Posted tagged ‘Frank-Walter Steinmeier’

Humility and pessimism

March 25, 2009

It’s been a day for bad attitudes. Two reports in the media this morning: one told us that German politicians feel that Ireland needs to show ‘humility’, and the other confirmed that Ireland was right now the most pessimistic nation – well, almost anywhere.

Germany, apparently, wants to use the current crisis to raise its influence over other European countries. The German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, wants any bail-out that Germany might fund to assist another EU country to be used to ‘consolidate’ the German position ‘for years to come’. And here’s what Axel Schäfer, a senior Social Democratic politician, had to say:

“As Catholics, perhaps it’s time [for the Irish] to remember the expression of Pope John XXIII: ‘Don’t take oneself so seriously’. Sometimes a situation like this is the time to show a little humility.”

Well, perhaps that would fit the current Irish mood quite well. The Global Economic Confidence Barometer has found that we feel just terrible about everything right now. 71 per cent of people feel that the current situation is the worst in their lifetime. Funnily enough, an even larger percentage of Americans (89 per cent) feel that way. But here’s a curiosity: despite that, Americans are overwhelmingly optimistic about the future, with a large majority believing things will get better over the next six months; while a majority of Irish people think it will get worse. Only the Lithuanians feel even more pessimistic.

Of course Ireland needs to be part of Europe and work constructively in the European context; but we shouldn’t be too shy in suggesting that ‘humility’ might also be a virtue for the Germans, whose economy has not been doing well at all and where the government parties are currently fighting each other like ferrets in a sack.

And with or without humility, we need to get off our backsides and stop all this moaning and we need to banish pessimism. We need to get active and turn things around, we need enterprise and innovation and a sense of can-do. It’s time for Ireland to re-discover an attitude; but just not a bad one.