The re-opening of schools has brought the illusion of normality to our country. After all, what’s better and more normal than seeing little ones and older children return to the business of books and school bags, lunches and learning, drop-offs and pick-ups. Families are the hinge of a healthy society, the pivot of a robust economy. And their relationship with school should be a positive and one.
By this measure, the “reopening” is an illusion. There is a sense of ‘gratitude’ to government, part of a growing culture of dependency which is unhealthy. Children are returning to an experience of school radically different to anything that this, and preceeding, generations have known and with more to come.
Children, of course, “get on with it”. But that is not an option for parents in a functioning democracy. The longer-term impact of ‘social distancing’ of school as a “No Go” zone for parents and grandparents and all the rest of what seems to be made up as we go along, is not something that should be passively accepted. Clever — and expensive– slogans are no substitute for facts and truth.
All of this is a microcosm of Irish society. We have lurched from one policy mind-set to another: from open airports to regional lockdowns. Impositions on the Hospitality industry are a curious mix of the inexplicable and the faintly sinister. Perhaps the reopening of schools and rhythm of family life will, in their own way, break through to the surreal state of a ‘frozen’ country– and world. We should rigorously question these things. Yet to do so is, in the culture of fear that now pervades our country is problematic. Enough for you and I to repeat the truism of the generosity of our health care professionals–nurses and medics that, not so long ago, were sold short by, and in dispute with, the very same political orthodoxy.
In other words, wear your mask regardless of the evidence of its clinical efficacy show some ‘solidarity’. It’s not healthy. Propaganda of any kind whether to ‘nudge’ or to ‘guilt’ or to manipulate people– is unhealthy. It deflects away from reason, common sense and from a reflective analysis of risk, as opposed to the uncertainty which is an intrinsic part of our world.
All of this is unfolding against the backdrop of a political stasis where two jaded parties, emphatically rejected by voters six months ago, have “done a deal” — think about it–to stay in power with a small economically naive minority party, in a “Programme for Government” that’s wired to the moon.
The children who entered the school gates this week will–all unbeknownst to them, and thank God for that–bear the burden of care of an economy now on life support, and with an uncertain prognosis. Its tough for many of the businesses that have reopened and respect to them. But consider for a moment the ones that are in limbo — the closed shops in the heartland of Ireland and those businesses who, whether they know it or not, are among the billion euro write- downs already provided for by the banks.
The domestic, as well as the global, impact of Covid-19, both short and medium term, come on top of the knock-on effects of a post Brexit trade regime whose final impact alone on the economy, and especially the social economy, would be matter enough for real concern.
This generation is bequeathing to the students in our Universities and the children in our schools a debt- burdened Irish economy: an economy dependent for the moment on the printing presses of the ECB, the Boards of multinationals driven by corporate capitalism and on a reactive and increasingly dictatorial EU.
The true impact of un- and under employment and of the burden of debt repayment will not be fully apparent until next year. The hope for young adults and school goers is that the scale of the impact will be mitigated by the EU’s €750 billion EU Recovery Fund and its 7 year Budget.
I wouldn’t be too sure. They were late in the day. Much damage had been done by a failure of EU institutions to manage, much less manage, the early stages of the pandemic —and individual countries took (back) responsibility for responding to an event for which, as Bloomberg have pointed out, the EU was “woefully unprepared”.
The scale of the challenges confronting Ireland within a troubled EU, with a leadership that can best be described as beige, are formidable. Ireland is peripheral. Its also uniquely impacted by Brexit. Then there’s the burden of its present borrowing and national debt.
At the same time, there’s the enormous increase, post Brexit, in Ireland’s absolute and relative net contribution to the EU actual euros and contingent liabilities. These wholly disproportionate net transfers from Ireland to the EU are at the cost of urgently needed social and infrastructural expenditures here at home. Neither have they been properly discussed.
This means that Ireland has manoevered itself between a rock and a (very) hard place. Bear in mind that the EU is now being ruled by the Strong and by the Frugal. Meanwhile we are being ruled by a coalition that between them were responsible for a boom and a crash and for all the debacle of the National Children’s Hospital stands. Our future and the future of our children is in the hands of “multi-cultural progressives” who lack either knowledge of, or respect, for history. They have not acquainted themselves, or forgotten, Vaclav Havel’s parable of the Greengrocer. They will likely not be around when the strains on our social economy become too great. But the children who have returned to school last will be.
The message is: families are what our lives are about. Not politics, which will always play you false. Not the EU, which marches to a different heartbeat. Family.
The ethos and governance of our schools is of special importance to families : its where the work of parents in the formation of children in faith values, and in the virtues that bind a healthy society together, are reinforced. It is an ethos that must be protected. Parents cannot look to government or their TD to do this for them, this Government are in a different ‘space’ to them.
More than ever before, families need to embed in their children independence from the state and the self-reliance which is part of the Germanic culture and is a part of Irelands farming heritage. Parents need to reflect quietly on how to strength their resilience, their preparedness, in mitigating the consequence of what is unfolding in our suddenly strange new world.