The Injustice of Time Rendered Obsolete

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Some speech in the Dáil by Labour Party Finance spokesperson Joan Burton, railing against the crony capitalism of Anglo Irish Bank and Fianna Fáil and Seanie Fitzpatrick, and drawing on past figures of corruption, like Ansbacher Man and god knows who else.

Some speech by Sean Fitpatrick of Anglo Irish Bank at the onset of the financial crisis, or maybe before it, calling for social welfare payments to be cut, in order to get the economy back on track and make the country more competitive, or to cut costs. To be honest I can’t remember the exact bullshit rationale.

Sean Fitzpatrick is acquitted of all charges.

Joan Burton sets the police on social welfare recipients.

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Translation: Notes for a Non-Statocentric Politics

These are notes by Amador Fernández-Savater, originally published on the Interferencias blog on eldiario.es, 11th April 2014. He describes them as ‘an intuition’, and ‘a hypothesis’, rather than a thesis.

Translation note: He uses the term ‘hacer plaza‘, which has no elegant translation in English, at least not from this source. What it means literally is to ‘make the square’, or to ‘do the square’, the square in this context being the site of public assembly and occupation that proliferated after 15-M. With ‘making’/’doing’ he is referring to the entire range of democratic practices that unfolded on these sites. I have translated it, inelegantly, as ‘making the square’.

Notes for a Non-Statocentric Politics

Neoliberalism

OnePercent

01 – There is a dominant (hegemonic, if you will) conception of the world, and its name is neoliberalism.

02. Neoliberalism -the management of life by business- is a global logic, but it exists in every one of the places where we experience reality (the school, the workplace, the street, our relations with others…).

03. If neoliberalism is reproduced every day it is not only through coercion and fear, but also because 1) it is self-evident and 2) it is desirable. It is self-evident in a myriad of life situations where one must think of oneself as a business and of the other as a competitor. It becomes desirable through a myriad of signs that carry its promise of success, of self-realisation, of freedom.

04. Neoliberalism passes through our bodies. It does not sustain itself through what our opinion of it is, but through what it makes us feel. We could all be against it and yet the machine could go on working undisturbed. Because we are against in the abstract and in general, but in the concrete situations in which we live the everyday it becomes self-evident and desirable. It holds all meaning. (‘Tiene todo el sentido‘)

05. Global neoliberalism is challenged locally and concretely. By opposing it, in any place of our experience, with other practical definitions of what is evident and what is desirable.

06. Social change entails the multiplication and generalisation of these practices. They are fragile, ambivalent, discontinuous, but they already prefigure a different society, another definition of reality. A new hegemony.

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Making the square: 15M, the mareas, the PAH (Mortgage Victims’ Platform)

07. The squares of the 15M were at once a challenge to the neoliberal definition of reality (a NO) and the production of a new reality (a YES).

08- First of all, a NO. “We are not commodities in the hands of politicians and bankers”, “They do not represent us”. A NO pronounced with one’s body, with others, in the street. A NO that redefines reality: the threshold between what we tolerate and what we no longer tolerate, between the just and the unjust, the decent and the indecent. And which breaks (with its deeds) with a regime of what is self-evident and what is desirable.

09. Secondly, a YES. A YES that did not consist so much of a programme as the making of a common experience of a better world than the one offered to us daily by neoliberalism.

The squares were an experience of co-operation between people who did not know each other, were the others were not instruments or obstacles, but rather accomplices and equals. A kind of anonymity, where there was a dissolving of the classifications and identifies that establish each day who is who and who can do what. An experience of activation, where we discovered ourselves capable of doing things that we generally delegate. An experience of lushness and enjoyment, where the abundance of time and relations, alongside care for our collective life, became the true measure of “wealth” and the “good life”. An experience, then, of the intensification of the common dimension of existence.

10. This experience materially questions the neoliberal definition of reality: the self as a firm, the search for profit as the motor of behaviours, competition as the principle governing relations with others, property and consumption as measures of wealth and the good life, the world as a mass of opportunities to be monetised. This is the substantive content of the ‘real democracy’ that people laid claim to in the squares.

11- The various mareas, the PAH and many other initiatives have multiplied the experience of 15M, translating it and dispersing it into a thousand corners of everyday life. Redefining what is just and unjust through the NO: “The health system is not for sale”; “This hospital is not closing”, “Our neighbour will not be evicted”. Creating new spaces and times where the YES might be lived. We call this operation “making the square”.

12. One can “make the square” in the squares or outside of them, with actions and with words, in the exceptional and the everyday, with others and even alone. To make the square is to oppose one world to another, or place one world in another. Concretely, putting oneself there, with one’s body, poking holes in the institutional definition of reality and producing new meanings for social life. Elements of a different conception of the world.

 

The impasse

13- This form of political action, making the square, is anything but easy. For a thousand reasons.

Because it is difficult to do things with people who are different from us, to change one’s immediate surrondings and oneself.

Because today the harshest of scenes is unfolding and accelerating, the precaritisation of life, institutional lockdown and repression.

Because we lack forms of organisation which make political action a long term habit, save for full time activists.

Because our mental schemes of reference (the imaginary of revolution, etc.) do not fit our practices and give little value or visibility to that which is not epic.

Faced with the thousands of difficulties we meet in practice, there is a rebirth of the tempting illusion of a shortcut: the “taking of power”, (political) power as a fulcrum of change.

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Statocentrism

14- Statocentrism is the name we give to a type of gaze that places political power at the centre of preoccupations, expectations and desires for social change. Let us add three buts.

15. The statocentric gaze sees political power as the cause-engine-source of social changes. Reaching it will therefore put us in a position to change society.

But, the power of political power depends on what happens in the everyday places of experiences. What can and cannot be done is interlinked and conditioned by the conflicts that permeate the thousands of situations that take place at the base of society. There is no macro without micro.

As such, it is a fatal strategy to empty time, desire, attention and energy from all these situations in order to concentrate on reaching political power, because the latter depends on what these situations allow and enable it to do.

16. The statocentric gaze proposes us to think of social change as a conflict between the political class (“chancers, crooks, liars”) and a “we” that is essentially healthy (“the real people”, “decent folk”, “the multitudes”). It would be sufficient for “the good guys” to reach power (through their representatives) to change the state of things.

But neoliberalism is in fact a co-production. With different levels, but we all produce it among ourselves (by entering into competition with our neighbour, by speculating, etc.). It is not enough to be against “the bad guys” as if there were about the place somewhere a “good us” that already existed. A new reality has to be created (and we have to change with it).

17. The statocentric gaze pursues above all the “creation of public opinion”. What for? It is simple: public opinion translates into votes and votes confer political power. As such, the main actors in this idea of politics are the intellectuals who articulate discourse.

Pedagogical politics, politics of explanation: it is primarily a matter of occupying the media and convincing the other, thought of as a spectator and voter.

But neoliberalism is not first of all a discourse, but rather an everyday practice crystallised in habits and affects. As such it is a question of opening spaces where we might make other experiences of life (in relation to work, with thinking, with money, etc.), in which the other appears as an accomplice and an equal.

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The multilayered and multichanneled revolution

18. It is not a matter of turning one’s back on the problem of political power, but rather de-centring it, by placing it on the inside of a wider process of the construction of a new reality.

Statocentric discourse holds that right now it is a matter of passing “from the social to the political”, as if what happened in the squares had not been political. But it is not a matter of moving from one (inferior) thing to another (superior) thing, but at any rate to open up yet another plane.

19. “Multilayered and multichanneled revolution” is the image proposed by a friend to think and imagine a complex social change (that is: not a statocentric one).

It means that there is no privileged point that marks out rhythms, positions and the course of action for others: election times, the conjuncture…

What there is is a plurality of times, spaces and subjects, each one of them precious and necessary in so far as they set out, with their body and by being there, new regimes of what is self-evident and desirable. A party of a new kind can be one more point in this constellation.

20- God has died, but there are still too many vanguards that seek to occupy his place: the vision of everything in general from nowhere in particular.

Let us not talk about what is to be done, thinking on behalf of everyone, but rather what we can do, wherever it is that we have situated our body.

21. The multilayered and multichanneled paradigm is a paradigm of abundance, not scarcity. That is, it does not depart from what reality “lacks” in order to be what it “ought to be”, but rather the marvellous and marvelling affirmation that there are already a thousand experiences and situations in train, of which there are already currents of sympathy and flows of communication.

