Enough is Enough

If there was some level of societal consensus around what is 'enough', we could plan for a very different type of society, not just for a few but for all. By Sara Burke.

I have had enough. Enough of our failed political leaders whom the majority of people no longer support. Enough of the same economics those same old political leaders are trying to persuade us will get us out of this mess, even though it is the very same economics that got us into the economic crisis we are in.

I've had enough of living in a country where up to recently having too much was the status quo and all of a sudden not having enough is the norm. How's about we think, as a people, about 'enough'?

What if we lived in a country where everyone (or even the vast majority) of the population had enough. Enough to pay for children's school books. Enough to pay the bills. Enough to celebrate birthdays and special occassions. Enough to have a decent quality of life. Enough to hope for better for the next generation. But not too much.

If everyone (or most people) had enough then not so many people would have too much or too little. So, of course some people would lose out, but many, many more could do much, much better.

The concept of enough can be applied to the environment as well as economics and equality.

If everyone (or most people) had enough then we would not live in enormous houses that are hugely expensive and wasteful to heat. We would not drive over-sized, oil guzzling cars.

We would not have public and private debt that will be left to the next generations to pay back. And many more of us would have decent homes, good public transport and live with reasonable, rather than unpayable, debt.

We know that living in countries with greater levels of equality is good for everyone. The greater the equality of a country, (between men and women, between rich and poor), the longer you live, the better your quality of life, the more enhanced your opportunities, and not just for a few but for all.

If you are middle class in Sweden, you score better on all these fronts than if you're middle classs in Ireland or England or the US. And if you are poor in Sweden you fare better too because they have levels of social support unknown to these shores.

If there was some level of societal consensus around what is 'enough' and having enough then we could plan for a very different type of society, a society where the vast majority fared well.

As a people, we are seeing first hand right now, what the neo-liberal model of economics, propagated by much of our politics for the last 30 years, is really about. The people who are invisible in the story of the economic crisis – women, those on low income, those on the margins – are now bearing the brunt of much of it.

Countries that are weathering the global economic crisis much more successfully than Ireland, coincidentally, have much higher participation rates of women in decision-making roles. In Finland, women are three times more represented in parliament, as ministers, on boards of banks, in senior posts in publicly quoted companies and in senior public-service positions.

Also countries that are introducing political and economic change to the benefit of all, not just the lucky few, are those with a burgeoning civil society. In Ireland, there is a history of participating in groups such as the GAA, community, cultural and environmental groups. But not since before the foundation of the State has there been a coming together of those groups to influence how our society should be organised.

If we lived in a society with some sort of agreement on 'enough', we could have a society as well as an economy, a country where 'success' and 'sufficient' are not mutually exclusive, a social market economy where the public good does not lose out to profit, a politics where people are represented by leaders who are representative of the population.

It would be a country that is more environmentally sustainable, as well as being more equal, a country where most people lived better lives. There are real alternatives to those being pursued by our political leaders.

On 30 October 2010, there was a gathering of people in Dublin who want to live and participate in such a country, where real alternatives to the current situation were deliberated and acted upon.

Claiming Our Future was an event organised by a diverse range of people from the community, voluntary, environmental and cultural sectors, the unions, Tasc, Social Justice Ireland, Is Feidir Linn (of which I am part) and many many more.

Everyone was welcome – over 1,000 people attended this event and endorsed a radical values and policy choices for a more equal, sustainable and thriving Ireland.

Maybe, just maybe, the time has come to realise enough is enough. And to do something about it.