Politics: Parenting a nation

It’s not easy. No one said it was. But it is essential. Vital and imperative. As useful as a doctor – although not as highly regarded. As children of our nation we do not always appreciate the presence of politics as it impacts on our lives. Taxes, laws, restrictions and regulations are structuring and safeguarding our present nation and the environment of our grandchildren.

Generally, the problem with politics is not the nature of the work, but the nature of the political reputation. The character deemed suited to the role. The personality behind the power. Understanding is something craved for at every level of community and society, yet none quite as universally misconstrued as the basic understanding of Irish politics.

It is human nature to fear and fight what you do not understand. Thus the nature of politics. A never-ending fight for understanding. Within parties, between parties and governments and most importantly with the public. Endless debates, elections and manifestos all play their part in the insatiable quest for comprehension. In politics, as in most enterprises, reputation is everything.

At present, ‘Brand Ireland’ is suffering a severe blow due to the astonishingly large number of individuals found guilty of abusing their position of power. The disclosed scandals associated with the sensational demise of our ‘Celtic Tiger' have solidified the current mindset of the general public. An situation best summarised by the Irish Times Journalist Fintan O Toole: ‘Our rulers have no shame, and they believe we have no voice’.

It is probable the current problems with politics centre on three things. The growth of the instant and immediate worldwide media exposure, the overwhelming influence of the EU and finally, and most centrally, the rapid change in modern civilisation demands. Overemphasis on the export markets, while increasing our domestic demands for consumption and expenditure played a prominent part in our shortcomings. Circumstances can be a curse and a blessing. If our political sphere continues as it is, the divide will deepen. Public distrust will fester. Revolt will follow. Political upheaval is inevitable. People’s health and happiness are directly related to income and poverty is more than a shortfall of funds. It is a social status. A distinction of class. A person’s identity is embedded in its community and our modern mass society has cast many adrift.

As a people we favour privacy. As a modern technological nation we demand transparency. As a result of this contradiction and lack of cohesion we often live in a stressful and demanding environment in which many are isolated and ignored. The questions must be asked: Who is in charge when the parents are in trouble? Who is accountable when the responsible revolt?

The answer to our future lies not in looking for similarities with the past but attending to the differences. Throughout history, political structure was maintained and upheld at a local level. Reputation was relative and accountable. It was based on interaction, communication and personal experience of a person’s character, personality and mannerisms. In this way, our historic leaders were known and trusted. There is no greater judgement than that of opinion based on interaction. It is proven that groups make people feel more powerful. Support gives people confidence and popularity brings individual power.

In this way politics is a community like any other. Yet in our current predicament this community is segregated and isolated. This is a modern fault. At present the ‘community’ feels ostracised by the ‘elite’. In retaliation for the recent betrayal, our society has reacted in defence of what it doesn’t understand. Protection takes the form of disgust for those making the decisions no one wants to make. Empathy only exists for those we see as equals. Political trust is needed to win back the public community. Its importance cannot be overemphasised. A trusting society naturally embraces a culture of respect and tolerance. Trust is achieved through reliability and appropriate action.

Our modern mantra should focus on reclaiming the success of the past in the ways that worked best: "Think globally, Act locally". Irish politics must emphasise the responsibility of authority to ‘lead society by example’. ‘Brand Ireland’ must reinstate monitoring with relation to positions of power and heighten accountability for actions taken in such positions. We must respond to the public demand for "Clarity not confusion". It’s not easy. This community is not liked. It’s not respected and it is marred with scandal and abuse. Restructuring is needed before the people revolt. Accountability, responsibility and dedicated local community involvement. Politics, nothing more than parenting a nation.