(A highly important ‘militant-function’ here would be to de-centre one’s gaze and help us see and value the potency of what normally remains covered up. One example, then another.)

22. Organisation, in this paradigm, does not consist of “fusing” or “uniting” different experiences into a bloc, but rather composing them, establishing communications between them, and connecting them into a network without a centre.

It is above all an art of the encounter: the creation of bonds between situations, tools, devices, times, knowledges, concepts, images.

23. This art of the encounter requires above all the fine-tuning of a faculty: the faculty of listening. The statocentric gaze is incapable of listening to the singularity of experiences and situations. It only hears what it wants to hear. It is interested in struggles and movements only “in so far as” they serve its plans. Its closeness is rhetorical and instrumental.

But struggles are valid “in themselves” -on account of the possibilities they open, the realities they generate, and not “for” something else. An encounter is not generated by fitting pieces into a plan, but rather by starting from the intimacy of one’s own experiences: their own rhythms, problems and potencies.

24. A social change that is multilayered and multichanneled follows what someone called a “strategy without strategists”. No-one directs it according to a plan, they are practices that multiply and spread by imprinting, via intensification, a new global direction to reality, effects “without an author”.

25 – Transformational hegemony is not the (quantitative) hegemony of opinion, but rather the (qualitative) hegemony of behaviours. It is not a media-based phenomenon, but rather a massive re-routing of the direction of life.

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Are You Democratically Experienced?

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I.

I am in Spain at the minute. Today marks the 83rd anniversary of the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic. Writing in La Marea today, in an article titled ‘The Republic bears the face and name of a woman’, Rafael Escudero Alday describes the Second Republic as the ‘first fully democratic experience in the history of Spain’. As he notes, it marked a break from the arbitrary rule of military leaders, chieftains and priests, and introduced the principle of equality before the law. The Republic and its Constitution, he writes ‘on the one hand, turned women into citizens, the bearers of civil, political and social rights; and, on the other, drew into the public square questions that until then had belonged to the private sphere, such as, for example, relations in marriage, in the family, and even domestic labour. That is, Republican women and men did not just broaden rights, but also the spaces protected by rights.’ The author goes on to note that women in Spain voted for the first time in Spain on the 19th of November 1933, and that in 1936, the Catalonia’s Generalitat, constituted as a consequence of the Republic’s proclamation, introduced the legalisation of abortion.

 II.

The democratic regime established by the Republic was overthrown by the putsch launched by a group of soldiers on the 18th of July 1936. As Joaquim Bosch noted in an article in January, ‘the coup d’état was supported militarily, ideologically and economically by Hitler’s Germany. When the rebellion did not prove victorious throughout the entire territory, Nazi Germany began trying its weaponry against defenceless civilians, in test run for what it would subsequently do in Europe’. ‘Hundreds of thousands of people died as a result of the conflict. There are still more than 100,000 people buried in mass graves, who were murdered by those who rose against the constitutional order.’

Of those who lie in mass graves, Bosch writes that ‘the majority of people who lie unidentified in mass graves had not gone off to any war. They were exterminated as part of the military coup strategy to eliminate any possible source of dissidence and to fill the entire population with fear.’ Thus ‘Spain ranks second in the world for disappeared people, behind Cambodia.’

 III.

On 12th October 2004, the then Socialist Party Defence Minister, José Bono, staged an Armed Forces parade, for the day known as ‘Spanishness Day’ –Dia de la Hispanidad- in which there was participation from both ex-soldiers who had remained loyal to the legally constituted Republic, and from a veteran who had fought in the Blue Division, that is, who had gone off to fight for Hitler on the Russian front.

He said at the time that “What happened has been written about, but from my ideological position of struggle against Franco, which is on record, I say that there is greater strength in the symbolism of an embrace between two Spanish men, whatever their biography, than in the seed of hatred of those whose finger hurts from pointing it at their opponent”.

IV.

