A civilised society takes care of citizens
The State is moving rapidly away from the belief that it has a duty to balance out fate. Unlucky people are left increasingly to make the best of their unhappy destinies.
Now, the unwritten law is that good citizens have a duty to be lucky. Don’t have the bad taste to be born to poor or inadequate parents; don’t be born with cerebral palsy; don’t get an expensive disease such as cancer; don’t have a child with autism; don’t get Parkinson’s or MS; don’t have a doubly incontinent parent with dementia. If you’re foolish enough to be unlucky in any of these ways, do expect to be repeatedly in line for cuts and don’t expect to be heard when you complain.
This assault on the key idea of a civilised society is outrageous in itself. What makes it unbearable is that, over on the other side of the room, the exact opposite is happening. On the one side, luck is fate – it’s what you’re stuck with. But on the other, luck has been abolished. If you gambled on the Irish banks, every number on the roulette wheel came up with a payout. Take a wild gamble and you can’t lose. Get dealt a bad hand by fate and you can’t win.
Within these parallel universes, entirely different rules apply. The amount of money to be saved by making life miserable for carers is €26 million. What does that kind of money get you in the other universe? Well, in March the Government wanted to save face on the payment of the promissory notes for Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide.
It concocted a complicated arrangement with Bank of Ireland so that it could claim not to have paid the money, even though, in effect, it did.
This elaborate PR exercise cost us an additional €90 million – 3½ times the savings in respite grants for carers. In the world where luck has been abolished, there are infinite amounts of money. In the one in which luck is destiny, there are “hard choices”.
This faces citizens with a hard choice of our own. We can cross our fingers, touch wood, stock up on four-leaf clovers, nail horseshoes to the door, light penny candles and hope against hope that we and our loved ones stay on the lucky side of the street where words such as “respite grant” are in a foreign language. Or we can demand a society where citizens don’t have to be lucky but chancers do.