Farm Ireland

Monday 23 April 2018

Opinion: 'We are starting to lose the run of ourselves yet again'

Shoppers in Liffey Valley. (Stock picture)
Shoppers in Liffey Valley. (Stock picture)
Joe Barry

Joe Barry

Christmas, with all the associated lunatic shopping, is now long over.

The New Year has also been drunkenly welcomed in with yet more cash flowing through the tills in this annual homage to Mammon.

History tells us that the Ancient Romans celebrated the winter solstice with the feast of Saturnalia, which by all accounts was more an orgy of excess than a religious festival. Has anything changed?

There used to be a greater sense of spiritual renewal associated with the birth of Christ and the dawn of a new year but commercial interests have almost completely taken over.

If you were not out shopping as if there was no tomorrow, then it seems you were not partaking in this modern version of a feast that goes back to the time of the druids and probably even further.

On December 22, at 10.40am, I drove into the car park of the Monread shopping centre at Naas.

It was like Derby day at the Curragh, with yellow jacketed men trying desperately to keep the traffic flowing as thousands of shoppers, many in shiny 161 or 162 reg SUVs, anxiously revving and reversing in to trolley land.

I was told that later that day, Naas ground to a halt as the weight of traffic proved beyond the capability of the town to absorb it.

Also Read

Things were no different in Navan, Trim and even in little Kilcock, where thanks to the council's wisdom in removing most of the former parking spaces, just getting to the local chemist proved a daunting challenge.

Goodness knows what it was like in places like the Liffey Valley shopping centre or in the heart of Dublin's retail areas.

We are told that approximately 40pc of food purchased over the Christmas period ends up in the waste bin yet all the while, the queues grow outside the Capuchin centre and at those other places throughout Ireland where good people distribute food parcels to the needy.

None of this makes sense, given the stark contrast between poverty, hunger and lavish spending. At least during Saturnalia, for just a few days, the slaves were treated as royalty and served by their owners. The spirit of peace and goodwill to all men seems to have lost the battle.

Consumerism, aided by online shopping that facilitates the purchase of goods we don't need has won. Yet again, we are starting to lose the run of ourselves and who knows how it may end.

Do I sound like Scrooge? Perhaps, but right now my dream of an ideal Christmas would be to spend it in a cottage in the wilds of Connemara with a warm stove, a candle lighting in the window, not a traffic jam in sight and all the while, the sound of the sea.

It seems we must accept that society has changed utterly.

The standard of living for the majority (except the very wealthiest who have always been able to purchase whatever they wanted), has risen dramatically and we are spending accordingly.

There is no other way to account for the orgy of shopping and associated traffic jams that occurred in late December.

Unfortunately, the more we have, the more we want, and this is where our system of democracy falters under the strain of the never-ending demands for yet more "free" services despite the ostentatious show of wealth on display.

To quote George Bernard Shaw: "A Government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul".

When you consider the crippling cost of running our health service, ponder on the words of American journalist PJ O'Rourke who famously wrote "If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free."

Every time a further free category is added to our own health services, the quality of that service inevitably buckles under the demand. My wish for 2017 is that the Irish nation would embrace a campaign to eliminate wasteful spending and reduce the long list of "free" services.

This must, of course, start with all Government departments, where unnecessary, wasteful spending and budget overruns would be punished severely.

This concept of prudence and sensible financial management could then filter down to every home in the land, beginning with us all checking what was purchased for Christmas, be it food, luxury items or disposable goods and adding up what we bought that we didn't need. It just might be a sobering exercise.

Housing crisis is huge burden on economy

In Ireland we are not alone in having a housing problem.

It is worse in Britain with an astonishing 1.3 million people on the waiting list for social rented accommodation. Just like here, the British voters are no longer willing to accept several families sharing one house as was the standard practice in the past.

Trying to cope with this demand has placed a huge burden on both our economies. Maybe the solution is for aspiring home owners to spend less and save more and start with a very small and modest home rather than a €450k luxury semi-detahed.

Unfortunately, planning authorities in many cases don't encourage builders to construct the small starter apartments that would enable couples to find a place of their own. There are lots of attractive, very reasonably priced houses for sale in the North West and Midlands but everyone seems to want to live in the East.

Perhaps the most practical approach was that employed by the late Zsa Zsa Gabor who said "I am a very good housekeeper, every time I leave a man I keep the house".

Young farmers beware.

Indo Farming

Get the latest news from the FarmIreland team 3 times a week.

More in Rural Life