Suzanne Harrington: Who or what actually is ‘our own’?

SUZANNE HARRINGTON: Suzanne Harrington: Who or what actually is ‘our own’?

Who or what actually is ‘our own’?

When four Dublin friends who met at their kids’ nursery raise €25,000 to pay rent for a Syrian family — mum, dad, two small kids — for two years, it generates over a thousand comments on Facebook. The comments — well done, nice work, good on you etc — quickly morph into a chorus of ‘what about our own’.

Hard to know where to start with that. First, why is it that the only actions taken by people keen to prioritise ‘our own’ tend to begin and end in the comments section? What is stopping people worried about ‘our own’ from staging their own fundraisers? Rolling up their own sleeves, getting stuck in, instead of being keyboard critics? And anyway, who or what actually is ‘our own’? Don’t small children fleeing a warzone automatically become ‘our own’, even if they couldn’t find Ireland on a map?

We are living in late-stage capitalism, which sounds a lot like stage four cancer. There is no stage five

Everything is privatised, monetised. Dividing us. Poverty keeps people exhausted, anxious, preoccupied, which means they are too busy trying to survive to make a fuss; the safety nets are full of holes. One of capitalism’s poster boys, Jeff Bezos, earns more in a second than an Amazon employee earns in five weeks. Ten seconds equals a year’s salary. We allow this. It is definitely not looking after ‘our own’.

Homelessness is epidemic in Ireland and the UK, as unremarkable houses sell for heart-stopping prices, and the Dail spends a million on a printer. This is not looking after ‘our own’ either, despite being what elected servants are paid by us to do; administer the basic needs of the population. Housing and health. Education. Public spaces.

In the UK, the six richest individuals are worth more than the 13 million poorest, in the manner of a banana republic. UK infant mortality is soaring as a result of the construct of ‘austerity’.

In affluent Ireland, homeless small children are stuck in cramped temporary accommodation, as street homeless adults die from untreated complex needs. They die from poverty. Old people in need of medical help wait on hospital trolleys for days. We allow this too, even though it happens to ‘our own’.

In the UK, the election is between levelling the playing field and skewing it even further. It is predicted the turkeys may vote for Christmas, as the turkeys have been brainwashed. Billionaire-owned media repeatedly shouting how socialism-lite is actually jihadistbaby-eating communism, rather than the working model of Germany, Sweden, and other countries where the playing fields are rather more level. Where old people do not wait for days on hospital trolleys and babies in poverty-stricken families do not die disproportionately.

Nobody deserves to die of poverty, just as nobody deserves to be a billionaire. It’s not a complicated idea. We are all ‘our own’. We need to own it.

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