In Ireland, there was widespread support, from the political establishment and the church, for the overthrow of the Second Spanish Republic. The Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal MacRory, organised collections for Franco outside Catholic churches throughout the island. Irish men who went to fight for the Republic were excommunicated, and those who returned were ostracised. Support for the fascist forces in Spain was near unanimous in the ranks for the Fine Gael party. W.T. Cosgrave claimed ‘the fate of European civilisation and everything in it’ depended on Franco. As I’ve previously noted, ‘Fine Gael and the Francoist Partido Popular –which has never recanted its fascist past and blocks attempts at investigating crimes against humanity conducted by the Franco regime- are both members of the same grouping in the European Parliament. Both are in government, enacting vicious cutbacks to public spending and attacking social, economic and labour rights, and congratulating each other for the good work they are doing.’

In two years’ time, Irish society will mark the centenary of the proclamation of the Irish Republic in 1916. But whereas it took less than five years for the Spanish Republic to introduce the legalisation of abortion, abortion remains illegal in Ireland over 100 years on. (And now they want to make it illegal in Spain too)

V.

The current Irish government, with a Fine Gael majority, has committed to involving the British monarchy in State commemorations. One of the Irish government’s court scribes, Stephen Collins, wrote in the Irish Times on Saturday that ‘many in the mainstream Irish political parties feared the 1916 Rising commemorations might be hijacked by Sinn Féin, but republicans may now begin to fear the British royal family could steal the show. The presence of a member of a royal family should help ensure nobody steals the show..

What the introduction of the British monarchy to proceedings means, as noted approvingly by an Irish Times letter writer last week, is ‘progress towards social and political quiet’. Thus the fight for a democratic regime, for political and social and civil rights, is placed on a par with the fight for Empire and monarchy. It is all the same thing. We are all democracies nowadays. We all know what it is like. There is no longer any need for fully democratic experiences. And there is greater strength in the symbolism of an embrace between ruling castes in Britain and Ireland, whatever their biography, than in the seed of hatred of those whose finger hurts from pointing it at their opponent.

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How History Got Its End Away

I left this comment on the article by Roy Foster in today’s Irish Times, which is titled State visit seals the end of an era for Ireland, in which the historian discerns that the ‘two countries finally see each other as indeed separate but equal, in a mutually fulfilling relationship. Nearly as good as sex.’

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There is a kind of neat echo, in the Professor’s climactic ejaculation here that the relations between Britain and Ireland are now ‘nearly as good as sex’, of Michael O’Leary’s crude joke last week in front of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, about having sex with the Queen, which provoked revulsion among those assembled.

A British politician once described Ryanair as displaying the ‘unacceptable face of capitalism’. If political relations under capitalism are comparable to sex, as Roy Foster contends, perhaps the problem is that Ryanair have no sense of romance, no sense of foreplay. Official Britain and official Ireland are fine about Michael O’Leary and company destroying the environment, attacking the rights of workers, launching venomous attacks on public services and social protections, and humiliating their own staff, including female workers in particular. Where O’Leary crosses the line is when, in polite company, he disrupts the delicate sense of decorum and reveals the phantasmatic support of this whole exercise: a business leader copulating with the Head of State.

Since Roy Foster has brought sex and psychology into it, we might recall French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s declaration that “there is no sexual relationship”. What I think he meant was that the representation of sexual difference between men and women is an act of imagination; there are not really any complementary elements at work. Mutatis mutandis, we can apply this to the idea expressed here that Britain and Ireland are ‘separate but equal’. Roy Foster writes of ‘the Irish’ as if there was a homogeneous body of people subject to identical psychological mechanisms, and undisturbed by any kind of class tension. This is a fantasy. And, just as there is no ‘the Irish’, there is no ‘the British’ either, and of course, there is no relation between the two. It is a fantasy that the lives of the tens of millions of people classified as ‘Irish’ -or ‘British’, for that matter- could ever be properly accounted for through reference to the machinations of monarchs, politicians and bureaucrats, or through the performances of artistic figures among cultural elites. But such coiffured fantasies oil the gears of power and wealth, while helping History get its End away.

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The Significance of The Significance

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

-George Orwell, Animal Farm

I think that’s enough for today. I have just turned off the Liveline programme on RTÉ Radio. Callers were discussing the suit worn by Michael D. Higgins on the State visit to the UK. Earlier, on the Sean O’Rourke programme, guests were discussing the outfits worn by Sabina Higgins and the Queen of All That Is. Apparently if it is a windy day, Sabina Higgins may have to wear some pins in order to keep her hat on. Everything was weighed up in terms of its significance: the music, the military displays, the horses, the hats. Indeed, I doubt I’ve ever heard the word “significant” used so often in such a short space of time as I did on the Sean O’Rourke programme this morning. Eminent historian Roy Foster, called upon to put everything into perspective, was asked how significant the State visit was. He was asked if it was significant that the first State visit came from Britain, and not the other way round. Yes, said Roy, this was immensely significant.

