'Alliance of secular and faith thinkers needed'


‘NEW McCARTHYISM’:THE EMERGENCE of new forms of political dissidence, uniting believers and secular critical thinkers and activists, was needed in contemporary Ireland to counter “market totalitarianism”, the Merriman Summer School was told yesterday.

Prof Michael Cronin of Dublin City University’s faculty of humanities and social sciences said the requirement of empathy was a fundamental feature of a successful democratic society.

The challenge for religious believers and progressive political thinkers was to develop and strengthen “the empathetic imagination”, he added.

He said this was particularly the case in times of crisis when everyone from single mothers to public sector health workers were being scapegoated.

Ireland, like many other countries, was subject to “market totalitarianism”, where every area of life, not just the economic, was subject to the logic of the market, he said.

“An Irish version of market totalitarianism is a domestic McCarthyism where every sector of Irish society is subject to the cost-benefit rationale of the market as demonstrated by the recent McCarthy report and the planned deliberations over the sale of State assets,” he said.

“The result is that human beings are seen as purely instrumental means to economic ends and if they are not fit for economic purpose, they are considered valueless,” he said.

The resulting dehumanisation ran contrary to the beliefs of the major world religions in the value and uniqueness of individual humans as well as the commitment of emancipatory political movements to the flourishing of human beings irrespective of their material position.

“The capacity to imagine and understand the lives, feelings, historical experiences of others is crucial to the creation of sustainable human communities where citizens can remain equal in their difference,” he said.

The core value of an education informed by both religious belief and secular progressive thought was the centrality of hope rather than fear.

“It seems to me unless this value is there in our educational system, we are mortgaging the democratic futures of your children.”