I come from an era where the church and the pub were the centre of Irish society. The centrality of both goes back centuries and every single person partook in one or the other and more often both of them. Morality, family values and good behavior were themes of the church while entertainment, sport and human interaction were the function of the public house. In the church we listened and in the pub we talked. The majority of us attending either venue came from, what was known as, a good home.
An uneasy balance always existed between the authoritarian church and the looser arrangement of the pub. Church elders often visited the pub while publicans almost always attended the church. The church closed the pubs on Good Friday, Christmas Day and during what they described as the holy hour. Sermons heard in the church were vigorously discussed in the pub giving way to a saying back then, Don't bring up sex, politics or religion." We all dressed up for the church and wore what we liked to the pub. They were two ends of the same society stick basically. The church was selling guilt and a conscience and the pub was selling freedom and a carefree time.
Today, both institutions are on their way out. I drop into churches at odd times on weekdays and can attest that they are empty, save a few committed saints. Equally, I drop into pubs at odd times on weekdays and they too are empty, save a few committed boozers. Nobody prays anymore but they're still drinking. The question is, how and where? To understand this twin social phenomena, we should understand that this is not the product of natural societal evolution but rather an example of dark social engineering, devised for a yet unstated purpose.
The church in Ireland has been mainly the author of its own destruction though not solely to blame. Scandals involving sexual antics by clerics with the very young were bound to rock their steely grip on us and their amazing lack of reaction completed the rout. But the church was always more than big buildings with black and white people in them. The church was about what we believed in, how we conducted ourselves together and it shaped our attitudes to others as well. In essence, it was about what we actually are as a people. Remember faith, hope and charity? They meant something to believe in, a hope for the future and being kind to those around you, all as a way of life. None of that is in fashion any longer. For a period of celtic tiger time the sole belief was money and riches. When that failed spectacularly, the whole edifice of belief splintered into causes such as gay marriage and other liberal agenda items that had always simmered. We did have a collective belief one time also and it was centered on things getting better all around. That's gone badly backwards. And we no longer treat each other anything like as kindly as before
The disappearance of the pub from our culture is down to attacks on all sides for this venerable institution. Smokers anecdotally made up half of the regulars and they were just kicked out. Then drink driving laws were changed and enforced to prevent people coming and going to all but the nearest pub. Government and publican greed conspired to drive prices of alcohols through the roof then and the puritan brigade were out in force shortly afterwards. The puritans urged public health to drive a carriage and four through the public house and this spawned sensible consumption figures for the individual which had no basis in reality. When all of the above together began to lower consumption nationwide, the puritans were still not satisfied. Acknowledging the huge drop in alcohol sales they nevertheless invented a new problem. They said we'd taken to binge drinking, defined as three or more drinks in a single sitting.
Our human nature has not radically changed in any of this and people are still getting their "highs," somewhere. There is a cocktail of pharmaceutical solutions available for just that. The off-trade in alcohol has flourished and now counts for over half of all sales in that sector. And drug use is so common nowadays as to be hardly worthy of mention. Gambling is the new addiction among the young and social media is another one. In the absence of real lives in the pubs and churches, people have instead opted for virtual lives on-line from the comfort and isolation of their own homes. High on substances, they can pretend to be something or someone else. Lonely for contact they are willing to engage with faceless nobodies they mistakenly call 'friends.' That, it seems to me, is as good as it gets for the young.
For the older generation, society today is unrecognizable. Lying and cheating are the common currency now and it is all done brazenly and without embarrassment. Stealing and dishonesty is carried out routinely by the State and everyone just accepts it. Friendships are hollow and trust a thing of the past. Knowing your neighbor could invite the accusation of invading their privacy. People are alone and worse still, they feel very alone. The media peddle fear and uncertainty about everything around us and public health scammers scream risk from the rooftops. We don't congregate in the chutes or pubs anymore to discuss these things face to face. Instead, we are each forced to be islands as the State regards us as economic units, business sees us as prey and everywhere we turn, there are hands reaching for what's left in our pockets. We have become hunted slaves and we don't even get together to organize any collective response to it. Divide and conquer was always the motto of the Imperial invader and I'd add to that today the word 'isolate.'
I miss the central position of the church in our lives and I miss the influence of the pub too. Their combined demise left a vacuum which has been filled by confusion, mistrust, greed, anger, confusion, dread and isolation. The Western World, led by the US, is veering towards fascism and some form of "One World Order." Divide and Conquer is institutionalized and Democracy in any sense of the word has become a vague smokescreen. The real people behind this will get away with it too because they've put in place the denial of the right to free association by other methods. Right has become wrong and vice versa, standards are non-existent and the workplace is patrolled by the jackboots of HR and ruthless management behind them. Humiliation is common and fear of the risky unknown shrouds us all.
The modern world is truly depressing and I see no hope that the young are capable of changing it for the better. I see no evidence either that they have the brainpower or willpower to do so.