“..when you can’t control people by force, and when the voice of the people can be heard, you have this problem—it may make people so curious and so arrogant that they don’t have the humility to submit to a civil rule, and therefore you have to control what people think. And the standard way to do this is to resort to what in more honest days used to be called propaganda, manufacture of consent, creation of necessary illusion. Various ways of either marginalizing the public or reducing them to apathy in some fashion” Noam Chomsky
Looking at the newspapers and listening to the radio this week you would think that an Irish politician got shot dead in an assassination. And if you believed Enda Kenny’s handlers and script writers, the second most powerful politician in the country, Joan Burton, “almost” got kidnapped.
I’ve yet to read of any fingers in the post or see any propaganda ISIS-style videos of masked numpties claiming to be fighting on behalf of the population against Irish Water. Maybe Paul William is working on that scoop, as he had been awfully quiet so far. But lets get real here for a second. There has been no kidnapping. No shootings. No knee-cappings. And that dear friends is a good thing I think.
I did hear yesterday that the European Central Bank told the government to go fuck themselves. They won’t be involved in our *cough* banking inquiry. Thats the *cough* inquiry looking at why we are going to work for the rest of our lives with €64,000,000,000 collective debt around our necks. But I’d be surprised if most of us actually carrying that debt heard it, given all the background noise about good/bad Irish Water protestors.
There is something pretty interesting going on when a politician gets rattled by their cortège being blockaded by a group of pissed off people and some lad throws a brick at a cop car and suddenly all the papers are full of “end of democracy” and “chaos.” My first instinct is that certain political classes have had it all to easy if they up in arms about these completely minor incidents.
Over the last 8 years there has been a continuous onslaught against our most vulnerable and politically disorganised peoples, the sick, elderly, the young, working families. Which is pretty must most of us, right? Parallel to this we have seen the consistent protection of the already wealthy powerful and politically organised. In the face of a deeply corrupt and undemocratic financial system, the over-arching policies of governments has been to align themselves to the demands and desires of that same financial system. When you are on the receiving end of inequality it sometimes doesn’t matter its its by design or unintended. But when we have shouted with a multitude of voices for almost a decade now, and the result has been to foster and promote an ever growing inequality?? Our lesson surely is that inequality is never an accident. The state of our current society is quite simply the manifestations of numerically few but politically powerful actors choosing injustice over justice. So Irish Water protests are always about more than Irish Water. Its about the game.
But what about those dissident and sinister fringes?? Well lets assume that some people have thought about and perhaps even discussed shooting, kidnapping or kneecapping politicians. Id be really surprised if this hasn’t been part of pub banter at some point for a loads of people. Most of it fantastical and meaningless with no real intent. Though it would be careless to say that perhaps such conversations only happen on high stools after six pints. But either those people who seriously explored such violence as a real option have thus far decided that it would be a tactical/strategic/moral mistake or perhaps, just maybe, there is a whole lot of bullshit being talked right now. The IRA has gone away, and looking at the state of dissident republicans across the board, most are highly infiltrated by British/Irish state intelligence. A more pressing and pragmatic reality is that the wider population on the island, and I include myself here, see armed political action by small secret armies as deeply problematic and having nothing to offer real movements for social justice. There simply is no support for any of that. Dissident republicans get that, the Irish government gets that, as does every political pundit in the Irish media. But still ‘dissident’ is used as a shorthand in the same way ‘anarchist’ is used. The intention is to create fear, and sow division and mistrust. Its the usual good protestor bad protestor crap. But also remember that nation states don very easily the mantle of agent provocateur.
On so we are here. A society riven by inequality, overseen by a regime that is fast running out of political runway, backed by a police force universally recognised as yet another culturally corrupt institution. And therein lines another of the Irish states legacy problems.
Life is recursive. We and our communities have memories, we come to know not by being filled up with someones else knowledge, but through our experiences, sociality, and stories. If An Garda Siochana had not spend so much its time since the states inception abusing and beating up on the working class youth and poor in Dublin and other urban centers, they might find themselves having a bit more legitimacy and a lot less antagonism during these protests. If the experiences of violent and political policing in Rossport was not subject to international scrutiny and did not become popular knowledge, perhaps then people might be a little more generous in their interpretations.
Authoritarianism only works so far as you have enough capacity to inflict violence or the threat of violence and get away with it. The moment you stop having the capacity to command obedience and respect your legitimacy wanes. As it was for the Roman Catholic Chuch and for institutional workhouses so it now is for An Garda Siochana. They now have real choices to make. Be it whistleblowers or last weeks Garda Inspectorate report, there is very little about the forces present operating and its historical legacy that can give any confidence of its impartiality. This is a force were not one officer out of a thousand ever recorded or investigated an incident of racism or homophobia. This is a force that regularly downgrades investigations of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence. If it is totally unequipped to deal with these grim daily occurences, often instead pretending they dont happen, who in there right minds can think that heavy policing tactics are the way to to go with emerging political movements demanding social justice?
