Threats, bombs, and 'bombholders'

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of leaders…and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves… (and) the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.”

― Howard Zinn

Imagine threatening to set off bombs if you didn’t get your way with something. Most people would call that the threat of violence. But what if it’s the type of bomb that doesn’t need mercury tilt switches or ammonia? What if they are not made in rural outhouses; not devised by men with degrees in electrical engineering who studied at Queen’s university. My part of the world has seen plenty of those bombs. You might have even been there. We have seen what bombs do, but more importantly we know what they are intended to do. Bombs are not just about the considered obliteration of human flesh and bones, of human life. They are also blunt instruments designed to create environments of fear and insecurity. An explicit expression of power-over, diametrically opposed to the creative and democratic possibilities of power-to.

So what if the men threatening bombs didn’t do degrees in electrical engineering? What if those issuing threats and using the discourse of violence studied political science and economics? What if they didn’t devise plans in rural farmhouses, but instead held closed meetings in big glass-fronted buildings with private elevators you wouldn’t be welcome in? What if the men threatening to unleash bombs in Dublin didn’t use tilt switches or fertiliser, but instead used blunt financial instruments that control the money supply and the banking system? What if this meant that vulture capitalists would intentionally seek to fuck up our already fucked society even further by using ‘the free market’ and hedge betting to inflict more pain and hurt? Real pain and hurt, not some abstract pretend shit of  the Irish Times’s imaginary ‘we’ variety.  The kind that affects the very real ‘us’.  That ultimately leads many in our society to die earlier, to lead sicker lives, to have more fear, more emigration, more unemployment and insecurity, more suicide and broken souls, higher food and energy prices, less access to education, more addiction? I could go on, but you all know what I mean.

What if some unelected bunch of suits sat down beside your elected representatives - the guys on €150,000+ pensions for life that your sweat and tears creates in the first place – and said, ‘Pay up or we will won’t just set the dogs on you, we will drop financial bombs on Dublin’? What would you hope your ‘leaders’ would do? How do you think they would respond? What would you demand as a suitable response from those tasked and well-paid to have your interests at heart? And I mean your interests as you hold them to be, not what some jumped-up policy wonk thinks they should be.

On The Week In Politics last night (22 January) Fine Gael Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar, when asked about why people in Ireland are being forced to pay tens of billions, including €1.25bn this week for debt incurred by Anglo - an organisation under criminal investigation - Varadkar had this to say:

‘They are being repaid because the Government had to weigh up the costs on the one side and the risks on the other.’

Varadkar said there is about €2.5bn left in Anglo bonds to be repaid and not paying the €1.2bn, due next week, would have no immediate gain for the State and gain might only come in eight or nine years when Anglo Irish is resolved.

Asked how directly the ECB warned against a default, he replied: ‘I don’t have direct contact with the ECB, that’s done through Michael Noonan, Brendan Howlin and other Ministers.’

Varadkar went on to say: ‘What the ECB has said to us, and what the Troika has said to us – because they do speak with one voice on most of these things – and what they said is really, is that, it’s on your head.

The ECB also said, “We don’t want you to default on these payments, it is your decision ultimately. But a bomb will go off, a bomb will go off in Dublin, not in Frankfurt,” because of the reasons I’ve outlined.’

When you have grown up somewhere on this island where bombs were part of the ‘reality’ of life it turns your stomach to hear a government minister relay this message without any hint of condemnation, and to see him act as if the ECB were presenting a reasonable and rational position. The ECB, in a meeting with our ‘leaders’, threatened to fuck up the people living in this country if we don’t pay debts that are not ours to pay in the first place. And little Leo comes on RTÉ to pass on the message like some wet-behind-the-ears first year schoolkid.

Varadkar is one of those smug bastards that talk about ‘reality’ as if it is something that they exclusively own, and that they have some divine right to define. ‘Reality’ only exists for them as they imagine it in their own image. They go on the national broadcaster and parrot a threat of economic carnage from the ECB in an attempt to snuff out debate and discussion and direct action, and in its place they offer paralysing and disempowering fear. Chatting to my housemate about what Varadker said this evening and the explicit use of violent rhetoric from politicians as a means of communicating a vague threat to a wider populations, she said, ‘Imagine if the ECB had said we will rape Dublin.’ It was a thought exercise. What would the reaction be if they had of used the term rape instead of bomb? Both speak of an explicit power-over, and both get justified so often in ways that seeks to apportion blame to the victim/survivor.leo varadkar laughing

What’s most sickening is that the Government continually talks about the ECB as being its ‘partner’. Its pretty clear that the Government and the ECB are partners. They share a belief system and have the same values. And for the most part these are shared also by mainstream newspapers. Just check out the lead opinion piece in today’s Irish Times. (Leave aside for a moment how archaic the notion of anonymous opinion pieces in national newspapers seem in an age of socially networked communication where trust is based upon accountability and openness to query.) So, in the ‘partner’ equation we have the Government, the ECB and significant parts of the mainstream media. All partners and all sharing the same neoliberal views of reality.  I could probably write Stephen Collins and Noel Whelans’ pieces for them given they stray so very little from a well worn path of pathological incuriousity.