You know something is significant when they get Roy Foster on to signify how significant it is by saying “it’s significant”. But that it is significant is far more significant than whatever it is that the signifier signifies. Got it? No?

OK. What is the significance of all this significance? Or to put it another way, what sort of system of signs are we being confronted with here?

Let’s start with a few basics. Michael D. Higgins is the President of Ireland. He is on a State visit to the United Kingdom. That means, in constitutional terms, that Michael D. Higgins is representing the people of Ireland in an official encounter with the…well, the Queen. The people of Ireland, so it goes, have sent Michael D. Higgins to represent them, and the peoples of England, Scotland and Wales have sent the Queen to…wait a minute, I don’t think that’s written down anywhere. The Queen is not doing anything on behalf of her subjects; rather, she is doing it because she is the Queen. It’s a pity Lord St. John of Fawsley isn’t still around to resolve these thorny questions.

Anyway, as The Guardian in the UK notes today, Michael D. Higgins is officially the head of democratic and republican Ireland. That means, for those who take these things seriously, that when he visits UK on a State visit, and he stays at Windsor Palace, he is doing so on behalf of each and every citizen of Ireland. If you are a citizen of Ireland, this means that it is as good as you yourself sleeping in the Queen’s bed, and drinking her brandy. The significance of this, to the people of Ireland is: if you’re ever in the vicinity and the Queen is in town, she’ll put you up for a mighty night’s craic. If you are ever evicted in London, I encourage you to try this some time, to check out how much the signified corresponds to reality.

Absent from all this talk of significance, apart from the most superficial of references, was the question of the intended target of this significance. To whom were these things supposed to signify stuff? A generous interpretation would be that mystical imaginary body commonly known as “the Irish people”, who, it turns out, are pretty much the same “people” that existed back in the day of Queen Victoria, when, according to Roy Foster, it was only “extremist nationalists” (his words), such as Maud Gonne, who objected to the relation of a subject people to its monarch.

Various Irish people had their views sought by RTÉ on the significance of Michael D. Higgins’s visit. Many others had their views represented by RTÉ broadcasters. As they put it, it must have been very significant for them to see their Head of State come to Britain. But wait. Most Irish people in Britain didn’t vote for Michael D. Higgins as ‘their’ Head of State. If you emigrate from Ireland, you lose the right to vote in the country’s elections. It has been a feature of Irish ‘democracy’ that the material deprivation that drives emigration goes hand in hand with basic political disenfranchisement.

A TV documentary is running on RTÉ at the minute titled ‘A Sovereign People’. Last week, a judge was talking about the 1916 Proclamation. He pointed out, quite rightly, that the language of the document, with its emphasis on the citizen, stood opposed to the political discourse of the subject that had hitherto prevailed under the colonial power. Whereas the subject, the royal or imperial subject, in these terms, was passive and obedient, the active citizen was the central figure of popular sovereignty. This kind of citizenship necessarily entails dispute, argument, conflict: qualities utterly absent from RTÉ coverage of the State visit, and from its political coverage more broadly. Instead, the RTÉ listener could hear Olivia O’Leary effuse about how “we” had given the Queen a great welcome to Dublin. Which is why An Garda Síochána put Dublin on lockdown for the duration of her visit.

These days, the significance of citizen poses problems for the declaration of equal rights enshrined in the 1916 proclamation. What now comes to the fore, in these post-sovereign days, is merely the question of who is a citizen and who is not, or more broadly, who is Irish and who is not, and how that distinction can best be drawn.

Who should be first in line to have their entitlement to health and welfare withdrawn? Who is useful to economic growth, and who is not? Who should be locked up and deported, and who should be allowed to move freely? These are the real shared concerns of the Irish and British ruling classes. What is rendered absent, from the generally sympathetic representation of Irish people who were once the object of suspicion, exclusion and surveillance in Britain, is the fact that this apparatus is now trained on other sectors of British society, particularly British Muslims, and Muslims more generally, but also migrants from places such as Romania and Bulgaria.

