Friday 30 September 2016

The only thing certain is uncertainty

We've reason to be jittery, as Trump, bin charges and Brexit threaten to rock the boat, writes Gene Kerrigan

Published 19/06/2016 | 02:30

The fabulous riches appropriated by the 1pc are not the result of some victim-free development (Illustration by Tom Halliday)
The fabulous riches appropriated by the 1pc are not the result of some victim-free development (Illustration by Tom Halliday)

You can smell the panic: from Washington to Downing Street, from Strasburg to Leinster House. Things are not going according to plan.

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A year ago, Donald Trump began his run at the US presidency and the people who explain the world to the rest of us smirked. He was a joke candidate, they said, who'd be quickly demolished by the Washington professionals.

They also knew that American support for a blatant left-winger such as Bernie Sanders would be embarrassingly small.

Likewise, the people who explain things to the rest of us had no doubt about the fate of the campaign to take the UK out of the EU. It would dribble to an ignominious halt as common sense kicked in.

Here, in this great little nation, the people who explain things to the rest of us said the water charge protest had run out of steam. Fine Gael and Labour, they said, were perfectly positioned to reap the political rewards of "the recovery".

A year later, and we're now in a period in which many of the old certainties are suddenly very shaky. The world as we've known it might well change drastically over the next few months.

One or two of her many skeletons might fall out of Hillary Clinton's closet. In which case, we'll have to send the genealogists into the archives to find a distant Irish relative of President Trump.

At the same time, the Bernie Sanders campaign has shown that there's a significant American thirst for politics outside the old Punch and Judy show.

On this side of the Atlantic, if the polls are right there's a reasonable chance the UK will vote to quit the EU. Not because of the fiercely anti-democratic nature of the right wing bankers who control the ECB, but because of colonial nostalgia and a Daily Express-type dislike of foreigners.

Meanwhile, across Europe, the extreme right is gaining ground. The sleazy right in the political parties and in the media have for years used the old anti-immigrant chatter to solidify support. They encouraged the kind of cheesy nationalism that gets people killed. In the murder of Jo Cox, the trivial concerns of shallow people have had tragic consequences.

The EU sets the moral tone for all this by bribing some pretty foul politicians to corral vulnerable refugees within Turkish borders.

If the UK leaves, the solidity of the European project will be put in question. Boris Johnson might become PM as a belittled Cameron is sent packing. Scotland will probably demand another independence referendum, this time voting Yes.

A UK dominated by Little Englanders will get to boss around Wales and Northern Ireland, which will be fun to watch but hell to live through.

It will be a UK in the grip of a bitter, vengeful and gloatingly small-minded Tory regime. The privatisation of the NHS will surge ahead and a cowering BBC will be demolished.

Both parts of this island would probably be hit hard economically. Certainly there'd be a political hit.

Of course, none of these things might happen.

Or, they might all happen but it won't matter because President Trump will celebrate his inauguration next January 20 by nuking Mexico.

As share prices soar in the nuclear fallout shelter business, and everyone's wondering where Trump will nuke next, the Israelis will take the ball on the hop and nuke the Palestinians.

Never one to miss an opportunity to show his muscles, a bare-chested Vladimir Putin will appear on TV to announce that if Russia isn't belatedly declared winner of the Eurovision song contest he'll nuke Johnny Logan.

Meanwhile, this great little nation shares the sense of instability. The 2011 election crippled FF. The 2016 election crippled FG, cut Labour to pieces and destroyed Renua.

The ruling coalition, Fianna Gael, is in danger from soaring bin charges - the inevitable consequence of privatisation. Worried Government ministers are frantic to kill the controversy. Simon Coveney may yet promise to personally go from door to door, emptying our bins into the boot of his state car, if it will stop us protesting.

Why is the instability so widespread? And what have the proto-fascist Trump and the anti-immigrant Brexit campaigns, not to mention the Sanders surge, to do with our government's jittery response to the threatened rise in bin charges?

Let me take a wild guess, here: Would almost 30 years of free market extremism, followed by almost a decade of austerity for the many, and staggering growth in wealth for the few, maybe have anything to do with the instability?

The fabulous riches appropriated by the 1pc are not the result of some victim-free development. Over recent decades, there has been a reduction in the share of income going to labour. Job conditions deteriorate; the middle class see their opportunities shrinking.

The apologists for the 1pc say it doesn't matter how the cake is shared, as long as the cake is ever-bigger,

You could get away with that during a boom, even a bubble, but year after year of austerity exposed the lie. The queue at the soup kitchen is almost as long as the queue for five-grand handbags.

In the USA, decades of low wages, people working two and three part-time jobs to survive, bred resentment. This opened many to the social democratic arguments by the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. It also opened the door to those many Americans longing to worship the Putinesque strong-man image Trump promotes.

The European Central Bank and the EU elite had reached a stage where they didn't feel the need to hide their blatantly anti-democratic behaviour. They staged a coup in Greece and displaced an elected leader in Italy, they ordered the re-running of the Nice and Lisbon referendums when Irish voters didn't give them the result they wanted. This undermined the legitimacy of the EU.

And played into the hands of the Little Englanders.

Now, we have a housing crisis, thousands of children homeless - and the politicians are locked into a "solution" that won't work. They beg "the market" to provide shelter. The market demands ever-bigger profits.

They induced us to vote through the Fiscal Compact in 2012. They did this not by explaining what it was about, but with dodgy slogans telling us it would "secure Ireland's future" and allow us "stay at the heart of Europe".

Now, we urgently need municipal housing, they tell us the Fiscal Compact says we can't spend the money, so we must seek an "off-balance sheet" solution.

We needed politicians who would defend democracy; we had Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan, who believe in kissing the asses of the powerful. We needed to defend our interests, we had FF and Labour telling us to leave it to them.

The blatant lies and the repeated short-changing aroused the water tax protests; we're reacting against getting the bill for the years of right-wing free market extremism.

And if you liked water charges, you'll love ever-rising bin charges.

Sunday Independent

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