The Census Return
Sitting, warming up after being at a football match, and there being no reason to rise at six in the morning, I decided to look at the 2022 Census form.
The details on Friday night would not differ from those on Sunday, so I decided to pick up a black pen and start to complete the boxes. There is probably some penalty stipulated for those who complete the form on the wrong day, but given the fact that enumerators around the country will have to assist many people in the completion of the form when they call back to collect the returns, a slightly premature writing of answers seemed unlikely to lead to problems in the compilation of national statistics.
Two sections prompted thought.
The first was the question, “what is your religion, if any?”
In former times, I would immediately have marked the box for the Church of Ireland, but I stopped to think about it.
Whilst retaining a strong belief in Jesus of Nazareth, I have no belief whatsoever in the churches that purport to represent him, certainly not in a church led by bishops who are about as far as possible from the people with whom Jesus associated. The Church of Ireland has no relevance whatsoever to the communities in which I live and work. Most of my students have never even heard of it.
There seemed no box to tick which allowed for someone to simply say that their religion was the teachings of Jesus.
I pondered for a few moments and then ticked the box, “No religion.”
Undoubtedly, this will place me among the ranks of the atheists, agnostics and those who can’t be bothered to think about the question, but I tend to think Jesus would more readily find an audience among them than among those dressed in purple and fine linen.
The second section was the “Time Capsule”, the opportunity to leave a message for those for whom the Census returns will be made public in a hundred years’ time.
In my neatest handwriting, I wrote:
Please do not judge the people of 2022 by the standards of your time. We have progressed much in 100 years but there is still much to be achieved if we are to achieve a society that might truly be described as “civilized”.
I hope in 2121 Ireland will be a place where people have homes, where fair incomes are paid, where the health system is just, and where every person is treated with the dignity they deserve.
I don’t suppose anyone is likely to read it, but it passed the time.
It stuck me when QE2 was over a few years ago that they could’ve handed the place back to her and while she mightn’t have understood the red boxed issuing from Dublin Castle her grandfather wouldn’t have any problems at all. So unchanged the place is administratively. So, I’m not too hopeful for the next 100. A little, but not too much.
On the religious question. I’ve been painting icons. Mostly of the Sinai, or Cretan tradition. The earliest I can find. And not copies, more a nod towards.
How can anyone alive who lived reading about little girls dying giving birth under a motte repurposed to fit a tableau of Lourdes, the savagery inflicted on orphans by so called religious to the slaughter of babies through infection starvation and neglect in Mother and Baby homes still have any belief in the formal church, any of them.
It certainly seems a project that went wrong.
It struck me whilst making little hyphens through the document that the CSO might be better to ask Facebook, Google or Twitter for their data. For frankly beyond the straight head count there wasn’t that much one could sink a tooth into and then derive policy. Even Tesco has more I suspect.
It didn’t seem designed to garner any information that might be useful in shaping future policies. If the social media companies hadn’t more information than what the census provides, they would never sell any advertising!