The Degeneration of Meaning
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by Darren Maher

People who speak slang do not wish to be understood by the general populace.

The words are deliberately chosen to hide the meaning.
It is not only teenagers and criminals who play these tricks with language: 'Spin-doctors', advertisers and estate agents all constantly strive to find new ways to hide meaning with unfamiliar words.

Lay-offs become 'downsizing', strips of cornstarch pulp become 'fries', and a tiny bedsit becomes a 'compact self-contained apartment'.

It's a fact of modern life.

Regeneration is a nice vague word with positive connotations. It suggests life and re-birth. Demolition is not a nice word, nor is it vague. Demolition means knocking down houses. The 'regeneration' plans are demolition and redevelopment plans. Houses, streets, shops and communities are going to be demolished to make way for developers. People are to move to make way for all this.

Moving people out of their homes, with no guarantee of re-housing them in the new community that you're building, is displacing them.

So 'regeneration' means: displacement, demolition and redevelopment. This is what this word 'regeneration' stands for.

If anybody tells you that they support 'regeneration' then this is what they support.

I don't think that the people of Limerick and their representatives are really fooled for one minute by this word 'regeneration'. I think in our heart of hearts we all know that it comes down to getting rid of everyone there and knocking it all, - so why is there so little objection? Why are people going along with this? Why are people walking away from their homes to completely uncertain futures?

People are accepting this because their present situation has become intolerable.

It has been suggested that the media exaggerates crime in Limerick city.

Loyal defenders of the city point to statistics that clearly show that there are higher levels in other parts of the country. This is true, but it is of no consolation to the victims of violent crime here. To talk about Limerick, Cork and Dublin, in terms of population size and crimes reported, inadvertently suggests the notion of violent crime at an acceptable level. Violent crime does not exist at an acceptable level. No level of violent crime is acceptable. The geography is irrelevant, nationwide or citywide. But for those who live in a 'bad' area, violent crime is why you don't go out after six.

So-called 'bad' areas are just a tragic indictment of the states failure to protect its citizens. Most of the people who live in them live like people who have been conquered and occupied. Most people in 'bad' areas stay at home at night, keep their mouths shut, keep their heads down and pray that they won't be targeted next. They are the vulnerable majority and you won't find them standing up for their rights because where they live, the nail that sticks up is the one hammered down.

The word 'regeneration' means their displacement. It means the demolition of the homes that they have held onto during the criminal 'occupation' that developed in their communities. It means re-development of the area where, if they are lucky, they might one day return and be able to rent a smaller home in a yet more densely populated area.

It is inferred that their displacement and the demolition of their homes is the solution to everything. As if the actual structures somehow encouraged anti-social behaviour and that replacing houses and gardens with higher density apartments and duplexes will solve social and policing problems. I can't say whether this is either extremely naïve or a deliberate lie. It does not seem logical.

Consultation is also a word. It means something very specific. It empowers even inanimate objects. We all know that 'I'll have to consult my diary' for example means, 'I can't agree now, I'll have to check'. There is power there. The diary might say no, and the diary must be accommodated. That is what consultation is. What consultation isn't, is simply condescending to speak with people. That's just a chat. A chat's no good.

If somebody is going to 'tell you how it is', and call that 'consultation' then, at the very least, you might think that you're entitled to hear what you're being told in a public arena, or if not that, then to make a record of what you're being told. Otherwise the only honest way to describe what you are doing is not by saying 'I will consult with you' but by saying 'I'll tell you what the rumours are from time to time, so you don't feel left out.'

People in Limerick were told that they would become involved in a process of Regeneration and that there would be ongoing consultation with the residents as part of this process. They were not told that their homes would be demolished, and that they themselves would be displaced to make room for redevelopment. Neither were they told that they'd be hearing rumours about it from time to time, so that they wouldn't feel left out. But that's what's happening.

There are people whose job it is to point out what's happening.

It can only be concluded from their silence on this issue that they believe that displacement, demolition and re-development are what these areas need.

Perhaps they feel that after all, it's just houses: houses in places where nobody goes, unless they have to, houses surrounded by half-burnt refuse and broken glass. Some of these houses are already destroyed or abandoned and boarded up. Perhaps they feel that demolition and redevelopment is a good thing here. Move the people out and start over. It is a desperate situation, so perhaps they truly believe that if a place has such a bad name then surely the solution is to change the name, change the layout and change the populace. Problem solved.

The problem with this attitude (apart from it's assumption that every resident is to blame for the problems in their area,) is that it never addresses where this 'bad' name came from, or what's to stop the exact same problems re-emerging. It is hoped that the new area will have a greater mix of incomes and economic backgrounds, we can all hope, but realistic town planning is neither based on hopes or dreams but on expectations based on current trends, and previous project experience. If there is a new trend whereby Irish people are actively seeking children from more economically deprived backgrounds for their own kids to grow up with, I applaud it and think that it's wonderful, but I haven't heard anything about it yet and I'm not expecting to.

In the early days of 'Regeneration', there was still money to be made from demolition, displacement and redevelopment. So the large-scale removal of unprofitable people from profitable land under the guise of a social project made sense. Morally reprehensible, but at least it made sense. It made sense for anyone whose sole motivation is money and who feels no responsibility for the people who do all the working and buying and living and dying in their town. It might have made sense to a bank manager, so long as he didn't have to live in the area. Now it doesn't even make sense in terms of profit.

There's a word for pointless, mindless destruction.
It's called vandalism. We already have enough of that in our area. Thanks!

- Darren Maher
Weston Gardens

March 2010