From top: Lough Meelagh County Roscommon on St. Stephens Day ; Dan Boyle
I remain an optimist about life and the World we live in. I don’t expect bad things to disappear, but I do expect they can be overcome.
It has been a god awful decade. A time when the individual became king. Where we replaced what we had considered greed with the more agreeable concept of realistic expectation. Where the notion of the ideal of a common good has been disparaged to near death.
The negative turns that have been taken won’t ever be completely reversed. Nor should they be. Part of the right/left societal shift at any historical point is corrective. The problem is where change goes beyond the corrective.
We are, and have been living, in such a period. A period in which global wealth (at least in how it is measured) has never been greater, nor has the distribution of that wealth been poorer.
A time where the planet we collectively share, has become an afterthought in our pursuit of what we have foolishly been sold as ‘happiness’.
A space where we selectively decide on what is ‘truth’, preferring to confirm our biases than accept that views other than our own may have greater validity.
A dark age, not yet our darkest hour, but many dawns still await us. Those dawns arrive when we realise we can properly critique the badness that stymies our progress.
And we can recognise that the goodness in what we have rejected, the neglected strengths that have made us who, and what, we are.
In this age of demagogues and demagoguery it has because de rigeur to assail social democratic societies and what they have represented.
It can’t be denied that the era of social democracy has ended with an air of smugness and complacency. It can be argued that there has been much to be smug about.
The twentieth century has been erroneously described as the American century. It should be more properly seen as the Social Democratic century.
As we celebrate the centenary of the partial franchise for women, we are tending to forget the more complete journeys that have been made.
The forty hour working week, paid vacations, maternity leave, largely universal education and health care. Add to this development of welfare safety nets, consumer rights and consideration of environmental wrongs. All advances made, and achieved, during the social democratic century.
These achievements were all the more telling because they were achieved against the competing absolutes of communism and capitalism (red raw in claw and tooth).
Where social democracy lost its way was in being too wedded to the industrial and the utilitarian.
All modern economic theories coalesce around the myth of bigger, faster, stronger, more, believing that all consequences that follow are beneficial. The environmental crises we are experiencing shows that that is evidently not the case.
Perhaps the greater failure of social democracy has been its belief that the greater good of the many, though not all, has been good enough.
We can do and must do better.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle