Are we citizens of an economy or of a society?
If we live in a pure economy, do we not simply inhabit a society without a soul and therefore do we not live in Hell?
That’s not a new question, as anyone who remembers the late great Irish Times journalist John Healy will tell you, but it’s still a pertinent one, and it crystallised this weekend with the appearance of Royal de Luxe on the streets of Limerick.
I don’t know how many people the event brought to our town, but I know what sort of feeling it brought. I know that it showed the world what a fine place this is and how our people can embrace an emotion of good will and positivity. I know that I walked the route today with my daughter and came home enriched and elated, as much by the evident kind heart of our people as by the spectacle itself. I know that it created intangible benefits rippling through space-time far into the future when we’re all gone, but I don’t know how anyone could slap a price tag on that.
And yet, there are those who question the value of such events.
I can see, for example, why a case might be made for not holding this event but instead using the money to promote many other smaller events with a view to creating an established creative base. I can even see why people might ask why the money wasn’t spent on healthcare, but of course, this sort of thinking is what allows the privileged and the influential to get away with the great con-job.
It’s not a bald accounting exercise, even though the bean-counters might see it that way. Otherwise, what else might we get rid of for making a loss? Should we dig up the loss-making public parks and sell the land for golf courses? Should we abolish the fire brigades and let people employ their own firefighters as they did in the 19th century? Should we stop sweeping the streets? What about these public playgrounds that cost so much?
Couldn’t all that money be spent on hospitals instead?
Of course it could, but this is the narrative of the oligarch. Let them believe that such a small pot of money exists they must fight over it, and that will stop them pointing fingers at us. What a shame that small, poor, hardworking people buy into this nonsense when they are the very ones who suffer as a result.
In the society without a soul, nothing has a value, but everything has a price-tag. We’re already well on the way to abandoning education in favour of job training, even if it happens to be under the spurious guise of universities. We dropped Latin from the curriculum because it had no obvious use and in its place we put business jargon so that now nobody understands the basis of the language we speak. We forgot that Irish was the medium we think in, we dropped the accents of our parents and the language of our grandparents, marooning ourselves in a mid-Atlantic morass of mediocrity.
We closed our huge railway network and demolished the bridges. We neglected our ports. We drove our fishing fleet to penury. We allowed vast tracts of historic architecture to crumble.
What else could we drop, since it doesn’t turn a profit? Street lighting. Policing. Museums. Orchestras.
Let’s turn ourselves into ignorant unlettered hoi-polloi in the service of profit.
Is that what we want? Do we really want to be citizens of a soulless economy or do we want to have a genuine society, owned and controlled by us, the people of Ireland? I don’t think so. I think it’s time we threw off this drab, utilitarian outlook and began to re-embrace what makes us different.
We could start by setting up an all-inclusive Creativity Council in place of our obsolete ways of pigeon-holing the arts, the sciences and all other things original.