But these folks are not our partners. We, the wider public, are understood to be mostly passive humans and occasional voters. Considered smart enough to be ‘consumers’ but too stupid to understand that economic logic is a fairly vacuous and exploitative way to engineer human social relations. They try to focus group us to death as political vision and social passion is dissolved by the corrosive bleach of brand management and message control. We ourselves are threatened with force when we start to work together to claim our own futures; labelled either violent or unhinged.

In this context it is impossible to ignore the explicit and growing divergence of competing realities both in Irish society and right across Europe. On the one hand you have the institutions of nation-states, most political organisations, established capitalist lobby groups and PR firms, mainstream media and, when required, obedient police forces that seem all too keen to deploy violence against their own communities.  Collectively they share an almost autistic inability to recognise their own institutionalisation, or indeed the tectonic shifts – both gradual and more rupturous moves – away from even the minimal sense of collective decision-making that was offered us plebs under ‘representative democracy’. There no longer exists in common political discourse the sense of a social contract, and absolutely zero conversations about what the fuck these guys actually mean when they speak of democracy. The middle managers have taken over the asylum.  They speak of a democratic deficit, but only understand what deficit means. They have no interest in democracy. In the UK, the leaders of the three main parties are all speaking about a ‘moral capitalism’ - expect to hear it here soon too - without even the slightest embarrassment at the ahistorical analysis that is required to whitewash out slavery, colonialism, imperialism, racism, and all the other oppressions of genuine democratic movements that have led us to the point we’re at. Everything we hold in common is held in spite of capitalism, not because of it.

What could be dismissed on an abstract level as organised bureaucratic insanity and collective criminality assumes dimensions of anti-human, anti-democratic proto-fascism by dint of the fact so few people exert so much power over so many people on the planet through the bureaucratic institutional framework of an enforced economic belief system. The free market has assumed the mantle of god.

This system is geared for private gain, not any collective human endeavour such as we could associate with say the Enlightenment, for example. Their ‘reality’ - that mantra we hear on every panel discussion – is now completely devoid of any humanistic meaning beyond the logics of double entry book keeping and the sustenance of that power-over at all costs. The language of war is used to explain the intentions and interests of capitalists quite openly. The impacts on our lives, on our communities, are simply ‘collateral damage’.


Our only way out of this is each other. Where political parties offer the instiutionalised thinking of economics, political science and international relations, our thinking and our actions must be founded first and foremost in politicised nondogmatic care. When we are told our experiences are irrelevant because they are not the ‘reality’ people like Varadkar speak of, we need to refuse to be silenced. We should see some value in ignoring the mainstream media and in the importance of talking to each other. Every person, every community, every campaign and every organisation that is involved in struggles for justice and for equality - or just simply dignity - has something to offer movements for change; if we are willing to listen and learn from each other. When we are told that we don’t understand economics we need to collectively gain economic literacy. But that literacy should always be subservient to the needs of justice and solidarity. Let’s be confident to speak of love as a political coordinate and let’s be honest in describing the violence inflicted on our lives. We only get one life.

How cosy is your future? How much control do you actually have over the one life you lead? How disempowering is it to know that your kids are going to face a more insecure future than you because the game is rigged?  How much longer should we choke our dreams for fear of seeming idealistic or selfish? Why should we suppress our individualised guilt at knowing that as things stand we can’t provide for the people who cared for us as they get older?  Do you feel our own caring capacity gets sapped by simply existing in a society where greed is rewarded, stupidity valued, honesty sneered at and compassion outsourced to organisations reduced to begging for funds? And in the midst of this we get told to ‘pull on the green jersey’. But it’s really green strait jacket, a variation of Ian Paisley’s  willingness to fight to the last drop of other people’s blood.

It is completely foolish to think that those who threaten to drop financial bombs on our society share the same interests as us. The people who live, who work, breathe, create, share and care in our society, whether you hold a passport or moved here for a better future. It’s high time to explicitly and calmly withdraw our consent to be governed by this logic, simply because our lives belong to ourselves, not some fuckers in a shiny glass building plotting to screw us over.  They are not our partners. And when governments become the mouthpieces for unelected and opaque financial organisations that threaten to bomb us, perhaps it’s time to recognise that a war is being waged on our lives. The only useful question now is: What are we gonna do about it?

People will be taking it directly to Anglo’s face at Stephen’s Green from 7am today. They will be there till Wednesday with direct action blockades, workshops and music.

Debt Justice Action will be holding the first public meeting of the Anglo - Not Our Debt campiagn on Tuesday at 7pm in the Teacher’s Club on Parnell Square.

Certainly these events themselves are not going to change the world, but they can be steps towards a win. These debts are not our debts, and when the threat of violence is used, this is simply extortion. A win against these debts will be a win for reimagining our society. And wins are what put the wind in our sails. {jathumbnailoff}

Image top, Metro Centric, Leo Varadkar by infomatique, Rogue by Skinned Mink.