At the end of last year, some bright spark in the dim corridors of power hatched a clever ploy to make irresponsible people pay for their crimes against self and humanity. He – or she, as the case may be – proposed that patients who fall sick from alcoholism-related diseases should be compelled to foot the bill for their medical expenses.
The minister of health announced that this measure would put paid to the unconscionable habit of drunks and soaks and lushes who sponge off the state while they recklessly indulge their addiction. That a good deal more than alcoholics do precisely this – that is, work the taxpayer to the bone, or death, whichever comes first – to underwrite their bad, bureaucratic, and wasteful habits seemed to have escaped the authorities’ notice altogether. Never mind, mister minister, credit where credit is due – or, more relevantly, no credit for sick or dying bar- and pub-crawlers!
Now I, for one, am all in favour of the principle of this measure. You reap what you sow. The wages of sin is death. Bad things happen to bad people who do bad things. But you get the point. The problem is that such a utilitarian move is bound to rebound on the party of the third part. That is to say, the poor souls who drink like fish but cannot swim with sharks.
Those who party like there’s no tomorrow are the ones who will still have the dubious benefit of saying “Cheers!”, “Bottoms up!”, and living off the fat of the land: i.e., you and I – who will, no doubt, grow thinner as the year passes. From worry, sheer fatigue, and now the additional pressure of having to worry about kicking the tickling-one’s-tonsils habit in a sufficient measure so that there’ll be something left over for doctors’ bills.
That the greatest good of the greatest number is an idea of the first water is not in doubt. But only if it is applied evenly all round, like circuses on our stale bread. The whole scheme comes a cropper when the greatest are exempt from the goodness of the plan, the pattern, and the purpose of such modest proposals.
For example, the healthy ministering angel intimated in his announcement that the bottom line was not so much saving lives (although this is admittedly part of the plan) as pre-empting the state having to fork out our money for the general health, wealth, and happiness of dipsomaniacs. Well, how about the hordes of Midian who eat, drink, and make merry at the taxpayers’ expense in sundry departments of government?
The greatest good of the greatest number falls flat on its face like an inebriated cabinet minister coming out of a karaoke bar when the greatest are exempt from giving the bottom line their best shot…To put it in plain-speak: it’s past high time for the Lords High Poo Bah who preach and pontificate about austerity measures to measure up to their own ostensible measure of austerity.
What, not plain enough for you? Well, stop wasting our hard-earned sorrowfully-parted-with tax rupees on tamashas, overseas junkets, and lavish lifestyles that would make the likes of Posh and Becks blush. Still not seen the light? We urge you, O high-living politicos and other low-life hangers on, to cease and desist from the type of corruption, cronyism, and criminal self-indulgence that give even the most decent and civilized of banana republics a bad name…
Austerity measures forsooth! If you drink and die, you buy your own coffin from now on. If you drink and live, you put your money where your liver was. Let’s go the whole hog, shall we? If you smoke and cough so badly that you seek professional help, you jolly well cough up the dough to pay for your cough medicine or your pneumonectomy. And by the same token, if you live high and play fast and loose with your cabals and cliques and claques, you pay the bill… for dinners at the Dorchester, champagne cocktails at the Ritz Carlton, and goose liver pate wherever on the planet you may tickle your palate with it. No more ducking paying for what you consume, dears! Be a man. Pay the bill.
And if you can’t afford it, forgo it. If you have no moolah of your own for that bulging-at-the-seams entourage to the hot spots of the political world abroad, please don’t imagine any more that you can use state coffers as a cash cow.
It is bad for our health, and we the people will no longer stand for it. Just wait till we get back on our feet after our latest binge and we will show you that in 2011, we mean business. Even if business, and commerce, and industry, and all the component parts of so-called civil society are having such a blast of it (one last fling, folks) that they have no time, space, or energy to care two hail-fellows-well-met for the state of the health of the nation.
The Greeks had a word for it
In 2010, Greece – among other countries of the world still reeling from the greed of Wall Street and its acolytes across the pond – had the need for austerity so much as its focus that this little used, much misunderstood concept became the ‘Word of the Year’. We wait with barely bated breath to see if another island-nation halfway across the world will have the guts and the good sense to cut back, trim the fat and dross, and eschew the trimmings and trappings and extras. For if we don’t – politicos in particular, the state in general, and citizens alike – we’re willing to bet our bottom dollar that the ‘Word of the Year’ to come will be “depcession”. That’s what you get when you chase ‘depression’ with ‘recession’. Much harder to swallow than gin without the tonic. Sic. Hic? Haec!