We have to start taking responsibility
This country cannot afford to keep paying out billions in taxpayers' funds for our 'social sedation' system, writes Aengus Fanning
Published 29/08/2010 | 05:00
We are borrowing money to pay State wages and for a thousand types of social welfare. For every euro we take in taxes, we have to borrow nearly the same, just for current spending.
We are not far off the point where we are borrowing money to pay for borrowings.
The evidence of social decay is pervasive. We have only to look at, and see, our streets littered every day with beggars and junkies.
Beggars are allowed to physically molest people for money with impunity, to behave aggressively even in the porches of churches, and sometimes inside the church itself.
Drunks are tolerated roaring and brawling on the streets in daylight, or at night, with equal impunity.
Conditions in many hospitals around the country are chaotic. Even after serious surgery, some patients cannot be guaranteed a bed for the night.
Our young people are demoralised. Only last week, an intelligent young man of my acquaintance hung himself in his south Dublin home.
Chemists doling out methadone at the taxpayer's expense run the gauntlet of frequent burglaries by junkies desperate for a fix.
As for the recession, we were first in, will be last out, and will have had the deepest. The rest is propaganda.
Is all this an imaginary vision of hell? No, it is the New Ireland of 2010, nearly 90 years after independence. It is the story of a cosmic economic and social crisis that most of us can't fully grasp, and perhaps prefer not to.
We are surely not as helpless as we appear to be. We don't need to let our cities and towns fall into decrepitude as premises close and junkies, drunks and beggars move in. We can start taking responsibility right now.
The social welfare system should more properly be called the social sedation system. And
the people who abuse it are the new untouchables.
Without the money and drugs it doles out by the billion in taxpayers' funds, it is said that there would be disorder and possibly something close to anarchy.
But we must face this risk, and lift the suffocating cloak of taxpayers' protection, in order to create a more self-reliant people. And we must be clear-sighted about one thing: the Government has no money, all it has is what it takes from taxpayers.
No matter what propaganda is put out at home and abroad, it seems inevitable that we will have to very soon face the fact that we can't pay our way.
After that happens, we expect Germany, in the guise of the European Central Bank, to bail us out.
The price demanded will be severe, with compulsory cuts in public sector pay, pensions and numbers, as well as in social welfare spending. After that, what? More social disorder?.
Understandably, our people feel helpless and paralysed. We cannot really relate to the debate as to whether Anglo will cost us €35bn or €50bn. We only know that things are falling apart on our doorsteps.
The political circus is seen clearly by the people as a sideshow. We know that changing the faces at Cabinet won't really change anything.
We are psychologically blocked from taking any effective action by our ingrained attitudes, by self-deluding ideas of social justice and political correctness.
If we were to face the truth about ourselves, we might conclude that our social conscience is rarely what it seems to be on the surface.
It is usually no more than a secular version of the old Catholic craw-thumping hypocrisy.
It can be perceived as a self-deceiving way of believing ourselves to be morally superior, of feeling good about ourselves at the taxpayers' expense and, as a result, doing very little about anything.
Alexander Pope said: "Know then thyself, presume not God to scan, the proper study of mankind is man."
We Irish are no better, nor no worse, than anybody else. And we can live with that basic truth of human nature.
Perversely, I believe it is fortunate that we are running out of road for borrowing money. And I mean that. The bottle has to be taken away from the alcoholic. In the short term, this will mean being bailed out by the German-ECB nexus and accepting the fiscal austerity imposed on us.
But to be a vassal state of Germany is a condition that has little appeal for us or, to be fair, for them either.
It is my hope that such a trauma will shake us out of our neurotic denial and force us to take responsibility for ourselves.
If it doesn't, it will mean that we have lost the last vestige of pride in our civil society.
If it does, it will mean that we are on the road to recovering our souls.