January 2016 (supplement)
|These are regular editorials
produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent
[Return to related issue of Nonviolent
The bulk of young people today in Ireland have never had so
much, both materially and in the way of opportunities. This
is a statement of fact (though the extent of the availability
of opportunities varies according to different factors, mainly
class). But if you ask the question of whether young people
are any happier, more content, satisfied with themselves and
their lives, at ease with themselves, than in other eras then
the answer to the question is going to be very different.
Despite (or even partially because of) youth
culture, much of which is commercially driven, there are enormous
pressures on young people. But youth culture is a sub-set
of popular culture as a whole which tends to define itself
in terms of "I consume, therefore I am". There is
a peculiar mix of lack of role and responsibility for many
along with pressure to succeed (usually but not exclusively
from adults), there is pressure to be able to consume, there
is peer pressure. This leads to a pressure cooker environment
- and pressure cookers can blow their top.
Young males in particular have not necessarily
been able to work out their role creatively in our environments,
North and South of this island. At one extreme this has led
to high suicide rates for young men. But it has also led to
problems at less drastic levels as well. It is likely that
Ireland is not much different to Britain where a study over
the last 25 years revealed that the mental health of teenagers
has declined sharply and the proportion of 15 years olds with
behavioural problems of various kinds has more than doubled;
boys are more likely to show behavioural problems, girls emotional
problems. Other countries have avoided this youth trap but
it is likely Ireland as a whole is more akin to the British
Alcohol and drug abuse leading to fights and
violence post-pub or post-club is a common phenomenon. We
referred to the connection between alcohol and violence in
a recent editorial. The wider question is why young people
(and more than their share of older people too) feel obliteration
through alcohol is a necessary part of enjoying life.
A green culture would value people for who they
are rather than what they have or consume. A green culture
would place emphasis on different kinds of achievement - collective,
social and cultural - rather than careering and consuming.
But creating a new and caring culture which does not do violence
to the earth (and thereby our neighbours across the globe)
is a major step. That major step has to be taken collectively.
We need to redefine what the role of a human being is in western
society. Let us hope, and work, that future generations of
young people will be able to take their place in society without
the trauma and angst which society currently puts upon them.
That change is the responsibility of those who wield power
today, and all of us, young and old, who can influence the
decision making process.
Mary Kelly's recent trial in Ennis got the State the result
it wanted - a guilty verdict. But Judge Carroll Moran refused
to allow a variety of expert evidence about Iraq and the war
in Iraq (which doesn't come much more expert than Denis Halliday),
and Shannon Airport's role in that illegal war. He did not
want the case to "degenerate into a political debate".
Mary Kelly's defence of 'lawful excuse' for her action in
attacking a US war plane was therefore left hanging by a thread.
But the judge was simply wrong - it can be argued
legally as well as morally. Mary Kelly did not attack the
plane because she was feeling aggressive that day, or normally
went around attacking planes. She did a claimed €1.5
million damage to the 737 navy aircraft because it was part
of the US war machine engaged in an illegal war in Iraq. She
was acting to prevent harm being done. The judge did allow
the jury to decide for themselves.
If you want to look at 'political decisions'
then Mary Kelly's was not the only one. Judge Moran, in refusing
to allow relevant evidence, was making a political decision
which ensured, at the end of the day, that a majority of the
jury found her guilty. It is a sad day for the law in Ireland,
and for action for justice worldwide, that such a decision
could be made in a supposedly 'neutral' state. But then if
the state really was really neutral in its actions, and taking
a progressive role in relation to global conflicts, there
would be no passage through Shannon Airport for the USA's
war machines and Mary Kelly would not have felt obliged to
do what she did.
Larry Speight is going to join us regularly
with his thoughts:
The line, "Season of mists and mellow
fruitfulness" which opens Keats' poem 'Ode to
Autumn' encapsulates for many of us the ambience of the
season. If we take a walk along any of the B-roads in Fermanagh
we will get an idea of how fruitful the season actually
is. On one recent walk near Derrygonnelly I came across
six kinds of berries on a single stretch of rod, some edible,
some with medicinal properties and some, if we gathered
enough of them, would be useful in dyeing or for use in
craftwork. Sadly, for most folk today, the lore of the countryside
is lost and we are no longer able to distinguish what is
useful and what is hazardous.
Many people will go through the entire
season without appreciating it and regard the ever longer
nights, the increase in rain and cold, as unpleasant and
as sooner passed the better. Yet, if we psychologically
align ourselves with the season we will embrace it as a
time for slowing down; shedding, healing, and mending. The
long nights are for story telling and family games - especially
if one has young children, they are for reading a good book
in a cosy room, upgrading our skills or learning new ones
as in attending an evening class. They are for writing and
musing. The season also reminds us of the inevitability
of aging, of our immortality - which we acknowledge and
celebrate at Hallowe'en. Autumn is a time for getting in
touch with ourselves - undertaking self-healing, and, if
we need to, reconnecting with our neighbours and the natural
world. The season, as Keats says, is our "Close bosom-friend".
Let is not be the case of appreciating it when it has gone.