Our problem is that the vast majority of us have no idea where we are going or why we are here.
Posted 05 June 2011, by Vincent Hanna, Independent.ie, independent.ie
“For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings” — Shakespeare, Sonnet 29
I HAVE long maintained that the only way to deal with blatant insanity and injustice is by way of peaceful, non-violent, non-confrontational, non-co-operation as Gandhi suggested. I reckon that if you have nothing positive or constructive to say, then you should say nothing, and I have held fast to the belief that no one does wrong consciously but that they are simply not all there. I have therefore done nothing, said little and had my beliefs tested to a tremendous degree over the last 14 years.
Seeing as I believe that the worst that could happen in Ireland happened last November, when a man chose to take the lives of his two little girls and then went away and committed suicide — now that we have made more progress in the last 14 days than we have in the last 14 years towards maturity, and what positivity remains as a result needs so desperately to be capitalised upon, I feel compelled to look at our fundamental problems, as individuals, as a nation, as a continent and as a species, their solutions and the potential consequences of the manifestation of those solutions.
First of all then, as individuals — to be or not be is not actually the question — the extent to which one should be is the question. And once we resolve to being, it is the ultimate question, asked throughout the ages but never really answered.
Socrates had to go and die on us and all he left us with was that all that he knew was that he knew nothing. Plato admitted in his Republic that he couldn’t tell us and had to give us his analogy of the cave, which basically puts us all at the back wall of a cave watching shadows of puppets moving to and fro and potentially risking our lives were we to go out and see so much as a blade of grass for real, let alone another human being.
The best Aristotle could come up with was his “Balance” or his Nicomachean Ethics, which were basically the precursor of Bob Dylan’s “How many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man?” but neither he nor Bob gave us so much as a rough estimate or a vague description of the right road.
Jesus Christ couldn’t talk properly. He had to speak in parables. Essentially, all he left us with was that we can do anything that we like — except anything that we like. “Go forth and multiply” but don’t lust. “Keep holy the Sabbath day” but don’t be lazy. He was “the way, the truth and the life” but he couldn’t have been proud of it and we can’t be jealous. The best of all though is that we can’t be angry about this (let’s not talk about greed).
The fact is that there is no such thing as a moral objective or even a purpose for one, and no one, dead or alive, can say otherwise truthfully and it is our courage in the face of this that measures us. It is our ability to be reasonable when there is no reason, to hope when there is no hope, to live when we know that we’re dying and to believe when there is nothing to believe in that measures us.
Our problem is that the vast majority of us have no idea where we are going or why we are here. Our solution is simply to keep on going with faith, hope and a crazy little thing called love, and the potential consequences will be lives lived like Garret FitzGerald’s.
It used to be said that the sun never set on the British Empire. It has set every evening in Ireland since long before the dawn first filled Newgrange with light over 5,000 years ago. Our sovereignty has never been, is not and never will be in question. Indeed, as has been revealed over the last 12 years or so, there have been countless sick, twisted, demented and perverted people, priests and politicians from whose placenta we will spend our lives trying to detach ourselves — but we remain.
Everyone under 35 in this country is worth infinitely more than the billions that we seemingly now owe, together with substantial compensation for being psychologically battered, utterly humiliated, totally misrepresented and falsely accused all of our lives. What we have had to put up with, if it didn’t kill us or make us kill ourselves, has to have made us among the strongest people on earth.
As “a priest of the eternal imagination, transmuting the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of ever living life”, James Joyce wrote, “When the soul of a man is born in this country, there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets.” He did, as so many of us do.
The best of the Irish, probably thanks to the worst, have a knowledge and understanding of the human condition that Sigmund Freud admitted he couldn’t comprehend. What he probably saw as mad men fighting with sticks over a small ball and women who were stronger were actually people whose spirits could do more than a body or mind ever could.
Our problems are those most unfortunate people, utterly devoid of essence or who have had the essence beaten out of them. Our solution is you making the best of you, and the result will be an Ireland that the world knows and loves — a place where people are real by virtue of their knowledge of those that are not really with us. Declan Lynch’s brilliant recent Sunday Independent article headlined ‘Paddy has passed a milestone on the long road to adulthood’, I think and hope was an understatement.
As a continent, the Greeks — credit where credit is due — gave us all of western civilisation, as well as little things like democracy and reason generally. However, somewhat contradictorily, western civilisation has also been responsible for two world wars.
If we don’t have a monopoly on the experience of what not to do and the sources of knowledge of what might be wiser at our disposal; if we don’t realise the insignificance of borders beside the significance of people; if we don’t know the consequences, let alone the futility of trying to conquer the world; if we can’t so proudly share our incredible histories and what we have learnt from them and somehow come up with that ever elusive thing between communism and capitalism that we so need to come up with; if we can’t lead the world to something somewhere close to peace and prosperity by example; if we can’t get it together, then we might as well fly a few planes into Sellafield.
The European Union does not so much have a problem as it does the final solution — and it is not money. Economically speaking though, not that it really matters in the big picture, euro bonds would be the way to go initially, together with making love with the USA, Canada, South America and Australia, establishing a seriously “special relationship” with China, Japan, India and Russia and at the very least a decent handshake with the Middle East and maybe all together we could develop the strength to actually look at Africa.
As a species, we are not the brightest. Einstein said two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity but that he wasn’t sure about the universe. He was probably referring to our ability to do things like build nuclear power plants near fault lines or get four million people €200bn in debt, and who could disagree?
Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his Nobel Prize-winning lecture in 1970 almost said it all. He went through categorically the abject futility of the endeavours of politicians, moneymakers, academics and religion-pushers. He actually predicted planes flying into buildings and the human race being divided by its two major religions and eventually destroying itself in the name of God or Allah.
All people generally heard, though, is that he said, “One word of truth outweighs the whole world.” His ultimate conclusion was that the hope of the world rested on the shoulders of the writers and the artists. Those were the people he was addressing, but obviously he meant that it was up to those who can appreciate and understand what it is they are saying and proceed accordingly. He meant that it was up to you.
What I have gathered thus far, again, only for what it is worth, know thyself, to thine own self be true and so it will follow as night follows day, you can’t be false with anyone. Speak your truth quietly and clearly and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. We’re one but we’re not the same. We get to carry each other and imagine — there is no heaven. As Marianne Williamson wrote and Nelson Mandela quoted, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” Be powerful beyond measure. You’re hundreds of millions beneath worthless, so what have you got to lose?
What I am saying here is actually a simple plea for something of a Copernican revolution whereby the world is not led by men and money so much as it is by the futures of children and their happiness. I know. It’s absurd.