Saturday, 12 March 2016

Is being Utilitarian Moral?

Is being Utilitarian Moral?

Utilitarianism can be defined as a theory in normative ethics holding that the best moral action is the one is that maximizes utility. Put simply a utilitarian believes that the best action is the one that benefits the most number of people. It is a democratic theory; it holds that majority rules. I suppose it’s similar to asking whether democracy is always fair. I normally would be a supporter of democracy, I am glad I live in a democratic state; I have used it to defend why equal marriage has not been legislated in Northern Ireland even though I am not against it myself.

It seems to make sense doesn’t it? For example:
There is a group of 5 friends deciding where to go for a night out.
Four the them want to go to one club and one does not (trust me to be allegorical using night-clubs!).
Majority rules that they want to go to that club; it’s for the greater good - most of the group will enjoy themselves.
The other friend must go along and try to enjoy themselves despite hating the music, crowd etc because they don’t want to be selfish.
It is the group as a whole that wants to have a good time, not just one of them; they have to be altruistic.  

Just like when you live in a democratic country; although you may not agree with the way the country is run completely, you understand that there is indirect democracy and therefore it is what most people in theory agree with. Unless you are left-wing of course and throw your toys out of the pram when the Tories legislate anything e.g. the anti-austerity protests.

So in theory, yes, utilitarianism does seem like a morally sound concept to employ.

I have realized that decisions in regards to myself have often been result of utilitarianism. Yes, you are correct! Irish dancing. I do not intend to be tendentious or egotistical but it is a major part of my life so it is natural I am going to write about it.

  1. Asked to leave school - Their decision was utilitarian because they thought me still being a part of their school could result in politics going towards other dancers. They also explained about making up my own material and how this wasn’t what they did and the reason for that was because it caused friction with younger dancers.
  2. Put in a very difficult position - The head-teacher had gone back on his word with me, as when i first entered the school he had stated that he did not have a problem with older dancers making up their own material and had trusted me previously. But due to another teacher in the school and other pupils making a song and dance about it, I was given the option either I could only do steps made up by him or leave. It was also due to dancers being annoyed that I only attended two classes a week and I was receiving more attention than pupils who had been at the school longer.
  3. Pupils had become quite envious of my instant success at competitions and the attention I was receiving in the new organization. It was causing problems and the teacher used a silly action I did as an excuse to ask me to leave.
Each of these cases were utilitarian decisions, I was no angel but I hadn’t done anything nefarious and therefore these decisions felt very unjustified. It was a case of “one bad apple can ruin the whole barrel” - This may seem quite bumptious or supercilious of me, nevertheless it is my perception that other pupils in the schools were intimidated and envious of myself, which was not in my control but played a part in the teacher's decision.

From the outside looking in does this look fair?

I don’t think so.

I was an adult dancer 21 plus of age. Just like in normal life there are different rules regarding Adults and children; there are normally different rules regarding senior pupils and normal pupils. As you have been dancing for longer, it is commonplace that you are given more independence over your choreography; just like in real life as you become an adult you gradually gain independence from your parents.

This may be due to my aspergers but I have never understood why there is any “politics” in Irish dancing. The adjudicators have passed exams proving they can adjudicate on the day and thus have the ability to be cerebral rather than visceral. If there was a problem between two teachers, it is their problem and is not the dancers fault.

Different steps? You wouldn’t give Britney Spears and Adele the same song to sing would you? They are both hugely successful pop stars though. Different people suit different things.

Going to more classes doesn’t always work best for all dancers and doesn’t necessarily mean that the dancer is lackadaisical. I am an anomaly in all areas of life and due to my aspergers and social anxiety I find I work better by myself.  You can’t state that because someone goes to less classes than you, or has been in a school or federation for a shorter period of time than you deserve higher results than them.  

Tyranny of the Majority

Tyranny of the majority occurs when the majority takes action to subjugate the minority this constitutes an oppression comparable to tyranny. Therefore in this way Utilitarianism constitutes bullying; an action may benefit more people but it does not make it a fair decision . An example of Tyrannical Rule may be black slavery in the USA. The white people may have made up the majority of the population and having slaves may have been beneficial to them but this does not mean it’s fair!


So is being utilitarian moral? No. In theory yes it seems fair, but it has shown that it can condone unscrupulous actions. Hence it is circumstantial; it is subjective per the situation.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Comedy Article From Culture Hub Issue 6

Comedy Article
From Culture Hub Issue 6

To get your mind off the stress of an oncoming working week, go to Sunday Service at the Lyric Theatre. Hosted by Conor Grimes and Alan Mckee the night incorporates sketches, stand-up and improvisation. The next night on 06 March will feature a local celebrity “who is prepared to be ritually humiliated in order to appear dead on” - who doesn't love watching celebrities being tortured?

But if you're not from South Belfast and BT9 seems all too posh for you, then alternatively Yardbird holds a monthly comedy night. The Dirty Onion open mic night is sponsored by managers, and all performers receive a free drink. If cider was able to make you a fabulous dancer in the club on Saturday, why couldn’t it also make you an hilarious comedian?

The piercing sound of your alarm on monday morning, is enough to question your entire life; don’t worry though, there is light at the end of the tunnel if you hit the Pavilion's Open Mic Comedy Night held by local comedian Luke McGibbon. Cheaper than any other comedy night, you won’t have to feel guilty after all those transactions come out from buying the entire bar drinks on Saturday night.

