The fools, the fools, the fools
by Matt Ellison
It is a commonly held – if inaccurate – belief by the protest movement in Ireland that they have arrayed themselves boldly against the forces of true evil. Fine Gael, Labour, and the old guard of Fianna Fáil to these few protestors represent the ungodly hordes of Hell made manifest; an evil empire straight from a fantasy epic to frame their crusade of social justice and equality against the dark monolithic tendrils of neoliberal malice.
No doubt this makes for rousing imagery – we did not, after all, justify 800 years of withering warfare against the Empire by portraying the British as anything other than devils in men’s garb. It is however – now provably – a false visage; a propaganda piece, if you will, to entice and inspire the next generation of would-be Irish revolutionary.
It is in fact the less popular representation of our Republic’s government – one shared by the likes of the Independent’s Gene Kerrigan – that seems now to have the most evidence to support it. Fine Gael and Labour, far from being the Satanic menaces of lore, are far more likely to in fact be little more than patsies – the unthinking, unambitious and ultimately expendable lackeys of an uncaring and distant European status quo.
The same status quo that took the “far-left,” “extremist” Syriza and made them pliant caretakers of yet another broken austerity regime.
For increasingly it has become clear that our government, far from being the masters of all evil, are in fact little more than the grotesque servants of far more cunning and intelligent puppet masters. The evidence is myriad; one need only look at Enda Kenny’s inability to actually string two coherent sentences together to understand just the level of intellect this hallowed government boasts amongst its top echelons.
But now most tellingly comes like dark wings in the night the news that the government intends to prosecute the “Jobstown 20,” and have them stand trial with none other than Tanaiste Joan Burton taking the witness stand to testify against them.
Oh, the Fools, the Fools, the Fools.
It’s amusing to imagine the rational the government must have had in deciding upon this course of action. No doubt, Deputy Paul Murphy’s claims of politicking to scare off potential future protesters and tacit supporters of the non-payment movement rang true for the government’s outward hopes for this trial – arrest some no good troublemakers, scare the rest of the layabouts into submission.
Hey, it worked for the British. (Didn’t it…?)
Of course, nobody in the government really thinks these things through (that is, incidentally, why Irish Water has yet to actually invest a single cent into the desperately outmoded water infrastructure in this country, or why Enda Kenny has a job).
What do they think a trial of 20 peaceful water protesters will actually look like? Joan Burton’s teary-eyed tale of being stuck in a car for two hours aside, what exactly is on trial here? It is not, as the government may suggest in weeks to come, the nature of the protest movement. Alas, the Irish National Liberation Army doesn’t actually give a damn who pays and who doesn’t pay – the articles claiming the contrary notwithstanding.
What, in fact, will be put to a jury of 12 Irish citizens to decide is whether or not peaceful protesters have a right to be heard. Anybody can stand around the Spire and hold up a placard reading “Alan Kelly is a Martian.” Nobody has to listen to them; the government for one certainly doesn’t. And that is precisely the point: the purpose of the Jobstown arrests, and the vocal and indignant condemnation of any form of peaceful protest that moves outside the politically correct comfort zone of “out of sight, out of mind” is to effect a new cultural norm: one wherein peaceful protest shouldn’t actually be able to achieve anything.
One wonders how Fine Gael would have dealt with the Freedom Riders of the American Civil Rights Movement.
It’s certainly an ambitious goal – and one with chilling precedent. One need only look to Spain’s draconic new anti-protest laws or the United States’ “Free Speech Zones” to understand that this is a trend gaining rampant traction in the neoliberal West.
It is, however, one that will fall flat when put to trial by jury. When 12 Irish citizens are selected at random and made to decide, for themselves, whether protesters should be silent and ignored or have a right – no matter what the case; be it protesting water charges or agitating for racial or gender equality – to have their voices heard by the very politicians they elect and pay to represent them, the verdict is cut and dry.
There is a lot of uncertainty among the faithfully defiant surrounding the onset of a trial, but what it really represents is an opportunity like no other – to put the issue of Jobstown, and peaceful protest at large, not only before the courts but (inevitably) onto front pages the nation over, and once and for all show up the anti-protest propaganda for exactly what it is; desperate, hopeless scare tactics.
Oh, let Joan Burton testify. Let Trevelyan, and Cromwell, and Strongbow all stand beside her and nod sullenly in tandem and testify to their ill-treatment by the mean-spirited Irish peasant, who if only knew better would appreciate all the good they’ve done for them over the centuries.
After making a career of avoiding difficult questions in Dáil Éireann, let’s put her on the stand. Let’s put the entire government on the stand, and have them swear under oath to their righteous indignation.
Let us see what the jury makes of them then.
Oh, the Fools, the Fools, the Fools!