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The New Irish Myth: The Social Welfare Culture

The headline of the Irish Independent (21/10/2013) is screaming at us in big bold letters: “THE SOCIAL WELFARE CULTURE”

Whatever Enda Kenny will do about the social welfare in long term is to be seen, but it seems the first and most important task for the government is to get the society to recognise the 'problem' of our social welfare system.

This reporting is a clear example of how the ruling classes, their political parties in government and the big media operates.

Leading up to #Budget2014 and after the announcement of it, there has been an intensified effort from the government parties, and the mainstream media, to shift the focus onto concepts such as the 'social welfare culture' and the 'social welfare fraud' etc.

The practical and social insanity of Joan Burton's announcement that “Garda checkpoints will be set-up on industrial estates and airports to weed out welfare cheats” is self evident. Putting the actual implementation of it aside, the language of the government on this subject is also clearly designed to 'criminalise' the social welfare recipients and turn the concept of social welfare into a social taboo in the minds of the people.

'Fraud'... 'Weeding out'... 'Garda checkpoints'... 'Social welfare tourists'... 'Lazy youth'... 'Foreigners on social welfare who are not residing in the country'...

These are now the new highlights of the government's political language which are constantly brought to the public domain for debate.

I would argue that Joan Burton and the government aren't too concerned about the practical difficulties of implementing these Garda checkpoints - given the vast size of the task and the limited resources etc.- but they are trying to create a myth that social welfare recipients are potentially fraudulent and we must send in the police force to catch them.

Ultimately, this myth will serve the purpose of turning the historically positive concepts of 'social welfare' and 'social welfare state' into 'dirty' concepts that one should 'not speak about'.

Demoralising the hundreds of thousands of unemployed people may indeed - as the government would hope - disable them from protesting against the cuts, job losses and demanding what Labour Party and Fine Gael promised at the last general election.

This myth will also have a very useful purpose of dividing the various sections of the society and turning them against each other. People who are lucky enough to - still - have a job could be turned against the 'social welfare criminals' instead of asking hard questions about the cuts and bail-out taxes.

All of this are not a new invention. We have seen similar manipulations on issues such as immigration, asylum seekers, private vs. public sector wages etc.

A government that has consistently failed to implement measures such as creating jobs, initiating a better and progressive taxation, collecting the full corporation tax (and increasing it, to bring in more revenues) among many other things; and that insisted on cutting back public services, health, education, social welfare; furthermore, economically attacking the majority of the society while protecting the banks and bond-holders, will surely benefit from this myth and the diversion from the much needed real debate.

Being on social welfare is not a crime but a right that has been earned through working class struggle long before our time.

Collecting social welfare is not a choice but a result of job losses caused by the very same circles that the government is protecting and making sure they are not hurt by their own crisis.

Being on social welfare is not a cultural attitude but the direct outcome of having no jobs. The graph below clearly shows that the 'culture of people' is to work and achieve a better live for their families. The unemployment rate starts increasing as a direct result of the financial crisis and lack of investment in new jobs. (Link to Graph)


This government knows damn well what caused the huge increase in unemployment numbers and why people can't get a job. That's why they don't want to focus on the real cause of the problem and instead create a moralistic myth about the social welfare system.

We have yet to see the real culprits of this crisis to be held accountable and pay for their actions that forced thousands of people into unemployment and poverty.

It is not surprising that Enda Kenny won't 'tackle the problem of lack of jobs' but he will 'declare war on social welfare culture'. It is also not surprising why this headline is printed as is rather than asking the question of 'is there a social welfare culture?'

We may yet hear the advanced version of this as 'war on social welfare terror', given that we are so used to states declaring war on things...

The problem of social welfare is not that 'it is too much', but 'it is too little'.

The issue isn't that 'people enjoy being on social welfare' but that 'people are stuck in vicious circle of constantly reduced social welfare conditions and lack of jobs'.

The reality is not that there is an 'organized social welfare fraud', but that 'many young people are starting to emigrate to find jobs and not to be reliant on social welfare'.

The real 'crime' isn't that 'thousand of social welfare cheats are entering industrial estates every day' but 'hundreds of thousand actually aren't entering' since there are no jobs in empty building and factories.

The problem isn't that 'people have a culture of cheating' but 'the government has a culture to hurt majority of people and protect the minority'.

The lie is not coming 'from the people on social welfare' but 'they were on the election posters of the two government parties'.

The real myth isn't that 'social welfare is abused by people' but 'things are getting better by day'.

The objective of this government isn't to make things better for the people but to ensure that the system can go back to the bubble that benefited the small minority of investors, bond-holders and capitalists.


And social welfare is not a dirty word but a basic necessity for kids to eat, families to survive and people to have at least a tiny bit of hope of building a normal life.

A decent society is not a society where -

The elderly are blamed for making a phone call;

The poor are seen as a burden because they are sick and are in need of proper healthcare;

The children are deemed to be a problem because they need good education;

The single parents are labelled as useless because they can't work;

The women are a pain because they get pregnant;

Families are stupid because they can't pay their overpriced mortgages;

The young people are stigmatized because they need to survive and want to have a hope to build a decent life...

Fortunately, the Irish society and the ordinary people of this country are decent people and they will see through all of these myths, manufactured realities and fake arguments.

And that is exactly what this government doesn't want.

And that is exactly what we need to help happening.

There is of course a level of demoralisation, a lack of organized fight back but that is not a permanent thing and we see on a daily basis some fightback of workers and communities etc.

There is also the issue of trade unions and the leadership of most of the unions not willing to fight against the cuts. But there are thousands of workers who have been patiently given the government time to get their act together. There isn't much left to cut and take away from the workers.

And maybe we are coming to a point that the masses have nothing the lose other than their chains.

These are difficult but at the same time interesting days.

Solidarity with all the suffering, good people of this country...

Solidarity with the grey army...

Solidarity with the young people who shout: “We are not leaving..!”

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