Where do we Call Home in Society 3.0 #33 #cong20


To create a Society 3.0 we need to have a sense of what we want to create, building  on and retaining what’s good and reimagining what can be.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Society 2.0 (now) is better than our original emigration driven society 1.0

  2. We’ve unique resources as a society. In our history, culture and language and when we are open to the world

  3. Lets lose the Rural/Urban division. Please.

  4. Society 3.0 can be an anchor and point of departure for all of us. 

About Dermot Casey:

Dermot is a husband of one and father of three. He helps ambitious people imagine, figure out, and then create the future. At work he’s an Advisor, Innovator, Investor, Teacher and Technologist. In life a Catalyst,  Synthesist and  ever Curious. He finishes his current adventure with NDRC in December before embarking on the next one. 

Contacting Dermot Casey:

You can follow Dermot on Twitter or contact on LinkedIn or by email. He promises to blog more at dermotcasey.net .

By Dermot Casey

Where do you belong? Less an existential question and more  a practical one. Where do you want to live that you feel that you fit in. That enables you to live the life that you want to live. To live and work and be part of a community. To have kids if that is what you want to do.  Pre-covid a friend of mine spoke about the ‘grey people’. Stuck in cars in long commute with work  often turning into a grind. The hollowing out people’s lives leaving little time and less energy for anything other than work, commute, eat, sleep, repeat.

I grew up in rural Ireland and was part of the vast annual pouring out of young people from the country to the city, an outpouring which often flowed into tidal waves of emigration. Waves that have changed the structure of both rural and urban populations across the decades.  For me it I was happy to leave with  a whole world out there to explore.  Growing up life had been full. My mum imbued me with a lifetime love of books and learning. A brilliant teacher opened the doors on Science. A generous man named Peter McCarthy took us for water safety lessons every Saturday and guided me all the way up to lifeguard. And I had some very smart friends. One now building visions systems for cars, another researching cures for Alzheimer’s and a third running deep space probes for Nasa.

Everything that came after required us to leave. And in many ways I was desperate to leave. By 15 I knew few things in life. But I knew that I was leaving.  The movie ‘Black 47’  captures then in one scene when commenting on the landscape an English Lord comments “that’s the problem with you  Irish, you have no appreciation for the scenery”. “Ah sure” replies Stephen Rea character, “we might have a better appreciation for the scenery if you could eat it”. The reality of rural Irish life was a “sheer grimness” for many “without money or property” (or connections), as Fintan O’Toole so cogently put it.

This grimness contrasts with the romantic view of rural Ireland which has existed for much of the history of the state. A view amongst generations of politicians of rural Ireland being spiritually superior and somehow more authentically Irish.  Somehow the real Ireland. A suspicion of Dublin and especially “Dublin 4” and people with notions.  The Pale and outside the Pale.  Though I didn’t realise it at the time I was growing up in a state shaped as an incredibly conservative institution post the war of independence. Modelled and shaped by De Velera in a way French Philosopher Jean Jacque Rosseau would have approved “Sparta, small, harsh, self-sufficient, fiercely patriotic and defiantly un-cosmopolitian” where a womans place was “in the home, making virtuous citizens out of women’.

Unconsciously at the time, and later consciously I was pushing against some of these forces.

State policy has for the majority of Irish history since independence acted to compound the extreme poverty, both mental and material of the material of the majority of citizens. Historian JJ Lees in 1989 wrote of “ the sanctity of property, the unflinching materialism of materialism of farmer calculations, the defence of professional status” which for decades have been the key values of the Irish state, values baptised by the Church. And Tom Garvin developed this into his book “Preventing the Future: Why was Ireland so Poor for so long”

And despite our view of ourselves as a modern society, where Silicon Docks lies gleaming in our modernity, we can see the problems this set path continues to cause. The success of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as a pillar – indeed the key pillar of Irish industrial policy – was able to develop because “the weakness of the industrial base ensured that there was no substantial economic pressure group threatened” by FDI as James Wickham noted in 1997.

In Ireland it’s been said that ‘we eat our young’.  Back in 2010 at the start of the crash an economist said to me “we’ve a choice between the old and the young and we’ve chosen the old”.  Economic development in Ireland from the foundation of the state favoured those who had over those who hadn’t and for many getting out was the only option. Two of my Uncles moved to UK and a third spent some time there before coming home.  The rise of the Celtic tiger papered over the cracks but as a country we confused temporary income increases for generational stores of wealth and the financial crash exposed some of the fundamental problems in Irish development.

