RSS sufferers: Don't panic over a fiver

Patricia Feehily


Patricia Feehily

RSS sufferers: Don't panic over a fiver

LONG live Willie O’Dea! As far as I can see he’s now the only deputy in the Dail fighting for a better deal for Old Age Pensioners. Have we lost the franchise, or have they forgotten who made the country for them?

Now, it’s not the miserable €5 signalled in the Budget that cheers me: it’s the fact that there’s somebody in our corner as the Minister and his advisors dangle the titbit in front of us one minute, and withdraw it the next minute, with such parsimonious prudence and righteousness that you’d wonder why we ever bothered building a country for them in the first place.

But Willie is having none of it. He has lain down the gauntlet and it looks as if they’ll have to fork out or fall on their own swords.

A younger acquaintance of mine, seeing that the fiver a week increase for OAPs was back on the Budget table again this week, had a minor panic attack and yelled ‘they’ll break the country’. He suffers from recession survivor syndrome and can’t relax for one minute for fear there’s another downturn looming on the horizon or someone will break the country by sheer recklessness. It seems, he had forgotten that I was a potential benefactor of Paschal Donohoe’s largesse, and was mortified at his own tactlessness. Then he did a U-turn and performed a somersault in mid-air that would have done justice to the most parsimonious Finance Minister. “I’m not talking about you,” he insisted.

“I need that fiver” I said, mercilessly, “and I need a bigger free travel allowance too. I’ve always wanted to visit the Galapagos to trace my ancestors.”

He didn’t find me one bit funny. “We’ll only have ourselves to blame this time,” he muttered gloomily. No scapegoat then, like Bertie Ahern, I mumbled in reply. As I said, he suffers from severe RSS – Recession Survivor Syndrome – and so do half the Government and a whole rake of smart economists like Colm McCarthy who want to see a tighter rein on the Treasury. The Opposition seems blissfully immune to the disorder – for the moment anyway.

The trouble is that it’s catching, especially in the run-up to the Budget. So pervasive is the disorder that most people I meet don’t want anything at all from the Budget for fear they might trigger their own doom or plunge the country back into a deep depression from which we might never emerge. No goodies, please, Minister! Keep a tight hold on the purse strings. What are we like at all?

Many RSS sufferers are turning to mindfulness and yoga to ward off the panic. But they’re spending a fortune on it. Others are resorting to what they call ‘good house-keeping’ and so well they might when they can afford to have a cleaner in at least once a week. For them, the thought that we might be falling back into a state of profligacy again is enough to bring out an all over burning body rash in some cases. No stupid, it’s not a heat allergy from global warming; it’s RSS.

Now I know we’ve fallen victim to a lot of disorders and syndromes that never even existed when we OAPs were young. We must have been much tougher and far more resilient then. But what irritates me about RSS is that it is preponderantly a rich syndrome; the poor and disadvantaged seldom contract it. Maybe it’s because, for them, surviving a recession isn’t any different at all from surviving day to day life. Recession or no recession, some of us have little to lose.

Not for one minute, however, would I suggest to anyone afflicted with RSS or someone displaying symptoms of the disorder that it’s all in the mind and the best way to get over it is by going on a good spree. I’ve seen the genuine suffering it entails and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But really, there is no necessity for all this growing anxiety and fear. I don’t know how many recessions I’ve survived in my time – at one stage back in the 1980s we had at least one a year - but as the old Irish saying goes ‘I never died a day yet’.

I don’t think any of us should be living our lives in the shadow of a recession or waiting to trigger one by over spending. I’m no economist, but I had an economist friend once who firmly believed that the only way to ride out a recession was to owe into the future. God Almighty, you’d be shot at dawn for treason if you advocated something like that now. Nevertheless, it stands to reason that if we all succumbed to RSS none of us would spend a penny and we’d collapse the economy one way or the other.

So give us that fiver then, while you have it, Minister, and stop making a compliment of it. None of us OAPS suffers from RSS.

We’re all survivors. We treat the whims of the fickle global economy with the same equanimity as we treat the struggle to live, and if we’re going to break the country – which I doubt very much we’ll do – then who has a better right? After all, weren’t we the people who made it.