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So it's after 12 on a Sunday, and sometimes we like to get a little bit philosophical, a little bit reflective at this time, so let's all now take a deep breath and calm down and let's have a chat about the collective consciousness. So Tom Inglis is a sociologist and an author and he joins me now from Sligo. Tom, good afternoon.


Good afternoon. I'd say that frightened most people.


Yeah, I know. Yeah, but you know what? Let's let's challenge them a little bit here. Yeah.


So, Tom, right back at the start of this, I think it was Patrick's weekend, wasn't it, as our world was falling apart? You wrote What I saw was a very prescient piece, really, which is we were not overcome the virus unless we develop a collective consciousness. And of course, we've heard a lot since about how we're all in this together and everything.


Did it happen to us as a nation? Do you think the collective came true? Yes, in some ways it did. And I sometimes have a sense of hope when we talk about we and obviously Michel Martin and the political leaders invoke the we. And yeah, I think that by and large, we didn't fall apart, for example, to the extent that they seem to have done the states. And by and large, I think the European societies have come together and weathered the storm.


I, I sometimes despair when the we is invoked too much. I sometimes think we suffer from a wee wee problem. By that I mean that there's a lot of people excluded from the we and older people obviously don't know how to look after themselves and they have to be told what to do. And then young people are kind of portrayed and we talk about them as as different. So this we to which we belong is it's a very seems to me sometimes that it's a middle class, middle aged phenomenon.


So the question then is to what extent and what did we do differently? But for me, the main one, that normally collective consciousness comes together through religion and from, you know, the time that humans stopped being hunter gatherers and they started into farming and religion grew up as a means of binding people together.


So this was a common story, basically, that we could all buy into. So religion basically for me is just two things. One is it provides and an explanation of life and and how we came to be the way we are. And that also provides a way to live a good life. And that's, you know, a fundamental kind of characteristic of old world religions.


And anything that binds us together then does it makes us feel part of a collective rather than feeling too much like we're in it on our own. Yes.


And and that collective consciousness is generally maintained or created and maintained through rituals. So the coming together produces a form of bonding and belonging. And it's not based on reason or rationality. It's just human beings coming together and expressing themselves and more importantly, losing themselves. And they lose themselves in the worshipping of a God. But in reality, of course, is that they are worship, worshipping each other. They're worshipping the community. And that's the question then is would that be a saint?


Just for people who don't have religion, then? Is that would that be a similar sense to like when you lose yourself, say, in a crowd out of football match or at a gig or whatever you do, kind of give yourself up to the collective, don't you?


And like, you know, when a crowd rises as one at an exciting part of a match or whatever, there almost is a sense that people have lost their individuality and it isn't there. Well, that's it.


And it's you know, it's a form of ecstasy. I mean, ecstasy is ecstatic. And it's but what has happened is that you lose yourself. But the thing about those football matches are other collective gatherings. That collective consciousness is just momentary. It's kind of an emotional mood. And when people go out of the football stadium and they go back to being individuals. So but if a collective consciousness, if you like, lasts beyond the actual gathering, it becomes a collective consciousness.


So we think with religion kind of not as prevalent as it once was, what are the things that hold us together now as a nation or make us feel part of the part of each other and part of the whole?


Well, that's that's that's a really interesting question. And I I suspect and I hope it does it is that we are part of a cohesive, kahir, mature, democratic society in which we can, you know, talk and unreason things out. And there we're not bound by some unquestioned, you know, taken for granted beliefs. And that's what the you know, one of the great things in a way that sustained and it's a great thing, but one thing that sustained these religious communities, our kinship groups, was that there were traditions that were rituals.


And, you know, the Catholic Ireland I grew up in, there wasn't much time for reasoned debate and discussion. I mean, if I said I say to my mother, I think my mother would say, who are you to be thinking? And there was that surrender to the family, to the community, to the church.


OK, so we actually got that is in the kind of it's in our DNA page in Ireland. Is it to be more of the collective? Yes.


I think I'd go back to an earlier conversation as to why the pub is so important now. And unfortunately, the public became a place where there was this collective consciousness. It was a almost a sacred space, but that's where people lost, if you like, themselves to the wider group. And sometimes a wider group could be. Well, as we know, the hard drinking your male group. And it wasn't but there were, you know, when women were included and it's it's become that space where people lose themselves.


And I think that makes the Irish different is their willingness to let go of themselves.


And there's there's a texture here since the modern creator of the collective consciousness is Facebook and the like.


