In all the hollering and shouting and brouhaha over public service pay and conditions one point was (strangely) seldom if ever made. And that point is: why, instead of insisting the public sector should step up, get busy, and be more like the private, don't we insist that the private become more like the public?
When moneygeddon struck in 2008 it spilled macchiato all over the idea that anyone but the elite of the elite has any power, either in this country or abroad. Sorry Mr McWilliams, but as Conor McCabe writes below: 'Class is not about choices or purchases or consumption or decking. It is about power.' And if we've learnt anything in the past few years, it's that the vast majority of us have very little.
Hilariously, if you type the phrase 'pointless work' into Flickr (and set it to return only creative commons licensed images) the first page of results consists almost solely of pictures of Enda Kenny sitting in front of his party's 'Let's Get Ireland Working' slogan. At no point have Fine Gael ever really clarified what they're going to get Ireland working at, and that, writes Nyder O'Leary, is because they have no idea what it is an economy is supposed to do.
Back in March, the Quick Service Food Alliance took a case challenging the constitutionality of the Joint Labour Committee system that sets wages and conditions in their industry. Food service is one of the least unionised and lowest paid industries in the country, and yet employers complain that wage costs are crippling their businesses. As Helen Lowry writes, wages have at best a minimal effect on the cost of food to the consumer, so the desire to abolish the few standards on pay and conditions (and subsequently lower them, no doubt) will have no effect on demand.
Ireland's crisis is also an international one - a fact that is routinely ignored in the standard media narrative. If only the Galway Tent had blown into the sea in 2001; if only the line between business and politics had been drawn in barbed wire; if only Lenihan hadn't guaranteed the banks; if only...While it is true that the scale of the crisis in Ireland is unique, the austerity mania currently sweeping this country is certainly not, and points to the wider, international crisis that has been ongoing since 2008.
On 25 November 2010, four days after Ireland's international reputation reached its low-point, another small country at the other side of Europe got itself branded. A new country brand report, entitled Mission for Finland! was published with a bombastic subtitle: “How Finland will solve the world’s most wicked problems’.
We do like to think of ourselves as a special little country. And in that we're not unusual. All countries think they're special; such self-regard being nothing more than a scaled up version of an entirely natural narcissism. There being no mirror big enough to check a nation's hair in, foreign opinion on our affairs is a handy proxy for that gigantic looking glass humanity never got around to building. Which is all well and good, but Ireland has lately becoming obsessed with foreign opinion, convinced the world's eyes are tracking our every move.
Our oligarchic overlords, grandees of the Sunday Independent Rich List, have helicoptered in once more to tell us our state is not a state, it's a badly run business that needs a round of coporate downsizing. While the credentials of the group in the field of state administration are for the most part nil, that's no barrier to the attempt, it seems, and some weeks ago we found their Blueprint for National Recovery plastered all over the national media and booming from the airwaves.