As I sat in work this morning whiling away some time on Internet nothingness I overheard some of the cleaners animatedly discussing their plight. They've just had their hours cut by one hour each day. Doesn't sound like a lot, but it works out at something like 200 hours a year. which roughly translates to a €2000 pay cut. Pretty significant when you don't make that much anyway.
I felt for them, as they bickered over what to do next, with my heavily pregnant friend Marta ending up in tears. And then I thought of something I read yesterday:
"Once basic needs have been translated by society into demands for scientifically produced commodities, poverty is defined by standards which the technocrats can change at will. Poverty then refers to those who have fallen behind an advertised ideal of consumption in some important respect." (Ivan Illich)
People in Ireland are unlikely to be left destitute, not in comparison to the way people live in so many other countries. They are just simply not going to be able to afford all the things they are told they need. This is not empty left-wing rhetoric, this is the truth.
If this sounds unsympathetic, let me set you straight. I sympathise, and I empathise. My own situation is highly precarious: I am an unpaid student teacher about to step into a job market rendered increasingly cut-throat by some savage slashing from those we've appointed to know best. I am likely to have to put up with patchy, miniscule teaching hours and long periods out of work. I may have to move abroad to find a more fixed job. It's not looking great right now. But I like to dwell on the words of Pat Ingoldsby, whose hand I finally shook yesterday, when he refers on the back of one of his books to "the unshakeable belief that we'll always land on something."