The journalist asked, “Apart from keeping things over, have you any other plans?’
‘Keeping things ticking other is not such a bad thing to do’.
It wasn’t a very good answer. On reflection, there might have been a more positive response. The point of keeping things ticking over is to be counter-cultural; to re-assert the values of community, to affirm those who have held on to a belief in something other than money and possessions in the face of rampant materialism. Keeping things ticking over allows a rediscovery of roots. True radicalism is about going to the roots and building from there.
None of that would have made the slightest sense in a local newspaper, and is probably no more than a post hoc interpretation of a decision to move to the country that was really a matter of pragmatism, but the Lord moves in mysterious ways. Maybe a rediscovery of the soul of the church, and of our community, needs to come from the rural roots of our parishes.
Fintan O’Toole’s Ship of Fools suggests that Ireland never had the chance to mature as a modern democracy before being overtaken by all that happened in the past decade. Perhaps, though, it is more than the development of modern political culture, where TDs are not glorified county councillors, that is the problem.
Irish society 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 South African writer David Bosch in his 1991 book Transforming Mission said:
The Enlightenment creed taught that every individual was free to pursue his or her own happiness, irrespective of what 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.”
There is an overwhelming sense of alienation within Ireland; particularly from the political structures that now place the burden of the greed of the super rich upon the backs of working people. Alienation from the state is accompanied by alienation from the self-serving churches, which once provided community and interdependence. People feel isolated and voiceless.
Keeping things ticking over maybe means the opportunity to look and listen and to find community and the values that made this country a special place. It wouldn’t be bad plan, but would hardly sound like sense in the paper.