Michael Albert addresses Occupy Dame Street Dublin
By Colin Bradshaw at Oct 14, 2011
Michael Albert in Ireland addresses “Occupy Dame Street” in Dublin.
Ireland’s population was duped and impoverished by the gambling/speculation of bankers and developers aided and abetted by compliant government. Prior to 2008 Ireland was the darling of Europe, a model of good business, an example to Europe and indeed the world, of how to become a prosperous nation through hard work, enterprise and entrepreneurship. Dubbed the ‘Celtic Tiger’ it was the place to which people and money migrated in ever increasing amounts for huge personal and corporate gains of previously unimagined proportions. The ‘Celtic Tiger’ was immortal and untouchable – it was never going to die and to criticise it was unpatriotic and considered madness.
2008 arrived and the Tiger took ill – in fact mortally wounded. The good times began to disappear and the quicksand beneath the edifice of a false economy became increasingly evident with that quicksand pulling down the mighty and the weak, the guilty and the innocent without any discrimination. Except of course the super rich whose incomes increased and lifestyles continued. The jobs disappeared, the personal and national debts began to mount inexorably and were compounded by the additional government guarantee for all bank debts.
A culture of fear was spread by economists and government – the cash would dry up. The cash machines would be empty, savings disappear, wages wouldn’t be paid, jobs would disappear wholesale. In short, the Tiger was dead and we could no longer proudly ride on the back of that majestic animal. Now, instead of pride and prosperity we had to accept humiliation and poverty. The IMF, the European Central bank and the government declared the people must pay for the sins of the bankers, having been assured the fundamentals of the economy and the banking system were ‘sound’ we were now told the economic survival of the Irish economy was teetering on the brink. The only remedy was for the people of Ireland to shoulder the debts of the few at a cost of unknown billions of euro, and rising, until the economic situation and the banking system gets back to ‘normal’.
Now towards the end of 2011 the message of the government bankers and big business continues. Everybody must knuckle down and share the pain of recovery to life as normal. What, I ask, is this normality? In the good times the truth was hidden and we were deceived. In the bad times the truth continues to be obfuscated and we are being led back to, or is that remaining in, the system of misinformation and illusion for the benefit of the ultra -rich elites.
We are to continue in the eternal damnation and punishment akin to Dante’s Inferno, paying for our sins of blindness to and ignorance of the realities determining our lives on earth and believing we are unable to do anything about it.
Despair for such a scenario is an understatement. But wait! I see and hear sounds of life under the ruins. Light is shining through, albeit faintly, through the depressing gloom and murky waters poured over our lives by governing elites, by business people, by the media and by the overwhelming experts who tell us to lie down and accept our lot in life – they have things under control. The sounds I hear and the lights I see come from the mass of previously non-politicised people. The sounds and lights are from the spark of human life and decency buried deep in the morass of a capitalist structure of society. They are from people talking about their personal situations, their local community problems, and even the national problems they face. They don’t need others to speak for them, to light their way. Those doing that for them before have proven their ineffectiveness. No, these people have rediscovered their voices and are themselves beginning to illuminate, as yet dimly, the paths before them – the local paths, the regional paths, the national paths and the international paths. They are beginning to discover that they need to and can speak for themselves if they are to be heard and decide which paths they can take. Decisions they can take for themselves.
All around the country local issues are being aired and accompanied by demands to be heard and taken notice of. Perhaps the most cogent example of such criticism of the status quo is the recently initiated “occupy” movement originating in Wall Street and now manifesting itself in Dublin as “Occupy Dame Street”. It is a small encampment of protesters on a main thoroughfare outside the Central Bank of Ireland. This tall, modern, imposing building contrasts sharply with the huddle of diminutive one man tents gathered at its steps – taken together represent a stark symbol of the wealth and domination of the elite over the impoverishment and weakness of the many. The protests as elsewhere in Europe and the U.S., are the expression of the discontent of the populace against the policies of politicians, governments, big business and banks which are saving themselves at the expense and to the often extreme detriment of others.
A defining characteristic of the ‘occupy movement’ is its refusal to be co-opted by those very powers and organisations which have been responsible for their plight. That refusal also involves a rejection of parties, organisations and ideologies which propose ways out of the mired economic and social mess of Ireland. The question is - where do they (we) go from here? There are plenty of individuals, political parties and gurus who are happy to lead them to salvation – they all have solutions for them, policies to adopt and flags to fly. There is no end of people and parties ready to lead the way from here, from where they are now to somewhere else.
Perhaps the question of where do we go from here is the wrong question. Perhaps there is no question to be raised and answered. Rather, it is for people to realise they have their own voices, they have their own light, their illumination on life and how it can be lived. It is not a question of where do we go from here it is more a statement of here we stay. Not that we stay condemned to oblivion, to an eternity in the horrors of a Dante’s Inferno. No, here we stay, espousing our own concerns and advocating our own solutions in our interests and those of all our fellow travellers in life, not just those of an Irish or international elite at our expense.
On Tuesday Michael Albert walked among the people of Dame Street and addressed them – not as someone proposing to lead them in their struggles – but advocating that they take the initiative themselves as they already have and move on in solidarity with each other, accepting of their individual and communal diversity, moving toward a just equitable society in Ireland and beyond. The solutions to society’s problems lie, as they always have, within the people themselves. It is for them to organise and establish the structures and institutions of their society as they see fit, not as they are imposed by others. His message was clear and unequivocal – don’t be led, believe in yourselves and your abilities to manage your own lives, your own societies.
Start now, start here, not in some distant future. Identify your values, not those of a self- serving minority or self-perpetuating group. Identify your values and build your institutions and society around them, in harmony with them and not in conflict with them. Beware the quicksand and illusions of today’s style of economy and its consequences for society. Live life as you want it, as part of a local community, as part of a regional community, as part of a national community, as part of an international community. Don’t live life as others dictate it should be lived. Start now in your own personal relationships, in your neighbourhood activities, in your workplace, in your daily, weekly monthly yearly and occasional interaction with all individuals and institutions. State the values you share with others, live them, advocate them and work to manifest them in your society’s institutions and structures of government. Everybody has the ability and potential to be involved in defining their own lives in association with those with whom they share this world. There is no overnight change, but little by little the momentum for change and improvement grows and the changes and will accelerate with more people adopting a like-minded attitude.
People speaking out, people making decisions on issues affecting their own lives, in community with each other, on a just and equitable basis, are people who are rejecting the current failed system of politics and economics. They are people who are fashioning a new society. They are people who do not wait to be told what to do out of blind trust and obedience.
The call of Michael Albert is a call to action – not to follow him or any particular party or ideology to achieve a distant goal. The call to action is in the here and now with ourselves and what we do with our lives and the issues we have to deal with. Michael Albert advocates a vision of society based on the values of a participatory economy – but it is just that, a vision which people make real themselves by the actions they take for themselves in their own locale, in their own situations.
Achievement and positive change is rooted in self-managed action. Parecon does not seek people to follow it but is there to inspire people to decide on their own present difficulties and equip them for the future. Parecon is kindling for the very real spark of human life that remains under the rubble of a broken capitalist economy. That spark can generate its own fire, its own sustainable life if it believes in itself and the values it holds.
Stay focused and true to yourself.