Wednesday, March 11, 2009

If it wasn't for the words of others

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."

26 comment(s):

The Major said...

"I may have to move abroad to find a more fixed job."

Tell you what, once I become President of the World, I will make it a law of nature that people must spend time in a foreign country.
Other than that I have mixed feelings about your post. Sort of like I agree and disagree at the same time. Which is not a feeling I experience a lot when I read blogs. So I'll give you an A+ for that.

Andrew said...

You're absolutely right about living abroad, which i have already done. That sentence probably made it sound as though I think it's an awful thing, but I don't.

as for agreeing and disagreeing with my post, I'm perfectly happy with that. On another day i might not agree with what i've said. It partly stems from reading too many sociology books at the moment, partly stems from having done some of my growing up in Tanzania, and partly stems from me frantically clinging to a bit of optimism for my own sake.

Anonymous said...

It's very simple IMO - once you have a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food on the table you'll be fine.
Anything over and above that is just frills and I think for the most part we could all do with losing a few frills :)

Anonymous said...

Books, alcohol, occasionally food. Sorted.

PS read Norbert Elias if you haven't already. The most sensible sociologist there is.

Radge said...

Once they don't take away my monthly shipment of foie gras and rare cheeses, I'll be happy.

Andrew said...

Whoops - Agreed. But the internet's an essential rather than a frill, right?

Eli - Yeah, gotta have the Jesus juice. i'm currently trying to work out how many bottles of whiskey I'll need to bring with me for a week in Killary Harbour doing outdoor pursuits with Transition years. Nine and a half, I think.

Thanks for the tip on Elias, I'll check that out. he hasn't written a conservative or a radical critique on the modern school by any chance, has he?

Radge - I care not a whit for such frippery. But if those pigs touch my Fabergé eggs...

Meadow said...

Agree with a lot of what you said. No matter what happens, our standard of living is very high and it's true that a lot of people buy stuff because they think they need it.

But what of the people who have been surviving consistently under the poverty line throughout the boom?

Their choice won't be to give up their holiday or car. They already don't have any frills. It'll be to pay the ESB or the gas bill - choose to do without light or heat?

Could you guess that I'm immersed in CSO poverty statistics at work just now, not happy reading.

But you're right. Overall, we'll land on something.

I love Pat Ingoldsby.

Rosie said...

Mick Lally told me a story last night about a man he met in a pub once. "Poverty is no hardship" said the man to his glass of porter, "but it can be a terrible inconvenience".

so Mick bought him a pint.

there you go - a pointless little story about how Miley and i are now BFFs. or BFsF. one of those.

Sarah Gostrangely said...

Like the quote Andrew.

Andrew said...

Meadow - you're quite right. i was more pondering where exactly the poverty line is here. but are there not grants and heating allowances and suchlike for the people who find themselves in those sorts of circumstances? I'm not being smart here, I genuinely don't know.

Rosie - And then he showed you his Lally. And what the fliuch is a BfsF?

Sarah - which quote? I only ask because I'd like you to bump up my comment figures like you did for Gimme.

Girlhurler said...

The guy in the cubicle next to me in work was saying something similar yesterday. How it's all to do with expectations. How people of our grandparents' vintage could marry someone within their village and have happy marriages (with exceptions, obviously!), whereas these days, romcoms have us ruined.

I'm looking at going abroad too. My contract is up in May. At least I've the luxury of preparing for being out of work though, unlike a lot of my friends.

Meadow said...

More and more people are already finding themselves in those sort of circumstances. People who've been working up until now and suddenly find themselves reliant on SW, having to go through interviews and means tests, and become dependent on a frustrating system.

A friend of mine is a carpenter, and the SW person who interviewed him when he went to apply for assistance told him to sell his tools! How's he meant to ever look for work then?

Everything is being cut, the supplementary budget is going to be tough. The money for SW payments comes from the National Exchequer. But what's left there?

More and more unemployed means more going out and less going in. And as we all know, they relied too much on property to generate income and that's ground to a halt now.

In 2007, it took only 5% of the tax take to service the national debt. It's currently at 12%.

Okay, sorry, I'll shut up now! Despite all of this, I'm feeling quite happy and Spring like. And off to have some chocolate.

Meadow said...

All my rambling, and I never answered your actual question!

In 2006, the relative poverty figure for an adult was a weekly income of less than €202.49 per week. This is calculated on living on less than 60% of the median income. Consistent poeverty is surviving on less than this and not being able to afford basic bills, food, new clothes etc.

NOW I'll shut up.

B said...

My parents had an absolutely shit time during the boom, they're gonna have an equally shit time for the recession but with slightly more savings than most other people and being used to cutting back on things.
So I say bring the f*cker on.

Andrew said...

Eimear - "The guy in the cubicle next to me in work"

For a moment there I thought you had unisex bathrooms in work √° la Ally McBeal. Not that I ever watched Ally McBeal, of course.

As for going abroad, guess I'll see you in Mumbai.

Meadow - I see, thanks. would be pretty hard to get by on less than €200, right enough. But only because of the way we've set things up here, with ludicrous rent and property prices.

B - Never really thought of that, the idee that some of those who weren't doing well anyway will actually find things a little easier now. Though I do have a fear that prices of things like houses going down so much will mean that the wealthiest fuckers who are unaffected by all this will snap them up now and sell them at a profit when things get good again.

B said...

andrew: the wealthiest f*ckers aren't the unqualified sh!ts that made a fortune from the recession, all of those idiots milked it right up til the end and now have tons of houses that no one wants to buy off them

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear Pat Ingoldsby is still writing great stuff. Interesting and worrying post, Andrew.

red said...

I'd never heard that P.I. quote before but it pretty much sums up my philosophy of life.

Sarah Gostrangely said...

Ah!You smart cookie.

Sarah Gostrangely said...

I seem to be quite the comment-box whore now.


Sarah Gostrangely said...

This quote:

"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)

Sarah Gostrangely said...

That do you?

She Likes It Loud said...

Sucks here too but in different ways. Moreso if one is artistic and without health insurance.

I'd be willing to marry a Mick that needs a green card if they get me health insurance, preferably one that looks like Cillian Murphy heheh.

Any quiet doctors that are never home want to move to Florida?

Anonymous said...

Nicely balanced post Andrew. Fair dues.

Andrew said...

Tessa - Thanks. Yeah, it's worrying, but not insurmountable.

Red - And mine. Pat was delighted to be greeted the other day, it made me feel terribly bad for never having said hello before. It was about 2 o'clock and he said we were the first people to be nice to him all day. Then he and the missus nattered away in Irish. I think they might be having an affair.

Sarah - Gimme was right, you are a sweetie.

SLIL - Only one: my cousin. But whether she likes girls or not, I don't know. Or whether you do. And, come to think of it, she looks nothing like Cillian Murphy. Though she would have a similar accent to your ears.

narocroc - cheers, dude.

She Likes It Loud said...

Hah! Same sex marriages aren't recognized where I live, sadly. Citizenship is not granted either, which I've whined about in my blogging. I'm not into chicks (even if they resemble Cillian) or marriage, but a faux marriage of convenience would be at least something new to do, I'm fucking bored.