The ‘austerity package’, as the newspapers like to call it, seeks to impose on Greece terms that no people can accept. Even now the schools are running out of books. There were 40% cuts in the public health budget in 2010 - I can’t find the present figure. Greece’s EU ‘partners’ are demanding a 32% cut in the minimum wage for those under 25, a 22% cut for the over 25s. The minimum wage in Greece is around €500 per month, well below a living wage in that economy.
The current debate on the need to cut back the state in order to unleash the power of entrepreneurship and innovation in the private sector builds upon a stark contrast that is repeatedly drawn by the media, business and libertarian politicians: a dynamic, creative competitive private sector versus a sluggish, bureaucratic, inert, ‘meddling' public sector.
Last night on TV3’s Tonight with Vincent Browne show Fine Gael TD Simon Coveney claimed he did not know the names of the bondholders to whom we handed over €1.25bn yesterday (Wednesday, 25 January). Towards the end of the show, Browne handed Coveney a list of bondholder names and asked him to pass it on to his colleagues in Government.
“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.”
Another global wave of critique and resistance would come, I told myself and anyone who asked. For many years I watched and waited. Not passively, but actively, keeping alive the social memory of movements past, analysing the ever-shifting shape of the global system and going into the streets to protest against many forms of exploitation. We no longer had the wind at our backs. Our numbers were small. Our voices were marginalised. Nevertheless we knew that the structural problems that had brought us on to the streets in the beginning had not been solved.
This is on everyone’s lips. We are just the ones saying it out loud. It’s time for all of us who are interested in justice and democracy to stand up. We must directly challenge how the Irish State, in order to appease and protect the interests of financial capital, is attacking the rights and the livelihoods of the people who live here. There is no democratic mandate for this.
The unsecured ‘debt’ of €1.25 billion due to the Anglo Irish Bank bondholders, which IBRC is scheduled to pay on 25 January 2012, is an odious debt and we need to repudiate it, clearly and forcefully.
Lately, I find myself having a recurring conversation. The people and the places change but the basic premise stays the same. I meet friends whom I haven’t seen in some time, I ask them how they are, what they’ve been up to. They shrug. “Nothing,” they say. They are either unemployed or working in an area divorced from that of their training - part-time in a bar perhaps.
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