We are a nation of abusers. Warped thinking infuses every facet of life and is evident from the top down. I caught an episode of RTE’s Operation Transformation recently where it was revealed that Irish children in 2010 eat, on average, more chocolate in a day than their counterparts of the 1960s did in a whole month. We have moved confectionary from a treat to part of the everyday diet. We also abuse fast food. The occasional takeaway won’t do you any harm, but even the word ‘occasional’ has been misused. It should not, for example, be used in the sentence, “We have the occasional takeaway once or twice a week”, as I heard one woman say. Maybe she meant, “We have a takeaway once or twice a week occasionally”, but who’s to know. On the same RTE programme they tracked a man out for the evening to see how much he drank in calories. He had over 20 pints during the course of his evening. He was so coherent when talking to the camera at the end of the night I wondered if he was telling the truth, but then why would he lie? I know it’s an old debate, but who and what decided that it’s only a good night if you drink excessively. Our abuse of alcohol is well documented.
The recent proliferation and success of head shops is more evidence of our low regard for our personal health. The premise of the head shop is that it ‘legally’ sells products that supposedly give you a high with “not for human consumption” written on practically everything. While sold as bath salts and herbal horticultural goods, no one is getting high from sitting in the bath or gardening. People are quite happily imbibing unknown chemical substances that are clearly marked unfit for the purpose. It is also widely known that the shops have no product insurance and most have large disclaiming signs erected prominently. Yet despite such honesty, they are thriving. It’s a hard concept for me to grasp. “I’m telling you clearly that I haven’t a clue what’s in the product or what it will do to you. Also it may cause you to have a horrible psychotic episode and, actually, it says here on the packet not fit for human consumption! Ok? So, that’s two packs for you then; any seeds today Sir?”
I try to imagine being fourteen or fifteen, gullible and vulnerable (as they will continually tell us about these head shop using teenagers on Deise Am or Liveline.) These parents shouldn’t be complaining to Billy McCarthy or Joe Duffy about the head shops, they should be complaining about the stupidity of their offspring. Fourteen year olds may not be very mature, but surely they can read. “Not for human consumption”, how much clearer could it be? The shop owners must find it difficult to work for laughing. Along with teenagers the proprietors will attest to a large adult clientele (who obviously can’t read either!). There’s a box of Radox in my bathroom but I’d never consider sticking it up my nose. Indeed there are many products under my sink that have “not for human consumption” stamped on them, yet I’ve never been mildly tempted to snort, smoke or drink any of them. Or what about that packet of seeds I forgot to plant? Maybe I’ll just crush them up and smoke them. The fact that these head shops profitably exist is not necessarily a sign of evil prospering, it is a sign of our growing stupidity and how we are happy to abuse the one and only body and mind that we have. Head shop users trust their health to people who don’t know any more about the product than they do. Strangely enough quite a high percentage of people who use head shops wouldn’t dream of buying drugs from a street dealer. The only difference between the traditional drug dealer and the head shop is that the head shop is paying tax, VAT, rent and employing shop assistants; all conventions that the drug barons have consistently avoided. However, when it comes to your health the risks are the same.
Gross abuse of position and power has been the cause of much pain, suffering and hurt in this country. The Willie O’Dea affair sums up political abuse of power beautifully. When all was said and done last week Mr O’Dea considered himself the real victim. He never once appeared to publicly grasp the fact that the problem wasn’t really the nasty, casual attempt to bring down another man’s reputation; that could be put down to the awful backstabbing, cut and thrust modus operandi of the Irish politician. The problem was his apparent disregard for the sanctity and validity of the sworn affidavit. He even went so far in the Sunday papers to compare his situation with the Emmet Stagg sex scandal, pointing out that Emmet Stagg survived his misdemeanour. Perhaps Willie O’Dea has been at the Badedas bath salts.
Pope had little to say
Finally, we don’t need to be reminded of the many agents of the Catholic Church, both male and female, who abused their position, callously stealing the innocence of thousands upon thousands of children. I can hardly stand to think about it as a broad stroke term, let alone the individual horror. So they went to the very top of the Catholic food chain, the Pope and he too abused his position by practically saying nothing. Where was the heartfelt apology on behalf of the church as a whole or the passionate disgust or the shouts of “it must never be allowed to happen again”, or the reprimanding questions, “How could this evil have gone unchecked for so long?” Even as a public relations exercise it would have been welcome. In his failing to address the issue properly the Pope himself abused the victims all over again and abused his own; the clergy that are trying to do a good job. Abuse of ourselves, of others, of our things and of our country is now systemic and it’s down to us as individuals to ring the changes.