College year being over I can think again about other aspects of reality. Such as the mess it’s in. I made it to a meeting about economics and change, and we were discussing why in Ireland we seem to be just letting this shit happen to us. The conclusion was that it is not just inexplicable passivity on the public’s part, all sorts of pressures are placed on people to make them keep their heads down. Some of them subtle, some brutal.
Somebody used the memorable phrase “The criminalisation of dissent”, and I had to draw this.
Stop, Press: For some protesty goodness, why not try these two short plays at the Town Hall Theatre? They’ll be followed by (optional) discussions with real historians and economists about the parlous state of the parlous State.
- Sri Lanka ‘criminalising dissent’, says Amnesty (oneislandtwonationsblogspotcom.typepad.com)
All This Needs Is a Soundtrack By Loituma
Are we not the sharpest-dressed protesters you have ever seen? We’re at the launch of a new commemorative coin – face value, €15 – an event we found more than ironic on the day that the Dáil debates a budget designed to exact from the poor the money promised by the rich to the rich. Unemployment benefit is being cut. Children’s allowance is being cut. Respite support for carers is being cut – this last so obscenely cruel to the vulnerable protectors of the even more vulnerable that I strongly suspect it was put in the budget just to make the other cuts seem politically acceptable.
All of this, basically so that we can make the latest €3.1 billion of payments to the people whose reckless lending destroyed our economy. Yes seriously, we continue to reward the rapacious, wilfully short-sighted, knowingly unsustainable lending that led to 2008. Though we cannot afford it, though we will never be able to pay back the enormous sums our banks went bust owing, we continue to try – by means of attacking the unemployed and impoverished. This is not the function and duty of a state.
Ours was a restrained, even polite protest today. The only real way to tell us from the people who were invited was that we wore less make-up. I’d come directly from an exam in project management. There my wearing a suit had been cause for comment, but I think it gave me a real psychological advantage. No one else did the management exam dressed like the manager.
Whether it was this or the intense preparation I put in, my least-favourite subject turned out be probably my best exam. If it had a fault it was that I spent more time than I really should have on a favourite question. This concerned people issues in “Agile programming”, a modern approach that requires the code-trolls to closely interact with clients. The people issues, they abounded; for the rest of the exam I kept going back to the answer to add new ones I’d thought of. Mixing people with coding skills and interpersonal skills together is not a business methodology, it’s the premise for The IT Crowd.
And that, incidentally, concluded my first semester. What a short strange trip it’s been. That in six months I could end up actually enjoying questions of personnel management theory… It’s some change all right.
- Budget Attacks In Full (irishtimes.com)
So Wall Street is no longer occupied; not by protesters at least. The encampment has been swept away on the – quite specious – grounds of health and safety. I’m a strong supporter of laws to protect innocent people, so it always angers me to see them abused. Taking something enacted for public benefit and repurposing it to oppress undermines the rule of law and draws democracy into disrepute.
To compound the dishonesty they were told that, this being nothing more than a cleaning, they would of course be welcome to return as soon as it was over.
Only… Don’t bring camping gear.
Whose health and safety anyway? The order cites that of local residents, the emergency services, and the protesters themselves. The former two you could understand if the encampment did present some sort of hazard. (It didn’t.) Those groups have little choice but to be in its proximity. But the protesters themselves? They’re being ordered to leave on the grounds that by assembling peacefully, they pose a health hazard to themselves.
One wonders what form of protest couldn’t be suppressed on such grounds. Leave the powers that be to get on with it. Resistance is bad for you.
It is to my shame that I have not yet written about the Occupy movement.
I hadn’t intended to write about politics at all of course, with my driving test now less than 36 hours away. But if I can break that for something as parochial and – when it comes down to it – irrelevant as an uncorroborated allegation against a relative of a presidential candidate, I can surely spare a few words on the global revolt against capitalism. And as it happens, I have only three:
About ***ing time.
