Opposition to change costs dearly - Cultural conservatism

JUST like peace on The Lake Isle of Innisfree, change comes dropping far too slowly in this society — at least for those who do not subscribe to the traditional and rigid conservatism that for decades masked so much inequity, stasis, misogyny, and a publicly trumpeted determination by the most powerful influences to hold the line against the advances of a modernising, Eurocentric democracy.

We seem, or maybe more correctly seemed, happy to languish, to resent the idea of change or even the need for it. This ovine acceptance of the world as it was — or is — is hard to understand. Nevertheless, it is even more difficult to argue that we have learnt the lessons or that this has become a dynamic, reforming society, one where social evolution is expected rather than instinctively resisted.

The examples of this reluctance to embrace the inevitable, this divisive and usually pointless stonewalling, are myriad.

Just last week, our absolutely bizarre acceptance of the idea that a sick person might entrust their well-being to a junior doctor 23 hours into a 24-hour shift was dismissed by the European Court of Justice with the clarity and force that this and previous governments — and medical professionals too — should have used to end the dangerous and exploitative practice. Why has this not happened?

Waterford Crystal workers, made redundant and left high and dry because an earlier government had not enacted an entirely sensible EU directive aimed at protecting workers’ pension entitlements, had to fight a long, hard battle in the European Court to have their position vindicated. Why was this necessary? Whose interests did that Fianna Fáil government serve by not embracing the EU pensions directive? Why the reluctance to try to make things better?

It took a European Court of Human Rights ruling on the controversial A, B, and C vs Ireland judgment on abortion to have the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act introduced. It has already been acknowledged, and shown in the most harrowing way, that this legislation is flawed, but the Government refuses to grasp the nettle because of the pre-election confrontation resolving the difficulties would provoke.

We ignore UN resolutions aimed at advancing human rights and the quality of life of citizens just as easily as we ignore EU directives and the spirit of EU legislation. Ireland has missed a deadline for submitting a report on how we might tackle discrimination against women by almost eight years. A report sought by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child fell due in 2009 but was submitted four years late in 2013. These are hardly timescales that suggest a commitment to the ideals involved.

These delays represent the same mindset behind the thinking that we can somehow hoodwink the EU that a huge increase in the national dairy herd after milk quotas end will not increase Ireland’s carbon footprint or hit our ability to reduce greenhouse gasses. And that there will be no consequences. Our cultural indisposition to change has not served us well and it is time to look more forensically at who really benefits from this anti-democratic authoritarianism.

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