2 March 2014 Edition
In the interests of ‘the state’ or us?
WE have heard Fine Gael/Labour Government Ministers and TDs explain the rationale for cuts like those made to child benefit, home-help hours, respite care grants and Special Needs Education as being in the best interests of ‘the state’.
This is alarming terminology as it ultimately places the poor, children, the sick and people living with disabilities outside of ‘the state’.
‘Social marginalisation’ is a term often used to describe the mistreatment of the most vulnerable in society. The neoliberal agenda being followed by the Government not only marginalises the poor but also strips vulnerable people of their citizenship and consequently of their human dignity.
If the interests of the poor, the sick and the disabled are not compatible with those of ‘the state’ then a rather obvious question that we have skirted around for far too long is posed: In whose interests is ‘the state’ being run?
If the poor, sick, disabled, low-income to middle-income workers and the unemployed are constantly losing, not gaining, as a result of Government decisions then there are no prizes for guessing who is sitting on the other side of that see-saw.
We are being shown evidence every day (‘Shattergate’ being the latest beacon) that it is pretty naive to view the state as a facilitator of citizens’ interests. Sadly, the majority of us choose to ignore it. No wonder– there are things like X-Factor, the Premiership, Facebook and Netflix to absorb our time.
Even the ‘revelations’ from the Anglo Tapes were not enough to provoke a seismic stir in the great public inertia.
We tolerate the cuts, pseudo taxes, power hoaxes and the absolutely compromised behaviour of the man charged with administering justice because it is too disturbing to drag our heads out of the sand to see that we have been duped.
It is easier for us to believe that Shattergate is simply another scandal in our political soap opera.
Without really probing the question of who gains, Shattergate will come to an end but the broad context in which it happened will remain.
We need to stop taking the easy options.
If we truly want to protect the vulnerable and help the poor, if we truly want to live in a fair society, then we must spend more time asking the question of who gains from decisions made by ‘the state’ and a hell of a lot more time answering it.
If we want that fairer society then we must wake up to the reality that this cannot be done within ‘the state’ as we currently know it.
It needs to change.