Good article from Fintan O’Toole re the negative results of the conformist and consensus-driven culture of the Thatcher/Reagan era and how it, allied to the native propensity for world-class gombeenism, has conjured up a societal fuckup of gigantic proportions.
What interests me about the article is that Fintan does seem to neatly explain why there aren’t mass protests of people demanding that the banks be let go to the wall (depositors protected natch) and instead all of that money to be used to help the people of Ireland.
What a pile of tosh. Pope’s Children - or whatever you want to call them are guilty only of being naive. For the most part, these people are actually paying their debts, trying their best for themselves and their children.
I’m not saying that negative equity for the ordinary Joe Soap isn’t a problem. What I am saying is that it pales in comparison to the tens of billions of debt that the property developers and bankers landed us in.
I would suggest that if anyone cannot see a connection between the Reagan/Thatcher-advocated approach to life, which advocated the dismantling of industry in favour of the consumer “because Im worth it” society, and roughly ten years of McCreevy/Harney/Ahern, then Id say that they are not looking hard enough.
What Mr O’Toole is highlighting is the blind acceptance of this prevailing orthodoxy by the generation born into it, as evidenced by their immersion in the culture of bling etc, and suggesting that it, of itself, is a huge obstacle to their now forming any type of political movement which may possibly be capable of representing their interest. Rather, they are like rabbits stuck in the headlights, whose only defensive response to the oncoming articulated truck is to ask “wheres my bailout?”.
Indeed, theres not too many Popes Children in positions of influence to the extent that they would be in a position to have any say with regard to the direction of policy or even public debate.
Those particular avenues seem to be almost exclusively inhabited by the generation above them ie the McCreevey’s, the Sutherlands, the Sodens, and the other greed-imbued ideologues of this world, interspersed of course, with the native gombeen element.
On the other hand, the entire Thatcher/Reagan type approach was a stroke of genius on the part of its advocates. It encouraged a sense of indivdualism which is attractive to all human beings, while in reality turning them into consumer drones, not dissimilar to the worker drones created in the former Soviet Republics.
However, unlike in the former Soviet Union, now that the system has finally collapsed, the phoney sense of individualism of the mé féinists, as created by this culture, renders them incapable of pulling together in any way, shape or form to oppose it. Instead, they meekly accept all liability because to do otherwise would, ironically, mark one out as a trouble maker - perhaps even an individual. Ironic no?
How is this any different to the Church dictating what you think most of the time up until very recently?
Conformity is not new and it is not limited to the Thatcher+ generation. The simple fact is most human beings seek validation in the people around them. There was no individualism in the last 10-20 years in this country.
Is this not more relevant than anything reagan, thatcher or the rest initiated?
the rug has been pulled out from under the Tiger Generation, with their “betters” pulling the ladder up behind them for good measure.
if the game is rigged through gombeenery, cronyism or even sheer dumb luck by virtue of age (witness the lower pay grades for new entrants to the CS, adjustment in SW rates for under 25s, etc) emigration becomes the only sensible option.
in a self-fulfilling consequence, the voting majority is then selected from an ever-increasing proportion of society consisting of Fintan’s Generation.
His statement “No generation in the history of Ireland grew up with such high hopes.” is incorrect. It would be interesting to see stats, but I’d imagine my age group would be around the median for NE (born in '74). We certainly didn’t grow up with high expectations living through the eighties in Ireland. Our consciousness was not formed “by the dismantling of the postwar social democratic consensus and the rise of neo-liberalism.” but by the economic grimness of the eighties and the spectre of emigration which lay over our futures. We were scarcely old enough to have any appreciation of the economic policies of Regan and Thatcher; my father being on strike for six months with the P&T in '79 is a far clearer childhood memory than the UK miners strike. We had no doubt how hard our parents worked and what sacrifices they made so we could go to college, an opportunity they never had. I remember when I came back to Ireland in '98 after a couple of years in the UK the vivid sense of excitement and disbelief at the sudden economic hurricane blowing through Ireland.
Its hardly helpful in any case to generalise about the NE generation as if they are some homogeneous blob. Of course some grew an outsize sense of entitlement during the boom years and others got on the property investment gravy train but many of my peers just wanted to start a family and settle down and unfortunately did not have the financial literacy to see past the propaganda of ladders and dead money. If they’re not out on the street protesting its probably because they’re working hard trying to provide for their families and keep their heads above water. If the “high hopes” statement applies to anyone its to the nineties generation, most of whom are probably not in NE - nor property owners at all - and likely to be leaving or have left already for opportunities in Canada, Oz etc. This is the generation that should be leading the protest. Instead they are leaving, and who could blame them?
As someone who lived through some of the Thatcher years in England and then beyond, I reckon the sense of individualism there came from a youth alienated by old ways - promotion by seniority not ability, mandatory union-proscribed work practices, cosy consensus as to what expectations you should have at school, when you left school, the idea that you were born either a worker or a manager… etc.
It was a revolt from the inside chosen by those involved in it. It was the breakdown of the class system in the UK.
The whole bling and tat thing is, I believe, mostly separate. The enormous expansion of credit is responsible for that. The only thing I ever bought on credit was a big feck-off 29" TV on a 0% finance deal (it was the size of a pram and took two to lift it).
I believe Mr. O’Toole is also unclear about the breakdown in the worker/manager meme and the liberation from class politics that has belatedly come to Ireland with the collapse of its last bastion - the Catholic church.
Its painful listening to talk of protest…We dont even know what we want to protest about. Sit 10 random people down and ask them their desired approach to the next economic steps are and you’ll get 10 different answers.
The fact that people have not disrupted economic life through strikes, the fact that people have not caused social trouble is probably something to commend then criticise. The behaviour of the Greek people did nothing to further their cause around the time of their civil disturbance. Irish people voted out the incumbent government which is what you do in a mature democracy. I’m not sure what it is that Fintan wants and strongly suspect he’d be the first to moan if there were more militant public action.
All true. And as both Slasher and Calina have pointed out there is nothing new in reality to any of this.
Nontheless, there is the guts of an entire generation (possibly the most indebted subset of people on the face of the planet), who are being dumped on by the very way of life they bought into so unquestioningly.
While obviously a different set of circumstances, it is akin to the relationship between the older generation and the Catholic Church in the wake of the various scandals in the late 80s and early 90s.
Bling and tat was the natural byproduct of the Thatcher/Reagan dogma. And post-1989, it may have seemed to many to have ultimately triumphed and even to have redefined what it meant to be human. There was to be no need for any sort of collective approach to anything. We were all to be individual consumer clones whose only purpose was to consume. And with this would come contentment.
What Fintan O’ Toole is getting at (IMO), is that this same sense of aggressive individuality at the expense of all alse, as advocated by the political and economic systems of the day as well as, in many instances across the wider cultural arena, renders those who bought into it somewhat clueless in attempting to harness any collective energy in order to do something about their current disastrous position.
In essence there is no collective as there is no such thing as society. There is just me. And I alone am not going to achieve a whole lot.
While I do accept what ahs been said re his over-romanticisation of what existed previously (he is an ideologue after all), I think the point is relevant.