Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Fergus Finlay on Austerity and Society


I highly recommend the following article by Fergus Finlay. It voices a sentiment badly in need of being articulated, and it outlines an imminent danger to the stability of our society. It closely echoes the fears I have been voicing on this blog about the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, a financially insulated Parliament and Government, and attitudes among the leaders of our society which shout out: "If we don't mention it, it might go away", and "Let them eat cake", "What recession - we're OK"

Just some of my rants on the subject:


What follows is a series of extracts from the full piece as published by the Examiner.

Extracts from a
Cutting and Clear Article on
Austerity and Society
by Fergus Finlay

Published in The Irish Examiner, Tuesday, June 05, 2012. Full article can be read in The Irish Examiner on-line and in the printed editions. (see link below)

Forgotten Words like Equal, Fair or even Just

(The Fiscal Treaty Referendum) - - - it’s over. We’ve taken the plunge. We’ve all learned a lot. So would you mind if I tried to I re-introduce a couple of other words into the discussion?

Words like: Equal? Or Fair? Or even Just? They’re the forgotten words. - - - And the word that slipped into complete oblivion in the course of this entire debate was the word Society.

We are living in a FRAGILE SOCIETY

And that matters — a lot — because it’s not only our economy that’s fragile. We’re going to have to wake up pretty soon to the fact that we are living in an increasingly fragile society. In all the referendum excitement (if excitement isn’t too strong a term) we have forgotten completely that this is a country made up of people. People who live in fear, and hope, and despair. I don’t know if all those people are one day going to take to the streets, as they have in other countries. It will happen if the anger becomes stronger than the despair.

It used to be the case that you could characterise the people who were struggling, that you could put them into groups. You knew where they lived — in communities where disadvantage was endemic and multi-generational. But now, - - - Side by side with this "new" poverty, what you might call the "old" poverty has got deeper.  We are a country with hungry children and with high rates of absenteeism from primary school.

We are a country where the provision of decent services for elderly people is governed by a financial cap each year. We are a country where people who spend their whole lives coping with disability in their families are now being charged for a week or two of respite care for their loved ones.

This isn’t new, of course, although it has got worse for some. What is new is that we’ve stopped talking about it. Every week I get invitations to events designed to highlight one injustice or another, or to address some pressing social issue. I would love to be able to attend far more of them than I can, and I have a feeling that if more people did, anger would really begin to boil over.

We can fix the banks, but we seem unable to address increasing suicide rates.

We can put the euro on a sounder footing, but we’re lost in the face of a growing literacy problem.

We can concentrate on stability in the public finances till we’re blue in the face, but we can do nothing for people condemned to live in estates where the promise of regeneration disappeared with the last swish of the tail of the Celtic Tiger.

The Vested Interests - The Entitled - The Professions
Need to share the Austerity

I remember reading somewhere that there could be nobility in austerity. If austerity meant a real sense of shared sacrifice, with those more vulnerable being protected, it would surely have more meaning, wouldn’t it?

If it meant that really powerful vested interests — the professions, the upper echelons of the public service, the politically comfortable and "entitled" — were told that they had to yield to the interests of the whole people, wouldn’t there be a sense in which we were using austerity to build something fairer and more modest?

Instead, the way we apply austerity is by cutting services to those whose protests won’t amount to more than a whimper, and by applying bureaucratic techniques to the delivery of what’s left. We say no to those without a voice, and we whisper yes to those with power and influence. Despite everything, we’ve managed to preserve entitlement for some.

Before it’s too late.

So if we can’t end austerity, let’s put it to work instead, in ending entitlement and in ensuring fairer and more equal shares of a humbler cake. We’ve done what we can for the fragile economy. We must start concentrating, before it’s too late, on our fragile society. At least let’s start talking about it.



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