Well, that's that is absolutely, absolutely the case. And but the question is, is it that doesn't create a collective consciousness. Facebook is a wonderful space, but it can also be a space of of individual nightmares. And, yes, you know, you can be liked or disliked and but you don't get that sense of of being in a community now.


I think sometimes people do in fairness.


And when it's all going well, listen, in terms of how how are we behaved as a collective in this, it's interesting what you said about like that. There was the we could be exclusive at times because people would say that there was a lot of in order for people to come together, they came together in busybody finger pointing, ordering, as you said, young people, old people. There was a lot of blame and shame going around as well.


I presume that's that's is that a bad aspect of the collective?


I think all collectives need a scapegoat. And a part of it is is is like there is a sense of moral superiority. You know, we are we are the ones who who do the right things and and we are responsible and, you know, good, good people. And then there are those people who are not so good. And we want to blame the young. Ah, yeah. And sometimes the people turn on who the supposedly good people.


I think that's what the venting of the anger about Gallowgate and about Auti, you know, is that there is this hoi polloi won't root for us when we rule for them and that people who set themselves up above other people and.


Exactly. And, you know, and that's why I'm I'm very cautious of when we say we need to be mindful that a lot of people when when we say we are not one of them, I mean, I don't want to be one of them. I don't want the state. I don't want Nefesh telling me what to do and what not to do, you know, I mean, that's the system.


But then presumably equally, the collective is not just a kind of it's not a universal consciousness either that decides things the way I don't know the way like a colony of ants or something does it does the human collective needs leadership. Like we just looking there at that poll in the mail that we were talking about earlier and people raising leaders and they raise political leaders and then out there ahead of them all at six point seven. Or whatever 010 is, Tony Hoolihan, do people look to people like that at a time like this, the collective?


Well, yes, again, charismatic leaders, Tony, who has a lot of charm and I'm sure he's a charismatic leader. But, yes, strong leadership is is, you know, again, central to most religions is that there have been, you know, figures, gurus, prophets that have brought us into the promised land and and guided us.


I think it would be fair to say that Tony Hoolahan did become somewhat of a guru and a prophet and like he was the one who was going to guide us out of this, I think. Would you not think the collective for a lot of faith in him?


I agree. But it's I think it's it's different from from somebody like Gandhi. He's a scientist. And and it's it's you know, his message is one based on scientific rationale. Yes.


Which has almost autom become a religion for people, hasn't it? And until now, we have our saviors in the form of science has delivered our savior will do in the form of the vaccines.


But the the problem with scientists and this is come up with in the debate is that they don't do meaning. And for me, the big thing that's happening at the moment was on the earlier part of the program is that, you know, whatever else human beings have done is that in the middle of winter, in the darkest days, they've come together as pagans, as Christians. And the whole thing is, is that that this is about bonding or bonding and belonging, about coming together.


And it's almost you know, it's kind of a bodily thing as much as a amental to common Hardell based on an unregenerate. And so.


So you think we really need a Christmas in one way?


We need that ritual for our wellbeing.


And that's what we're trying to do. And that's, you know, come back to where we were talking about earlier. What rituals have we we're intercepting of whereby we're going to have to create new rituals. So, yes, we've been very good escaping and zooming, but they've left out a lot of people. And if if people don't get that sense of regeneration, if they don't get that sense of bonding and belonging, we know what the mental health consequences of that.


But it's not even a mental health level. It's it's it's about, if you like, when I was growing up to talk about the soul. But there is that sense of spiritual wellbeing that that comes that generates from being together and belonging. Yes. And we know it is is that that there is a difference from, you know, even talking to you at a distance than being in your company. I'm not even the last time I was on, I was talking.


I could see your eyes. It could respond to your gestures. And that's probably that. And that's a that's even just face contact. But the you know, the that the the the sensation that the endorphins that are released by hugging the ones we love is enormous. Yeah.


No, the thing is, is that we have survived through Zun through, you know, technology. But and I think hopefully it'll be a once off experience, which we will remember. But I think and I were talking earlier, you know, we have to reinvent these rituals and a lot of early discussions in the program. You know, what are you going to do this Christmas? You know, how can you create that meaning? How can you create that sense of bonding and belonging without actually physically hugging, without actually and, you know, being in the same space over a period of time.


So and you go right back to the beginnings. Have we been successful at it? By and large? Yes. And if you think that the only breakdown is being, you know, young people, oh, I don't know how old are. But, you know, gathering in Galway are Kalani are so WilliamsI. That's quite incredible achievement. And particularly by young people. I mean, my goodness, whatever about me, I mean, I, I'm, you know, isolation and, you know, kind of thriving in in a way.


