Ireland, Suicide and the Virtual Reality of a Political Elite

by | 8 Jan 2013

It has been apparent to many people in Ireland, across Europe and much further afield that the professional political class are living in a sort of virtual reality. [In Ireland] we have a political system that has been described as corrupt in all areas of public life in the Mahon report [a report on corruption of senior politicians available here]. We have elected government ministers who come onto the state broadcaster stating clearly that lying is an electoral strategy, and we have political organisations that opportunistically use the massive rise in suicides in the state to try to deflect the role their decisions play in the rising tide of material and emotion misery of our society. We have successive government ministers beholden to finance capital, and we live within a neoliberal political system where the power of capital continues to squash the possibility of genuinely democratic equality. We live is a state where tax laws are written by the same Irish legal firms that benefit from Ireland’s position in the global tax dodging network. The main political organisation in government, Fine Gael was explicit in saying any tax rises on the rich and on private corporations cannot be countenanced unless the most impoverished in our society got kicked a lot more so as not to upset universal karma, the ever vague but omnipotent entity know as the “confidence of the market”. Few professional political commentators ever seems to point out that if ‘confidence’ is the only thing holding this system up, perhaps the system itself is a fundamentally flawed concept and we need something completely different. I dunno this might be a bit out there, but something founded upon care, compassion, social need might be a start. But I would say that, being a left-wing anarchist extremist. Maybe I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.

Meanwhile back in the real world we have a government minister Kathleen Lynch, with responsibility for mental health saying she will consider setting up a support system funded by us [the populace] to help TDs [members of the Irish parliament] and Senators ‘deal’ with increasing levels of public anger, whilst at the same time slashing public resources funded by us on our public mental health. Then we have Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor releasing a press release saying “It is impossible to quantify how many deaths have been caused or contributed to in this country by the negative elements of social media. The unconstrained venom being directed at individuals on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube is undoubtedly doing untold damage.” The contradictions may not be immediately obvious, but if suicides due to social media are “impossible to quantify” how can they be “undoubtedly doing untold damage”.

No one can condemn serious attempts to look at how peer abuses amongst school kids affects them and to try to reduce harm, however, people like Pat Rabbitte [minister of energy, communications and natural resources] etc have specifically conflated bullying within younger kids with people being completely pissed off at the structural failings of our political and economic system.

There are no government press releases on suicides relating to the indignity, social stigma and powerlessness that often comes from being forced into poverty or unemployment, or from the multiple and complex fears causes by threatening letters sent by private money lending banks and organisations. Using the framework and logic of the public pronouncements made on social media as factors in death, perhaps we should ourselves be creating our own counter-narratives. Would the possibility of change and equality in our society be better served by properly describing many of the deaths as “assisted suicide” since banks and government decisions have help facilitate people’s decisions to take their own lives. Or should we follow the lead of people in Spain who now reframe suicide caused by the macro political-economic system as murder.

It’s hard to know whether the attitudes and statements from government are founded on intellectual incoherency or collective psychological dishonesty, but it is as if the present political class feel that they have some intrinsic right to live behind a firewall of their own victimhood, sealed off from the social consequences of their actions on our lives. However, their attitude to people’s ability to use social media tools and public comment spaces afforded us via Twitter, blogs, comments sections, etc. is telling. Nor is it restricted to Ireland. It’s a global issue with very real consequences. This week Rashid Saleh al-Anzi was sentenced to jail in the ‘friendly’ dictatorship in Kuwait for sending a tweet calling for political reform and an end to corruption. This got reported in the Irish Times. Last week, noted right-wing ‘economist” Jim Power called for ‘less democracy and more benign dictatorship’ on Newstalk. His interviewer let this go without exploring any of the implications for such proto-fascist free marketeerism. Once again it was ordinary folks using social media technology that took up that baton.

We are basically being told to shut the fuck about our own existences, about our material poverty and our individual and social fears for the future. Even as we are being pissed upon, we are being spoken to, ask the rabble, the mob, the motley children, to be scolded and put in our place by our more learned others. The instinctive response to that is a simple and clear “No. Fuck Them.”

Is it ‘polite’? Is it ‘nice’? No it’s not. Of course it’s not. There is nothing polite about introducing charges for people needing chemotreatment, there is nothing polite about hiding 25 years worth of meeting minutes of the Clearing House Group, there is nothing polite about poverty or house eviction. There’s nothing polite or nice getting legal letters from money-lenders taking you to court whilst the coked up fuckers in global high finance and the Irish professional legal firms who screwed us over indemnify themselves with law and corporate structures they designed precisely for that purpose. So excuse us if we lose our decorum a little. There’s a war going on outside and it’s a war on our lives. It’s a war of inequality and a war against democracy and justice.

Fuck’em for evening daring to demand I/you/we ‘be nice’ as I/you/we watch people around hurting and fearful. Fuck’em for trying to encourage us to internalise their bullshit worldviews and values and lack of social imagination. Fuck’em for being so stupid as to think we are not aware of what goes on around us. But saying Fuck’em is merely an emotional indicator, and on it’s own it is just a temporary release. The refusal to be bound by the logic of market democracy is an orientation. If we aim only to be able to criticise, rather than to change, if the limits of our desire are only to be able to tweet or make comment, rather than to act together to assert full authority over the decisions that affect our lives we will remain in an echo chamber of our collective despairs. What we have now is the ability to be visible to each other in ways previously impossible. It will take more than 140 characters to really challenge unjust power but making new meanings, new social imaginations from our own narratives, about our actual existences as they are now, is central to making what previously seem impossible possible.

Reposted from SoundMigration

1 Comment

  1. Agree with much of what author says.
    Which could be applied to many countries not just Ireland
    Found conclusions weak as he seems to say since we are all connected the impossible may become possible though twitter is useless.
    Admit I have no solutions as, just to remain within the EU, Greek and Spanish movements have had little support, little has changed in Italy despite several demonstrations on various issues or in France. The UK UNCUT movement seemed promising especially if it could connect up with Trades Unions. Doesn’t seem likely.
    A change in mainstream media is required but probably will not happen as free “internships” preclude people who need to work for money from the class of journalists.
    Perhaps at the moment only local movements and issues will achieve improvements for local people, nothing nation- or continent-wide.
    In squeezing ordinary people so hard extreme liberal capitalism is destroying itself – unless it can turn debt and austerity on and off at will, which I suspect may be the case.


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