The recent snowfall was a salutary reminder that Irish society has depths of strength and fortitude not obvious from the headlines or from our 'leaders'. On more than a few occasions I found myself trying to negotiate an especially slippy incline or corner in my car, only to find two, three and more people appearing as if from nowhere to give me a push and keep me going. Similarly I would regularly be joined by strangers as we tried to help someone stuck in their own car in a drift of snow.
And so it was for hundreds of thousands of our fellow country men and women: clearing paths, pushing cars and keeping an eye on elderly neighbours. Civil society is alive and well in contemporary Ireland, but it remains hidden like the submerged mass of an iceberg. Alex Tabarrok recently commented on the Iceberg Economy over at Marginal Revolution. He was making the point that - in addition to the visible structures of government and commercial activities - there is a less visible sub-structure of family, community and charitable activities that are vitally important contributors to civil society.
It is only when the iceberg is flipped - such as during record-breaking cold weather - that the invisible becomes visible, and we are reminded of the true depths and strengths of Ireland and the Irish people. Moreover, I expect to see greater visibility for these hidden depths in months and years to come as we learn to apply the ubiquitous tools of social networking and peer-to-peer communications to helping solve one another's problems. Instead of waiting for the local authorities to show up. Check out Snowmageddon Cleanup to see how New Yorkers are responding to their own recent snowfall for a harbinger of our civil future here in Ireland.