Jim Carroll

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500 Words Of January – John Buckley

Next up in the OTR’s 500 Words Of January series, John Buckley on Ireland’s collective tolerance of inequality, injustice, racism, homophobia, corruption and discrimination and why – and how – this can be challenged in 2013. There is that point …

Thu, Jan 3, 2013, 14:00


Next up in the OTR’s 500 Words Of January series, John Buckley on Ireland’s collective tolerance of inequality, injustice, racism, homophobia, corruption and discrimination and why – and how – this can be challenged in 2013.

There is that point in your pain threshold, the one where it all gets too much. You can’t take it any more. You react. We all react in different ways to pain, some of us shout, some of us try to track down the root and some of us try to numb it.

Ireland has an extremely high collective pain threshold, a tolerance. You’d think that this is a good thing, wouldn’t you? I’m afraid it’s not. We have a tolerance of inequality, injustice, racism, homophobia, corruption and discrimination. With national issues, with issues that often stare us right in the face. I can hear the arguments and angry grumblings, but I’m sorry, it’s true.

This individual and collective tolerance has lead to the embedding of inequality, the discrimination that goes unchallenged or the failure to react to pain inflicted through austerity. What I won’t try to achieve here is an understanding of why, but more of a look ahead.

At the end of 2012 we began to feel the soft burn of discomfort, we began to react. But how can 2013 be the year where we actually feel the pain of injustice and react in a positive way? This is how I hope we collectively take on this pain in 2013;

Fear – It’s what in many ways has stopped us from engaging with the pain and tolerance we have. We are fearful of how the ‘other’ may react when challenged. In 2013 I hope, that we collectively realise when we know what is right and just, that the fear is dispelled and that we collectively act on the principles of social justice.

Empathy – It’s something that, at times, we in Ireland do not do very well. Stepping into other people’s shoes to really understand. We have very little empathy for the pain of others. That pain is blocked out. Without empathy we tolerate inequality. 2013 is the year that we collectively have to discover our shared identity and values. This is so we can come together and react.

Outrage – When we think of people who tolerate pain, we don’t think of outrage. Irish people are rarely outraged. It’s not something we do. We do outrage in this country by saying ‘ah sure it’s grand’ or by writing a letter maybe to a national newspaper. This is not good enough. It allows the continuation of pain and rooting of injustices. Outrage is active, it’s not a passive, and it’s not a negative thing. Outrage show’s we’re alive and feeling!

Responsibility – Quite often, we absolve ourselves of responsibility for the tolerance we exercise: ‘sure, why would I say anything to that racist?’ We tolerate our own shortcomings in relation to social justice. As citizens, we have a responsibility to stand up against what we know to be inherently wrong. We hear about rights all the time from citizens, but what we don’t hear about is our own individual responsibility to uphold these human rights. 2013 can be the year where Ireland’s individuals stand up to pain and intolerance and say, politely, where it can shove it.

Our tolerance or our collective pain threshold needs to be rightly purged in 2013. It’s a barrier to us becoming a nation that we are really connected to, that we’re proud of. It’s barrier to reform. So I challenge you; make 2013 the year where you feel pain, react, become outraged, make and be the change. As Michael D Higgins says, “be the arrow in everything, not the target”.

The credits: John Buckley is youth engagement officer with Spunout and See Change ambassador, working to fight stigma in relation to mental health by sharing experiences. He is also a hiker, surfer, runner, adventure racer and general adventure sport junkie.

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