What Ireland needs is a revolution, a revolution to clear out the deadwood, rid ourselves of failed ideologies that no longer work, and institute a new kind of society that is better placed to deal with the problems of today.
Karl Marx said: “Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” This is central to the point Insider wants to make this week. Talk to anyone on the streets of Galway and they will be able to tell you what is wrong with the country and what should be done - however those thoughts need to be translated into action, and this is what Marx meant.
When Insider talks of a revolution, he does not mean taking to the streets with AK 47s, storming the barricades, and having running battles with the gardaí. Ireland needs a Velvet Revolution of the mind. We need a change in the way our political system operates, in how our finances and economy is managed, in how we cater for all sectors of society. As such we need a change in how we think about politics, economics, and society.
Brian Cowen has all but abdicated his responsibilities as Taoiseach (you will have noticed how he has retreated from view these last few weeks ) and left leadership up to Finance Minister Brian Lenihan. Lenihan’s solution to our woes is NAMA.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey makes innovative proposals to tackle drink driving. The proposals are attacked fiercely and bitterly by backbench FF TDs. These same TDs are silent on NAMA despite the fact the idea has been described by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz as “criminal”.
NAMA will bail out the reckless banks but leave the public saddled with a €54 billion debt for years to come. Even its defenders cannot guarantee it will work. This is not leadership. It is gambling with our money.
Politicians (from all parties ), who were once ministers, refuse to give up or postpone their ministerial pensions while they continue to sit as TD and get TD’s salaries. Yet they expect the rest of us to endure pay cuts and high taxes.
Supreme Court Judges in Ireland earn a starting €222,498 a year - more than 2.5 times what an equivalent judge earns in Germany and twice as much as those in France and Spain! Unlike what it did to the rest of us, the Government only asked if the judges would take a voluntary pay cut.
The hardest tax burdens and greatest cuts have (and will, come Budget 09 ) fallen on us - the ordinary private and public sector workers. Thus we have to shoulder the burden of Government incompetence, reckless bankers, and unscrupulous property developers, while the system allows the richest in the country continue to get off lightly. This is wrong
Insider has talked to many people about this and the view is the same. People in Galway understand that cuts and higher taxes are a reality and they are prepared to endure them during the economic downturn. All they ask is for it to be as fair as possible, across the board. We are all in this together, let us all contribute to getting us out of it.
In response we see the Government (and its allies in the mainstream media ) pursue the line of trying to pit the public and private sector against each other in order to create a scapegoat (the public sector ) and deflect private sector anger away from what should be its target - the Government.
Again, Insider calls up Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Communist thinker. The above illustrates his idea of hegemony, but Gramsci also said ordinary people can create their own hegemony in opposition to what they are being presented with.
To put this into a Galway context, numerous times over the years Labour Party president and Galway West TD Michael D Higgins has declared that we should never accept what is put before us as ‘the only option’ and believe there is no alternative. There is always an alternative. Nothing should be inevitable. In this he echoes the motto of the great English punk band The Clash: “The Future Is Unwritten.”
If we can change our thinking and translate it into action, what can we do? What hegemony can we create?
It is clear Fianna Fáil is institutionalised after 12 years in power and still wedded to the bankers and developers and to old notions that cuts in services will save us. The party needs to be banished to the opposition benches for at least two terms to reconsider its position on many issues and find a new and more competent leadership.
The public is prepared to take the pain of the downturn but it will not take it from those who put the country into this mess.
The unregulated, aggressive, free market capitalism (cheered on by the PDs ) of the last decade or so has failed. It can never be allowed return. It failed in the 1930s and on Black Monday in 1987. It allowed the bankers and developers get away with their recklessness and gave the Government an excuse not to deal with the growing property bubble. Regulation must be a cornerstone of Irish economics from now on.
The political system urgently needs to be reformed. Either give the Seanad a meaningful role or get rid of it. Reduce the number of TDs and get them working on legislation, not the parish pump. Restore power to local authorities (taken from them by Fianna Fáil to push through incinerators that never came to be ) so councillors are not just there to rubber-stamp Government decisions.
Also prospective TDs should be people able for the job, not just a relative of a TD or of someone, as comedian Andrew Maxwell pointed out at the recent Galway Comedy Festival, “who wasn’t brave enough to get shot in 1916”.
We do not have to accept the line that it is private v public sector. Tax cuts will hurt us all (except the rich ).
The only way we can start to change this is through the ballot box either in 2011 or 2012. In the meantime our voice needs to grow louder and our concerns must change from “Isn’t it terrible” to “We need new solutions and ideas”.
We have interpreted the situation we find ourselves in, the point now, as Marx said, is to change it.