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A New Year

These are dark times. The war in Ukraine, the increased cost of living and the new outbreak of Covid 19 in China herald a not-very-encouraging outlook. The shadow of 2022 extends over the coming year and the lives of each of us and our families.

In times of crisis, we tend to focus on caring for and protecting our loved ones, so we see those outside our protected space with mistrust or fear. Withdrawn into ourselves, in our homes, we feel safe. However, next year’s challenge is of a different kind. Suppose we have learned anything after facing the Covid-19 epidemic, the growing climate emergency, the refugee crisis, the war in Ukraine, Brexit and the rise of the extreme right in Europe.

In that case, we learned that the well-being of our loved ones rests not only on our decisions but those around us. We are intertwined in a complex network of interrelations and dependencies. 

Who are the others that surround us? Those who live and die outside our comfortable private space and to whom we tend to think we have no responsibilities. They are the ones who do not receive the attention they require from those extremely busy with themselves: they are the weak, the sick, the poor, the refugees, the migrants, the unemployed, the people who sleep on the streets, and so forth. If we pass by without seeing them, it is because we have succumbed to the idea that each one of us must seek happiness by our means and they, the ones outside, have somehow failed, and it is their responsibility. 

A billion-dollar industry is trying to make us believe that care and attention are something we can buy and sell, like any merchandise in a supermarket. This is how we go through life, thinking that if we depend on others, it is because we have failed as autonomous, independent, self-fulfilling human beings. This argument allows accepting the reality of the failure of others, attributing it to people and without questioning the system that produces these situations. Armed with these ideas, we can pass by the side of these others without having to take care of them and without having to take responsibility for the consequences of our lack of care.

But what happens when we fail to care for those outside our square footage? It happens that the world is filled with silence, and the word justice (and all that is named after that word) is no longer heard. When we keep quiet, we become accomplices in the deteriorating situation where the weakest find themselves. We legitimise the existing order that produces inequality and injustice.

For many years, the voices of the poor and marginalised have been absent from the main forums. Most media and public servants choose to refrain from talking openly about uncomfortable things that could challenge the way things are. Better to sweep the garbage under the rug. Should this silence be met with shame? Of course, ordinary people also choose indifference and silence and let many wrong things happen and repeat themselves. We say we were busy caring for our loved ones and the things that matter to us.

But today, more than ever, we cannot remain silent and go backwards in social justice, freedom and equality. Why? For two simple reasons. Firstly, the crises we are experiencing affect most harshly those with the fewest resources to face it, that is, the poorest and most vulnerable. Secondly, those with the most privileges and resources have created the conditions underlying these crises. For example, the African continent has contributed less than 4% of the greenhouse gas emissions that are the basis of climate change. Yet, the consequences of the climate crisis will be most severe in African countries, worsening the poverty and disadvantage these countries have dragged since the European colonising countries left the continent after looting it.

In contrast, Ireland is the third European country with the highest greenhouse gas emissions per person. 

In the face of this year of uncertainty, we must learn to care for our close ones while not forgetting to care for the world and assume our responsibilities with each other—understanding that seeking justice is the best way to care for what we love.

Photo Sebastian silva







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