There is no doubt that the party is well and truly over. The last stragglers remain and it’s time to pay the bill. When you look around at the debris; the empty champagne bottles, the half empty glasses of fat frogs (at €15 a pop) and the uneaten desserts still decorating the table you know that someone is going to protest about the high price. While most people will just happily pay a portion of the bill split equally between the numbers, there will always be the one misery who announces, “I only had a main course and two glasses of water all night. I’ll just pay for my own if that’s alright”. Well it’s not alright. Surely the value of the evening is not purely measured in the food and drink. What about the company you enjoyed, the entertainment, the friendship – wasn’t that worth the extra tenner you feel you don’t owe?
I always believed that people who carved up bills according to what they individually ate were quite a miserable lot. To be honest I haven’t known too many as the odd time it has happened they instantly went on the ‘to avoid’ list. Strangely though, I’m beginning to have a change of heart. Maybe they were right all along. What they were doing was never unfair or dishonest, just a little ‘too careful’ for my liking. Indeed on the odd occasion this stingy method was chosen I would end up paying less than anticipated as I was usually the one driving and not drinking. So even though I benefited, that general ‘careful’ approach to life always struck me as a tad dull; but not anymore.
So here we are in the middle of a recession and greeted daily with headlines such as ‘Taxes will rise to pay €20bn deficit’. Suddenly I can see the merit in only paying for my portion of the bill based on what I consumed. I didn’t eat gluttonously or drink greedily at the party. I lived relatively within my means, spent what I could, paid for what I could and gave what I could and yet I am also going to be penalised heavily for the foolish spending, the large salaried consultants, the luxury travel, the lavish entertaining; generally the good time had by all except me and my kind! And let’s face it, there are a lot of ordinary people like me around (possibly the majority reading this).
On the surface it appears grossly unfair. There you are trying to raise a family and do the best you can only to find that you will be punished for attempting to do it. The really awful scenario is that I have a few friends who would actually be better off if they just gave up their businesses now and claimed social welfare. Doing some rudimentary maths over the weekend one guy discovered that he would only be worse off by about €70 a week if he and his wife both stopped working. They wouldn’t have the childcare bills, they could survive with just one car and they could easily make a few other adjustments. He made the point that with all that time on their hands he could easily do a few odd cash jobs here and there to make up the €70! (Of course this is a theory and only accounts for the monetary part of life now. The value of having a job and purpose and building a future is another thing entirely, but we left that out for the sake of the argument.)
We all agreed that with such imbalances what the Government is actually doing at present is laying the foundation for a thriving black market economy and creating an excuse for criminality. While we like to believe that we are honest and moral, when it comes to feeding our families, paying our mortgages, or just getting those little extras we have all been used to, who among us can honestly say that they would refuse doing some work for cash? While most of us would stop at criminal activity such as burglary or tiger kidnapping, a cash job here and there can easily be justified. Indeed for the very same reasons that most of us will justify cash jobs the less moral among us will justify crime and drugs. And while we can choose to believe that operating in a black economy is less wrong than criminality aren’t they both still ‘wrongs’ all the same? Obviously we now grade ‘wrong’ on a curve. With this value system then you should think that the driver who had five pints and got into his car and killed someone is better than the guy who had seven pints and did the same. It’s a tricky dilemma, isn’t it?
I think that the main problem lies in the fact that those in charge are completely out of touch. They have forgotten that the majority of us pay for our own cars, fill our own petrol, have to fly Ryanair and only get four weeks holiday a year (if we are lucky.) I really think that there should be a battery of experiences needed before anyone can run for politics; particularly the office of Taioseach. These people should be made spend two weeks bringing up children on welfare, another two weeks employed as a PAYE worker, a spot of self employment and a few weeks owning a small business and maybe a suitable position within the guards or a hospital before they finish.
It could be a six month programme and we’d all be better for it. Take these pampered pooches out of their padded ivory towers and see how they would get on in the real world. It would be very interesting for them to walk a mile in the shoes of, let’s say a rank and file member of the gardai perhaps, who has literally just had his pocket picked while still being asked to do the same rotten job and while the price of a packet of Pampers or a pint remains the same: or how about a politician role playing someone who has spent forty years working in Waterford Crystal only to find that their pension is now in serious jeopardy. There are a number of other examples so fill them in as you please.
Politicians are not meant to be infallible or perfect. However, given that there are so many of them you would expect a modicum of common sense and some sort of leadership and creativity.
While I really only want to pay for what I consumed at the meal I suppose we’ll all have to muck in and help pay by an equitable splitting of the bill with higher taxation. It’s definitely unfair and what really sucks is that those who did overindulge don’t appreciate the sacrifice by the rest of us. And the worst thing of all is that we’ll be forced to eat with them again.