A responsible response

Enda Kenny’s address the other night was intended to confuse and demoralise. Maybe this is why his wooden delivery, with his head slightly cocked to one side, recalled a Thunderbird whose string had snapped. Even so, I think it’s worth thinking about what Kenny and his advisers meant when he said “this crisis is not your responsibility”.

Kenny addressed his embalmed boosterism to identified segments of the electorate:  parents, business owners, the unemployed. He wasn’t addressing people as citizens of a democracy: people who meet with others to debate and decide how their society ought to be run. Rather, he was addressing them as isolated individuals, sitting at home in front of the TV, whose only real obligations, as per the usual conservative formula, are to themselves and their immediate family. Oh, and maybe to vote once every four years or so.

I admit, he had me for a second. I had just put the kids to bed. When Kenny said “if you’re a parent who has just put the children to bed,” he caught my attention, the way John’s attention is caught when a stage psychic asks “Is there a John in the audience?”

In getting me to pay attention as a parent, he and his advisers were getting me to think about the crisis, and the budget, through narrow personal fears and obligations.

If we think about the political and economic crisis this way, we stay disconnected from collective solutions based on solidarity and resistance, and from confronting the looming reality that we can’t rely on elected representatives to defend us from ‘the injunctions of a mad capitalism’. This is especially true when, like Enda Kenny and the rest of his government, the elected representatives vigorously agree with the injunctions.

When Kenny said “this crisis is not your responsibility” he and his advisers may have been responding to resentment at claims such as “we all partied”, which carry far less power in the era of “We are the 99%”. But they were also sending out a message, in keeping with a wider anti-democratic moment across Europe, which has seen technocratic governments run by Goldman Sachs stooges installed in Italy and Greece: “Don’t go sticking your nose into this. Stay out of politics. Go off and agonise about the permutations of the budget for your family instead, the way you do with your choice of bin collector and electricity provider and private health insurance plan. Leave the rest to us: the experts.”

Well, we can see where depending on professional politicians and official experts has landed us. And as the crisis intensifies, and people lose faith in the capacity of elected representatives to fix their problems, I hear more people nervously making jokes about stocking up on provisions, tripwire, rifles and stuff. As if the only thing to replace the current system is a war of all against all, and as if societies based on collective solidarity were now unthinkable.

Faced with this, may I recommend that just as Enda Kenny seeks to relieve us both of our responsibility for causing the crisis, but also of any say in how it should be solved, we should start developing some proper collective responsibility of our own? A good first step would be to refuse representation by puppet legislators who systematically connive with financiers and speculators in order to strip the people of basic entitlements in education, health and social welfare. {jathumbnailoff}


Image top: Phil Roman.