All Is Well on Planet Varadkar

Tubridy and Varadkar

The problem with Ryan Tubridy’s interview approach is that he appears to be given a list of questions which he rushes through as if he believes that the object of the interview is to exhaust the list of questions. Once the questions are done the interview is over. Phew. Now the quiz!

The problem with this is that all the questions are taken as having equal weight and substance; there is no room to improvise – though Tubridy is far from being Robin Williams in terms of improvisation – and worst of all perhaps, there is no time afforded to the interviewee. This, in terms of the Parkinson school of TV interviewing, is probably Tubridy’s cardinal error.

A few weeks back, even Mary Robinson, that paragon of patience, got a bit tetchy with Tubridy’s interruptions; because, quite simply, they demonstrated that he wasn’t listening.  He was looking at his list, desperate to get to the end, so that he could do his more comfortable act of taunting the poor people of Ireland with baskets of bank-notes for a stupid money-drooling quiz.

Gay Byrne, like Parkinson, knew that once you had them talking you let them at it. Tubridy, on the other hand, seems to regard interviewees as obstacles between him and the completion of his list of questions.

The interview with Leo Varadkar should have been about one question and one question only: the 10,000 homeless people, parked in hotels at the taxpayer’s expense, as sacrifices to the market, in the hope of getting private investors to build houses to save Fine Gael having to go against its right-wing ideological principles by embarking on a believable social housing programme.

Tubridy quoted Micheál Martin as saying that there was an upper middle-class resistance to building local authority housing. Varadkar looked pained, puzzled and bewildered at this one, denying there was any class prejudice in Ireland. Sure wasn’t he from Blanchardstown and now he’s taoiseach. Case closed. This, by the way, doesn’t count as evidence, since it is merely anecdotal.

Tubridy wasn’t about to launch into a discussion on Ireland’s non-existent class structures, not with a quiz no more than ten minutes off; so, the exploration of alleged class prejudice in Ireland ended with Varadkar implying with a look that maybe Micheál Martin was delusional.

If I may offer a word. The Irish class system can’t really be discerned from the top, you have to be nearer the bottom to gain a full appreciation of the biological functioning of Ireland’s arsehole.

“One thing we don’t want to do,” said the taoiseach, “is bring back 100% mortgages.”

Well, that seems like a good idea. We all know where that led. It led to homelessness when the banks became merciless and evicted families, leaving the tax-payer to pay hotel bills to hoteliers who are doing really well out of homelessness, thank you very much, buying up property by the bucket-load and entering the equally lucrative private-rented sector.

As Hot Chocolate once said: “Everyone’s a winner babe, that’s for true.”

How about raising the minimum wage, putting a freeze on rents and building social and affordable housing?

No. We can’t do that. We know where that led. Ghost estates. Pyrite and mica (sounds like the ugly sisters) and Priory Hall.

So, best not to build at all while we conveniently forget that all those building failures have absolutely nothing to do with building social housing, and everything to do with unregulated building during the boom. The ghost estates, as everyone knows, were a legacy of the financial crash, caused by the banks who were equally unregulated. None of these things had anything to do with social housing.

Isn’t that a lie? On the Late Late Show. By the taoiseach? Or am I being old-fashioned?

Tubridy played good side-kick by defining the homelessness crisis as a problem that the government just can’t get a grip on. A difficult insoluble that is taxing the best brains of the nation; namely, the taoiseach’s.

How many times have you heard a government arguing for their own ineffectiveness to explain their lack of action on an issue? I don’t think I’ve ever heard that angle played before. It’s as if the government, and the taoiseach in particular, are also claiming to be victims of the homelessness crisis.

Varadkar feels bad. Not as bad as the 10,000 people eating fast food in cheap hotels for the third year on the trot, but, he loses sleep, he says. Though, I have to say, it really doesn’t show. Have a look at Michael Cohen. Now that’s losing sleep.

The reason the taoiseach won’t embark on a social housing programme is because he doesn’t believe, as he stated in the Dáil some time back, that people should get houses “for nothing”.

However, he and every other privileged entity, got houses for “nothing”, got college educations for “nothing”, and so on, through their parents. Through inheritance. As the 60% of the top 1% gained their wealth, through inheritance. For nothing.

There was a super-rich man called Christoph Gröner featured in a German Public Service documentary called “Inequality – how wealth becomes power.” (available on YouTube.) He said that when you achieve a certain level of wealth you can’t even throw the money away, such is the system geared to reward money.

As he sat in his private plane he remarked, “Let’s say you have 250 million, you could throw it out the window and it’ll come back in through the door. He goes on to say that everything you buy has the effect of increasing the object’s market value. “You can’t destroy money by consuming,” he says.

In a sense, money is meaningless. Banks can make the stuff on a whim. Money is not a problem. The will to house the poor is a problem. Not the money for the houses, but the urgency to do so. But Varadkar doesn’t really suffer from that urgency. As he helpfully pointed out last year, people are homeless in lots of places, it’s not just here. Homelessness is a fact of life. Just one of those things…Do you like my socks?”

Tubridy needed to get to the next question. He played good side-kick again by leading into the Health topic with a question that is just a dream for any politician intent on privatising health-care.

“Is the HSE fit for purpose?” says helpful Tubridy, nicely framing the service as the problem, which could no doubt be “solved” by privatisation.

The Tories do the same in Britain in their efforts to dismantle the NHS. It’s a favourite strategy of the right, as everyone knows. Starve the service of funding, run it down and then say “It’s not fit for purpose” before proposing some “guy” you happen to know who could do it better, for a fee.

It must be comforting for the taoiseach to know that he has a leading light of the main media mouthpiece in Ireland riding shotgun with him on this one.

