A nation dealing with self-inflicted shame?


As I’ve noted previously, I will be heading off to Australia for at least a year to work, see family and do a right of passage like many my age. My decision in no small part has been swayed by the fact that there is little or no work in Ireland that ties in with my experience, expectations and are challenging.

The reason I bring this up is that I read an article by Fintan O’Toole over at the Irish Times today where he discusses two very different types of shame, healthy and malignant, the former is fine and can in fact be healthy, however, the latter is very different indeed. Fintan ties in the use of shame as a tool by the government in the South to force through poorly thought out economic policies and inflict further penury on the country.

“Malignant shame, more than a simple emotion, is an identity: a more or less permanent state of low self-esteem that causes even successful persons to experience themselves as being unworthy . . . Thus, abuse victims often remain passive in the face of punishment because they suspect that the rage and criticism of their perpetrator is both accurate and justified.”

I must admit that the above is something that I too have felt at times, though unlike many I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by family and friends who have always listened to my concerns or fears and who then point out to me what I am doing right, how I’m not worthless, how there is little some of us can do about the worst economic crisis in 80 years and how we just need to keep working hard and stay focused in order to get out of a little rut or over a little bump on the road. They build my confidence up and give me welcome perspective.

I shudder to think how unemployment effects others, especially if they are, for instance, too old to avail of a working holiday visa to New Zealand or Australia as I have done, have children or other dependents to look after (I do not at present) or are trapped in serious negative equity. The sleepless nights I have experienced where I worry about what I will do when I arrive in Australia work-wise, will I get a decent job for instance, will I waste money and time, how does this look on my CV, what will I do afterwards, all of these thoughts pale in comparison to the troubles of others and yet these same people have in effect been abandoned by governments on both sides of the border to deal with these Herculean ordeals, told ‘we’ spent too much money during the ‘boom’ and stupid money on homes and the nic nacs that fill them.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t spend money I never had, I saved my money and didn’t buy things on tick. I know many who did spend some money, who only wanted to put a roof over their heads and whose wages didn’t grow at all but all things seemingly got more and more expensive. Where people were given credit and other loans by banks, institutions we trusted, to help us out. Sure it was all alright, as banks wouldn’t give us all money unless we were good for it, right? Yet, we are all in it together according to some, but more seem to be in it than others, that’s obvious to us all. There are certain things we ‘must’ do, according to the government to regain confidence in the markets, yet the government loses the confidence of the populous as more and more like myself vote with our feet:

There is a simple truth – we can’t pay the money. Ireland cannot pay back the promissory note for Anglo Irish Bank and Nationwide and it cannot bear the weight of the other bondholder bailouts.’

How much longer will the leeches be applied? What will it take to arrest this decline? I have no idea, and I have no faith in any politician on this island to do the requisite to bring about change for the better. Instead, while we have a cretin like Inda Kenny in charge telling us, like he did at Davos, that we all went nuts during the ‘boom’, ie, it’s all our fault, or Michael Martin criticising his competitor, Sinn Fein with a straight face, saying Northerners, ‘deserved a government that made their lives better and demonstrates that politics works.‘, when his own party when in government ruined this country, how can we expect any kind of progress?

‘This is an eerily accurate diagnosis of the collective passivity of Irish citizens. We are the victims of an obvious outrage – forced to beggar ourselves to pay off debts that “we” never incurred. But we are unable to respond to this attack because we suspect that we deserve it.’

That’s why I believe we are not facing a crisis of economics, but a crisis of politics.

Let me know your thoughts sure. Maybe I’m being somewhat over the top, or maybe underwhelming, who knows, but I’m voting with my feet out of here for a while.


6 responses to “A nation dealing with self-inflicted shame?

  1. I got a tooth out today and this is probably the painkillers wearing off……but I think it is actually a much bigger crisis than politics or economics.
    Irish folks have been let down by bankers, politicians, churchmen, broadcasters (but arguably thats a Europe-wide problem………look at Greece and Spain).
    To be honest I am glad I am 60 years old. There is a 50-50 chance that I only have twenty years of this left……and frankly even if Im technically alive after I am 80 I probably wont have a clue whats going on.

    I have seen the Future. I dont like it.

    • Thanks FJH,

      As I’ve said before, I detest nostalgia in its current form, it’s so very negative, as in we can’t do better than before. We can and should strive for more but alas we seem lost in recriminations.

      I love living in Ireland, I really do, though I wonder how much it loves me at times 🙂

      I live in hope but prepare for the worst, as always…

      • At the weekend my wife was talking to an American friend who visited Ireland about six years ago. Very heartening to hear a well travelled person say that Ireland was simply the best place she had ever been.
        It wasnt a romanticised view she had. Very matter of fact.

      • FJH, Ireland has been transformed in ways many would or could never expect. When we moved home from Boston to Shannon it was such a massive step back. Likewise when we moved up North and what I mentioned on you blog previously.

        I really noticed it from 2000 on. South Belfast at least changed beyond recognition, some for good, some for bad, but I do love living here nonetheless, perhaps that’s why I’m so melancholy at the moment? The thought of giving this all up despite Australia’s pleasures?

      • A weekend on Bondi Beach, a sightseeing tour of Ramsey Street (Neighbours) and a pint of Fosters and you will be ok. And you will be throwing another pom on the barbie.

      • Thanks! Perhaps I’m merely freaking out a little and experiencing what a best mate called ‘first world problems’.

        Have my havaianas and a ticket to NYC first of all, it’s an annual thing now, 7 for 8 too! Cannot wait!

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