independent

Wednesday 26 September 2018

We have come a long way - where to next?

Fr Michael Commane - The Way I See It

At this time of year newspapers and television look back on the last year, they also review the State papers of 30 years ago, which are now released for perusal. It's fascinating how differently people dressed and spoke just a short 30 years ago. For anyone now in their teens or 20s, indeed even 30s it is an eternity away.

My father, who died at 95, was swimming in the Atlantic at 92. We'd often discuss the changes he had seen. He drove his father's car when he was 15 and spent 80 years behind the wheel. Never had a road accident. That's some record. I can still remember when we got a landline in the early 1960s. Back then we didn't call it a landline. Most phones in the country were on a table in the hall. Like Henry Ford and his black cars, phones were black.

My Dad used a cordless phone but he never managed a mobile phone, nor indeed, did he get to deal in euro. And there's a funny story about the money; for a long time after we moved away from pounds shillings and pence to pounds and pence, Dad still called the 10p coin 2/-, or a two-shilling-bit. To younger readers that's 'double-dutch'. Another world from Bitcoins.

I have seen four currency changes. I was born into a world of pounds, shillings and pence, in 1971 we changed to decimal currency. The punt arrived in 1979 and then the euro in 2002. The first time I went to Germany, which was 1972, I had a stamp in my passport stating how many German marks I was bringing with me.

When I hear columnist Mary Kenny tweet how her mother cherished her green Irish passport I find myself getting a pain in the pit of my stomach. While my parents saw a lot of changes in their lifetime, my generation has seen its world turned upside down. On Sunday I was washing strawberries to put on my porridge. Strawberries in January were unheard of when I was a child and a young man.

This Christmas close to one million people used Dublin Airport. When I was a teenager I cycled out to Dublin Airport with cousins, walked into a hangar and got on board a DC3 and Viscount aircraft. If we managed to do that today it would be an item of news and a top-level security inquiry would be launched. In the 1960s computer companies constructed large buildings to house their data-inputting machines. Our mobile phones hold more data than those monsters.

Where and what next? Who knows? But one in seven on the planet does not have enough to eat. One third of the food produced in the world for human consumption, approximately 1.3 billion tonnes, is wasted. In the developed world €573 billion worth of food is wasted every year and in the developing world it works out at €261 billion.

We have come a long way in my lifetime, well, at least some have. And at whose expense? It's not exclusively the people in the developing world who are hurting. And no one knows that better than Donald Trump, who has his finger on the pulse of those left behind in rust-belts all over the developed world.

There's something amiss and it needs fixing, and fast.

Happy New Year to all.

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