In the wake of yet another austerity addled budget, a strident chorus of our political leaders and self-proclaimed media statespersons, backed by a broad range of public comprador/organic intellectuals are echoing the sentiments if not the exact words of that great ‘reformer’ Margaret Thatcher – that ‘There is no alternative’ (TINA) to the policies of austerity that have and are continuing to prove so ruinous to our country. Much as these great and wise talking heads wish there was another way of rescuing our ailing country from the rack and ruin visited upon us by that other shower of feckless rogues in the past, they inform us sadly – feigned grief dripping from their lugubrious countenances – that they have been left with no option but to resolutely follow the dictates of agreements entered into by those selfsame rogues.
However, there are always alternatives or choices. It is just that some choices do not serve the interests of those who dictate which choices are fit for public consumption. In his book Sins of the Father, Conor McCabe highlights how Fianna Fáil were forced to decide that in order to maintain the support of the financial elite, they would have to shed the support they had carved out for themselves through their (pseudo)populist approach. It is therefore unsurprising that when the financial crisis struck, they elected to engage in actions that would ensure the country’s financial elite was cushioned as best as possible from the fall. At the same time, while there were clearly choices available that would have been far less ruinous for the general public, they excused their course of action by insisting that much as they wished the reality was otherwise, there had been no other ‘realistic’ option to prevent the financial sky from falling on our heads.
Not that our revered leaders are in any way unique in trying to circumvent open and democratic debate on the alternatives available to tackle issues of political, economic and social importance by insisting on the impracticality and/or invalidity of all other options.
The replacement of the democratically elected governments in Greece and Italy by technocratic figureheads closely linked to the financial world and favouring policies of harsh austerity provides a very clear example of the TINA approach in action. The citizens of the EU were repeatedly informed that for the euro to not collapse and in order to avoid financial and economic ruin for all, it was imperative that leaders be anointed who would have the ‘courage’ to upscale the war of austerity against the majority. So much for democracy and the concept of choice that animates its essence.
As the 1%, cheered on by their hirelings, strive to limit the choices deemed decent for public consideration to those that benefit them, irrespective of their impact upon the remaining 99%, we need to fight back by both clearly and unambiguously demonstrating the reasonableness and greater social suitability of other potential choices as well as the self-serving nature of those choices promoted by the 1%. To paraphrase those great musical philosophers, The Beastie Boys ‘You gotta fight for your right to have choices.’