Farm Ireland

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Opinion: It's time for us all to start striving for balance in a world of extremes

Bon Jovi: 'Because We Can'
Bon Jovi: 'Because We Can'
Ann Fitzgerald

Ann Fitzgerald

We have become a people of extremes - is it because we can?

One person is a couch potato while their neighbour is running marathons; another might be into fast food, another into the slow food movement; one sibling is on the p*ss, another on the dry; some people are highly materialistic, others primarily altruistic, etc.

What's even more curious is to see these extremes being exhibited by the same person at different times.

It's like we keep trying on radically different coats in a never-ending quest for the perfect fit.

So what's happening?

I'm no expert on such matters (or, indeed, any others). But I've always fancied myself as a bit of an amateur sleuth. So, donning my Miss Marple hat for a moment, let's look for motive and opportunity.

In terms of motive, I think it could be a manifestation of our search for meaning in an increasingly secular world, trying to fill the void left by the decline of organised religions.

I recently heard a radio interview with a psychologist about children and smart-phones. He was saying that when a child asks to get a phone because their classmates have one, they often don't actually want to get one but don't want to lose face with their classmates. So when a parent says 'no', they are secretly relieved.

Also Read

They can blame their parents instead of finding themselves landed in a world that they know in their own hearts they are not ready for. They want boundaries - boundaries give security, a sense of there being a higher authority.

Are adults so very different?

As for opportunity, I believe one of the reasons why we are becoming polarised is simply, to use an increasingly popular phrase and the title of a 2013 single by American rockers Bon Jovi, "Because We Can".

What I mean by that is these are choices we can afford to make, and by 'afford', this could mean in terms of lack of financial worries or responsibilities, etc.

Just look at the growth in sales of craft or premium beers, gins and whiskies, not to mention speciality coffees. We could easily get by on Heineken, Gordons, Powers and red-jarred instant Maxwell House. But the posher stuff is, well, posher, and so we drink it, as we can afford to.

This race to extremes is also becoming increasingly evident in our food production in the move away from conventional medium-scale, medium-input systems.

At one end are the ever-increasing-in-size high-input/high-output systems, with the primary aim of maximising profit. Machines keep growing, increasing scale results in lower production costs per unit, with resultant higher outputs per labour unit.

In Ireland at the moment, there is a sense that you are at nothing if you are not dairying: and that, within dairying, you are at nothing unless you are expanding.

It seems to me that testosterone is feeding into this attitude.

Those at the other end of the spectrum operate low-input/low-output systems and work closely with nature, with the focus more on the quality of the food than the quantity. This group includes - but is not confined to - organic farmers.

In the middle are the traditional family farms, which still have a mix of enterprises, perhaps sheep and tillage or dairying with beef. They are finding it increasingly harder to survive, due to low commodity prices, competition for land, etc.

Where is this all going?

I'll leave you with a quote by a 33-year-old American named Colin Wright, now a full-time traveller and motivational speaker who was in a high-paying mainstream job until eight years ago when he dramatically adjusted his metrics of success: "Extremes are easy, strive for balance."

For Stories Like This and More
Download the FarmIreland App

Indo Farming

More in Comment