If everything has still got you down by Tuesday and you need someone to help you look on the brighter side of life, then The Empire Laughs Back is what you need. Held every Tuesday and hosted by Jake O’Kane or Colin Murphy the night features guests renowned on the UK and Ireland comedy circuit.

Two extra special gigs happen in April. On the 3rd, you can be satirized by Chris Montgomery in the Black Box; running in association with The Infinite Jest,  Montgomery will explore a mixture of topics from politics and relationships to the horrors of summer bible camp. Then, on 09 April, the TV star of “Never Mind The Buzzcocks” Phil Jupitus will be coming to the compact and intimate Sunflower Comedy club.

This should get you through any week and out of any winter doldrums. It's also a great way to spot and support local talent and experience some of the seasoned professionals. I've no doubt missed some of the other opportunities for a chuckle, but this should lead you on the right path and you can detour when you find more.

If by Wednesday you need a remedy to keep you sane for the remaining two days of the working week, there is always Lavery's Comedy Club. “General Banter Podcast recording” is held bi-weekly by Colin Geddis, Aaron McCann and Shane Todd in Lavery’s Mister Toms.  Alternatively, Queen's Comedy Club compered by Colin Murphy is held in Queen's Students Union and has been running now for 14 years.

If you can’t wait for St.Patricks day and want to start the celebrations early, the next Wonder Frog is the day prior. Wonder Frog is monthly in the Black Box. The night is completely improvisation, only using the audience's suggestions, so is guaranteed to be a completely unique experience.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016



If you are not involved in Irish Dancing, you probably think like most other sports or hobbies that there is only one form of it.

In fact, to discombobulate non-Irish dancing folks even more, there are several different federations. An Coimisiún, an comhdhail, WIDA, CRDM, Festival, CRG and CRN are just a few different organisations I can name off the top of my head.

Within Northern Ireland, although there are several organisations, there are two very distinctive styles - Festival and Feis. There is rancour between the two sides and much debate about which style is better and what is ‘real’ Irish dancing.

Feis Irish dancing is that which you see when the world championships are held in the Waterfront Hall, known for the wigs, fake tan and fancy costumes. Festival Irish dancing originated in the 1950s when Patricia Mulholland broke away from the Irish Feis movement. At the time there had been arguments over who should be involved in Irish dancing. Some teachers had felt that it should only be a dance form for Catholics; however, Miss Mulholland wanted the art form to be open to both sides of the community. To this date, Feis dancers still at times refer to Festival dancing as ‘Protestant Irish Dancing’ (when I was in England, one of the teachers whom I transferred to automatically presumed I was a Protestant due to this!).

Cara Tan - Festival Irish dancer - Trevor Robinson Photography 

I have now experienced both styles, seeing the good, bad and ugly of each. Originally I was a Festival Irish dancer and later, when I was in my 20s, I transferred to An Coimisiún (the largest and most international Feis organisation). Between both I have won titles at local, national and international levels.

Claire Greaney - CLRG Feis World Champion- Jimmy McNulty photography 

Patricia Mulholland was known for her Irish Ballets and the style of dancing in Festival evolved around this. Festival dancing is more lyrical and puts greater emphasis on interpretation and individual style whilst Feis dancing is more athletic and greater emphasis is put on technique as well as appearance.

Morag Stewart-  Festival Irish Dancer 

There is much invidious criticism by Festival Irish dancers of the appearance of Feis dancers, which has been lacerated by the media. Originally, when I was a Festival dancer, I wasn’t the biggest fan either, but what I have noticed is that the makeup, big hair and dresses look different on stage. The Feis appearance is suited to the big stages in the big venues which the large international events take place on. Festival competitions are not as glamorous and do not take place in such big venues; they usually occur in a church or school hall.

The biggest trade-off between the two different organisations is the cost - Feis dancing is much more ostentatious. In Festival you are only required to wear your class costume which costs roughly £300; however, in Feis the girls' solo costume can cost £2000 and the boys' waistcoats may cost £500.

Morgan Comer CLRG   Feis  World Champion - Jimmy McNulty Photography 

The cost of the competitions in Feis are also more expensive. Since the organisation is international, when you are in the highest category you are encouraged to compete internationally. When I was a Festival dancer, apart from the European Championships held in England, the furthest I got to go was Portadown. Since transferring, I practically live a nomadic lifestyle, travelling to competitions all over the UK and Ireland as well as Boston and Montreal.

Lauren Early - CLRG Feis World Champion - Jimmy McNulty Photography 

I am now coming to the end of my competitive career and am going to have to make the choice between which federation I want to finish competing and teaching in. If it was possible, I would like to finish competing and teach in both. I do not see why Festival Irish Dancing could not have its own identity separate from Feis Irish dancing, then you could have dancers from both sides doing both styles without any conflict of interest. Festival dancing could gain Irish dancers from An Commision or An Comhdhail who are interested in learning a different style and vice versa; both could benefit.

Just like here in Northern Ireland where there has been an ongoing battle between Catholics and Protestants, there has been an ongoing feud between Festival and Feis; maybe the Irish dancers here should look to the peace process for inspiration. While the feud continues, neither side will benefit; we must learn to harmonize.

Adam Henry Magee