Saying the unsayable

George Carlin said the seven things you can't say on television. On television.

As comedian George Carlin once bravely stated, there are some things you just can’t say.

So he did.

He went on television and said the seven words that he believed you couldn’t say on television, and in the end the Supreme Court intervened to try to set the bar for what could and couldn’t be said.

There are certain things that, to a greater or lesser degree, cannot or should not be said in a recession-era Irish workplace – not if you want to keep your job.

Here’s six of them.






Sexual harassment.

Cancer? Fine, to a degree, as is having a heart attack.

After all, any employer seeking to curtail the rights of anyone suffering from these ailments would be seen as heartless.

But there is a stigma attached to the six conditions described above.

They are not seen by some employers as being illnesses or medical problems or acts perpetrated on a person against their will.

They are seen as signs of  weakness or selfishness.

Employers often don’t want to know. Perhaps understandably, they have enough to worry about with the collapse in domestic demand and rent and rates and taxes, and the problems of their employees just add to their burden.

But the fact of the matter is that you don’t just employ the sales person or the marketer or the teacher or, in the case of Kate Fitzgerald, the PR professional – you employ the person, and all that comes with them.

It’s time to remove the stigma around those words.

I used to drink a lot. I don’t anymore.

Was I an alcoholic? I don’t know.

But I have never used the “a” word in relation to myself, or anyone else, because it is of no help whatsoever.

Nor do I intend to. To do so would be to label myself and others, to narrow the perception of who we are and what it is we have to offer.

I absolutely refuse to have that done to me, and I refuse to do it to others.

Equally, like the vast majority of people, I have imagined what it would be like if I just wasn’t here any more.

Can you classify that as a suicidal thought? Probably, for all the good it will do you.

But others have taken those thoughts an awful lot further, many to their appalling conclusion.

Why can they not speak out?


There is a sense of shame attached to all of the above, but as I’ve previously written, what good does that serve? Where does being ashamed get us?

At best, nowhere. At worst, the end of a rope.

The point is this. There are a lot of people Рa lot of people Рwho are barely keeping it together.

But they cannot talk about their drinking, or their abuse, or their depression or suicidal thoughts, because to do so would be to draw a veil of shame over themselves and effectively end their careers.

This has to stop.

The sooner we can see these things for what they are – illnesses that can be treated and/or cured, or life events that we can be counseled for – the sooner we can remove the stigma from them.

There is no shame in drinking too much, or in being stressed, depressed or suicidal. Rape or abuse is not your fault.

The depressing thing about George Carlin’s seven things you can’t say on television is that most of them still cannot be said on television.

If forty years from now the same was to be said of depression, alcoholism and the rest in Ireland, that would be a real tragedy.