really is. But I ask you this, if your dead mother/child/brother wanted to communicate with you, why would they do it through someone like psychic Sally? What barriers are in place on the other side that mean only people like Sally can tell us about them? Surely you can feel the essence of your loved ones around you without paying to see someone whine, cry, pine, and babytalk inaccuracies at you? Regardless of your beliefs, surely there’s more to life, love and death than that?


You simply cannot get around it.

Today, the headline on the homepage of one of our national newspaper detailed the story of Cardinal Sean Brady and his threats to excommunicate ministers who are in favour of legislating for the X case. It stated that Brady would find this legislation to be immoral, and that the people cannot give the power to the government over the right to life. Interestingly, the cardinal mentioned that we do not have the right over the beginning or ending of life, which is rather insensitive given the recent trial in the Supreme Court for Marie Fleming. But then, when have the Catholic Church ever shown sensitivity in cases that they find immoral?

I couldn’t even begin to explain just how hypocritical it is for this man, this celibate cleric to think that he has a say in X case legislation. This is a man who stood over and actively covered up the systematic rape and abuse of children by priests. I am sick and tired of the pardoning that goes on in this country with regard to clerical sex abuse. The way in which the hierarchy of the church is structured allowed this kind of abuse to take place, and it is because of the same structure that the abuse was covered up.

Brady’s reasoning in opposing the legislation currently being debated in government is that it is tantamount to evil, and we must “oppose evil” as well as encouraging that which is good. He assumes so arrogantly that the entire country subscribes to the morality of the Catholic Church, and that no other morality, objective or otherwise will suffice. And he is simply wrong on that point.Not once, but twice, the Irish people have spoken on this issue. Twice, they have voted in favour of legislation that allows a pregnant woman to be given an abortion in cases where there is a substantial risk to her life, including suicide. As Sinéad Kennedy put it to Peter Mathews on Vincent Brown recently “You simply cannot get around that”. Cardinal Brady seems to think that the only morality is his morality. He would do well to excommunicate more than half the electorate if he believes them to be so evil, for it is they who have demanded this legislation.

Interestingly enough, Brady seems to be completely ignoring the fact that the legislation already exists, and all that is happening is codification and clarification. We are simply outlining the specifics that are required for the existing legislation to be acted upon, in an effort to save women’s lives. The fact that it has taken 21 years for this to happen is an absolute disgrace, and the fact that a Catholic Cardinal who covered up the rape of children in the same time period believes that he is qualified to instruct the government on morality is, at first, laughable, but after that, abhorrent. He has demonstrated a total lack of moral judgement and yet he feels that he can re-align the moral compass of not only the government, but the Irish people. At this point, I’m finding it very hard not to break into sentences consisting only of expletives.

The Catholic Church are not concerned with morality, they are concerned with control. Not a single member of the Third Reich were excommunicated. Hitler was not excommunicated. They are an organisation riddled with paedophiles and abusers, and are obsessed with overseeing the sexual behaviours of others.  Up until the 1980s, they believed they had the authority to instruct people not to use contraception, and in doing so were expressing control over the reproductive systems of the nation. Families who had a gap of more than a year between children could expect a visit from the parish priest questioning their activity. Women were but vessels to deliver more souls, and their attitude has not changed. They are as morally misguided now as they were then.

The Catholic morality, whatever that may be, is simply not the morality that the people of Ireland want to subscribe to in this case. Twice they have spoken on the issue, and twice they have asked for abortion on the grounds of suicide as a bare minimum. The absolute nonsense and pseudoscience that is being touted by politicians is, in my opinion, just a hurdle, and it will be overcome. All we are doing is codifying and clarifying an already existing constitutional right. To let the Catholic Church have an influence on this issue would be to do a disservice to the Irish people. We have overcome the Church assuming that they can dictate their morality to the nation, and we must continue to overcome it. We don’t allow them to dictate to legislators about contraception, Monty Python films, literature, clothing, music, or anything else anymore, and I would be thoroughly disgusted if we took their word on their supposed moral superiority on this issue.