In this scenario, it comes naturally to Ireland’s media establishment to identify the Irish in Britain as their own, as part of the ‘diaspora’, and to go as far as identify the achievements of these people as the achievements of Ireland, whilst turning a blind eye to the processes that landed them in Britain in the first place, and to the fact that these people have been altogether excluded from Irish political life. Michael D. Higgins will be paying a visit to Irish people whose labour helped build the National Health Service; the bitter irony is that Ireland has never had one, and the British establishment represented by the Queen is dismantling it anyway.

Instead of these live political concerns, we have the image, conjured up by people like Roy Foster, of two peoples being “separate, but equal”, at the very same time that popular sovereignty in both islands is little more than a sick joke, with financial and economic elites destroying the public institutions and services and social protections that were built by generations of British and Irish people. And beneath all this, it as if there is a secret celebration underway that the Irish, or at least, the Irish people who matter, have now become fully white in the eyes of their former masters.

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The Enclosure of the Cumann

The deal struck by the GAA with Sky Sports is causing a lot of consternation, and receiving a lot of media attention. I am not the biggest GAA fan in the parish by any stretch of the imagination. The last time I was at a match was maybe nine or ten years ago. I only went to Armagh matches when they were good. I watch the championship sporadically and have no idea what happens in the national league from year to year. I played football and hurling at school and was very mediocre, lacking variously the drive, the physical prowess or the desire to beat people up that might make a fine player. Normally I don’t say anything about GAA matters because there are millions of people far better informed about them than me, and I would only make an arse of myself if I started discussing team selections and such. Personally, the fact they start showing GAA matches exclusively on Sky Sports would do very little damage to my enjoyment of Sundays.

In this particular case, though, I think it is worth making a comment. I’m not going to get into jumpers-for-goalposts recollections about things related to the GAA, though I have my fair share. I have heard quite a few people on the radio and television talking about the ethos of the GAA, and how this move goes against this ethos.

I am always suspicious about the word ‘ethos’ when I come across it in Irish public discourse. Normally it refers to the Catholic Church, and elements of the Catholic Church marking out their territory on the terrain of education and health care. This ‘Catholic ethos’ has more to do with the defence of privilege – the right of social elites to exclusive schools funded by the State in preservation of the ‘ethos’, or to hospitals that exclude people on the basis that they haven’t enough money. This ‘ethos’ is, at root, about cold hard cash, property, speculation.

What about this GAA ethos then? Given that bishops used to throw in the ball at the start of big matches, and given that the GAA is another institutional mainstay of Irish society, is the GAA ethos similar to that of the Catholic Church? Perhaps, but only superficially. This ethos is said to entail things called ‘volunteerism’ and ‘amateurism’. ‘Volunteerism’, in this context, means giving of your time freely, as opposed to getting paid for it. ‘Amateurism’, in this context, stands in opposition to ‘professionalism’, that is, those who play the sport do it for the love of the game, not because they aspire to hold any particular status or make lots of money.

However, I do not think either of these words in accurately characterise the ethos of the GAA. I think the ‘volunteerist’ and ‘amateur’ labels are actually cover for something a lot more profound.

Let me explain. Contrary to how it gets represented, the GAA isn’t a monolith. It has contradictions and competing tendencies. There are people involved in it who are motivated by power and status and ego and icy cold calculation in the service of market forces. Then you have others who participate in the life of a club or school team or whatever, and give of their time freely because it is part of the essential fabric of broader community life. The former group capitalises on the work of the latter. It is no coincidence that many high-ranking members of the political establishment, including the current Taoiseach, have sought popular legitimacy for their right-wing policies on the basis of their links to the GAA. When bishops used to throw in the ball at GAA matches, it wasn’t just because the Catholic Church was a dominant force in Irish society; it was also because the bishops needed the popular classes to get the impression that they were on their side.

In Irish, the name for the GAA is Cumann Lúthchleas Gael. The first word – Cumann – has the same etymology as ‘common’, ‘community’ – and communism. The Irish for communism is Cumannachas. Now you would need to be away in the head to imagine that the GAA is, on the whole, a communist organisation. I have heard some people describe it as a mass organisation and even a socialist organisation, but never a communist one. However, there is something about the activities that take place on under the aegis of the GAA that is, in fact, communist.

The moral logic of a great deal of its activities is not the moral logic of money, but is rather informed by a sense of basic equality. GAA clubs and matches and training sessions are also focal points that allow communities to exist, and people to interact with each other, with some degree of decency and equality and sense of belonging and maintenance of a social bond. That is not to say that the whole of the GAA operates on this basis. On the contrary: the GAA of the corporate suites at Croke Park and sale of exclusive television rights to Sky is the GAA of the gombeen bourgeoisie, what some people often refer to as the ‘Grab All Association’.

So, there is a dimension to the GAA that operates outside the logic of money, and then there is the other dimension, overseen by a different social constituency, that wishes to subordinate the GAA to the logic of money altogether. It is this latter constituency that is happy to laud the GAA’s ‘volunteer’ status, its ‘amateurism’, because it sees what the GAA does in terms of something that can be commodified and eyes it up as something it can get its hands on, practically for free. As GPA spokesman put it, “people were saying, ‘Ah, if you could only bottle it, if you could only expose it to the outside world.’” This is precisely what the Sky deal is intended to achieve.

But the ‘volunteer’ and ‘amateur’ status of the GAA is also celebrated in wider Irish society, particularly by Irish elites, because it corresponds to a vision of the world where money rules, everything gets privatised, and the fallout is dealt with by what the Tories in Britain described as the ‘Big Society’: the elimination of social rights and their replacement with charity and work for free.

This same social constituency loves the GAA’s volunteer and amateur status because the spirit of co-operation and equality and solidarity and enjoyment that it calls to mind among a great many people serves as an alibi for robbery. Let’s not mince our words here: it is robbery. Though there is an excellent argument for player compensation, the simple fact is that none of these players who will now play exclusively on Sky TV screens would have got anywhere had it not been for the fact that hundreds of thousands of people dedicated vast amounts of time, freely given, to the building of a culture and a community and a way of life, on the understanding that anyone could take part and feel part of it.

Many of these people might want to go to see their county play at Croke Park or whatever, but simply can’t afford it. And now the GAA hierarchy decides that not only will these people be unable to afford going to the match, they’ll have to pony up if they want to see it on TV too. That, sadly, is the ethos of money, the ethos of Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch. It seems to me pretty obvious, then, that anyone who is part of the GAA because for them it means things like friendship and solidarity and community should push back against this attempted enclosure.

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‘We’? ‘The Citizens’?

horizon‘Horizon’ – El Roto

I left this comment on the article by Michael D. Higgins in today’s Irish Times, which is titledTime for citizens to forge a better future for our country‘.

Who is this ‘we’ Michael D. Higgins is talking about?

He speaks of the disempowerment of ‘our citizens’, and extends an invitation to ‘all of the citizens of Ireland’ to reimagine Ireland. As he is writing as the Head of State, there is no room for ambiguity when it comes to the matter of who comes under this category of citizen. He is extending the invitation to people who hold the status of citizen as conferred by the Irish State. He is not extending the invitation to people in Ireland who fall outside that category.

This means that the more inclusive discourse he seeks to launch has an exclusive dimension in its foundation. It means that many people who live in Ireland and who are subjected to the State’s mechanisms of racial discrimination and violence are not called upon to take part; they are left out. The starting point of this discourse, then, guarantees their status as unpeople and the normalised violation of their human dignity.

Michael D. Higgins says ‘friendship, care, trust, justice and equality’ are moral-ethical principles that matter greatly to the people he is addressing. If they are, then that is a good thing, without doubt. But if that is what really matters to them, perhaps they ought to be thinking about what it means to be part of a political community and a State that systematically discriminates and excludes on the basis of racial-biological criteria.

Is the official category of ‘citizen’, as deployed by the Irish State, really the basis for friendship, care, trust, justice and equality? Perhaps the best person to answer this question would be someone living under Direct Provision, or in fear of deportation.

There is nothing wrong with reimagining Ireland. But first of all, perhaps we should account for how Ireland and its ‘citizens’ are already being reimagined, through events such as the Citizenship Referendum of 2004, or the fashioning of a ‘diaspora’, along racist and exclusionary contours that form a bulwark against the moral-ethical principles Michael D. Higgins enumerates here.

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