Obsessed with economy, too busy to care: how we see ourselves now
Our faith is important to us. Technology is not our new religion. We are still a nation of believers, although with a declining number of followers if we measure following by claimed Mass attendance the previous weekend.
For many of us, Mass is the only occasion on which we come together as a community, so the implications of falling Mass attendance are far-reaching. We are spending some of the time we do not spend at Mass visiting family and friends, jogging, going for a walk or logging on. While all of these activities are worthwhile to a greater or lesser extent, they lack a wider community focus.
Unfortunately we do not have full visibility, from a research data perspective, on how we choose to spend our leisure time. We cannot say definitively that we are being more selfish in the choices we make. In fact, we may be more altruistic and community- directed than we think.
Recent research on behalf of the Irish Sports Council shows a surge in sports volunteering and this may be one of the ways in which we are reinventing what community means to us in 2012.
Obsession with economy
More important than the shifts and trends revealed by the Changing Ireland survey is its focus on values and beliefs.
We have become obsessed with the economy and echoes of this obsession are to be found throughout this study and in other research we conduct. This is an unhealthy obsession because it leaves little time or space in our heads or in our lives to debate and discuss the challenges we will face beyond the current financial crisis.
Should we, for example, be spending more time talking about education? Our study reveals the quality of our education to be a key component of our national identity, yet OECD studies do not paint a picture of Ireland as a world leader in education.
How much time do we devote to thinking about the environment? The protection of the environment and the struggle against pollution is a much less urgent and immediate problem than it was in 1989, according to the Changing Ireland survey.
Twenty shades of bin
Have we convinced ourselves that a global environmental crisis has been averted because we have 20 shades of bin?
Unfortunately there is a long list of important issues being overshadowed by the economy – add religion, government reform, Northern Ireland, the Irish language, trust in institutions, crime and Europe.
A prolonged lack of focus on social and cultural issues will cost us dearly. That road we seem to be kicking everything down is looking very littered indeed.
Damian Loscher is managing director Ipsos MRBI