39th Annual MacGill Summer School
Sunday July 21st – Friday July 26th, 2019
CAN THE CENTRE HOLD?
RADICAL NEW THINKING NEEDED
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The Irish Nobel Laureate wrote these lines at a time just after the First World War when the perilous revolutionary state of his own country filled him with dread that chaos and anarchy might be the outcome as well as with tentative hope that a “terrible beauty” might be born.
The lines have a strange resonance in today’s world when the advances of science and technology continue unabated, whilst the fears for the very planet itself have never been greater and mankind faces unprecedented challenges which include the possibility of its own extinction. The belief, developed over many decades of wars and conflicts in embracing diversity and international cooperation and the fundamental interdependency among nations is being eroded by a narrow self-centred, fascistic, win-lose thinking – in many respects led by President Trump and his administration but prevalent across Europe and in other places.
As we entered the third millennium the world seemed to be on a largely positive and optimistic trajectory of expanding access to education for all, growing acceptance of and respect for human rights and the idea of a more unified world as technology and science brought the possibility of exploring the universe in which we live and survive even closer. This optimism has dimmed in the face of widespread suffering, hunger and famine and consequent large scale upheaval of populations, extraordinary wealth alongside grinding poverty and threats to democracies from authoritarianism and from the very technology that was expected to reinforce them. Abuse of the Internet leading to invasion of privacy and cyber crime represents a major threat to democracy itself and to the daily functioning of normal life everywhere.
Seen against this background, Brexit may not be the greatest threat facing mankind, but in an Irish and indeed a British, European and international context it is a serious threat at this moment in time. Whatever the final outcome, its consequences will reverberate for a long time to come, not least on future social, economic and political relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom but also on the future destiny of Ireland North and South. Brexit will, of course, feature strongly on the MacGill School programme as also will some of the other major issues of our time: climate change and its possible terrible consequences as well as the requirement of new thinking and new approaches to address the sustainability of our countryside ; the future direction of technology and robotisation that will profoundly affect economies, livelihoods and the work place and possibly contribute to further inequality and alienation; planning in Ireland for a growing population in a changing world and providing for fair and equal accessibility to health, education, housing and other vital services which will serve every citizen but especially the underprivileged; the tensions between prudent management of the economy and the politics of being re-elected; the necessity to reform and adapt our political system as well as our administration to a new and more demanding environment of innovation, accountability and efficiency; the absolute requirement, in the face of unprecedented challenges to its core principles and very existence from extremists and populists, for commitment to a reformed and stronger European Union with which our future is intertwined.
As always, the MacGill School will also look to the arts to provide entertainment, inspiration and hope as we seek to find a path through an agenda that reflects a very turbulent and uncertain world.
Programme details will be posted on this page in due course.