When It’s Over

Human skin structure
Safety

Now that she’s gone, I have lost my reason. I don’t mean I’m mad. I’m angry and bitter, sure, but not unbalanced. I mean that when we were together, life made more sense. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t living my life for her. Heaven forfend. Nor “our future together”, or anything so cute. But I was part of something that was better than myself alone, something that transcended my limitations.

I hate to call it “the relationship”. It seemed far more concrete to me than such a vague term can convey, even if it existed only in our heads (only in mine?). What I’m talking about is an emotional reassurance. The knowledge that someone knew you very, very well – and yet somehow wanted to be with you anyway. The simple touch of human skin coming between you and the abyss. To cross the frontiers of that skin, escape the bonds of individuality, discover the relief of trust.

It wasn’t all security. No. It was challenge too. But that’s a good combination. When someone smart thinks you’re smart, expects the best of you, criticizes you cogently, it brings out your best. It didn’t change my life overnight, no. But over a year it informed every decision in a positive way. Why not do this? Why not set that goal? I felt both motivated and secure enough to look at the future again.

So now. When I think of doing something, the unexpected question comes. What for? Wasn’t there a reason once? The logic of my life escapes me for a moment. I don’t know why I’m doing anything. I survive, of course. And I know objectively that things will be better one day. But right now I feel betrayed, abandoned, imprisoned. Condemned to the oubliette of memory, the echo chamber of self. The walls close in.

Something In The Water

Bertie
Lithium Isn't Going To Fix this

Psychiatrist and – if you recall – former TD Dr Moosajee Bhamjee has been doing some… I’ll call it lateral thinking about Ireland’s worryingly high suicide rate. While others wring their hands, he at least has suggested a solution: Medicating the water. He believes that a small dose of lithium salts would go unnoticed by most of us, while being effective enough as a mood stabiliser to lower the suicide rate.

I was going to go into a long tirade about the problems with this, but in the end I think I can boil it all down to a single question:

Is he mad?

To quote the Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry:

As Lithium is a highly toxic ion, safe and effective therapy requires monitoring of serum levels. Up to 75% of patients treated with lithium will experience some side effects.

And frankly, I would describe that as the least worrying aspect of introducing forced psychoactive medication to an entire population.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Shed A Tier For Social Justice

Aztec ritual human sacrifice portrayed in the ...
Multi-tier medical systems in history

The €50 charge for the medical card is surely a decoy, on the list purely to make increased prescription costs and bed closures seem more acceptable. Don’t let them away with it. There are ways to save money – or save the euro – that don’t involve ritual human sacrifice. We have a two-tier health system more wasteful than you’d see in any nightmare, even if you regularly dream about inefficient public resource allocation.

Consider a moment: We have to maintain a huge national infrastructure, staffed by public employees with all that entails, and then not let the majority of people use it because they’re not poor enough. Those who don’t qualify are forced into the hands of the profit-making health industry – which we then subsidize by allowing them to use the huge public infrastructure. We’ve basically taken on their capital costs.

This government was elected on the promise of introducing a single-tier health system. OK, they could have got elected on the promise of doing a little dance, but this is the one they made and it’s a highly desirable – in fact a necessary – thing. Problem is, it looks as though they’re employing the simple expedient of killing the lower one off.

The Liberation Of Wall Street

The corner of Wall Street and Broadway, showin...
Stop Protesting - If You Know What's Good For You

So Wall Street is no longer occupied; not by protesters at least. The encampment has been swept away on the – quite specious – grounds of health and safety. I’m a strong supporter of laws to protect innocent people, so it always angers me to see them abused. Taking something enacted for public benefit and repurposing it to oppress undermines the rule of law and draws democracy into disrepute.

To compound the dishonesty they were told that, this being nothing more than a cleaning, they would of course be welcome to return as soon as it was over.

Only… Don’t bring camping gear.

Whose health and safety anyway? The order cites that of local residents, the emergency services, and the protesters themselves. The former two you could understand if the encampment did present some sort of hazard. (It didn’t.) Those groups have little choice but to be in its proximity. But the protesters themselves? They’re being ordered to leave on the grounds that by assembling peacefully, they pose a health hazard to themselves.