But I mean, I like to have the, you know, cut off from, you know, that that whole socialization of bonding and belonging, if, you know, dating game, the shift or whatever it is. I mean, that's enormous. And I think, you know, to talk about young people are to talk about old people that they are not part of the way. They are a problem. You know, we just got to be very careful.


Yeah. Yeah. Don't invoke the we saw so readily.


Yeah, OK. Yeah, listen, it felt so I started doing this show around the time that the pandemic started. And it would feel it felt coming in here and looking at the texts and the emails every week during that very bleak period, that there was a collective mood almost, and you could almost you could almost smell it or taste it from from you know, that there was a huge commonality and a sense that people were in it together and all of those cliches.


Right. And then I think it has probably felt in the last few months, if you if you use that screen as a gauge, that there's been a splintering of that collective mood and collective will, would you say is that something you think is true?


I think it is. And I think the lockdown initially was novel. And I think there was also a huge fear. And, you know, the fear factor bound people together. And then once, if you like, the information started to come through and once if you like the realization of how this virus works. And and it was in a way, that information that gave broke down the fear and gave people leeway to take chances to engage in risky behavior.


And I think that's the main problems are now coming into Christmas. Is everybody saying the vaccine is on his way? No problem. Off we go. And and it I don't know.


I mean, the collective story that we're telling ourselves here is changing is what you're saying. It is evolving by the day.


And I'm glad I'm not a minister because, you know, making these decisions because, you know, talk about the nanny state, but, you know, trying to regulate and the WI and trying to to engender that sense of your personal responsibility, collective responsibility at the same time, when there is this, you know, desperate need to bond and belong.


Yeah, it you know, that's the problem with that bloody tomor has a mind of its own. Listen, do you see this from which your sociologist hat on? Do you see this changing us as people, as a society, or will we just will it be like an elastic band?


We just snap back afterwards and go back to to the way we were well discovered is one example of how we need this collective consciousness. But we need desperately in relation to the environment. I mean, you know, that that story of the you know, the cave and the daddy, long legs coming together to fool the bats because they they all hung out at the side of this cave wall and the bats flew by them because they were all bound together as one pulsating organism organism.


OK, but the idea that that human beings can go on destroying the planet without this collective consciousness, I have no idea. I don't think we're going to go back to the type of religion that we had in the past, which is, you know, like unquestioning male patriarchal types of religion. But it's it's very difficult to know how we can create a sense of belonging and being in nature and not destroying it, not seeing you know, that, you know, we have a right to indulge ourselves, to fill our needs and interests and not be responsible for other species.


And it's all about us. So you think that consciousness could become more more in tune with Gaia and all that kind of thing? And indeed, we'll be talking to a remarkable young man in a few minutes who's very, very immersed in the natural world. Before you go, Tom, the last time you were here, you were talking about your your book, you've written about your dog and the death of your dog and everything.


It's so I almost feel like getting a dog. I have to get a dog myself at this stage. Like, each, every, every, each and every one I meet has suddenly got a dog. Yep. And we would go walking everyone's dogs everywhere. And it's become a real thing, hasn't it. People have turned to dogs.


Well, yeah. As we've talked about the last time I was on, you know, to love a dog is it's OK. It's a good thing to do. And, you know, there's a lot of things that have got us through covid. But I, you know, technology, obviously. But I think for an awful lot of people, you know, their pet, you know, in my case, a dog has been a source of comfort calculation in.


Operation, I mean, I have a new dog in my life, and it's just wonderful that I get up in the morning, even these cold, wet winter mornings don't need from a Roscommon. And it's just to see her delight in the day and, you know, the excitement that comes. And so, yeah, I'm really getting into the dog market. I mean, one of the great things I would hope is the price you pay for them.


No, there's no way I'm getting one.


But no, you can go down to the dog shelter and, you know, I don't know what to do. But the thing is, of course, and that's what the book was about, is your dog is for life. And, you know, when you got to 17, you realize what that means is the dog is for life because not just for Lockton, not just for luck, you know. All right. Listen, Tom, I thought that was absolutely fascinating.


I hope we didn't lose people without. No, because I think it was a really interesting kind of just a nice to look under the bonnet known again, isn't it, Tom? Just just a little bit too much.


And my problem is I'm always looking under the bonnet. You see, you need to get out to Leitrim and talk to a human being instead of the dog. Tom, great to talk to you. Thanks a million, Tom. Let's take a break.


Text five one five five one Brendan O'Connor on RTG, Radio one.