Monday 27 July 2015

Talking to the clenched fist

A response to Ewan Gurr of The Trussell Trust writing in The Herald on Sunday 26 July 2015.

I will not call Ewan Gurr stupid. And if he is an idealist then I will not criticise him for that. It is a sad reflection on the politics of the British state that calling someone an idealist might be considered an insult.

I will, however, call Ewan Gurr naive. He is naive to imagine David Mundell might listen to him or be influenced by his accounts of the impact of austerity fetishism on real people. He is naive to imagine that there can be meaningful dialogue with the administration Mundell represents.

Ewan Gurr is naive to suppose that the ruling elites can be made to care by any appeal to normal human empathy. The story of Suzanne will not touch these people as it evidently does Mr Gurr. Such tales leave them cold. Even if they actually heard what was being said, they are incapable of relating to hardship and distress. And even if some vestige of humanity remained which allowed the faintest glimmer of fellow feeling to glow in the foetid murk where once resided a human soul, the ember would be instantly doused as a sign of deplorable weakness and betrayal of the cause.

The cult of austerity is a rigid, heartless ideology. To the limited extent that they might see it at all, the adherents of this cult see the suffering of others as, alternatively, a misfortune entirely of their own making, or a "price worth paying" for what they absolutely believe to be a "greater good". Their programme involves nothing less than a forced reordering of society such that the fate of Suzanne will not be exceptional as economic and political power increasingly accrues to the elites who are the true and sole clients of the likes of Mundell.

What we are witnessing is the unabashed use of imposed poverty as an instrument of policy. People are being made poor in order that they will be neutralised as a possible threat to the power of those who are, in the eyes of Mundell and his ilk, the only ones deserving of power or capable of exercising it responsibly. With the responsible exercise of power being defined as that which serves those who exercise power.

Ewan Gurr needs to realise that the likes of Mundell cannot be talked out of the circularity of their own self-justification. Like a religious creed, the cult of austerity is entirely self-rationalising and impervious to reasoning which references anything that is external to its own reality.

I don't doubt that, in inviting David Mundell to open a foodbank, Mr Gurr's intentions were entirely honourable. They were also completely and utterly futile. The conditions which necessitate foodbanks will not be addressed by talking, however earnestly and passionately, to those who regard those conditions as inevitable, necessary and desirable. Those conditions will only be addressed by removing the likes of Mundell from power - while we still can.

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