“Caring is costly, empathy is cheap”, claims Fergus O’Donoghue, in his editorial in the spring edition of the Jesuit Journal Studies, ‘Making Ireland a Caring Society’. “Empathy abounds on our airwaves and allows presenters and listeners to feel good about themselves as they hear yet another sad story, but it changes nothing”
Peter McVerry SJ asks the question – have we become less caring, less compassionate? noting that during Ireland’s Celtic Tiger years, there was no reduction of the long waiting lists for hospital beds, one in eleven children remained in consistent poverty and the numbers of homeless people doubled. Today there is still no out of hours social care service of children being abused, children with mental health difficulties are still placed in adult psychiatric wards and our prisons are more over-crowded than ever. Have we become less caring, less compassionate? He answers no to his question but he does believe the quality of our caring is not good enough to make any real difference and in his article he goes on to outline the type of caring that will.
Economists Ray and Maurice Kinsella look at the ‘unprecedented’ rise in unemployment in the years 2006-2010* and the worrying rise in youth unemployment in Ireland and across Europe. They conclude worryingly in their article, The Scarring of a Generation that the cost of our long-term youth unemployment will outweigh the benefit of any budgetary ‘savings’ from the EU-IMF ‘bail out.’
Mary Murphy tackles the issue of work and child-care in her article ‘Making Ireland a Caring and Equal Society. The strong Male Breadwinner model recently gave way to the Adult Worker model with both parents working virtually full time. In Ireland, this market-led child care became unaffordable and drove women out of employment. She argues for a possible third approach, the Carer-Worker model which sees an equal sharing of care and work between men and women and requires a care ethic in our wider society. It also entails as a first step the paying of paternal leave.
An Englishman on the Irish Crisis, Theodore Dalrymple argues that Ireland wasn’t alone in the crisis it produced. Politicians and bankers in many countries all succumbed to greed either for power or easy gain, which became the driving force in many societies. The Royal Bank of Scotland, in the Irish Republic, lent the equivalent of €12,000 for every man woman and child, and the equivalent of €16,000 was lent them by the Belgians. In many cases ordinary people themselves weren’t any less opportunistic. A man could sit in his house whose value rose by €1,000 per day and imagine he was getting rich by watching television.
Nat O’Connor (‘Do We Care to Know?) argues for the implementation of a ‘population wellbeing’ measurement which would help identify groups most prone to social problems and inequalities and Fergus O’Donoghue concludes that “We are still caught in the individualistic mindset of the boom years and will be as long as ‘the economy’ rather than the common good remains the focus of public and political debate”.
The Editor and some contributors to Studies may be available for interview.
*(270,000 people left employment and long-term unemployment now accounts for 47% of total unemployment)