Catastrophes Past and Present

Famine Commemoration Day

I’ve often wondered how different families who remained in Ireland survived the famine (what doesn’t kill yee, makes yee stronger), especially the peasant families like my own. The subject was taboo with all my grand parental units. I do know on my mother’s side that the family returned from the US in the late 19th century, which is quite unusual. Add a Kelly from Donegal to the equation (but his family history is completely lost as he was a blow-in hired from a job fair in Strabane) and I have my maternal side covered as much as possible. My paternal side just wouldn’t talk about it, though again several brothers ventured to NY to dig the subway tunnels and returned to Ireland, but this was well after the famine. Maybe the paternal side were good hunter-gathers and were just too ashamed to talk about it. (I also wonder if their antagonism against tinkers was a realisation that but for fate they too would have been travellers. In fact, I’ve met settled travellers in the North East of the same surname and spelling. I got a good grilling when I applied for my southern driving license, and I couldn’t understand at the time why all the fuss. Then I learned about my long lost cousins.)

Anyhow, the famine had significant political ramifications. All sides of my family stated, often with a shudder, that by hook or crook (often clandestinely) they wanted rid of the post famine regime one way or another. I believe at the time the regime was run from a place called Westminster. If memory serves me correctly this place is in London, England.

Pretending the famine, and such other modern disasters, is non-political is just another modern contrivance by a well fed and cosseted consumer oriented populaces.

gli    9.7.2010


The Wall Street Journal Says “Ireland and Spain’s Unemployment is Permanent”

How about this for a wild and insane thought. There is no real fix for our economy, and by extension employment prospects for the unemployed, the underemployed, and those coming off the educational assembly line.

We’ve adopted, wholesale, the consumer-service economy. We produce very little of added value (i.e. taking natural materials and turning them into usable long terms assets) in balance with our population requirements. We merely consume what others produce from outside Ireland. When we did address a material structural deficit, such as housing, we turned a need into a casino parlour game. We overproduced in many sectors (housing, public transport duplication, the health service debacle and narrowly referenced agricultural policy), draining resource materials and labour from other requirements, thereby wholely distorting trade-offs between exiting or newly produced asset classes and our future ability to invest in other assets.

The second part of the economy, service, requires a fundamental income gap between wage/income groups. In order for people to pay for nanny, house cleaning, gardening and such jobs there needs to be a viable gap between those who can command high salaries whilst simultaneously ensuring those providing service jobs can’t command too high a salary. Deregulation of labour markets and of immigration standards ensures a continuing pressure on labour income. As the proportion of low paid, dead-end jobs increase relative to national income, large swathes of people become subsistent participants in the economy with limited means to consume. (The Yanks euphemistically call them the working poor meritocratic productive workers who rely upon weekly loans in lieu of real economic wages to just about survive. Every year since the early 1980’s this group grows in size. It’s hitting Ireland with a vengeance.)

Add a dollop of neo-liberal ideology, meritocratic sociopathy, and just plain base greed and here we are.

The bottom line is that if Ireland didn’t run an international tax dodging scheme for MNs in return for jobs, we’d be third world fodder.

We’d need to reconfigure and readjust our cognative diagram of the internal economy. One where income would have to reflect hourly inputs based on the production of physical assets, and one where income is distributed more equitably. A proportion of the population would have to realise that their so-called lifestyles can’t be maintained indefinitely. There is no cosmic lottery which will lift all boats in the future.

However, the meritorious won’t give up one penny nor will those whose goals are much more modest cut their cloth to suit their situation, and the govt must figure out some way for the later to access credit. We’ll muddle through until we can’t. Emigration is the only escape valve open to this or any other governmental configuration.

When you can’t or won’t produce physical commodities or the surplus wealth of commodities produced is owned by another jurisdiction, as with MNs, you don’t have a whole pile of options.

gli    14.7.2010

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