Are we facing potentially fatal political hurricanes?
HARVEY, Irma, Jose and Katia are the unforgettable names given to the recent storms that wreaked havoc in the Caribbean and on the southern coasts of the US.
We had our own version here in Donegal and with every month that passes, more and more extreme weather events seem to strike.
The winds of chaos are also howling through our economic, political and social realities. One wonders how long our edifices will last until the first sheets of galvanise are ripped off and fly around with lethal capriciousness.
I watch and listen to Donald Trump in complete disbelief that this creature was elected to the most powerful political office in the world. And there is Kim Jong-un taunting us all into destruction. The awful reality is that the countries on both sides of this standoff are in serious decline and both have turned to the edge of reason to keep their myths about themselves alive.
To the south, the Mediterranean is awash with refugees fleeing a burning and politically dysfunctional African continent.
In Europe, we have Brexit. The longer it goes on, the more depressing the prospect of Britain leaving the EU gets. It is yet another storm that’s ripping away at structures and realities that we had started to take for granted.
Partition of the island had almost ceased to be an issue — nationalism and unionism were becoming cosmetic notions that had little more meaning than one’s chosen English football team. We had begun to take it for granted.
All is changed. The EU was the glue that held the Good Friday Agreement together, but now we find one of the guarantors of the agreement has rediscovered a nationalism of its own. And it has handed to those who never stopped carrying the border in their hearts and minds an opportunity they thought would never come again. They now fervently believe they will see their beloved line of demarcation return harder and higher than ever with a power of distinction even greater than it enjoyed during the cold reign of Brookeborough.
Taking for granted — that is the great sin of our era. Over recent decades, Europe has enjoyed long periods of sustained peace. There were 55 years of relative peace on the continent between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the Franco Prussian War of 1870. A number of vicious Balkan wars blighted the continent between 1871 and 1914, and then there ensued the catastrophe of the First World War, followed 20 years later by World War II.
Since 1945, for 72 years, aside from the Balkan conflict of the early 1990s, Europe has avoided a major war and enjoyed long periods of peace and prosperity. We had come to believe this is how things should be, taking for granted that life will continue and will be effortlessly good for a great bulk of people.
At this stage, we have moved beyond taking for granted — we now feel entitled to the good life and this sense of entitlement is pervasive and corrosive.
We have lost the stomach for struggle as we wait for plates to appear with our desires wobbling on them like jelly on a Sunday — except now we expect to have jelly every day.
For 20 years, we have had relative peace on these islands and it was looking like we were on the cusp of a golden age of neighbourly bliss, but June 23, 2016 changed all that.
It could be argued that Britain voted for Brexit because many with most to lose took for granted that it would be alright on the night and, without bothering to vote, expected the result they desired to fall out of the ballot boxes. In this era of entitlement we expect to wake up tomorrow morning and find that someone somewhere will have done something to fix the bits of reality that don’t match our expectations.
There is every indication we are sleepwalking into a nuclear cataclysm, into climate chaos and, on these islands, into a fracturing of relationships that could be deep and nasty. In this republic of ours, we have sleepwalked all the way into a housing and homelessness crisis.
We need to begin to ask ourselves what are we willing to struggle for, what are we willing to pay for with effort, sweat, money, time and resources?
If there is nothing beyond our own four bones and our family’s bones for which we are willing to strive and sweat, then we are surely corroded by entitlement and will be swept away, if not by Harvey, Irma, Jose or Katia, then by the tide of history.
Irma has caused widespread devastation