At one time western movies, cowboys and indians, were the most popular form of cinema. The top of the tree in hero terms was The Lone Ranger. With his Native American sidekick, Tonto, he got into and out of scrapes on a weekly basis. A running gag is when, holed up by enraged Native Americans, LR turns to Tonto and says “we’re in trouble” to be met with a flinty eyed “who’s this we, white man?” . We in Ireland have a mode of discourse best called Tontosity – pompous urging of ‘us’ to do something when the speaker has no intention of being one of ‘us’. Sometimes, when they are in full form they Tontificate, expressing such views from on high (usually a first class airplane seat)
John Bruton has now told ‘us’ that ‘we’ are going to face reduced pension and welfare entitlements. ‘we’ presumably exclude the global financial leaders to whom he was speaking, in who’s ranks he can now be counted he being the (one assumes well remunerated) Chair of the IFSC. Presumably it also excludes ex-Taoisaigh on €100k plus pensions, ex EU ambassadors to the USA etc. John also slashed at people blaming austerity on the bankers, noting that the welfare bills were rather large. While that is correct, straws and camels come to mind. We dont have to think bankers are witches (as JB thinks we think) to think that perhaps capitalism for all might have been a good thing in the crisis. It wasnt. Bankers, pleading that they, not Murhino, were “the special one” got bailed.
During the crisis we had an unedifing parade of insiders pleading their special, unique, irreplaceable skills as justifying they being exempt from that which was affecting ‘us’. Confusing themselves with a football genius, they prated and tontificated . Our new man in Brussels Phil Hogan will get €300k plus in his first year in the Commission, which should allow him to pay for his holiday home charges and to scrape by, he having refused to take a voluntary pay cut in the height of the crisis, when he was on a mere €110k. We saw 655 brave mandarins face down the might of the state and exempt themselves from pay cuts, drawing the wrath of some fellow who might do something about it, or not. We saw ex-ministers on large pensions get even larger salaries for running broken banks. We saw the top brass in the cratered remains of the banks ‘we’ saved give two fingers to the notion of salary caps, to be met by the rabbit like fury of the state. Those caps were a hardly penurious €500k pa, enough for most of us to struggle by on but not our most lovable banker. We saw union chiefs throw themselves on their own wallets to save us from pay cuts by themselves not taking any. We have state supported banks writing off hundreds of millions to companies owned by non-resident billionaires. Meanwhile the private sector dealt with the crisis by letting people go, the public sector by cutting wages and increasing levies. We, the middle and lower orders, sucked it up and soldiered on. We could go with the Tontofication of our leaders on but lets not, its before breakfast…
Ireland has been led, in the broad sense, by political Tontos of various stripes. John has a good history – in his time as Taoiseach he did restore a lot of equilibrium to the state finances. His place in history is best served by less of this tontosity and tontification