Dan Boyle: Back To The Future


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.

Whether this was by the FDR administration, the Attlee government, or the Nordic approach, the intent and the application were largely the same.

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



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34 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: Back To The Future

  1. Ollie

    The forty hour working week, paid vacations, maternity leave, largely universal education and health care

    Which country are yoi talking about Dan? Definitley not Ireland for many

  2. Clampers Outside!

    … largely in agreement, but not wholly. I don’t know anyone calling the century of America. And don’t forget the franchise of the lads too Dan. It was the centenary of a universal franchise with the albeit you do mention.

    Merry Christmas Dan! Plenty to be optimistic about the journey we’re all on.

    1. millie st murderlark

      I strongly approve of your tactics, BS moderator

      I’m actually extremely admiring of them. An elegant solution, though it must be a pain in the bum for you.

  3. Zaccone

    “The forty hour working week, paid vacations, maternity leave, largely universal education and health care” — while these are all monumental achievements, all of them were attained over 40 years ago in Western Europe. Thats the problem facing social democracy, progress has been stalled (or worse, slowly pushed back on) for recent decades.

    When people’s living standards have at best stalled, or at worst started to regress, its when they turn to the new radical parties on the far right that promise whole-scale societal change. To prevent this, the traditional left (ie social democratic) parties need to get back to focusing on working/middle class economic issues, instead of the champagne socialist identity politics of recent years.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      Very well said!

      Great thread (with link to paper/data) and analysis of populism, left and right, below…

      “We assembled a first-of-its-kind dataset of populist leaders, looking at 46 heads of government across 33 countries who were in power between 1990 and today.

      And instead of speculating about what populists did to democracy, we actually looked at the historical record.”


      1. f_lawless

        @Clampers : I’d treat a report that was commissioned by the ‘Tony Blair Institute for Global Change’ with more scepticism. I think here’s been a drive of late by various elements of the establishment to over-hype the ‘rise of populism’ narrative as a ploy to dissuade more people from joining the growing numbers starting to actively express their dissatisfaction with the neoliberal policies they’ve been living under. I’ve read the term ‘populism’ has undergone a lot of ‘concept stretching’ through the ages and no less so in these days where it seems anyone really speaking outside of the restricted terms of normal public debate is in danger of being labelled a populist. http://oxfordre.com/politics/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228637-e-17

    2. Nigel

      Yeah stop it with the identity politics and focus exclusively on the concerns of my favoured group identities.

          1. Clampers Outside!

            I asked a question pet.

            Not the first time you’ve dismissed Noam for not suiting your far-Left position, so yeah, the poor attempt at humour was more like continuation of form, in all truth and fairness.

            Have a nice day now Nigella.

          2. Nigel

            I assumed the question was as rhetorical and related to reality as your repeated misgendering? Since your use of the term ‘far left’ and your appeal to the authority of Chomsky are lazy straw constructs, they are as idiosyncratic and arbitrary as your understanding of both truth and fairness.

          3. Nigel

            Not really. Too much for you to process, though obviously that’s hardly saying much. Easy to see why you’re such an easy mark for the alt right.

          4. Nigel

            No, no. You’re an ‘egalitarian’ which means you spend your time attacking trans people and feminists and women wearing hajibs and other alt right bogeypersons FOR the alt right. Defending Jordan Petersen and Milo Whatsisface and that guy whov said being a woman meant you weren’t as good at tech work. Your hoop indeed.

            (Also: shoot? It’s the right that shoots people.)

          5. Clampers Outside!

            Hahahahahahahaha! are ya triggered or wha’ ?
            The fragile ego of multi-avatar users is a funny thing. Like a scatter gun full of Skittles with all ya put into that comment :0)

            Calm down pet… have a cup of tea and a slice of Christmas cake, you’ll be grand in a while, I’m sure.

          6. Nigel

            The gall of you accusing anyone else of waffle. But It’s great you’ve found another lie to tell about me. You do like telling lies about me

  4. SOQ

    It’s not all bad Dan, take a look at what is happening to retail, especially in the UK. High street sales are way down and some of it is due to the uncertainty of Brexit or less money but there is another reason.

    Consumption fatigue, where people are just tired of buying as a lifestyle choice, especially if they keep going into debt to do it. This is also due to storage of course where younger tend to be renters but ‘peak stuff’ is definitely a thing.

  5. millie st murderlark

    You two really bring out the worst in each other, you know that?

    It’s downright ugly. Stop slinging poo at each other like a pair of monkeys. Even Ollie wasn’t as bad as this.

Comments are closed.

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