Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lives of Quiet Desperation

They say if you've been playing poker for a while and you haven't spotted the chump, then you're the chump. It has taken a while for the penny to drop, but after yesterday's Cabinet reshuffle I've finally figured who the chump is: it's the Irish people.

As it happens, I also got to review the responses yesterday to a question we ask every month of 850 different people, namely: "how do you feel about your life at present?" It's asked of a cross section of people from all over the country, and it's open-ended so people can answer with words of one syllable (many do), or with longer responses. We ask the question on behalf of Chemistry as part of their Zeitgeist study. Reading the longer responses can be sobering. Many people are doing okay and still dodging the bullets fired at them by our faltering economy. But not everybody is doing so well. Below I contrast the Government's announcement yesterday with the lives lead by a small cross-section of our fellow citizens in March 2010 (these are verbatim quotations, typos and all, though I've deleted any names or other details that might identify a specific individual as the survey is anonymous):

Batt O'Keeffe will become Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department will take responsibility for Innovation.
I was self employed up to 6 months ago, I had to close my business due to the recession but I am unable to get social welfare. This does not encourage entrepreneurs. I am very worried about my finances I owe a lot of money and am barely making ends meet. I do not want to have a bad credit rating in the future so I am planning on selling a foreign property in order to pay off a business loan and other personal debt. It is very annoying that a small business person such as myself will be held accountable for a small loan when larger companies who owe hundreds of thousands seem to get away scot free and normally open up again under a new name. 44 year old female, Leinster

I have a bleak outlook on what will become of Ireland as at the moment have spent all my life getting my house and business for which I have always paid my mortgage on time, still owe some and if things stay as they are I could lose the lot. Lots more things but this is the main one. Never felt so depressed because of this. 51 year old female, Munster

The level of deceit, stealth taxes and overall erosion and lies by politicians and institutions is almost laughable if it were not so painful.Why should I or anyone else have to pay a raised mortgage interest level when rates tumble just because the lending institution is not deemed credit worthy enough by that from which it wishes to borrow? If I was deemed uncredit worthy the door would be shut in my face and that is what should have been done with them. 57 year old female, Leinster
Mary Coughlan will remain as Tánaiste but will move to the Ministry of Education and Science, which will become the Department of Education and Skills.
I am a full time Science student in my final year and the prospects in science in ireland next year are very limited now compared to when I entered my course. I am unable to get a part time job after numerous job interviews and a lot of experience. I am fully dependent on my parents’ income, which is very low. My father has his own shop which employs both him and a family member and is in severe debt due to the recession and is facing closure, and therefore we are facing losing everything. 23 year old female, Leinster

Money is always a worry. I get paid at the end of every month and have to budget my money accordingly. I am never left with money at the end of the month and most of the time I owe some one €100 which I needed because I couldnt even afford a bottle of water. My brother is currently unemployed and has only recently been approved for the dole. I find this crazy as he was studying pharmaceutical science in college for four years and cannot complete his final diploma year as the government wouldnt approve a grant for him. So he has been unable to attend college, unable to get a job, and unable to get the dole for quite some time. I think it's a disgrace that a young man with high intelligence and a want to learn and better himself, was not approved the dole when there are certain people who have no intentions in getting a job getting the dole and everything else paid for. I think it's a disgrace, and the government are not paying enough attention to the people. I can get very depressed worrying about money and i'm sure a lot of people are the same. 19 year old female, Leinster

Im finding it hard to get any type of part time work. I feel that weve let in too many foreign nationals and that we cant afford them. Theyve been the backbone of the lower paid sector and its unfair to send them home , but we should have had the foresight to see this coming [I did !!] I could see it in America, I wondered how we could afford to keep these people on welfare, I worry about the Soc Welfare system, the invalidy system. About anarcy, the people on the street are angry and the way politicians are telling us to pull our belts in , and yet giving themselves raises, expenses, New touches to the Dail via a shop etc. 48 year old female, Leinster
Éamon Ó Cuív will become Minister for Social and Family Affairs, while the Department will become the Department of Social Protection, and take responsibility for FÁS.
I feel at my wits end. I cant pay the bills that are coming through the door. My job is down to a three day week. The dole is not worth the paper it is written on. My family are suffering - its a sad day when you cant afford the basics in life i.e. food shopping and heating. 40 year old male, Leinster

The future is unclear - I am worried that interest rates will rise making our mortgage repayments higher. We have no savings to fall back on because we have used these to make ends meet because of pay cuts. We have had to cancel our health insurance so I am worried about that too incase one of us becomes ill. We cannot afford to go to the doctor if one of us gets ill. 37 year old female, Munster

