The national newspaper headlines on Monday morning stating that two young Waterford men were lying in a drug induced coma in Waterford Regional Hospital, although tragic, were perhaps inevitable. For a long time drugs have been grabbing headlines, from gangland killings to the more recent furore about whether or not a Government Minister told journalist Justine Delaney Wilson of his own recreational cocaine use. The reality is now on our doorstep and it’s only when things come so close to home do we actually sit up and take notice. It is hard to imagine the pain for the families of those involved. It is particularly difficult for them given the divided opinion and attitude of society. There will be little sympathy in some quarters as the situation will be seen as self-induced. Comments on the illegality of drugs and the foolishness of taking them to begin with are all irrelevant when your child lies in a hospital bed and the future appears uncertain. It is an unimaginable burden on what are more than likely the innocent parents and siblings whose lives were perfectly normal up until this weekend.
Drug taking and binge drinking are commonplace, no longer confined to any one stratus of society. It is all encompassing and it knows know boundaries. It is very much part of the modern lust for excess. More is more, bigger is better, the next big thing, and finding a new high. I have no doubt that the weekend’s incident was driven by the promise of an even greater feeling of wellbeing and the promise of even ‘more fun’. What in God’s name are we searching for? Is it not enough to feel slightly merry on mere alcohol? Obviously not, we have to seek even further mind-enhancing substances to have an even ‘better’ time. A non-existent, short-lived Nirvana is promised but never really materialises.
Today’s guidelines for living are completely out of balance. The lines between need and want have been well and truly blurred and our expectations have been raised to ridiculous levels. We are told we can have it all and the consequences never seem to enter our deliberations. For some it may not be as obviously self-harming as drink or drugs but it can have equal repercussions of pain and misery on those around us. The drive to have a bigger house, a faster car, more designer outfits, a 60 foot television, 900 TV channels or just simply more can have far-reaching effects. We are told we are being progressive, ambitious and hardworking when the reality is that we are robbing ourselves. We assume that the stressful overtime worked is virtuous if it means that the children will benefit in material items come Christmas.
For most of us Christmas just means replacing what we already have. Everyone has a mobile phone, but Christmas stockings everywhere will be bursting with shinier, newer models. Of course you will still only be able to make the same one-on-one phonecall, but the new version will no doubt have a built-in satellite navigation, an MP3 player, e-mail and camera facility and the ability to make you a cup of tea. Televisions will be exchanged for the bigger, brighter HD versions with LCD screens. You can still only watch and enjoy one programme at a time but it will look so much better on a clearer, bigger, screen that is also, thank God, ten millimetres thinner and flatter than the last one. We’ll replace the computers for faster, smaller ones because every second saved is important as we can then spend the time on ‘enjoying’ ourselves and the space saving means we can put some other ‘stylish’ accessory or status symbol into the room.
There is outrage at the suggestion that the Government will raise VRT, particularly on the bigger, lager SUVs that have appeared in most suburban driveways recently, in the upcoming budget. What’s everyone going to do? Families need these monstrosities to do the school run with so that everyone has enough space and can be delivered in comfort. When I was growing up if you had a really large family to transport around your only real option was a Hiace van. Of course it wasn’t deemed very fashionable at all. It’s interesting that today the only obvious difference between a Hiace van and some SUVs are windows! The seats are probably a bit more comfortable also. I am particularly amused when owners of these large vehicles explain about the ability of these monsters to handle rough terrain! I suppose to be fair there is the odd pothole or two on the Dunmore Road.
Sad to say then, even I am not above all this delusion. I am as prone to excess as the next person. I’d be happy to have a bigger better car in the morning, an i-phone, a fancier house and better pay. As much as we all like to bemoan the state of society and how it is hurtling towards hell we forget that most of us are part of it. We believe we are alright if we are not indulging in excessive drinking or drug taking, but it is not the drink or drugs that are really at the heart of this problem it is ‘excess’ and our expectations of life.
We have persuaded our young people that not only is bigger better and more more, but that more and better actually exist and are there for the taking. We have convinced ourselves that our constant quest for happiness can be found in something if we pay for it. ‘Moderation in all things’ was good advice. Even excess in virtues can be a bad thing. Being too thrifty can lead to you being just tight with money, being too courageous can produce foolhardiness.
Life has a way of teaching us if we won’t learn ourselves. The events of last weekend are a wake-up call to everyone. The search for an even greater ‘high’ is what brought this about, legal or illegal. Unfortunately, getting high comes from within and no amount of drink, drugs or shopping found externally will comfort something that we mistakenly think is missing from within.