Joyce Fegan: Taking stock of the changes seen in last decade

Joyce Fegan: Taking stock of the changes seen in last decade

The last 10 years brought huge change that we did not see coming, from social media to streaming, and from politics to polarisation, but we know all that now.

Hate is not going to move us forward. Hate has never moved anyone or anything forward.

And yet, if anything stands out from this last decade, it is our growing tolerance for intolerance.

We’ve become tolerant of, or perhaps immune to, political leaders with intolerant viewpoints and hurtful rhetoric.

We’ve grown accustomed to acts not of random kindness but of random terror, be they in Paris in 2015, where 131 were killed, the senseless murder of Labour politician Jo Cox in 2016, or the London Bridge attack in 2017 where eight people were killed.

We’ve had Brexit next door and the rise of Donald Trump, taking the White House, having described an entire population of people as “rapists”.

Once elected, his rhetoric never changed, referring to countries experiencing economic inequality as “shitholes”.

We used to bat eyelids at his remarks, less so nowadays, because hate seems to have become the norm, both IRL (in real life) as millennials say, and online too.

The last decade has seen the rise of our virtual selves, where we hide behind screens and lash out nasty missives at the touch of a thoughtless fingertip.

Money ventured into this process when Facebook introduced paid ads in 2010, and all sorts of agendas could get pushed online from anywhere in the world to anywhere else in the world.

This disinhibition effect, where we behave far more appallingly than we would were we face to face with someone, seems to have then crept into the real world.

This disinhibition effect then got coupled with another social phenomenon of the last 10 years — our on-demand culture.

How long does it take for your blood pressure to rise in a coffee queue?

How quick does it take for you to rise to irritation or even anger if your order isn’t taken as quickly as the one-click ‘buy now’ button on Amazon?

How long does it take for your patience to be tested when a website doesn’t load on your smartphone within two seconds?

Can you even sit through one TV or YouTube ad anymore, or has Netflix entirely curbed your ability to be patient?

This on-demand culture comes with a ‘reply-to-me-now’ one too.

In a world where you can publicly shout your dissatisfaction at a brand, business, or person in a millisecond and bombard your busy sister with endless WhatsApp messages expecting an immediate reply, we’ve become unconsciously and unfairly accustomed to instant answers and resolutions.

We rise to offence and outrage before catching a breath.

Do you then bring this all intolerance and impatience into the real world, mistaking the flesh and blood of the human before you for a badly sequenced algorithm or dodgy wifi connection?

Joyce Fegan: Taking stock of the changes seen in last decade

What’s happening online is influencing what’s happening offline, and vice versa.

How we interact with each other is changing right before our very eyes, but how aware are we of its implications?

In his Christmas message, President Michael D Higgins, spoke about the importance of acting as a global community, not a divided one.

He was speaking about this community specifically in relation to our treatment of refugees, and our response to climate change.

“Today many people turn to us, their fellow global citizens, for protection and shelter for themselves and their families, and for the provision of hope for a better future,” said the President.

“Do we dismiss them from our door, telling them there is no room at our inn, or do we greet them in a spirit of hospitality bearing in mind the history of emigration that is such a defining characteristic of the Irish people?”

Speaking about climate change, and the hope of being successful in addressing it, President Higgins referenced a “global community”.

“Governments have a key role in leading the necessary change. However, if we are to succeed in meeting this greatest challenge we must all act as a global community,” he said.

After a decade of heavy individualism, where we expect our every demand to have been met yesterday, do we still have the capacity to act as a community and act together?

On an individual level, and especially at this time of year, we all know the tension caused by discord in our relationships — be that within a family where one sibling has fallen out with another and no redress or repair appears forthcoming, or in the workplace where trenches have been dug deep.

This discord is often one of the hardest of human conundrums, for a social species based on tribe, and yet letting go, forgiving and moving forward can seem like an even harder resolution.

Why forgive someone who is not sorry, who does not see the fault and hurt in their own actions? But never mind the why, how do you even do that?

Bring this entrenchment from the individual to the global, and things get even trickier.

With a new decade upon us we have once-in-a-lifetime challenges to address and solve in the areas of migration and climate change.

We cannot expect the likes of Trump, or his ‘base’, to change, and yet our shouting and raging at them is not going to take us forward either.

We need to find a new way of relating to each other and we will have to forgive those who are not repentant.

We will need to do this if we want to move forward and overcome the challenges that lie ahead.

The last 10 years brought huge change that we did not see coming, from social media to streaming, and from politics to polarisation, but we know all that now.

It’s with this knowledge, and awareness, that we need to look forward, move forward, into the next decade.

We won’t be able to say ‘no one warned us’.

We’ve already lived with a decade of intolerance; we can’t afford to live like that for another.

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