Tuesday 26 September 2017

Our Ireland is changing: gradually, and suddenly

There is whole new generation who don't have our baggage, says Brendan O'Connor, and they don't believe that optimism will end in tears

WALKING ON DUN LAOGHAIRE PIER: There has been a sharp drop in belt tightening in the last five years — and it has been driven by younger people and by Dubliners
WALKING ON DUN LAOGHAIRE PIER: There has been a sharp drop in belt tightening in the last five years — and it has been driven by younger people and by Dubliners
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

You wonder when the change comes, will it come suddenly - a tipping point, but a tipping point we've been building up to for years. How will the country change? Two ways, as the man said: gradually and then suddenly. And the sudden will hit us before we know it. The future is gathering out there. It's Leo and Macron standing together. It's the Citizens' Assembly; however it might have diverged in views from the country at large, it represents some kind of rump of new thinking. And the future is a younger generation who are unlike you and me and their parents; who are unrecognisable, really. They've grown up in a different world. The gulf between them and us is not just the normal intergenerational gap. Between them and us there was an industrial revolution that changed everything. That's a once-every-few-hundred-years event. And it changes things both gradually and suddenly.

When the industrial backdrop to life changes, it changes the whole texture of the world. When how people are employed changes, it changes the whole texture of their thinking, of their dreams and aspirations and of how they live their lives, the timescales in which they plan.

Due to a combination of farming, economics and Catholicism, Irish people tend to think long-term. Just a few generations back, gratification was deferred for your whole life on the promise of a reward in the next world. It's probably not so extreme for older generations now, but there is still a long-term view that involves gathering. We work and work and accumulate and we seek to create security, a buffer against the rainy day, a buffer against illness, old-age; a buffer for our children after we are gone.

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