Privatisation is the Enemy | Cassandra Voices

Privatisation is the Enemy


When writing about JobPath in 2016 I attempted to articulate something disturbing I had seen when the DSP appeared to collude with private companies to deceive welfare recipients into entering into contracts with the private companies, contracted by the DSP to deliver the JobPath “service”.

I never quite articulated the more general problem of privatisation, and ended up ghettoised really in arguments about welfare and “willingness to work”, exactly as the propaganda of the time was designed to frame the problem. Interestingly, Ken Loach’s film ‘I, Daniel Blake’, which is concerned with the same anomalies in the employment activation system, also ended up similarly ghettoised in the welfare question.

Corner-Cutting for Profit

But during my research I noticed something even more sinister than state collusion with private entities duping the citizenry: for instance, certain private prisons in the United States – which were run by the same companies who ran JobPath – were shut down by the Obama administration when it was discovered that prisoners were suffering malnutrition and dying: due primarily to severe cost-cutting for profit on the part of the private companies.

Similar scandals have emerged here with regard to the Direct Provision service, where services to the “clients” are cost-cut to boost company profits. As I write, a similar scandal is emerging with reports from Ukrainian refugees of inedible food in a migrant centre somewhere in the south of the country.

Similarly, the cervical smear scandal is essentially also a result of cost-cutting as a result of privatisation, cost-cutting that has cost some people their lives, most recently Vicky Phelan, whose final message to us was to always ask questions, the very thing our mainstream media often fail to do.

Privatised Armies

Meanwhile, it has come to light that the Russian state is using private military companies to conduct the war in Ukraine. The arrangement is similar to all other privatisation deals, where a private company inserts itself between public money and the people in return for providing a “service”, depleting the quality of the original service to siphon off as much as it can for its share-holders.

The difference in Russia is that the “clients” – in this case conscripts – are being used as cannon fodder. The US of course has labelled one of these companies, Wagner, a transnational criminal entity. But in a world of transnational corporate bodies that’s just the pot calling the kettle black.

In the YouTube video by Johnny Harris, ‘Who got rich off the war in Afghanistan’, Harris reveals a system of military privatisation in the US that becomes a free-for-all of public-money-siphoning, under the pretext of war, for a plethora of private government contractors, with members of Congress even holding shares in some of the companies receiving the contracts.

And as is often the case with such things, all the shady dealing is hidden and obscured behind innocent-seeming terminology. Like the old song, you say tomayto and I say tomato, it’s a case of you say security and I say mercenary.

Harris’s video shows most clearly the manner in which corporate privatisation of state services is often little more than a system by which private entities, in collusion with rogue government representatives, conspire to basically ransack tax-payer generated public funds for the benefit of private investors.

Put simply, why should millions of poor people have education, health and welfare benefits when a small gang of wealthy people could just as easily have all that money for their yachts, private planes and nose jobs? Hm? Makes sense to me.

Pardoned to Death

In Russia, to find recruits for the war in Ukraine the Russian government offered pardons to prisoners in the prison system who were then contracted as soldiers to the private military company Wagner, becoming the very essence of cannon fodder.

For instance, it is a routine tactic on the front, according to captured Russian soldiers, for commanders to deploy troops of conscripted convicts into conflict areas in order to identify gun emplacements and other targets for their artillery. They achieve this by the simple expedient of allowing the conscripts to be gunned down, giving the commanders the opportunity to see where the gun emplacements are and relaying this information to their artillery.

The point is, like the prisoners in the US private prison system, or the migrants wasting away in Direct Provision, or the people on trolleys in hospital corridors,  or the sincere young men pedalling furiously through traffic as delivery “companies” to make a buck that won’t even pay a rent, while the parent company grows fat and rich; the Russian prisoners on the Ukraine front, having made a pact with the devil in the hope of amnesty, are nothing and no one in the greater game of profit and loss. A great game being conducted by governments and those private interests, often the buddies of government officials, insinuating themselves between public expenditure and the people this expenditure was intended for.

Privatised News

Politics has moved far beyond the old simplicities of left and right, and is now firmly established as corporation versus the individual. This is perhaps why mainstream media in general seems so oblivious to the insidious creeping nature of privatisation into all corners of the culture, since big media is itself corporate.

This is why privatisation is the enemy, because the traditional protector of democratic freedoms, the so-called serious mainstream media, is itself already corporate and privatised. Even when it emerged that the private companies contracted to deliver JobPath were slyly attempting to blur the lines between welfare and criminality, it was reported only by one rag tabloid, while the serious media looked away.

Surrender and Conform

Like that old movie ‘The Invasion of the Body-Snatchers’, privatisation invites you to surrender and conform, softly crooning that it’s the end of all anxiety and worry to simply give up on yourself and just get in line with the company’s needs.

As Barbara Ehrenreich showed in her book Smile or Die, How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World corporate propaganda designed to disarm workers is knowingly implanted by the use of positive thinking and the concept of team-work. In work situations where precarity is the reality the worker is advised to be upbeat at all times.

This insanity-inducing expectation has the effect of controlling potential worker dissatisfaction at source, saving the company the problem of individual grumbling that might lead to unionisation. This allows companies to lay-off workers by the thousand for profit, depending on market fluctuations, without any blowback. Such a culture sends workers the message that they are worthless.

The only way out of this is to find a company to surrender to and hope that you get lucky enough to be kept, a situation that ultimately devours the human qualities of independence that make a culture healthy and productive and generous, the workers under the privatisation cosh of corporations becoming resentful of those dependent on welfare.

In this way the systems of privatisation consume all the good in society and in people. All the virtues that created the society becoming little more than the raw materials the corporations feed off.

Feature Image: Direct Provision centre at Lissywollen, Athlone, in 2013.


About Author

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer. He is a regular contributor to the online news site where his articles on politics and culture have attracted wide interest. A native of Dublin he lives in the West of Ireland.

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