Friday 21 November 2014

Declan Lynch: We've had enough of fat-cat gibberish

Published 09/12/2012 | 05:00

THE letter of the week in this paper last Sunday was headlined "Heart laden with gloom", and that was probably the most uplifting note sounded by a Mr John Cuffe of Dunboyne.

"Maybe it's the November gloom allied to six decades of shuffling around this old State," he wrote, "but rarely have I ever felt so laden in heart and mind."

As he reflected on what he had been reading about the state of the country in this paper the previous Sunday, he concluded that the worst blow was the news that Fianna Fail is on the way back. "Jesus Christ Almighty"... he wrote.

Jesus Christ Almighty indeed.

But then it is also a good thing that he felt so low, that he got in touch with his anger. That is what is supposed to happen, on any given Sunday when you read a well-reasoned piece about Nama. That is how many of us have been feeling, most Sundays for the last few years, reading the various commentators in this paper on such monstrosities. We have read articles on the negotiating skills of the Department of Finance which have made us angry for about six weeks afterwards.

But again it is right to feel that way. And last week, unusually, RTE was able to keep us in touch with that anger on Monday morning – at least, the Pat Kenny show was. Interestingly, Pat had been reading this paper when he had been struck by some fantastic figure which estimated the overall Irish debt at 90,000 zillion marillion or something equally unfeasible, and it seemed to get him going.

He would be taking no bullshit from John Bruton, the first guest on the show, who probably picked the wrong Monday morning to start telling us that "we still have to engage in the consolidation", and we have to "keep austerity in proportion" and other such lines of fat cat gibberish.

As Pat reminded him of certain self-evident truths, like that totally unpayable debt, and the disintegration of the domestic economy, Bruton seemed to struggle: "Supposing we handed people money to spend, they would more likely than not spend it on imports rather than on things produced here," he mused.

Whereas, supposing we hand it all to the banks and to the pension pots of highly paid civil servants and politicians – that will make more sense? Or supposing we hand it to rich people in some faraway land, to relieve their anxieties – that will be better than handing it to the masses to waste it on televisions and pop-up toasters?

Maybe that would be "engaging in the consolidation". Maybe he was "keeping austerity in proportion" there. Certainly John Bruton himself has never known any austerity, either of the proportionate or disproportionate variety. But he's out there anyway, putting us right about it.

The next guest, Eddie Hobbs, would not be engaging in the consolidation, but he would be making us angry, in the right way. And keeping us angry.

Indeed, on The Frontline that night, Pat Kenny would build on a theme of Eddie's, wondering about that billion euro which the Government had taken out of private pensions for a "jobs initiative".

It's a good word, "jobs". And "initiative" is another good word, even better when you put it with "jobs". They're good at that sort of thing, putting words together which seem to mean something progressive and uplifting, but which in fact mean nothing at all.

Anyway, Eddie nailed that one. And he was still able to present an excellent TV documentary that night called My Civil War, remembering a time when the ancestors of the parties who still dominate this State embarked on their first programme of national destruction.

Not only is Eddie one of the few financial commentators who can talk about something other than finance without sounding completely ridiculous, he is working harder than most to earn the money to help the Government pay for another of those jobs initiatives that create no jobs.

So his own anger is not just intense but finely focused. And then he mentioned the oil. He pointed out that we might actually be able to bail ourselves out some day, but that unfortunately "we have given away our oil and gas for buttons".

Now, a lot of people made significant contributions last week. Mannix Flynn spoke eloquently on the Joe Duffy show, not just about the state of the economy, but about the state of our souls. Christy Moore blasted away at numerous enemies of the common good on his website. There was an overwhelming sense that people just couldn't take any more of the bullshit. But if there is one thing above all the others that makes our hearts "laden with gloom", I believe it is the oil. The oil that we have "given away for buttons".

Because it seems to crystallise everything we feel about our ruling class – the sense that we have no idea any more whose side they are on, but it certainly doesn't seem to be our side. And that, anyway, they are no good. That even if we won the proverbial Lotto of oil and gas, they would somehow manage to lose the ticket.

Maybe it's that obsession with looking after themselves first, maybe they are distracted by other ambitions – the dream that some day soon they will have succeeded in keeping "austerity in proportion".

Sunday Independent

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