Sir, – Finn McRedmond’s piece “Holly Cairns says our generation is worse off than parents but what about the huge benefits from modernity?” (Opinion & Analysis, March 23rd) was remarkable in its rebuke of Ms Cairns’s contention that millennials will be the first generation who will be worse off than our parents.
I could not agree more with your columnist’s thesis that wellbeing is a metric that should not be solely interpreted by improvements in material wealth.
Furthermore, the progress in gender equality, and the decline in xenophobia, and homophobia are all causes for optimism, if not outright celebration. However, the particular list of improvements thereafter seems quite hollow.
Cheap flights to Europe, smartphones, and European headquarters of large multinational companies in Grand Canal Dock are positive developments in the recent decade. However, using that same smartphone one can readily find the following. This week alone we have witnessed a UN climate report has outlined a grim future of increasingly frequent severe weather events with concomitant morbidity and mortality likely to affect the least developed nations of the world. The 56th week of a vicious European land war (the first since 1945) that has caused eight million people to be displaced internationally from Ukraine and a further eight million displaced internally (along with thousands of deaths and billions of euro worth of damage). An impending explosion of homelessness in the Republic from next month.
This is on top of the more proximate problem of crippling rental costs, soaring inflation, and stagnant wage growth.
Overall, we are living in what is likely the most privileged time in history. We currently live in a western European democracy in the 21st century and things (historically) have never been better at the societal level. This is a sentiment that is eloquently delineated by authors such as Stephen Pinker (The Better Angels of our Nature, 2011) or Hans Rosling (Factfulness, 2018).
That being said, I find the argument promulgated against Ms Cairns unfair.
As a member of a progressive republic, I feel it is perfectly valid for a politician to argue the threat of regression in the living standards of its citizens as a call to highlight the need for change.
Stating, as the author does, that “optimism is deterministic”, and wishing to manifest a better future for ourselves is a benign exercise, but unlikely to spur action and change on its own. I feel that pragmatically viewing the complex problems of the world and calling it as it is may be far more likely to combat that which we perceive as threatening to our quality of life. It is more likely to prompt us to strive to improve our lot in life, as well as (more importantly) aiming to leave the coming generations a society and quality of life better than our own. – Yours, etc,