Thursday 27 October 2016

Editorial: A crisis we need to talk about

Published 06/07/2014 | 02:30

Our citizens and our young live in a state where faith has collapsed. (Picture posed)
Our citizens and our young live in a state where faith has collapsed. (Picture posed)

The Coalition, in the wake of its recent disruptions, is certainly talking a great deal about renewal. When it comes to the far different matter of doing rather than talking, one issue that must not be lost in the political flux is our ongoing suicide crisis.

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Sadly, despite some displays of positive intent, the response to this national trauma provides us with yet another unfortunate example of the Irish capacity to glide away from that which we do not wish to confront. Our establishment are currently investing their scarce resources of emotional intelligence in dealing with the tragedies of half a century ago as distinct to the current crisis.

It is necessary that we confront the truths of our mother and baby homes and our Magdalene children in a belated proper truth and reconciliation process. But, if we fail to properly talk about Ireland's suicide crisis by obsessing solely upon the faults of the past, then as Marx warned all those years ago, we are falling into the ageless trap of repeating them.

It is understandable that our governing class are somewhat shamefaced about the scenario where we have the highest rate of suicide amongst teenage girls in Europe and the second highest for teenage boys. They would be right too for the silent, still tragedies that have afflicted so many of our citizens and their families do not evolve out of a vacuum. Neither can the current level of suicides be simply explained by the familiar comfort blankets of blame such as excessive alcohol or drugs consumption, for something far more fundamental is actually afoot.

One partial cause of the suicide epidemic is undoubtedly the vast economic failure where a quarter of our citizens are not working. The side effects of the politics of austerity are as much psychological and spiritual as they are economic. Hope is one of the most important springs of social happiness and in passing of economic entrepreneurial skills. But, the psychological desolation that accompanies the desert of austerity is only one in a complex series of factors that have facilitated the rise of this crisis.

The other key factor in all of this is that our citizens and our young live in a state where faith has collapsed. We know now that the imperious facade of the Irish church was a front for opportunistic child abusers and ambitious careerism. A political class hollowed out by insufferable complacency and intellectual nihilism has failed the state and the citizen. The public sector has degenerated into a self perpetuating collective of Venetian Doges who now act as a vested interest rather than in the national interest.

All the pillars of society have crumbled, leaving nothing for our citizens and children to believe in beyond the hollow blandishments of an amoral digital age. The repair of such a fundamental breach in civic society where direction and hope has been replaced by a soiled vacuum is far more critical than the issue of whether some former Labour leader secures a European sinecure or who gets what in our toothless cabinet of EU satraps. One would, alas not think it from the current public discourse, but, we need to start to talk about real issues such as how to create a community where our children grow up in some better place than a valley of anomie.

Significantly, this crisis of alienation is not confined to Ireland. The rise of fascism in Europe and the creation of the first Caliphate since the Ottoman Empire might seem like far distant affairs with little relevance to our own world. Both, though, are part of the gathering revolt against the declining Western model of society. Political vacuums, as we know too well, facilitate the rise of ancestral vices. Be it in the East or our own state lost in transition, it is time our self-selecting elite move to combat such vacuums with a better alternative. That, after all, is their job.

Sunday Independent

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