Why do you use a food bank?

‘Why do you use a food bank?’ asked the nice, well meaning, well spoken senior policy adviser from the ‘left leaning’ think tank, over coffee, paid for by another senior policy adviser. For once lost for words I mumbled something about not having any food left before my dole comes through and that I didn’t have any food sometimes. What I didn’t say was, what the fuck? Here we have a person who advises on public policy who through the way in which our society is structured has never had to sit down with some body surviving on the sharp edge of the public and political policy he advises on. I also had to explain people being sound and charging less than they need to, shoutsta Debs. In the end we settled for ‘non-monetary motivations’ maybe ‘Social Capital’ would have worked better. Some may find ‘Officer class’ offensive, but, it is a lil ‘Why is marching slowly into machine gun fire killing them?’

Now the front line is austerity, the bullets are economic policies and the officer class are the ones who justify this senseless waste of human talent, existence and potential. Executed by our increasingly deranged and deluded political class. If history has taught us anything, it’s to take the toy guns off them when things get to the current levels of economic and geopolitical insanity.

This cultural divide along monetary and gulf in life experience is where the ‘Ah shure it’s just an extra few euro a week.’ Mentality comes from. People so deliberately and in an incredibly calculated way were shielded and still are protected from even having to glimpse the ‘vulnerable’ way of life.  Hands up how many middle class people knew the college Joan Burton visited on that faithful day in Jobstown is also a food bank?  Hands up who’s seen someone cry after being handed a tin of beans, some yogurt and pasta? Hands up who told them they have done nothing wrong and it is a spiteful, shameful society who fucked up there love, not you.

This is how austerity works, quietly, efficiently and hidden behind economic policy and political decisions: live are destroyed, but slowly and strategically while firstly stripping people of all pride and dignity. ‘They’re less likely to fight back that way.’  At the height of a suicide epidemic what does the government decide needs to go? The bereavement grant, young men don’t usually have life insurance.  The most vulnerable, private, sensitive moments offer no escape from the constant suffocating pressure of austerity. The kind of pressure which goes unseen, when the stress and turmoil we all experience with a bereavement also involves anything from not being able to afford clothes to simply not having the money for a funeral. It’s not the type of thing people talk about in civilized company, and civilized company will enforce that rule as it enforces all the unspoken rules in Ireland surrounding poverty and the historical baggage and shame associated with it. By ignoring it, or reminding the person with the poverty that its not the type of thing polite company speaks about. Makes em skittish. Again that’s the point, the fear of poverty is enough to keep the people who consider themselves ‘middle class’ in check.

The officer class desperate to believe the recovery narrative, terrified to look the cold hard data and facts in the eye. Austerity has failed, for us, for the 80 people who own half the worlds wealth, media, and exert huge political and economic power, it has been a fantastic success. Its also ideology, austerity is a belief system there is no ‘science of economics’ behind it. Even economists don’t believe the austerity model, as discussed with Bill Black at Kilkenomics only about 10% subscribe to that school of thought, its a way of thinking which is rewarded by our society and those 80 or so people who own half the worlds wealth.

Economists, academics and journalists have  been kept in tenuous positions and easy to control. The herd behaviour our great commentators fretted about ended up applying to them, too afraid to question the dominant ideology they went along with the gang. With The Irish Times reading like a string of middle class people afraid to lose their jobs, fall through the cracks and end up in the public system.

Austerity restructures society in such a way that policy makers can’t even conceive the effect of their policies. And they probably don’t want to either, a feral underclass blowing their money on booze and scratchcards while living out of a food bank to subsidize their lifestyle. It is much easier to justify ignoring poor communities when decisions about say, waste incinerators and the location of ShantyTown are being considered.

Meanwhile tales of death certificates listing ‘Misadventure’ in clear cases of deliberate overdose increase. As with unemployment and growth figures, keeping up the success story of the austerity delusion comes first.  [3] Beaten around the head from the time you leave school or college. Reduced dole, never ending JobBridge schemes, here’s a hint JBridge ain’t for your benefit. Let’s call things what they are, its corporate welfare. But the state will still make you, the citizen who paid for the bailout and is still paying for the bailout of banks and bondholders via the selling off of public assets, which are no longer available to you, feel like the criminal as the state which is burning so far this year  €1.5bn, as agreed with the ECB while a financial gun was held to our heads. With every envelope sitting waiting to be opened we are paying.

Still its you the citizen who should feel like the criminal, you are supposed to feel like a burden. Very well paid people figured out how to induce that response. But as with everything, its up to us to choose how we respond.

Those bonds would be a good place to start the promissory notes, the deal which was made deliberately complicated sounding is actually very simple to understand. In order to bail out the creditors of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide €31bn was created in 2009/10. [1]  €31bn was created by writing the number down and then creating ‘notes’ which we promised to remove from circulation. We remove them from circulation by burning the physical money.

“To date €5.5bn has been destroyed (€3bn 2011; €1bn 2014; €1.5bn 2015); the Central Bank is still holding €25.5bn worth of Promissory Note bonds.” – Diarmuid O’Flynn of Ballyhea Says No. [1]

We cannot afford to simply burn  €1.5bn while there are families without homes, while child poverty is over 30% the reality is difficult to stomach but it comes with communities and people helping each other in anyway they can. One of the expected effects of austerity was that the fabric of society would tear itself apart, they got that one wrong. We have a new found strength a new found confidence it was hard won but in supporting each other we found our individual strengths and the overpowering force of pure human will and determination.

The policy advisers question was an indication of how dangerously wide the gulf between cultures is becoming. Day to day reality is impossible to even conceive let alone empathise with. The solution to this is not anger, it is understanding and education. A vast section of the society was very deliberately protected from glimpsing the sharp edge. They are starting to spot the glint, now it up to us. The people who have already survived six long years, its time now to keep the head, offer alternatives and reach out and offer to start working together.

We understand austerity, we understand power we have learnt the importance of organising, this is valuable knowledge we need to share. Anger is the response the Gardai and Irish Water wanted. We beat them with intelligence and humour, we’re the cool kids. An we know what needs to be done. First the blinders have to come off, no more kid gloves for those with sensitive sensibilities. Its time to look austerity and the mentality which allowed all that looking the other way to continue right in the eye.

Know your enemy, we’ve spent enough time around the edge of austerity to understand it in its entirety. This front line experience is like in the First World War not something which should be underestimated. We understand austerity. Now its time to take the toy equations away from the politicians. As Bill Black said, we are already a post-growth economy, just without the cool, lets help each other out and become the next step in society part. And it’s definitely time to take the toys off the officer class, step aside lads the demos has awoken.

‘Realise your dreams are no different to ours..’ – Costello

‘The ghost narrators back telling stories of the untold makin a humble attempt as I reach out and attempt to touch souls. Its hard to hold the heads high when all the funds are low. In the class of the new school, I’m chillin up de front row, got some information to upload. Stick with the cards try to hold onto my hope as its drifting apart, meditate and light a candle as I sit in the dark. Realise your dreams are no different to ours..’

[1] Ballyhea Says No

[2] Bill Black at Kilkenomics

[3] Fin facts – check out Irish Government explains how it understates recession job losses.

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