My column in The Kerryman. 6 March, 2013
We like to think that in times of great crisis, people from all different backgrounds will unite to meet that challenge. Even those of us brought up in Kerry, have been fed a diet of films telling us how united Londoners were during the incessant bombing they suffered during World War Two. I doubt there’s a man or woman in Kerry who couldn’t now identify the sound of an air-raid siren if they heard it, because of all the films made to romanticise that period of British history.
What we aren’t taught is that crime in the UK, increased by 57% during the War years. Looting and Black Marketeering were rife as criminals took advantage of a reduced police force and the chaos of destruction.
History is full of such people, who are quick to pounce on their own when a crisis hits. We would probably remember the Great Famine a little less, if it wasn’t for the fact that this catastrophe was a money making bonanza for the Gombeen Men and the already rich. A crisis divides as often as it unites.
Think about that as we shoulder the burdens of yet another recession. We could be forgiven for thinking us well used to these economic crises by now. Except for the mismanaged Boom of the noughties, we’ve been in one downturn or another since independence. There are people from Kerry and people descended from the people of Kerry, in every corner of the planet and it wasn’t searching for good surfing that took them away.
The problem with this recession, is the unimaginable level of debt. Our country, our banks, our property developers and we ordinary citizens have separately and collectively, built up a level of debt so ridiculous, we are no longer capable of looking at it in its entirety.
Instead we look at the ‘promissory notes’, the monthly borrowing by the State, the amount of mortgage debt in arrears, what a single developer owes, what a singe bank owes. What we don’t look at, is the total figure of hundreds of billions of euro owed, which is so high it’ll have students of history and economics, from all over the world, studying our recession for decades to come.
And how are we uniting to combat this devastation? Well that depends on how much you owe. If you owe millions then it’s off to the UK and but a single year of bankruptcy. If that doesn’t suit, then NAMA will pay you a six-figure salary while they manage your losses.
If you only owe your mortgage, then you can expect to be crushed by your unrepentant bank and your disconnected politicians. If your bank repossess your negative-equity house, they will pursue you for any balance outstanding, while our politicians are preparing to abandon each of us to the banks, for up to eighth years. Abandoning us to the banks and loading us up with extra taxes, as food and transport costs keep increasing.
Bankers, politicians and developers, this new looting class, these new Gombeens, have been spared the gut-wrenching despair of true poverty. They have been spared the true pain of this recession. Worse, they are growing fatter as we buckle under the weight of them. But that’s ok. They’ve worked out how to save us all. Just cut a nurse’s Sunday pay. The nurse may go on strike, but that just means she will be working for free, because that’s what a true public servant does.