I left this comment on an Irish Times piece published today by its economics correspondent Dan O’Brien, titled ‘Immigration issues need more discussion’, in which, calling for a ‘frank discussion’ on immigration, he draws a conclusion that ‘from a purely economic perspective’, ‘the decision to open the labour market fully in 2004 was a mistake’.
What is a ‘purely economic perspective’? There is no such thing. All perspectives on economics are informed by politics. The perspective required, for instance, to refer to persons of flesh and blood who have to work for a living, bear and raise children, get sick and eventually die, as a ‘factor of production’, as elements of a ‘labour market’, is a political perspective.
When Dan O’Brien says that ‘the decision to open the labour market fully in 2004 was a mistake’ – what political perspective is he using? Certainly not that of someone who came to live and work in Ireland post-2004. Therefore his (and not just his) idea of the economy entails a political perspective that implies judgements about what is right for some, and automatically excludes the welfare of others from this judgement.
Now, ‘the economy’ is a fetish object anyway, and the ‘all other things’ of ceteris paribus is a political determination. When we talk about GDP or GNP growth, we pretend that this growth is somehow ours and therefore positive for everyone, even when this growth is be achieved through increasing the rate of exploitation of workers (not least poor migrant workers!), and even when these figures do not account for all work, such as housework and childcare in the home, which is unpaid (and often carried out by migrant grandparents!). We should not expect a ‘frank discussion’ of this in the Irish Times, by the way.
The familiar repertoire that calls for ‘frank discussions’ stifled and laments the ‘sidelining of those who dissent from the consensus (sic)’ rarely entails the inclusion of political perspectives -especially the perspectives of those most acutely affected by policies of population control and shrinking of welfare state provision- that run counter to economic orthodoxy. Rather, it is a way of making sure that such perspectives of people are kept safely in quarantine lest they interfere with the regular functioning of ‘the economy’, especially at a time of austerity (or ‘rigour’ or ‘stringency’ or however it has been rebranded) and its close associate, the capitalist State.
Many are wondering what is happening in Portuguese society that personalities, political actors and social organisations are leaving their differences to one side to unite in actions of struggle against the present Government and its austerity policies. There are various reasons and different levels of convergence, meaning that the strength of this convergence may be based on creating conditions to re-define democratic divergences in a new and forthcoming political cycle. Here are some of the reasons:
The new antifascism. Portuguese democracy is suspended because the political decisions that most significantly affect citizens do not derive from their own elections, nor do they respect the Constitution. A basic conflict between the rights of citizens and the demands of the financial ‘markets’ has exploded, and this conflict is going the way of the ‘markets’. Decisions that are formally democratic are substantively impositions by international finance capital to guarantee the profitability of their investments, and in this they have at their service multilateral financial institutions, the European Central Bank, the European Commission, the euro, and the national governments that allowed themselves to be blackmailed.
By contrast with historic fascism, the current financial fascism, rather than destroying democracy, it strips it of any power that might allow it to confront it, and it turns it into a political monstrosity: a Government of citizens that governs against the citizens; the Government legitmated by the rights of citizens that rules by violating and destroying those rights.
The defence of real democracy demands a union of the kind that united the antifascist forces that struggled so much for the democracy which we had until a short while ago and which we conquered less than 40 years ago. Since fascism is different, the forms of struggle are also different. But the objectives consist of the same: building a democracy worthy of the name.
From alternation to the alternative. The financial crisis of 2008 meant the end of what post-war became known as “democratic capitalism”, an always tense co-existence between the interests of those interested in maximising their profits and the interests of workers in having salaries that were just and work with rights. The coexistence was the result of a pact through which workers gave up their most radical demands (socialism) in exchange for concessions from capital (taxation and regulation) that made the welfare or social State possible.
This pact began to enter crisis after the 1970s, but it collapsed definitively with the 2008 crisis, not only for the way in which it got resolved, but also in the way in which it was settled: in favour of the financial capital that created it, which, instead of being penalised and regulated, was rescued and liberated in order to quickly to restore its profitability and that of its bondholders. The political parties who sought to govern were distinguished in the post-war period by their way of managing the pact. That is what alternation consisted of. Since 2008 this pact ceased to exist and hence alternation ceased to have any meaning.
In Portugal, the signing of the Troika memorandum sealed the end of the pact and of the alternation that made it democratic. From now on, instead of alternation, it is necessary to seek an alternative. The divergences within the Government coalition have nothing to do with the alternative and show that the alternation of the alternation (with the same parties or some of them and the Socialist Party) would be the reproduction, in the form of farce, of the tragedy we are experiencing.
The alternative entails deciding between the logic of financial capitalism and the logic of democratic politics. In the present, the two logics cannot be reconciled. Portuguese democrats converge on the idea that democracy must prevail and they know that for this to happen acts of disobedience are necessary against the demands of the ‘markets’, which will surely bring with it some degree of social and political turbulence, whose costs must be minimised. Above all, there must be a confrontation of the intimidation and the manipulation of fear, of the drones that the ‘markets’ use to destroy the rights of citizens cost free. The disobedience may take on various forms, but all of them entail the stance that the debt as it exists is unpayable and unjust, because you cannot liquidate a country in order to liquidate a debt.
Opting for democracy is the alternative, but the way of putting it into practice is not unequivocal, since nothing is unequivocal in democracy. That is, the alternative itself encompasses alternatives. And it is here that the divergences emerge that are going to define the new political cycle.
The real Europe and the ideal Europe. The divergences hinge on three issues: whether or not to articulate disobedience to financial capital whilst remaining in the euro; centering efforts on renegotiating the position within the EU or opening up new geopolitical spaces; and, given that the end of this EU is a question of time, whether or not to struggle for another, one that is unequivocally subject to the logic of democracy. As with any paradigm change, every position carries with it risks and it will not always be easy to calculate them.
But even within the divergences there is a certain convergence: the present EU is totally colonised by the logic of the ‘markets’; the deepening of integration underway is being carried out at the expense of the democracies of the South of Europe; it would be better for the stances of disobedience to be taken by different countries in an organised way.
The extra-institutional political struggle. Left political parties are the most timid in this convergence process because they have too many interests vested in the current political cycle and fear for their future. They have difficulty in admitting that, if they do not take on risks, they are condemned to be the democratic varnish on the nails of financial fascism. The dilemma they are confronting is serious: if they go along with a social movement that aims at a new democratic cycle, they may be committing suicide; if they do not do so, they will be seen as part of the problem we face and not as part of the solution, running the risk, at best, of becoming irrelevant, which is another form of suicide.
Given this dilemma -which all of us must understand-, citizens have no other option but to get onto the streets to demand the fall of the Government and force the parties of the left and centre-left to take risks, by helping to minimise the social and political costs of the approaching political turbulence without getting into party calculations. We are, perhaps, entering a strong moment of participative democracy, serving as a revitalising source for representative democracy. Of the institutions that survive the suspension of democracy, Portuguese democrats have little hope remaining in the Constitutional Tribunal. Out of the respect they have for the institution of Presidency of the Republic, they prefer to say nothing about its current incumbent.
This is a translation of an article published on cuartopoder.es, on the forthcoming international mobilisation against the Troika this Saturday. It is by Agustín Moreno, a secondary school teacher in Vallecas in Madrid, and member of the Marea Verde (literally, ‘Green Tide’) a social movement in defence of public education.
On 26th of April there was a meeting in Lisbon of representatives of popular collectives from a series of European Union countries: Portugal, Greece , Cyprus, Ireland, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Slovenia and Spain. They were invited by the Portuguese movement “Que se Lixe a Troika” [“Fuck the Troika”]. They agreed to call for an international day of mobilisations on the 1st of June 2013 against austerity policies under the slogan Peoples United against the Troika.
There was a shared analysis of the situation. The adjustment policies being imposed by the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund dand the European Commission, with the complicity of the governments of the peoples of Europe, especially those of the south, are generating an enormous social suffering. They impoverish and pauperise economies, do away with social rights and deny all any hope to a generation of Europeans. It is an economic disaster and an immense human drama: unemployment, poverty, evictions and rises in mortality rates. All this with the excuse of tightening the public deficit and paying a debt that was not generated by the citizens, but by the bailout of credit institutions, and which, as such, is illegitimate.
In all those countries that have had interventions with bailout memoranda imposed (Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus) or a bank bailout as is the case with Spain, the lines of aggression against society are the same: dismantling of public services (health, education…) savage cuts to wages, removal of barriers to sacking workers, cuts to pensions. Along with the privatisation of what is public, what David Harvey calls accumulation by dispossession, or the plunder of a social wealth created across generations so as to hand it over to Capital as a new business niche.
Among the various causes of this situation is the international economic crisis of capitalism, profligacy and disastrous management, and the joining of the euro by countries with a weak economy. The case of Spain is especially bloody. We have 2.3 trillion euro in external liabilities and although public debt is nearly a trillion euro, the majority of the debt is private. Spain’s joining the euro built up a deficit of 700bn, and another trillion euro for the investment plans of Spanish enterprises, especially in Latin America, which had to be financed with foreign debt. And so as to tie our hands completely, the PSOE and the PP, by common accord, decided to change the Spanish Constitution (article 135.3) to prioritise the payment of such debt in any circumstance. They fled any debate in society and did not dare to put the matter to popular consultation or referendum. Besides being illegitimate, the debt is unpayable (and irretrievable): if there is no deep restructuring of public debt, via a write-down or a moratorium, the public sector could go bankrupt.
This irresponsible policy of the Troika and its puppet governments is giving rise to a crisis in democracy characterised by the creation of a catastrophic economic situation through the implementation of austerity policies. Contempt for the popular will, corruption and repression. Reneging on electoral promises, abandonment of citizens to their fate by weakening social protection mechanisms, refusal to attend to social and labour demands. The corruption that reigns makes things worse, by confusing what is is public and what is private, and there is a growing perception among citizens that they are led by crooks and self-seeking politicians operating in the interests of the banking sector and major corporations. To the extent that they are not prepared to change policies that are suicidal for both the economy and citizens, what we see is the restriction of civil rights and liberties and the toughening of political and police repression in order to try and shut the protests up. Something which, given the circumstances, is like trying to drain the ocean.
In light of this situation, the forces calling for the European mobilisation recognise a need for an urgent change of direction, both in the economy and in politics. The banking sector should not be bailed out; instead it should be persons, citizens and young Europeans who should be saved, rather than mortgaging the future of the environment and the planet. And we need to democratise Europe and democratise politics. That is why all they call for every social movement, political party, union, tide, collective of every kind and people in general to take the streets of Europe on the 1st of June. Against what they call the financial coup d’etat, and for democracy, freedom and social rights, and for the Europe of ordinary people.
They insist that alternatives and solutions exist. They demand social and environmental justice, participative democracy and transparency. They stand for public and universal services. They demand a citizens’ audit of debt that is considered legitimate. The mobilisation that has been called derives from the conviction that with the Troika there can be no hope. It is only citizens who can unblock the current situation and prevent a new round of social cutbacks across the whole of Europe, especially in the countries of the South. To this end we need a great deal of co-ordinated mobilisation at a European level that changes the current correlation of forces. Ultimately to encourage a perspective of the future in which politco-electoral alternatives crystallise, ones which bring about the empowerment of social movements and of citizens, and which crystallises in more participative forms of democracy.
Here in Spain, the mobilisation is being driven by Marea Ciudadana [Citizen Tide] which called the mass demonstrations of the 23F, and which is made up of tides, entities, social movements, progressive political parties, class unions, etc. So, we cannot miss this: Saturday 1st June, see you on the streets.
Calls for assault charges to be brought against the childcare workers exposed in last night’s RTE Prime Time programme are not only missing the point, but obscuring it. The programme focused on a small sample of crèches. Not all crèches operate according to the same cost model as Giraffe or Little Harvard, but many of them do, with workers forced to cope in stressful, under-equipped and poorly supported conditions. Therefore it would be highly unlikely if the same pattern of violent abuse and degradation of infants were not replicated in many other crèches across the country, and the problem is not therefore one of the actions of particular workers, but a systemic violence perpetrated against small children, in the interests of profit.
One of the things that struck me about last night’s programme was the over-arching concern with parents’ fear that their own children might be subjected to such a regime. Such a concern is of course important, but why should this be presented as primarily a matter for parents? The programme exposed gross violation of children’s human rights: that is a political matter for society in its entirety. At one point an expert was asked: who should pay for the improvements to care? She responded, in rather clumsy language: “we, as a state”. What she meant, I think, was that everyone, and not just the parents, has a responsibility to ensure that children grow and learn in a safe, nurturing and happy environment.
However, stated government priorities fly in the face of such a responsibility, and seek to dismantle it. Ruairi Quinn, the Labour Minister for Education, said he wanted to pay for an additional year’s child care out of the existing social welfare budget, proposing to do so by abolishing the universal nature of child benefit, citing how that payment was used by some parents as part of the ‘holiday fund’. Thus he was plainly saying that it should be parents –and parents alone- who ought to fund an expansion in (sub-standard) child care, and implying that wider society bears no such responsibility. When you have affluent Labour Ministers who act out of principles that are destructive of both collective solidarity and respect for the work of raising children, small wonder that you should find poorly paid childcare workers who end up treating defenceless children like throwaway objects.
Michel Foucault teaches us in his 1970s lectures that we need to distinguish between two forms of rule over populations: discipline and control. Discipline seeks to normalise individuals in a way that their conduct becomes foreseeable and ‘normal’. It achieves this through devices such as the prison, the school, the army barracks or the Fordist factory, all of these based in the same device or scheme of power theorised by Jeremy Bentham and whose genealogy was investigated by Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish: the panopticon. The panopticon is a device that allows a person situated in an area at the centre of a closed space with no obstacles to vision can observe, ideally without being seen, every person enclosed in that space, so that, by knowing that they are always potentially being monitored, the individuals enclosed in that space ‘spontaneously’ adjust their behaviours to the norm. Many prisons follow this schema.
Control ignores this individualised normalisation and wholly manages the behaviour of populations by determining, not at an atomic level but a molar level, the acceptable limits of this behaviour without recourse to any prior norm or value. A society of control thereby permits, for example, certain levels of violence and criminality, including them in a utilitarian calculus that compares pros and cons of the various behaviours and establishes their acceptable levels of danger or risk. Thus corruption can become a criminal practice that is perfectly acceptable in so far as it lubricates market transactions, and certain levels of violence can also be tolerated in terms of their utility to a highly profitable security and control industry (Rigouste).
The society of control is also a society of the spectacle in so far as it shows, almost exhaustively, the peaceful or violent everyday through perfected observation media. These media, however, do not have a disciplinary end point as with Bentham’s panopticon in which every individual interned in an enclosed space (a factory, prison, school etc.) knew they were potentially under surveillance and adjusted their behaviour out of this fear. Today, surveillance is total: CCTV cameras are present on every corner in our streets and frequently even in homes, but the observed space is an open space, and, above all, as mentioned previously, there is no norm established a priori that is sought to be imposed on behaviours. Every horizon, every moral compass, to use the everyday phrase, has been lost. It is no longer a matter, as in the disciplinary regime, of preventing ‘abnormal’ events from taking place, but of these events being made known publicly through sight, as a spectacle, and that they can be the object of a constant comparative evaluation without any prior unit of measurement or value. Thus violence itself changes in meaning and becomes an act whose actors know is destined to be seen. In addition the surveillance functions that were a State monopoly in the disciplinary regime have now been privatised through the profusion of private cameras that range from security cameras in homes and businesses to the portable cameras that nearly every model of mobile phone now incorporates.
This brings us to a new characteristic of the society of control: what Alain Brossat calls its immunitary character. Violence in the society of control is a violence of spectacle, seen at a distance even by those who carry it out. Today, everyone is an actor and everyone is a movie camera: we are in the age of the Man with a Movie Camera as in the film by Djiga Vertov. In this way, nothing affects us directly: reality is lived in the register of fiction, as something filmed or filmable. As a consequence, pain, even when it exists, is cancelled out, turned into a mere image of pain. The image immunises us against pain. The image is able to represent the absent thing as present, and also represents the present thing as absent, as a painless nothing.
A large part of present image and practice of war, in the era of the image and the drone, can only be understood from this perspective that is at once spectacular and immunitary. Hitler ordered that the genocide of the Jews of Europe be carried out in gas chambers to prevent the ‘moral suffering’ of the Nazi soldiers obliged to shoot children, women, old people and other unarmed civilians in the back of the head. Considering that an excessive ‘heroism’ was demanded of them in directly carrying out tasks of extermination, the Führer freed them from this burden through the instrument of industrial, anonymous and sterile death that is the gas chamber. At that momment, immunisation against the pain of the crime was obtained by hiding its images, denying its existence. Denialism is always already included in National Socialism’s policy of genocide. This ceases to occur with the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki: we had images of the bombs, of the nuclear mushroom clouds and its consequences from the very start. One of the mission pilots, Eatherly, was on the verge of madness after ‘seeing’ what they had done. Even though he did not have contact with the murdered population, he could not bear his awareness of the magnitude of the carnage. It was hence necessary to separate, as far as possible, human beings from the act of bringing death, to immunise them against death through erecting barriers. These barriers would be the image and the automation of killing machines. The camera and the drone, often united in the same apparatus, synthesise this ‘human’ war that Hitler dreamed of. The widespread use of drones in the Afghanistan/Pakistan war are enabling the realisation of a dream of a conflict without casualties for whoever enjoys technical supremacy and heavy civilian casualties for whoever does not.
Yesterday’s shocking crime in London, in which a young Briton from a Nigerian background used a machete to kill a British soldier in the broad daylight of the street, is a good illustration of the functioning of a spectacular and immunitary society of control. Firstly, the images of the crime circulate on the web as an object of curiosity, since dozens of people were witness to the killing, and, rather than running over to help the victim or running to safety, they remained nearby, filming it. As if they had nothing to fear, since reality rendered an image is as inoffensive as that of a film, even it it is a ‘snuff movie’. The protagonist himself, having committed the crime walked off calmly amid passers by whilst being filmed, to explain serenely, with a bloodied machete and a knife in his hands that were also covered in blood, the motives for his action. It is likely the young man is an ‘improvised terrorist’ who decided to make himself famous through this act, and he achieved it. His objective was to denounce via the action what was happening every day in numerous Muslim countries occupied and intervened in by Western ‘humanitarian’ powers, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. He did achieve fame, but he did not in reality achieve the latter, since in communications media there was merely a denunciation of his ‘barbarism’, quickly associated with political Islam by media whose immediate reflex is to banalise the image of the enemy, so as to better hide the context for this act.
In this way, what was sought as a bloody and cruel attempt to resort to propaganda of the deed was turned into a new argument in favour of anti-terrorism, racism and Islamophobia. What remained was the image of the barbarian engaged in the barbaric killing of one of ‘our boys’ and a new pretext for Muslim communities to be the object of xenophobic and racist attacks in Europe and Muslim countries. The image -as always happens in the society of the spectacle-, remained entirely disconnected from its context and the motives of the author of the crime. Thus, it was possible to attribute to him, and one could continue attributing to ‘his kind’ the monopoly on barbarism, whilst a British government that has been occupying Afghanistan for years and liquidating tens of thousands of people through bombardments with missiles and drones can allow itself to assume the monopoly of ‘humanity’. Whoever speaks of ‘barbarism’ expels the other from humanity for being essentially violent and inhuman, and assumes for himself the exclusive representation of what is human. The logic of pacifist humanism that speaks in the name of humanity and condemns violence “wherever it comes from” thereby coincides with that of racism and fundamentalism. Might racism be but the projection of our own violence and barbarism, of our own death drive, onto the ‘barbaric’ other?
I left this post on Fine Gael TD Pascal Donohoe’s article in today’s Irish Times, which is titled ‘Only political insiders would mourn the passing of the Seanad’
Why do some ruling politicians wish to abolish the Seanad? Is it really on account of democratic reformist zeal that puts the interests of the public before the interests of the political establishment, as Pascal Donohoe suggests?
Sadly, no. The proposal to abolish the Seanad is emanating from a political party that is overseeing the deliberate emaciation of Ireland’s social fabric and public infrastructure.
One of the recurring criticisms about political life in Ireland is the enlightened liberal sneer about people voting for a particular candidate on account of the fact that “he fixed the roads“. But if people do such things, it is because Ireland has never had a public infrastructure worthy of a democratic society. We can see this in the two-tier education and health systems, which privilege private services: the services of the rich work fine and the rest must put up with sub-standard services. And now, we can even see it in the roads, where the ruling party that proposes abolishing the Seanad plans on getting local communities to pay for the upkeep of local roads.
So let’s not fool ourselves that the proposers of this measure are doing so to pay for public hospitals and other public institutions, when they have poured tens of billions into private banks and advocated passing stringent laws on budget deficits that prevent the country from developing a proper public infrastructure.
In fact, they are capitalising on the generalised anti-political climate that has intensified since the economic crisis hit. This climate is down to the commonplace belief that ‘the politicians’ are to blame for everything. Such a belief, promoted by the media, has an element of truth, but serves to obscure the decisive political power held by financial and business elites. Well, it makes perfect sense for the latter’s servants in the political establishment to embark on right-wing populist measures on the one hand whilst destroying the necessary material elements of a democratic society on the other.
The problem is not the quantity of politicians, but the absence of democracy.
This month marks three years of systematic application of strict fiscal austerity measures in Greece. In these three years, national income has gone down 20%, a reduction without precedent in the economic history of contemporary Greece -with the exception of the Second World War – whilst even the most optimistic calculations predict the continuation of this deep recession still for a long time to come.
The unemployment rate has gone above 27% of the labour force. Two out of three young people try -unsuccessfully- to find a job, and two out of three people in unemployment are long term unemployed. The scars generated by the huge Greek recession on the social body cannot be easily cured. Even if the crisis were to end miraculously today, the Greek economy would need time to recover from the losses that the recession has caused to the productive fabric of the country, the level and quality of public services, health, education, social protection and, above all, society’s most significant asset: the knowledge and talent of a new generation that is now emigrating.
Not only has fiscal austerity caused an economic disaster on a scale equivalent to that of a war, but at the same time, it has failed in its stated objectives: the stabilisation of public debt and the re-establishment of the confidence of international markets in the Greek economy. The debt as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown from 130% to 175% of GDP these last years and remains unsustainable. The cost of funding the State short term and of loans for small and medium enterprises is many times greater than that of the countries of the north of Europe. The complete failure of the austerity policies applied, even in terms of their declared objectives, does not surprise those who are aware of historical experience. As the interwar Great Depression showed, aggressive policies of macroeconomic tightening in an international context of economic recession are a catastrophic doctrine: they activate a spiral of recession, they exacerbate the problem of public debt, and they create a grave danger of destabilisation of the common currency, of democracy, of Europe.
Despite its peculiarities, the Greek experience is an example of a broader problem: the efforts realised by a dogmatic political and economic elite that wants to overcome the endogenous institutional and economic imbalances of the Economic and Monetary Union with the unilateral reduction of wages and living standards of the countries of the south of Europe. Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy are, to a certain degree, living under austerity policies equivalent to those of Greece, with similar disastrous results, as those six million unemployed Spaniards and 350,000 Spanish families who have lost their homes can testify. No successful monetary union in modern economic history has attempted, and failed, to correct endogenous macroeconomic imbalances through the imposition of a destructive and asymmetric austerity on its member countries that are in deficit. Overcoming the European crisis and rescuing the common currency require co-operation as equals, democracy, and, above all, the political and ideological defeat of adherence to the austerity doctrine.
The theoretical and ideological legitimacy of austerity policies in the past three years rests on an unstable base, without scientific foundation or empirical verification. The recent admission on the part of a senior official in the International Monetary Fund that the organisation significantly underestimated the economic consequences of austerity and the revelation that the studies that constitute the basic arsenal of the followers of austerity turned out to be incorrect undoubtedly undermine the credibility of this doctrine. But austerity is a fundamental political option and its demolition requires defeat in the political field.
The strategic objective of the left coalition Syriza, of the parliamentary opposition, is that of contributing to the development of a substantive dialogue with all the progressive forces of the left in Europe to create together an effective line of resistence against the neoliberal elites and a positive approach for a way out that will allow the broadest alliance of popular forces. Especially in the countries of the south of Europe who confront great and common difficulties, a frank dialogue between progressive left forces and the broadest alliance of the peoples is an indispensiable condition for the widening of the political cracks in austerity, for exit from the recession and for the push ahead with reforms that will establish democracy, and co-operation as equals, in Europe.
‘ The migrants we can see (even in the rough cartoon image) are young, strong and struggling to make the best of things and making the obviously correct decision to leave the country. On the other hand the mainly fat (and yes they are mainly fat) people who ‘choose’ to remain in Ireland as feckless doleys are seen literally dancing out of the dole office throwing their money in the air. It doesn’t take a genius to pull out the underlying message there.’
The new Irish Independent advertisement campaign ‘we are defined by the choices we make‘ raised a few eyebrows; firstly, by using the well practiced method of not revealing what the advertisements were for a couple of days and secondly, by using some mildly provocative juxtaposed imaging with the defining choices tagline, for example a pro-choice versus pro-life badge and so on. The advertisement gives a sense of faux radicalism with images such as a bishop juxtaposed with a red condom, but in reality all the images remain safely within ideological boundaries.
The campaign also gives the appearance of there being two sides to the story; both of which you can read in the Irish Independent, before making your mind up. This of course is nonsense in itself, there usually being all sorts of sides and shades of grey. The image of private sector versus public sector represents this most continuing the trope of a direct division between…
Disgraceful racist remarks. This is one of the reasons why I am against charity. I agree with the words of Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano: “I don’t believe in charity; I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it’s humiliating. It goes from top to bottom.”
In Ireland there is a weak understanding of social rights, not least because the constitution calls for charity to inform all the State’s institutions. The effect of this is that Department of Social Protection or whatever it is called nowadays treats the people it is supposed to serve as charity cases, and agencies such as St Vincent De Paul operate as de facto State agencies. Hence they never call into question the decisive political power of the rich over government priorities. The overall amount allocated to overseas aid is a political choice. Whatever amount is available is decided against other areas of government spending.
Look at the tens of billions spent on bailing out banks: this shows that the government is prioritising the health of the financial sector over the health of the population. But you won’t hear charities challenging this because they won’t challenge the legitimacy of the government, since they are effectively part of the State. Instead they identify with the priorities of the State, and with privileging one group of people over another in the final instance: because charity is ultimately about privilege and the denial of rights. So if the State uses racist criteria, so too will charities.
There is something very strange about a Minister for Justice making such a flagrant display of hubristic arrogance. However, it is not just a matter of Alan Shatter. Why was he made privy to the information about Mick Wallace?
And apparently this was in the context of the penalty points investigation! How can the conclusions of the penalty points investigation be taken in any way seriously in light of such a clear indication that Shatter and senior gardai had a common agenda in discrediting Mick Wallace? Any Minister for Justice with a modicum of respect for the public he or she is supposed to serve would recognise that a TD’s personal history is of no consequence when he asks questions of a government minister as a public representative.
Any Minister for Justice with a modicum of respect for the public he or she is supposed to serve would immediately recognise that information proffered about Mick Wallace in the context of an investigation of alleged garda wrongdoing is a blatant demonstration of contempt for the public on the part of the gardai in question. He or she would have instigated some form of proceedings against whoever proffered the information.
That is not what Alan Shatter did. He was only too glad to make a mental note of the information supplied in order to use it as a means of attacking Wallace personally. If this is not institutionalised corruption, I do not know what is. For Enda Kenny to claim in Shatter’s defence that Shatter does not keep files on anyone in particular is making a spectacular show of obscuring the point: Shatter does not need to keep files on anyone because he has had people prepared to supply him with dirt whenever expedient. If Shatter is being protected by Kenny at the moment, it is only out of fear that an admission of arrogant wrongdoing will weaken the moral legitimacy of a government hell-bent on destroying living standards, public services and welfare provision in the interests of finance capital.
A rotten minister in a rotten government, in cahoots with a rotten police force.