As the election of a new Pope dominates the news agenda Nick Margerrison asks for the answer to an obvious question.
“Is the Pope Catholic?” is supposed to be one of those obvious questions which lies alongside the likes of “do bears shit in the woods?”. The answer is intended to be a no-brainer, “duh – yeah, course”. However, without getting into dull tedious doctrinal or theological debate, I think the Pope’s position on Catholicism is probably worth considering. Regardless of how much someone may or may not enjoy their job in my experience it’s often the case people tend to be very cynical about the area in which they work.
I mainly pay the bills with commercial radio work and you’ll not find bigger critics regarding that industry than those who work in it. They’re the ones who can (and do) slag it off most efficiently and brutally, in their private moments, usually when the beer is flowing. Even though it performs a useful function in shifting product and advertising businesses there’s a certain cynicism which is unique to someone who has worked in the game for anything longer than a year.
A friend and I once isolated this as the “caller number 252” problem. There was a radio station who used to offer a prize to “caller number 252” if they rang in after hearing a specially selected pop song. No one in the radio industry ever believed there was a “caller number 252” and what’s more they didn’t expect their listeners to either, it’s just a nice way of hammering home the frequency of the station. All they really meant by this terminology was, “we’re going to randomly pick someone” because with only 6-10 phone lines ever coming into the studio at once it’d be impossible to count to such a large number anyway. Belief in it therefore seems absurd from the perspective of a radio presenter. However if you told people this, and they didn’t work in radio, a lot of them were shocked .
Ironically the difficulties actually appear to grow the more you love your particular area because its shortcomings seem more apparent and offensive. For example, similar problems emerge for a mate of mine who works as a chef. He’s always the first to complain if we eat out – in fact he rarely does nowadays. He’s the biggest cynic in the world as regards the catering industry. He notices when the food has been microwaved or the ingredients are substandard, just as I pick up on a presenter who speaks over the vocals of a pop song. You simply cannot enjoy a meal with him because all he’ll do is complain and get annoyed about the bad food. Another mate of mine works in teaching, want to hear how rubbish the state of education is in the UK? Give her a call and you’ll get more detail than you ever thought possible. I won’t even mention the guy I know who works in the Police.
I suspect this is true for you and whatever it is you do, the more you love it the more familiar you will be with its problems and shortcomings. Furthermore ‘tricks of the trade’ no longer work over time and in the end you’ll have a pretty crystal clear vision of the reality of what it is you do. The Pope is supposed to be an exception to this rule, as the one who has a direct line of contact with the Catholic God. I wonder though, when he sits and listens to the silence, what he thinks regarding the question: is the Pope Catholic?
Personally speaking it wouldn’t surprise me if he was the biggest atheist out there.
Personal blog: www.margerrisons.blogspot.com
 Fortunately the internet is not short of people who are prepared to prove bears actually do shit in the woods. Full statistical analysis of bear habitats reveal that yes, they do: http://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2012/02/13/do-bears-actually-shit-in-woods/
 The online world further illustrates this with the fact that generally the most cutting and nuanced critiques of radio shows mainly come from anonymous posters who clearly work in the industry.
 In the last five to ten years there have been a number of changes in the law and you can’t BS like this in the UK anymore. That said it’s a neat way of summing up the way in which cynicism sets in and is likely to incubate in the religion business. Furthermore the station I’m referencing here no longer exists and I never worked at it.