6 January 2012 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Many apocalyptic predictions in diverse ancient cultures converge around the year 2012.
The prevailing worldview, founded in rationality and increasingly secular in emphasis, has long since consigned these dire forecasts to the superstitious fringes of thought – although they have surfaced, and will do so increasingly as this New Year progresses, in various forms of our popular culture.
Nonetheless, sober political and economic analysis pictures the year ahead, if not in ‘end of the world’ terminology, in terms of such gloom and uncertainty as to strongly suggest that we have reached something of a crisis point in the social structures that framework our lives, when many of the assumptions that underpin our day-to-day existence, in particular those concerning the security of our income, employment and general well-being, can no longer be taken for granted.
There is much to be downcast about when we contemplate what 2012 might hold for us.
Nationally, we are facing into another in what we are told will be a series of years of sustained and perhaps accentuated austerity, with no real guarantee that the policy of collective sacrifice to which we have been committed by our Government will be sufficient to resuscitate the economy – unless the wider crisis in the eurozone is resolved.
2012 might indeed have watershed significance for Ireland’s future – it will assuredly bring us close to the tipping point of the pressures created by the severe conditions required of us to discharge our international indebtedness: the point when the extraction of financial resources from our people has become so severe that our capacity to stage any meaningful economic recovery in a realistic timescale is effectively removed from us.
The burdens being imposed on people, if they are to increase in strict adherence to the policies of fiscal rectitude demanded by our international creditors, will surely leave us bereft not just of the money, but also the confidence and the imagination, to make the compensatory human and material investment in the future to justify the punitive sacrifices being undergone at present.
The issue of the household charge is one around which this crucial question appears to be coalescing.
The charge is perhaps less significant in and of itself than in what it portends – the extraction from the public of recompense for the provision of services which we have been accustomed to assume were being met from established forms of taxation.
Similarly, the mounting opposition to the charge and the campaign against it being organised by elements of Opposition politics is of importance not primarily because of the opportunity it affords to sound a loud refutation of Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s recent arrogant and misguided assertion abroad that he was a representative of a virtual Government of national unity.
The campaign may well be the drawing of a line in the sand – a declaration by a hitherto remarkably quiescent population that they can be pushed only so far and not any further by the Government’s insistence that they must pay and pay for the excesses of those who plunged the country into financial meltdown.
The resistance to the household charge may well herald the beginning of a militant current of public disobedience and disruptive protest – perhaps even a polarisation of the prevailingly grey spectrum of Irish politics into sharply defined camps of right and left.
Internationally, too, there are unsettling currents of uncertainty and upheaval in the established order.
At European level there is a worrying paucity of firm leadership, the lack of an authoritative voice or choir of coherent voices to guide the euro out of its difficulties and convince the European partners and the world that not just the single currency but the project of a politically and economically united Europe is any longer sustainable.
Elsewhere, the exultation over the ‘Arab Spring’ of popular uprising against oppressive systems of rule has given way to trepidation over the future stability of those nations that are taking their tentative first steps towards self-determination in environments where tribal enmities are resurfacing and extreme religious or political viewpoints are channelling the fervour for freedom to their own ends.
The United States is turning its gaze inward for the build-up to a presidential election that will be very different in tone and conduct to that which gave Barack Obama his first term in office; Russia is experiencing its own conflict between popular and establishment conceptions of what constitutes democratic rule, and nuclear states from North Korea to Iraq are gripped by their own challenges of transitional and factional disquiet.
To contemplate any of these national or international scenarios for too long tempts the beginnings of conviction that perhaps the ancient soothsayers were not too far off the mark when they dotted 2012 in their astrological charts with a portentous full stop!
But the best lesson to be drawn from the way the world is as we embark on this New Year is perhaps that we should turn our gaze away from the wider picture and focus on more local concerns.
In exhorting our readership to make 2012 a year in which the work of community reinforcement and renewal is the dominant concern, we do not do so from an insular standpoint.
It is in recognition of the patent truth that if the concept of national recovery is to be any more than a chimera, the work must begin at local level.
Co Monaghan people have traditionally been very adept at helping themselves without expecting or waiting upon others to do the helping.
Our part of the country was never lavished with outward investment or State aid at the best of times – indeed our reputation for entrepreneurial leadership has often told against us, with our pioneering development of several important economic activities and our overall productivity, fostered in the main by family-based industrial and commercial enterprises, sustaining us in the absence of any significant attention from job creation agencies.
While some elements of our traditional economy have declined, others continue to thrive – and there is great potential in our midst for significant growth in knowledge-based initiatives and the establishment of frameworks where the significant investment available for research and development activities can be channelled.
There is, despite the current economic malaise, many small success and good news stories happening in our communities from a business and job creation standpoint – and the potential for a great many more if local leadership and community support combines to prepare the ground.
This newspaper has always sought to promote and support initiatives for growth and prosperity within our circulation area, and we hope that such good news stories will predominate in our columns in the year ahead.
It is in the positive belief that 2012 can be a year of renewed and reaffirmed community development in Co Monaghan that we extended our best wishes to all our readers for the 12 months ahead.

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