Tubridy is too privileged himself to get into the style of interviewing that is needed to really interrogate Fine Gael’s privatisation goals; as the taoiseach is too privileged to even see the problem of homelessness in the first place, except as a kind of abstract “problem”, out there somewhere.

Privileged individuals almost always believe that what they have, was achieved by their own personal qualities, not by inheritance. Sure, their parents put them through the good schools and on into college and fed them the best of food and sent them on exploratory tours and holidays and educational adventures in foreign lands, like interning with US republicans, and helped them out on their first bike, first car and first house, and made their network of professional contacts available to them, along with their knowledge of money, the world, who’s who and how everything operates.  But apart from that wee leg up, the boy did it all himself by getting up early in the morning and applying himself to his studies.

From that blind position, the privileged look down at the disadvantaged and the homeless and think, I’m doing well, why aren’t you? And from that misconception they derive the conclusion that the poor are lazy. All this in a world where 60% of the top 1% are inheritors of wealth. There are increasingly fewer self-made men at the top. Money begets money, privilege begets privilege.

This blindness of the privileged was brilliantly summed up by the taoiseach himself a while back when he suggested that first time house-buyers, who can’t earn enough from the rigged employment and housing market to buy a home, should borrow the money from their parents.

Clearly, in his privileged reality and experience of the world, all parents are rich.

This is the Marie Antoinette phenomenon. When Marie Antoinette said “let them eat cake”, she likely wasn’t being callous. It’s more likely that in her world if you don’t have bread, well, you eat cake! What’s the problem? Similarly, for Varadkar, if you don’t have money for a house, get it from your parents. All parents are rich, aren’t they? What’s the problem?

Tubridy is also ridiculously privileged and wonderfully blind to it. His grandfather, Todd Andrews, was a powerful Fianna Fáil figure when being a powerful Fianna Fáiler really meant something. He was a fixture on several state boards and a Director General of RTE.

Tubridy likely believes that he got the Late Late Show gig on merit. Though maybe he’s not that innocent. Because he made an interesting slip during the Late Late Show in London recently. He tried to put down a heckler by mocking the cheap seat the heckler was in, taking this as proof of not knowing the right people and mocking the heckler for being so socially insignificant and “disconnected”.

Tubridy is the natural consequence of a system distorted by nepotism. He’s not great at the job, but he has the position because the position is seen as valuable, a seat of power, which it is, and is now occupied by Todd Andrew’s grandson. Naturally the occupier of such a position will be inclined to ingratiate themselves with powerful figures, since it is powerful figures that decide who is connected and who isn’t; who gets the job and who doesn’t; who gets the good seats at the front and who is parked away up in the gallery.

So Tubridy’s non-interview of Varadkar is the consequence of habitual ingratiation in a rigged system, as he struggles to be the best little TV interviewer he can be, by asking all the right questions in the allotted time. The resulting meek performance is the natural sum of the parts of the quintessential Yes man.

Both Tubridy and Varadkar have a shared boast. They both claim to be descendants of freedom fighters. But the point seems to have escaped them both that their grandfathers and Granduncles, Tubridy’s in Ireland, and Varadkar’s in India, both challenged the same imperial system on a basic platform of demanding equality and respect from a privileged class out of touch with the plight and misery of those people the freedom fighters represented.

It’s likely then, that if the revolutionary grandads and granduncles met their “freedom-fighting” descendants, they would be absolutely disgusted with the pair of them, lolling complacently on hard-won laurels involving real blood and sacrifice, and delivering, by their inaction, real misery and inequality on a new oppressed class, while they both connive with the wealthy and the powerful in a plain old resources grab.

All is well on planet Tubridy/Varadkar. In fact, the only real problems in their world, the ones that have been spoiling Varadkar’s taoiseach honeymoon, are all these homeless, sick, underemployed, underpaid losers clogging up the “organisation” and bringing all manner of unwanted stressors into the new taoiseach’s career choice.

Who are they? Where are they coming from, these dregs of humanity? Varadkar doesn’t appear to realize that all the neo-liberal policies he pursues with such privileged certainty only serve people who are turning Ireland, like the US and the UK, into a kind of factory that relentlessly produces human and environmental casualties.

But Varadkar believes the human casualties are self-created. He believes the casualties are the problem in an otherwise well-functioning “organisation”. That the sick and the poor are the disease, rather than the symptoms of the disease of neo-liberalism which he represents and serves like…well, like the CEO of some American corporate organisation in all its profit-seeking ruthlessness.

Varadkar still believes he is progressive, simply because he is young, as taoiseachs go. That’s the entire Fine Gael gambit. To use youth to appeal to the young who are working for peanuts, being driven into exile and can’t afford either to rent or buy accommodation, no matter how many jobs they have.

But Varadkar has offered them the 22-year plan (Catch-22?) in Ireland 2040. Just hang around for a quarter of a century there lads and Leo will eventually pull something out of the hat. Forget science’s 12 years before climate changes ends the game. Leo says we have 22 years, so we have 22 years. Until then you’ll have to content yourselves with living the high life vicariously through admiring the young taoiseach. It could be you.

Varadkar doesn’t appear to realize that the neo-liberal game he is selling is already past its sell-by date. Climate change has changed everything. Everyone knows now that late-stage capitalism and all it represents, with its 100 corporations eating up the world, is the real fox in the hen-house, not the unfortunate socially disadvantaged, bled white by rigged systems.

It’s time for new ideas. Everyone knows this now. It’s a whole new game. But Varadkar is intent on stringing out the old game to keep himself in a job. Brexit has been useful in this respect. The longer that goes on the better for Varadkar.

He has two years in which to call an election and earn a valid public mandate, rather than the business arrangement that has made him taoiseach.

It’s entirely up to me when to call the election, he tells Tubridy, with barely concealed pride. Like the privileged kid who owns the football and gets to call time on the game.