Money talks in the new Ireland, just like Australia

Money talks in the new Ireland, just like AustraliaSometimes we need to look elsewhere to realise what is happening in our own backyard. Ireland is not Australia, but both countries have hit upon prosperity at a time of economic downturn for the economies of many other First World nations. Irish Jesuit Thomas Casey writes in the latest issue of America magazine of the "whirlwind of change" that has occurred as Ireland has taken its place at the cutting edge of the digital revolution.

Less than 20 years ago, Ireland was one of Europe's poorest countries. Now it is one of the most affluent. Work takes up more of the Irish people's time, and offers greater monetary rewards. Casey, who teaches at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, reflects that the Irish psyche is "shrinking from vast spiritual dimensions to a narrowly materialistic focus. Something beautiful is dying, and it is painful to watch." People are "shopping, spending, borrowing, eating, drinking and sleeping around as never before". For centuries, Ireland had resisted Britain's attempts to properly colonise it. Now Ireland is thoroughly "colonised by consumerism".

Back in the late '90s, Australia was looking at Third World economic status, as we became consumer rather than producer during the dot-com boom. Labelled an "old economy", we were on track to becoming the "banana republic" about which Keating had prophesied earlier in the decade. Then the mineral boom came along, and monied Australians suddenly rediscovered prosperity. This was accompanied by the erosion of values, symbolised by the Tampa incident and David Hicks' detention without trial. Like Ireland's spiritual imagination and resolute independence, our sense of the "fair go" was all but gone.

Last week, the media enjoyed reporting the public disagreement between the Costello brothers at the G20 world economic gathering in Melbourne. Federal Treasurer Peter said we're doing OK with our International Aid. World Vision CEO and Make Poverty History co-chair Tim said we trail most other developed countries. The clash reflected a widening chasm in Australian society between those who care and those who don't.

Later in the week, Sir Gerard Brennan gave a strident address at the launch of the Centre for an Ethical Society in Sydney. He argued that if we are not moved by the plight of the poor, the marginalised and the disabled, it will be reflected in a public policy that puts corporate aspiration before human good. He proposed the Good Samaritan as the model.

Money talks in the new Ireland, just like Australia"The social isolation of many Aboriginal people, of many refugees, of many who are poorly educated and many who suffer from a mental illness erodes the sense of self-worth and deprives them of hope. Yet, like the Levite passing on the other side of the road, we oftentimes seem to ignore their plight or, worse, regard them as a threat to our own well-being."

Well-being in Australia, and in Ireland, has come to mean economic well-being.

 

 

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