Great Ideas for our straitened times?
August 19, 2008
Dermod Moore has written a beautiful piece about recession. Apparently we’re in one in Ireland right now – falling property prices, belt tightening, SUVs outside Lidl and Aldi and the list goes on. Dermod wonders if we might have a Great Idea for these straitened times – like the NHS in Britain emerging from the ashes of World War 2 – is there a grand project that we might apply our hearts and minds to now that we’ve more time on our hands and less money to while away the hours? He also talks about the value of loss and how it presents an opportunity to reimagine a different kind of future.
But it’s hard to challenge the assumption that the only good news for a nation is continuous economic expansion and progress, for ever and ever amen. Depression or loss in our personal lives often proves, in retrospect, to be enriching, educational, a time for re-evaluation and refocusing. It’s a time when we are forced to change old patterns and rediscover a sense of purpose and meaning, when we test our character and resolve, and reconnect with what really matters. We grow and mature through difficult times; we tend to coast during the good times.
There’s so much here that’s rich and important about how we organise our lives; the stories we tell ourselves and the possibilities we imagine. There’s a certain kind of ‘recession chic’ in Ireland right now …. Lidl and Aldi have terrific bratwurst after all and who’d have thought of shopping for that in Marks and Spencer? And let’s face it, the 80s might have been grim, but the music was fabulous. Nowhere is there room for an acknowledgement of loss – of the dream of what things should be by now .. and the state we’re in.
This is the first recession we’ve had since the peace process. So, what sort of society do we want to build, now we’re not killing each other or blaming the British, with most Irish politicians still aligned along ancient tribal lines? Did the Celtic Tiger give us a sense of pride, a greater sense of satisfaction with ourselves as Irish people? I’m not convinced. Perhaps it prised us away from the victim mentality, the poor mouth, that was never far from our public discourse, which needed to happen. But, then what? If not victims, then who are we now? What do we stand for? And, now that religion seems to have lost its bony grip on our necks, what new morality is taking its place?
Great ideas emerge when we’re dissatisfied – not when we’re basking in the comfort of what is. Dermod writes eloquently about our personal and social response to recession – I wonder what the lessons for our world of work and society might be?