Our politicians have let us down very badly and one could be angry with them. They just dont seem to understand the people of the country; I think its partially because we allowed them to reward themselves whenever they wished and now the gap between us and the earnings and perks they enjoy, means that they just dont understand. 60 year old male, Munster

I hate opening the mail each day, as it is usually bad news, threats for repayments, etc. Unexpected expenses can cause a lot of stress, we’ve had to sell our house to clear our debts, but at least that will stop us being slaves to the banks, and give us time to relax more and worry less. 55 year old female, Leinster
Mary Hanafin will become Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism, whilst Equality will go into the Department of Community and Gaeltacht affairs.
I have lost my job, have no prospects of being employed again, I have a very limited income, my investment and pension are down, and I have to wait another year to get my OAP that I paid for over 40 years of work. Now I learn that a 56 year old minister has resigned gets a pension, and an lump sum................I wish you could get that in the private sector when you give up a job. So I feel very depressed, what is the point of going on. 59 year old male, Leinster

I feel life should be great for anyone my age 51years old that have worked from age 16years. You would think I should be wealthy, but I have never had really well paying jobs, it was always min wage, the wage packet disapeared as quickly as I receive it. I'm a very healthy person I'm greatful for that. I lost my Job last May 2009 along with many other people. I find it difficult to even get a part time Job anywhere at the moment. I'm living now on my Socail Welfare payments only. I never imagined that this is how it would be at my age. I keep hoping to win a hugh amount of money so that i won't have to think about bills ever again. 51 year old female, Munster

I can't pay bills. Schools looking for more money to meet rising costs so parents have to fork out. Everyone is looking for money. Both working to keep roof over our heads with nothing left at the end of the week and nothing to look forward to. 43 year old, Leinster
Ciarán Cuffe will have responsibility for horticulture, heritage, sustainable planning and transport while Mary White will have responsibility for equality, human rights and social inclusion.
I am earning less than i was when i started six years ago. I seem to have more costs. This country makes me laugh. We seem to pay for everything twice and still not get anything. My road tax is ten times what my mother pays in the north. What do we get for prsi? My doctor still wants 50 euro to sign his name. 31 year old male, Leinster

I am earning less money than a few months ago due to changes at work. Extra government levies are directly as a result of the ecocnomic situation. I work for an American multinational and pressure to remain competetive and keep jobs in Ireland has directly impacted my earning power eg no overtime, changes in shift patterns, reduction of bonuses. Also my college going son was let go from his part time job so I have to financially support him. I am trying to claim some social welfare benefits ( Family Income Supplement) but due to work to rule and under staffing I cannot find out if or when I may get any payment. 46 year old female, Connaught

i feel sometimes that i am just living from payday to payday, if i can just maintain the status quo at the moment i will be doing well. if I can meet my bills as they fall due and continue to give my 4 year old a good life for the time being i will be ok. i feel sometimes that i regret staying in the country over the last 6 years. i graduated college in 2004 and feel that perhaps i would have had a better life and now been able to give my daughter a better life in another country. for now we need to keep our heads, continue to work as best we can, get our government out of power and give try to make sure this recession has as little negative affect on our children as possible. 30 year old female, Leinster
Of course, now that the pressing issue of a Cabinet reshuffle is out of the way we can expect immediate action to solve the nation's problems. What kind of action? I got an example through the post the other day. It was a letter from Barry Andrews, our local TD and Minister for Children & Youth Affairs. It was a nice ceadúnas letter from Dáil Éireann. I got one, my wife got one, and my son got one. My daughter didn't get one (too young to vote). And the hampster was a bit annoyed too.

Naturally I tore open the letter eager to know the Minister's plans to mitigate the recession's impacts on our fellow Blackrock residents only to discover that it concerned 'the lack of sweeping taking place on George's Avenue and Frascati Park'. He added that he had 'been in contact with Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council in relation to this'. The letter then went on to explain the arrangements that had been made for sweeping the roads between 8am and 9am to ensure a 'thorough cleaning' ... and that was it.

Now you could interpret this in two ways I suppose. On the one hand you could see it as a clear example of democracy at work, and a microcosm of the intimate relationship between the Irish people and their elected representatives. On the other hand you could see it as a clear example of why our democracy isn't working (especially for 436,956 of our fellow citizens), and a microcosm of the deeply dysfunctional relationship between the Irish people and their elected representatives in the midst of a catastrophic economic crisis. I will leave you, dear reader, to decide which interpretation I lean towards.

But if this morning you're feeling a little let down, perhaps even a little cheated after yesterday's reshuffle then now you know - you're the chump. Time to demand a new croupier.

1 comment:

  1. These are all good testimonials to the frustration of the suffering multitudes.
    When will they transfer anger into action?
    Like camping out in Kildare Street until this gang are gone?


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