Take a deep breath before reading this, it is from Transforming Mission by the South African writer David Bosch which is the text for a postgraduate study week. For me it sums up Irish society, which has moved from traditional Irish Catholicism, through the experience of the Enlightenment (which took three centuries in Protestant Britain), to the current state, which is described as post-modernity, all in the space of one generation.
“The Enlightenment creed taught that every individual was free to pursue his or her own happiness, irrespective of waht others thought or said.
This entire approach had disastrous consequences. The so-called openness of modern liberalism really means that people do not take others seriously – indeed, that they do not need others. It follows that individuals can no longer take themselves seriously and that, in spite of the fact that they have the liberty to believe and do as they like, many do not believe in anything any more, and spend all their lives “in frenzied work and frenzied play so as not to look into the abyss” . . . Too confident to acknowledge or draw on their religious roots, too urbane to be duped by the lure of some irrational ideologies, all that remains in the end is the embrace of nihilism. Free to use their power any way they wish, modern humans have no referent outside themselves, no guarantee they will use their freedom responsibly and for the sake of the common good. The autonomy of the individual, so much flaunted in recent decades, has ended in heteronomy; the freedom to believe whatever one chooses to believe has ended in no belief at all; the refusal to risk interdependence has ended in alienation also from oneself.”
David Bosch, writing in South Africa in 1991, anticipates David McWilliams’ kidults, living in Ireland in 2007. http://www.davidmcwilliams.ie/2006/12/27/nation-of-adults-now-behaving-just-like-spoilt-little-children