Recently I listened to Susie Dent, the well known lexiographer associated with the Channel 4 programme ‘Countdown‘, state that the term ‘literally’ is now accepted in its figurative as well as its literal sense.
This saddens me. I see it as another cheapening of discourse.
For several years we have been living with counter argumentation that feels it needs no association with facts or truth. If it confirms an already held bias, by being confident in asserting such arguments, they acquire their own truth.
We have learned to confuse passion with anger or invective. We have come to see what had been thought of as abuse as some type of strength of character.
We have lost the ability to see that the views of others can and do have validity. We fear being seen as weak if we admit that our own views can and should change, if better arguments exist, or if we are seen to be misinformed.
We have created a world where expectations must be met immediately and in full.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in a system of politics where change, if it occurred at all, was often painfully slow. A system where obstacles were more successful in impeding progress.
The cycle that I have witnessed in overcoming change has seen the process of new ideas being subjected to indifference, to derision and then towards acceptance.
Mine is a political generation that has seen change as being hard won. A generation that has had to be vigilant against attempts to roll back victories that have been positive and progressive.
The pace of change since the turn of the millennium, both in terms of amount and depth, has been of a level greater than I have ever experienced before in my life.
I have come to appreciate how much better we are doing in achieving change. My previous experience of change being obstructed or being painfully slow, has made into something of an incrementalist.
We incrementalists are these days seen as the enemy, by those who see themselves as being the new vanguard of the revolution.
Having lived most of my political life overseeing zero or inching change, I have come to appreciate any positive deviation in policy direction to be significant change in itself.
Unlike the prevailing mood I don’t want it all now. I have come to believe that expecting such can be an impeding factor in bringing about change.
As well being an incrementalist I have also become a pragmatist. For some this magnifies the disdain in which I should be held.
To believe that battles should be picked and chosen, that to seek ultimate wins by accepting in the short term some battles can’t be won, is seen as betrayal by the self declared righteous.
These days it seems that expectations are not defined by our values, but by how quickly we can impose our beliefs on others.
Of course reactionary forces continue to exist. They are most prevalent where ignorance and deceit hold sway. Moral superiority is not the way of dealing with their contagion. Nor is having progressives vent their collective spleen against each other for not being bold or pure enough.
Change is coming. We should acknowledge each element of change as and when it occurs. To divide our energies and blur our focus, is to deny and delay change.
This isn’t the time for that.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator and serves as a Green Party councillor on Cork City Council. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle