I was thinking about Enda Kenny’s ‘state of the nation’ address last night. I didn’t watch it but I did quickly scan the text this morning. What it reminded me of most was the mass mails sent out by CEOs of major corporations to their workforce. Such communiques might speak of some shared bond among employees, but never too much lest the contradiction between shared bonds and rigid hierarchy ever come to the fore.
They might speak of the bright future ahead, but the need for sacrifice in the immediate future. They might recognise past sacrifices while demanding more. Of course they are not intended as a communication to employees as human beings, but as human resources, or human capital, which need to be kept in proper order through words, in the same way as plant equipment requires maintenance and replacement of components. The recipients of these communiques are not supposed to pore over every word as if the Word of God. In fact, it’s well known that a lot of people won’t bother to read them. But they manage to convey, simply by the fact of their sending, that all is in its right place, that the firm is still there, that it is bigger than you and that those at the top know what they’re doing, as always.
Kenny’s address was of that order. The content was not as important as the interpellation of the ‘Irish people’ – that momentary aggregation of isolated monads once every four or so years- by the fossilised ‘Irish Government’, so as to preserve the normal order and run of things. We -I- the sovereign taking care of business; You -yes you- the people, contractually bound to let us take care of business.
That there was a total absence of any kind of social vision beyond renewed subjection to Capital-unsurprising, given the government’s deep commitment to predatory neoliberalism and debt slavery – does not matter to those who put the broadcast together.
They don’t want one. They want submission, atomisation and apathy. They want people to think of themselves as inexorably tethered to State time, as having no voice other than that of an elected political representative, as being bound by the demands of the markets, as having no rights but merely what the caprices of international investors might allow. They want it understood that the prized confidence of the markets demands people’s resignation and silence. This form of address -and all the media attention surrounding it, the poring over the choice of words, the speculation over its success- is geared towards defusing the possibility of collective action -democratic action- in pursuit of a different course, by making it seem as if no other course can or will ever be allowed to materialise.
But it can.