'Transparency' is vital to counter rumour mills and gossip

Fr Michael Commane - The Way I See It

'Anightmare is haunting Europe, the nightmare of Communism.' That is the first sentence of the Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in 1848.

There is a new ghost haunting Europe and the developed world and it is the ghost of populism, better called fascism or far-right ideologies.

When Marx and Engels wrote their Manifesto there was great unease in Europe, people were angry and authorities were nervous. Today people are again angry, they feel marginalised and disenfranchised. There are European elections next May which could well see the established parties lose their control of the European Parliament to right-wing/nationalist parties.

Why is there such widespread alienation and anger today? The following story might throw some light on why we are where we are.

In August Dublin City Council closed its Bring Bank in Dublin's Rathgar in order to improve the facility. A large notice was erected to tell customers it would reopen in October. Last week a council employee assured me it would never open again.

When he told me that the Rathgar Bring Bank would never open again I was slow to believe him. I put it down to gossip and the usual banter, in which we engage. Some days later I was disposing my recyclable waste at the Rathmines Bring Bank, where I overheard a conversation about the potential fate of the Rathgar facility.

I decided the best approach was to phone the council, which I did. I explained my concern. Initially she told me that she had no idea it was closed. Came back to me a few minutes later to tell me that there were different opinions as to whether or not Rathgar was closing. She gave me the name of the person who could answer my questions and suggested I phone that person on Monday. And that's exactly what I did. I was assured that Rathgar would be reopening. The site was being rearranged but because of technical problems there would be a delay of a few weeks in the reopening date.

I doubt too many people would have the inclination to do what I did and go back to the source to get the relevant information. But now that I have done that, I know exactly what the facts are.

Whether it's the inaccurate gossip figures of the numbers of homicides committed by migrants across Europe or the millions of pounds the UK would save every day if it left the EU, we are all being sucked in by rumour and gossip. Trump's 'fake news' works in the most devious ways.

But one way to counter what is going on at present would be for people in charge to be fastidious in telling employees exactly what is happening, in other words, to use that awful, over-used word, 'transparency'. If my council employee friend was told what was happening, if he were made feel he played a central and important role in the smooth-running of Dublin City Council he may well indeed have a completely different take on reality. Instead of feeling marginalised and forgotten he might be proud and even enthusiastic about his employers.

Far too many ghosts rise from the ashes and then cause terrible destruction.