We've gained the world, but lost our kindness and decency
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We've gained the world, but lost our kindness and decency

BECAUSE we are out here, a small island on the western edge of Europe, it might sometimes seem as if we are inoculated from the rest of the world.

We are an island. We are small. We are cut off from our nearest neighbour, Britain. We are cut off from the European mainland and all the countries there.

We are still, though, more and more urban, a country of parishes and townlands.

It is easy to think our separateness makes us completely different. But things happen and the world intrudes.

In a short space of time here a young man was dismembered as part of a frighteningly vicious gang war, another young man was senselessly stabbed and died, and three young children were found dead in their own home.

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We are not cut off from the world. We are the world too. And we are the world too now more than ever.

Take a look at the person next to you, at work, on the bus, at home.

Chances are they are online, that insistent portal to the entire world, that ever present.

Well, that is here too. That is Ireland.

We may well be in our parishes and townlands, we may well be playing GAA, we may well be listening to the roar of the Atlantic. But we are on Facebook also, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube.

There is no faraway world anymore. It is in the palm of your hand, here in Cork as much as New York, in Galway as much as Singapore.

So, in that way it is not surprising the awful pain that visits other places visits here too, whether it be sheer wanton violence or truly tortured distress.

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The world is always with us now. Which is why the current Irish election campaign is so dispiriting.

Amongst all the point scoring and backbiting and dreary policy descriptions, amongst the bitter, bigoted, voices out there on the edges, is it too idealistic that there might be an Irish voice to say we could just do things differently? That we might order society and live in society in such a way that meant we looked out for each other?

Because there is a lot out there that pushes us to live the other way.

The very economic system of slavish surrender to the market, beloved of Fine Gael our present Government, is a winner takes it all structure, an I’m alright Jack, way of living.

If you haven’t got a house to live in, it is because you can’t afford one, so the homeless crisis is merely a crisis of those who have lost. Those who have failed. That’s the market. It’s not the government’s fault or those who have two or three houses. It’s just the way it is. It is the harsh world we live in.

And that device in your hand, what kind of world does that show you?

What are many, many, Facebook or YouTube comments like? What is this world where a bullied child is no longer free once the school gates close, where the bully is always with them?

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Is it a better one? A kinder one?

What is the world like for young people growing up who are told not to lie and not to cheat?

What do they think when they see that the President of the United States is a Twitter troll?

What do they think when they see that the Prime Minister of Britain is a proven, on the record, liar?

Do they think, whether they are in Kerry or Mayo, Donegal or Laois, that honesty and decency and kindness and dignity are valued?

Because, after all, when there seems so much vanity and stupidity, so much cruelty and extreme disregard, notions like honesty and decency and kindness and dignity can seem to be pretty remote, can’t they?

They can seem like pipe dreams.

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Of course, there was never a golden past where everything was better and nothing bad ever happened, no tragedies and no viciousness.

We now know, after all, that the innocent Ireland of the 1970s we all ran around in, wasn’t so innocent after all.

But now, and now more than ever, just when we seem to need it most, for our societal good, for our own mental health, for our future, kindness and goodness and honesty and decency, seem to be in retreat.

And that is the same here in Ireland too, however much we might not want it to be.