Words can change our capacity for reason
But, stealthily, insidiously, the collective mindset has been worked upon, by the insinuation of weasel phrase and the subtle promulgation of unease, rendering us finally relieved that we have gotten off so lightly. In this process there has been a total inversion of morality, whereby the imperative of “paying your debts” was wielded to cast into slavery or exile at least three generations of Irish people and absolve a tight cadre of chancers from responsibility or consequences.
This is the culmination of a lengthy cultural process. In the past two decades, three major shifts have occurred in our collective psychology, moving us, each time, further away from the conditions of independence and sovereignty. I do not include the arrival of the “troika” (another affectionate affectation), which represented merely the formalisation of a process of enslavement that was already well advanced.
Long before, in the 1990s, the first major shift saw the weight of our culture shift definitively from the spiritual to the material. This change had its roots in the denied and buried calamities of the 1840s and came to maturity in the era of the “Celtic Tiger” – another phrase whose estrangement from irony should have alerted us to something ominous.
The second phase of the national enslavement was the reaction to the inevitable disintegration of 2008, in which rage at the loss of a cherished promise was the dominant note. The shallowness of that emoting caused it to stop at the symptoms of the condition, seeking to name, blame and shame while avoiding the true meanings of events.
Out of this emerged a form of leadership that refused to lead, but insisted on managerial solutions – offering appeasement and supplication instead of vision and hope, and manipulating public confusion with a mixture of dangled woolly optimism and creepy passive aggression.
The third phase has been visible for about a year now – a feeble resignation bordering on despair. A culture out of which has been sucked virtually all hope of an absolute nature, cast back almost entirely on the material realm, has quietly become persuaded that its salvation lies in recovering the “promise” of “prosperity”. For this it will endure and accept almost anything – even the indenturing of its children for the whole of their lives, by issuing a promise that it has no moral entitlement to make.