Unfortunately for their members, the institution itself is like an oil tanker at sea. Everyone is signposting that they need to change fundamentally, but cultural momentum suggests they are most likely going to continue in the ways they have. So we are in a situation where the police become part of the problem of inequality and injustice itself. Hardly new, but increasingly visible and understood.
So what is happening? My sense is that successive governments have pissed down our backs for so long, inflicted so much hurt across so many families in a multitude of different circumstances, that the effect isn’t simply individual anger or community disillusionment. The genie of solidarity based risk taking has come out of the bottle. Its both completely rational yet deeply affective and emotional
There seem to be a consensus in Irish media that most of the people living in Ireland are political dunces, or dont have the ability to make sense of the world around them without the likes of Dan O Brien, Fionnan Sheahan or lord help us Ian O Doherty explaining it all to us. That’s patent nonsense. For example, I think its reasonable to say that most of the explicitly political use of social media in Ireland is dominated first and foremost by the politics of care. And by that I mean to illuminate the failings of what normally gets discussed as “political”. We are told that emotion has no role in politics and democracy. We are asked to internalise the hurt of our sleves and those we love and care about, dont bring that into the political field. But people are saying loudly and clearly ‘fuck that and fuck you for demanding we do that.’ Perhaps this is offensive to some. They need to wake up.
Our tears over emigrating brothers and sisters are real, as they are over visits being near impossible, our stress over choosing bills or food is real, our anger reading regular facebook updates from friends sitting for over 24hrs in a hospital corridor waiting to be seen is real. Our horror turning up to courts to watch Gardai lies so they can stitch up the fellow protestor they beat up is real, our hurt watching our parents become smaller and fearful from being unemployed for the first time in their adult lives is real. Our depression at not feeling in control of our our future, our families futures is real. Only sociopaths and capitalists demand we keep this private, argue that it is not political, it is not economic. It fucking well is and it should be front middle and center of explaining to ourselves and each other how our society functions and why it needs to change.
A politics that is intentionally emotionally illiterate is a politics of suppression and silencing. That has been the politics since the inception of the state, and we all know those failings. We all know Enda Kennys tears over the historical treatment of women by this state, was a political performance. Our collective disgust was real. Michael Noonan laughter was real on radio as he joked about the illegality of turning Anglo promissory notes into something we must all pay for. Is it a surprise if people fantasise about a myriad of ways of getting rid of such a callous system we pay for with our souls? Is it a surprise if someone throws a brick at a car? Is that a super strategy in itself? No. But does the over reaction of mainstream media and the politicians they get their copy/paste copy from help democracy?? (Thats rhetorical folks0
And so we use social media to share our own stories, and our own analysis of mainstream media stories. We rip ragged but coherent holes in official narratives and report from the frontline of actions and skirmishes, and we share and like with love and care. Why care and love? Simply because we are people who refuse to give anymore legitimacy to organised hurt. Because we are not party bureaucrats nor economic technocrats who get paid regardless of success or failure. We are not career politicians for we see democracy as much more important that the family dynasty, gombeen scratch-my-back bullshit that ran our society into the muck. Our angers as fueled by an unembarrassed care. It is so much easier to care about each other when increasingly it is the only thing we have. You cant talk about solidarity without also talking about care. And to have a politics of care is to have a vision of something different. The politics of the Irish state makes no attempt to offer any vision, any social meaning to the only life we have.
And this is how we can understand the Irish governments desire to bleach out 1916 centenary so that they might as well be Darby O Gill and the Little people on repeat for 10 years. Regardless of your position on 1916, you can’t argue it wasn’t about competing visions for society. The current government is afraid that its own vacuousness will be uncovered. If you painted out the reality of Ireland as a nodes in tax avoiding/money laundering structures and mapped out the actual cuts and damages as a result of decisions made at state level, the only vision there is, is a state not run for the benefit of people living here. Instead we our lives themselves are run for the benefit of others. That phrase comes to mind “putting people back to work.” It always make my skin crawl.
And so here we are, most, not all mind, media commentators desperate to fill another days pages for another days wages. ‘Ian O Doherty for intelligent people’ seems to be the limit of ambition.
For us though, when we recognise the reality of our own lives we are only left with a few options. Leave the country in search of something better. Retreat further into individualism, apathy and “i’m alright jack”. Or seek out others who want a politics based primarily on care and justice, to meet and share ideas and to resist where we can, the imposition of more inequality like around Irish Water, by those who have proven time and time again unable to act differently than they already do. They call us dissidents, I call us common sense.