Irish Examiner View: Time to relearn the power of compromise

Irish Examiner View: Time to relearn the power of compromise

Virtually every great human achievement is a consequence of trust-based, positive cooperation between groups of people, sometimes disparate cultures and, occasionally, conflicting belief systems. 

There are more than enough reassuring examples that show synergies work, that the sum total of the achievements of a collective of talented, committed people far outweighs anything that might be achieved by the very same individuals working in isolation.

Three of the cornerstones of the modern world - education, health services, and agriculture - are rolling examples of this even if they are so embedded in our consciousness that we have come to take them too much for granted. 

We may have come to imagine the stability and opportunity created by the European Union as a permanent cornerstone too even if an increasingly polarised world, and Europe too, challenges that perception.

A coronavirus vaccine may, in time hopefully, underline again the power of cooperation.  

Some people might describe the market as another cornerstone of our world though its inevitable concentration of wealth, its inevitable exacerbation of inequality and disadvantage suggests it is a work in progress - or at least it should be. 

How that evolution continues in this age of anxieties and absolutes is anyone's guess especially as the capacity to compromise seems a lost art. 

We seem to have reached a point where the capacity and the confidence to compromise, that catalyst of so much that is good, is regarded as a weakness rather than a strength. 

Testosterone trumps thoughtfulness and tact and positive progress stumbles.

America's culture wars, where one extreme is as unattractive and as unhinged as the other may be today's glaring example of what happens when compromise, and the mutual respect that underpins it, is lost in the deepening rage undermining our capacity to live and work together. 

That fury manifests itself in many ways. 

One is the removal of public monuments to those who championed values now recognised as immoral even if that purging suggests that these statues can have only one purpose. 

Wearing, or more specifically not wearing, face masks is another. 

For some, wearing a mask is seen as a mark of subjugation despite it being at worst harmless or, as the science advises, essential in the war on C19.

Brexit and its looming consequences is another distressing example of a cultural inability to compromise, to bend in pursuit of a common, achievable goal. 

That those divorce negotiations seem destined, deliberately or otherwise, to fail is another disheartening example of how the capacity to compromise is all too often lost in a fog of self-righteous nationalism.

We, on this island of ever-fewer saints and study-from-home scholars, are not immune. Stormont's regular implosions are one example. 

Our coalition Government's difficulties, so many of them based on mistrust bordering on disdain is another. 

That disdain will, if unchecked, do more to get Sin Féin elected than is conscionable.

The old parties of power, for all their deafness and failures, need to compromise more easily if they are to have any hope of remaining relevant much less influential. 

None of this is rocket science. 

It is no more than recognising that aspiration and possibility are not always a neat fit, that a second, maybe longer, route to a destination is unavoidable. 

Our world is in the shadow of so many conflicts, hostilities, and cultural furies that might be resolved by compromise. 

It's time to restore that confidence, that capacity to bend to the centre of our affairs  - as it was when so many of humanity's greatest achievements were realised.  




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