Really, what took so long? When the financial industry has been allowed to get away with the greatest act of larceny in history. When the people of capitalist countries have spent years looking on helplessly as their nations’ wealth was corralled into fewer and fewer pockets. As democracy degenerates into a re-branded aristocracy. As poorer people – indeed, poorer countries – are crushed by systems set up to benefit the rich, while being told that that is their personal failure. How have we managed to put up with this shit for so long?
It is great to see that ordinary people of good intent still believe you can change things. Or maybe they don’t believe that. Maybe they see no hope of ever changing anything. But they protest anyway, because they cannot not protest anymore.
- Thousands Join In Occupy Wall Street Protests (mixingplatforms.wordpress.com)
- Wingnuts Circulate 2007 Anti-War Photo to Smear Occupy Wall Street (littlegreenfootballs.com)
- Occupy Wall Street demonstrations planned worldwide today (dailykos.com)
- #OccupyWallStreet takes on Times Square (valeriewire.wordpress.com)
So protestors march by, chanting that Ireland is in solidarity with Spain against the EU-IMF bailout. Wait – don’t you usually express solidarity with someone in their troubles, not your own? That’s a bit like shaking hands with a mourner at a funeral and telling them your car needs a new clutch.
But I am qibbling over a choice of words. It is good that people are at least protesting, whether it be against the Spanish government’s cuts, our own bailout conditions, or – to go for the common thread – the destructive role that the financial industry now plays in western economies. Perhaps it will even make the news. Second or third item after after the nation waving a tearful goodbye to her majesty Queen Elizabeth.
Wouldn’t want to spoil that image of us quietly taking the fiscal punishment we deserve.
- Bailout Protests Spread: People In Spain Are Chanting “We Want To Be Icelanders!” (businessinsider.com)
You may (perhaps) have wondered why I didn’t do the usual year-end review in this column last week. The truth is, I just wanted one week after Christmas without having to be depressed again. But now, like pretty much everyone else, I have a stinking cold. Being in a foul mood anyway then, I might as well get on with it.
2010, the year the country was taken into receivership. The year we agreed to smash up our health and welfare systems in order pay for the mistakes of bankers. If overcrowding is any measure, our hospitals are now in the worst state that they have ever been. The year in which we found out that we are basically slaves to the whims of a financial market, in which our government became our pimps, offering out our services for the best terms they could get. One easy country, only slightly abused, willing to work into the next generation.
And it’s not going to get better soon. Beware a false dawn, as Fianna Fáil tries desperately to spin anything not immediately disastrous into ‘recovery’. Expect them to make complete asses out of the Green party as they continually put off the election in the desperate hope that some good news will arrive. Or, more depressing but more likely, that we will eventually come to see our current state of oppression as normal.
In the end we may have to hold a general strike or other mass protest to force them to stop harming the country. The fact that they have not already resigned out of sheer embarrassment tells us a lot about the kind of shower they are.
So 2011 is not shaping up to be a good year… The President has asked business to project a dynamic image of Ireland abroad but you know, I think if they could they’d be doing it already. How can they when the people responsible for this mess are still in charge? At best we look forward to a desperate endgame followed by a divisive election, our impossible financial situation growing worse all the while. It will be a year of damage but… Well, at least it won’t be dull.
I can’t finish though without a quick word about Ivan Yates and the collapse of his business. It is a sad situation of course when a company goes under, especially one with many employees. But I cannot find it in myself to feel sorry for the man. Recall what business he was in – gambling. It’s not exactly productive industry. Gambling is something we need a whole lot less of in this country. In the madness of the last few years, Ireland changed from a growing economy into a property casino. And yet, in a complete reversal of the norm in these things, it was the house that lost.
It must be said though, at least Ivan Yates doesn’t expect the rest of us to make good his losses. When banks could learn a lesson in socially responsible business and basic morality from a bookie, you know what they’re worth.