March 8 - The human face to harsh economics

REALITY has an edge to it that many of us would sometimes prefer to forget. And certainly, in the cut and thrust of politics, the aim of landing a punch on the Government or on the opposition often seems, to the ordinary citizen, to be more important to them than teasing things out or finding solutions or simply telling it as it is.

REALITY has an edge to it that many of us would sometimes prefer to forget. And certainly, in the cut and thrust of politics, the aim of landing a punch on the Government or on the opposition often seems, to the ordinary citizen, to be more important to them than teasing things out or finding solutions or simply telling it as it is.

The shenanigans in the Dáil chamber are all too often unedifying, and a sad aping of the guffawing and hooting that is a frequent feature of the British House of Commons. Yet, mystifyingly, our politicians always seem surprised when criticism is levelled at them, or when people accuse them of not knowing what real life is about and how the events of the past seven years have damaged their lives.

In this week’s Letters page, one man, a widower from County Limerick, spells out in aching, soul-stripping detail what his daily life has been reduced to and to what extent that life is dominated by bills, bills and more bills. It is almost unbearable in its relentless listing but, remarkably, it is totally free of self-pity.

The man simply tells it as it is.

Reality with its hard edge. This is one man who can count the cost to him of feckless governance, of dodgy developers, of unethical banking just as he is counting the cost of what it takes to put it all right.

But what, in the end, is the human cost to this man? How do you estimate in euros the hours of worry he endures? Or how you put a figure on his fear that he won’t be able to pay his way?

In a wider context, how do you restore to people their sense of being valued as human beings, when everything is conspiring to make them feel small, unwanted, unnecessary and past it?

Solving the problems faced by the Irish economy has not been, and is not easy. But if we concentrate only on resolving the economic problems, we will surely face an even bigger one: that of a broken society.

We live, after all, not in an economy, but in a society, whatever the pundits might have us believe. And perhaps there has been too much emphasis on naked economics and economic figures and on the sole acceptable narrative and human beings have become only the extras on the stage.

This week’s letter is a reminder to all of us that we are human, that human beings hurt and that that hurt deserves to be heard, respected, and acted upon.