Painting Post Boxes
On Thursday the 31st of May we are going to be asked to vote on the European Fiscal Stability Treaty. I will be perfectly honest, I don’t completely have a firm grasp on what it is we are being asked to do. It would appear that we are being asked to commit to several more years of austerity and pain. Now, not being a masochist – one brief flirtation ended with a Black and Decker power tool, a pineapple and a series of uncomfortable visits to my GP – I have no desire to pursue polices that are going to continue to punish citizens for the sins of others.
What is most worrying is that events seem to be moving so fast in Europe at the minute that we seem to be getting locked into an agreement which will be redundant before we even vote on it. Since our government has announced this referendum, France has had a presidential election that swung to the left and the Greeks are on their 4th election this month (or something close to that anyway), which are flying even further left. It has displayed a remarkable lack of foresight on our government’s part to not spot that there was a potential sea change in Europe. One can imagine how the cabinet meeting went.
Enda “ Lads we’ll have to agree on a date for this referendum or Angela is really going to have my boys in the vice next time I see her”.
Noonan” Aw yeah Inda sure set any auld date der like a good fella”
Lone dissenting voice “ Maybe we should hold off and see how the next few weeks pan out”
Enda “Era no, lets push this thing through and find out what they want of us next”
Of course that was absurd, the thought of a dissenting voice not toeing the cabinet line is highly unlikely. Is this indicative of a breed of spineless yes men politicians or of a wider deficiency in our national psyche?
There is a theory that countries that have suffered under the yoke of colonialism suffer from a certain degree of emasculation. Post-colonial emasculation is certainly supported by the degree of acquiescence that is evident in our national response to power structures. For a long time it was the British Empire that wielded control; they were then replaced by the strangling control of the Catholic Church whose influence permeated through every level of Irish society and now it would appear that we are the willing recipients of the dictates of the EU, ECB and the IMF.
So, it does warm the heart to see the recent civil disobedience over our government’s ham-fisted attempts to introduce household charges and water charges. Interestingly both policies were at the behest of the IMF. Although not on the scale of protest that our European cousins have exhibited it is a marked improvement. Even when faced with the option to remove the political party whose policies added to our woes we chose to replace them with a party from the same ideological school. But hey, baby steps I guess.
So how far are we prepared to go? This economic crisis is going to necessitate a serious overhaul of how we allow people to do business. This is an opportunity for the leaders of Europe to establish a much fairer system and society. Unfortunately the IMF playbook of how to fix a country consists of opening up every possible area to the will of market principles. The skewed morality of the market is what got us into this bother in the first place.
The Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel was on the BBC politics show yesterday speaking about the sale of death bonds on the New York stock exchange. This is where you buy bonds in someone’s life insurance policy, in effect gambling on when they will die. The reigns really do need to be tightened on the worst money grabbing characteristics of our species. Mixing my metaphors as is my want, the social democratic cornerstones of altruism and solidarity need to be re-established as the anchors of public policy.
The truth is that unless we make our wishes clear to our government, there will be little or no significant change where it matters. To echo and paraphrase the words of James Connolly nearly a hundred years ago, unless there is serious change we may as well just change the colour of the post boxes.