At the same time we are facing significant new problems. We have a climate crisis, and despite attempts to greenwash it, methane belching Irish cows contribute a significant proportion of our greenhouse gas emissions. And we are seeing the start of a societal shift to vegetarianism and veganism.  Like it or not change is coming to agriculture. Our model of FDI has in the estimation of the IDA a small bit left to go before it peaks. Even before it declines the tax base from FDI is under threat.  We can attempt to keep some of the existing models going as long as possible or we can look to create new models while supporting the transition from old ones.

We have vaguely tried to fix the problems of rural Ireland many times over the years. Rural electrification brought benefits to many. My father was old enough to remember electricity arriving. And radio and TV. Electricity didn’t fix the problems of rural Ireland and on its own broadband won’t fix those problems either. Aside from some major projects too much of what happened over the years has been a “one for everyone in the audience”.  Charlie McCreevys election grabbing decentralisation stunt in 2000 served only to damage expertise in elements of the civil service. And there is still a significant draw to the city. Despite the objectives of the governments Ireland 2040 plan, independent economic assessments suggest that Dublin is likely to continue to grow faster than rest of the country over the next 20 years.

Globally we are in a new era. Our attitude to the future needs to change from predicting and adapting to looking forward to and envisaging the future.  To create a Society 3.0 we need to have a sense of what we want to create.  The best way to predict the future is to create it. Our primary resources will be our imaginations and the ability to generate new knowledge which is already taking  precedence over control of traditional resources.  Our society and our economy and our structures will need to move from machines and hierarchies to natural ecosystems, lifeworlds and communities that dynamically reflect the complexity of the real world.

Innovation in nature, the process and the progress of evolution functions by combining existing forms in new ways, preserving the best elements of the past and generating genuinely new forms. Innovation in our society needs to work in the same way. And this is where we have a genuine opportunity, a unique opportunity.

For Ireland it’s not a case of rural or urban. City or country. It’s both and or neither.  Ireland needs Dublin as an international center that competes and functions on a global stage.  And Ireland needs vibrant thriving local communities and we all needs a healthy dynamic of interaction between the two.  Our unique history culture and language combined with a welcoming openness to the world are fundamental to the well-being of society 3.0

Local communities can do a huge amount for themselves. Everything from the GAA, The Credit Union movement, and tidy towns testifies to the communities of Ireland which have survived despite rather than because of national policies.  But as Fintan O’Toole pointed out “rural communities can’t build a rural transport network, keep post offices functioning or ensure the survival of rural schools.” The rollout of highspeed broadband across the country over the next few years will be a good thing. And has the potential to transform the country in the way electricity did.   But it won’t fix things on its own. Industrial policy has to support it.

At an policy level we should be looking at ways to build vibrant local communities and build Irish enterprise into as important a pillar of economic development as FDI. And to actively encourage remote working as a part of this. As a mechanism to support the economic development of rural Ireland, as a part of industrial policy and as a good thing.  Covid has highlighted how our grey lives can be less grey.

A few years ago at Cong Tracy Keogh talked about Grow Remote as she started to weave people and communities and policy together (whether that was all the original intention or not). And the world has started to catch on. Leading tech company Stripe announced that their fifth engineering hub globally would be ‘Remote’. You can work for one of the top companies in the world, from anywhere in the world. If that’s Dublin, great. Or Doolin or Donegal that works just as well. If that is where you belong then you’ve the opportunity to work there in a way that wasn’t possible in the past.  And this creates the opportunity for innovation in ways that didn’t exist previously.

When I was younger I thought all the answers to the problems I saw and all the opportunity was out there somewhere else.  I left home and eventually found my tribe and build a new home. And it turned out all the answers and all the opportunity wasn’t out there. Our society has reshaped itself in many positive way and its done that in rural Tipperary as much as Dun Laoghaire.  Our society is radically, different mostly for the better, than the society I was born into. And while I push against the problems I see in Ireland I love this place. I have no desire to live elsewhere. I believe we can and must make it a better place for our families for our kids and for the future.

A fried once wrote “the idea of returning home is a powerful theme in art and culture. It expresses a sense of security and belonging that we all desire in times of turmoil or change. Home can be many things: a home country, city county, town or street, a landscape a smell or a specific place and the friend and family that live there. Whatever or where ever you find home its an anchor point in the world, a place of departure”

Our society 3.0 should be that anchor point, and that point of departure. To give us roots and wings. To enable people to grow and thrive where they belong, to grow and thrive with their communities, it enables people to come home. Society 3.0 is not an urban versus rural its both/and or its nothing at all.

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