Leadership needed to mend our sorry state of delusion
OPINION:IMAGINE YOU belong to a dysfunctional family. The parents are profligate, incompetent and reckless. They tend to be corrupt, lazy, dishonest and self-serving.
The children (other than certain favourites) feel oppressed and neglected. Many of the favourites exhibit ruthless self-interest and greed.
The parents are under pressure from the moneylenders to whom they have had to turn as a result of their profligacy. So dysfunctional is this family that they have had to be taken under the care of outside agencies, which are struggling to bring them under control.
Many of the children abuse alcohol, drugs, religion, or alternatively delude themselves about their true situation, in order to ease their pain.
Others flee the family home at the earliest opportunity, or resort to suicide. They abuse and exploit each other and are in a perpetual state of inter-sibling rivalry.
The concept of family wellbeing is almost unknown among them.
Such a family mirrors the national situation.
Self-delusion is a characteristic of Irish society. In the old days we were told things about ourselves that in retrospect seem laughable. We were morally superior to other races, O’Connell Street was the widest street in Europe, the Shannon was going to be drained, the country reunited and the Irish language restored.
Such was the pathetic nature of the society that it tended to grasp at any idea, no matter how absurd, seen as positive to our warped sense of nationhood.
Those who were literary figures and who attempted to hold up a mirror to the Irish to reflect the weirdness of the society were generally derided, abused, saw their work suppressed and were forced to flee the country in despair. Abroad they often achieved due recognition.
That is not to say that individual Irish people aren’t as capable, creative and energetic as other peoples. But the damaged and deluded culture of our society often drags them down.
Despite this, some groups and individuals have managed to overturn the deadening effects of Irish consciousness, but they are the exceptions to the norm.
The negative effect on Irish society of the Catholic Church is deep-rooted. Its doctrines have tended to produce a populace that is superstitious, apathetic and fatalistic.
The progressive exposure of some of Catholicism’s true characteristics has left many of its loyal adherents confused and disillusioned.
The main institutions of the State – government, church, banks, the judiciary, the professions etc – are regarded by many Irish people with loathing, but many are also envious of those who belong to these interest groups. Most people feel powerless to attack these groups, who seem exempted from any corrective process that could limit their ruthless pursuit of self-interest.
In a normal democratic society a dissatisfied populace will overthrow an abusive regime, given time. However, in Ireland this has not happened.
The Republic of Ireland has never been truly independent. This could be because the best and the brightest were and are the most likely to emigrate, leaving behind the more deferential, insecure and apathetic people. British rule was overthrown in this part of the country in 1922 only to be replaced by an equally abusive system controlled from Rome.
This itself is in the process of being gradually overturned, but is being replaced by a regime controlled from Frankfurt, whose intentions are, as yet, unclear. Unless something fundamental changes in the public psyche, Ireland seems doomed to endlessly repeat its history of failure and to be a society that is deferential and provincial in outlook.
One possible benefit of the present financial, economic and social crisis may be that the Irish may begin to awake from the dreamlike state of delusion into which they had long ago fallen. To emerge from this nightmare will require leadership. Straight talking such as has never been heard before in this country needs to be the hallmark of a future leadership. This will be a painful process but could provide healing.
This State must never again allow itself to be humiliated and disgraced in the eyes of the world. The Ireland that has up to now been regarded internationally only in a semi-serious way as a country, must be reformed.
No more corruption, no more incompetence, no more alcohol abuse, no more self-delusion, no more abusive religion, no more secrecy, no more deferential forelock-tugging.
Unfortunately, leadership is absent just now in a way never before experienced. Neither politics nor religion, neither law nor commerce are fit for this purpose as they themselves are central to the country’s problems and act in a self-protective way to preserve the status quo.
What is left to undertake this gargantuan task? Maybe the media is up to it – who knows?
It is nearly time Robert Emmet’s epitaph is written – but not just yet.
Not until this society is fully cleansed of the rot that pervades it.
Brendan Logue is former registrar of credit unions at the Central Bank of Ireland