One wonders what form of protest couldn’t be suppressed on such grounds. Leave the powers that be to get on with it. Resistance is bad for you.

Dial C for Panic

A 1999 Ford Transit Ice Cream Van at Heath Vil...
The Chimes of Nemesis

Should you be worried by the WHO’s warning on mobile phones? Well don’t let me stop you. On current evidence you’re more likely to be run over by a taxi – hell, you’re more likely to be run over by an ice cream van playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. But the World Health Organization has decided that they are a ‘possible cause’ of cancer. So if worrying is your thing, knock yourself out.

I know what you’re going to say. All this ‘putting things in perspective’ stuff is well and good, but getting cancer in your brain is f***ing scary. I am forced to agree. But if we take precautions in proportion not to how likely a threat is but to how frightening, we’ll all go around with crash helmets over our crotches in case we ever meet that Amazonian fish that swims up you. That’s the scariest thing in the world.

So how can we properly calibrate our fear with only ‘possible cause’ to go on – are phones extremely deadly, or only slightly deadly? With billions using mobiles, the prospect of them all getting cancer would make any previous threat to human life seem laughable. Perhaps everyone has a time bomb in their head right now. It could be. Many years may pass before cellular genetic damage manifests itself detectably. With little more than ten years’ real-world evidence, how can we know?

Well of course they have been around longer, it was just that they were rare until prices plummeted at the turn of the century. Indeed in the form of carphones and briefcase-sized portables, mobiles of a sort have been with us since the 70s at least. These were different from ours though. They were on different frequencies, they were analogue rather than digital, they didn’t use a cellular system. Most saliently of all perhaps, they created far stronger electromagnetic fields. So it is entirely possible that while the phones used by the red-suspendered bond traders of the 80s were deadly, the modern kind is not.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

The question for the rest of us is, should this extremely vague pronouncement change our lives? Well speaking for myself I suspect that, pursuant of very many poor lifestyle choices, I am already too raddled with incipient tumours for this to make any measurable difference. But while the jury is still out I think it would be wrong to let kids use phones unnecessarily.

Which is to say, at all. Let the pristine little buggers text.

Daytrip to Damascus

I began to suspect that this was no ordinary stroll

So as I write I’m taking a walk, trying to work yesterday’s mountain out of my bones. That was… something. An eye-opener. You can fool yourself into thinking you’re a lot more fit than you really are. When you have to lie on the rocks every ten minutes just to get oxygen back into your brain, while boisterous schoolgirls, families with children, and sprightly old gentlemen in brown suits are ploughing on past, you eventually come to accept that you’re not in peak condition.

 

If you survive the climb, you get a very pretty view

But is it so surprising, when up until a few years ago I was a heavy smoker, until a year ago this week I was a heavy drinker, and even now live an almost heroically sedentary lifestyle? That I am alive at all is really the puzzle here. But it is time to be nicer to my body. And there’s no better way to start being nice to your body than with the meatgrinder of a six-hour trek up a pile of loose rubble. Or so my girlfriend believes.

It's all your fault, you Welsh bastard

I don’t know, she might be right. As I walk here – typing as I go, thanks to my curious phone – I begin to feel a lot better. The knots are coming out, and I have a sense of somatic integrity I haven’t felt in a long time.

You begin to understand the pilgrimage, and why it was so vital to go up such a difficult and dangerous hill. It reminds you to appreciate the little things in life. Standing. Breathing. Moving around. Being without pain. These are things I value much more today.

Daytrip to Damascus

I began to suspect that this was no ordinary stroll

So as I write I’m taking a walk, trying to work yesterday’s mountain out of my bones. That was… something. An eye-opener. You can fool yourself into thinking you’re a lot more fit than you really are. When you have to lie on the rocks every ten minutes just to get oxygen back into your brain, while boisterous schoolgirls, families with children, and sprightly old gentlemen in brown suits are ploughing on past, you eventually come to accept that you’re not in peak condition.

 

If you survive the climb, you get a very pretty view

But is it so surprising, when up until a few years ago I was a heavy smoker, until a year ago this week I was a heavy drinker, and even now live an almost heroically sedentary lifestyle? That I am alive at all is really the puzzle here. But it is time to be nicer to my body. And there’s no better way to start being nice to your body than with the meatgrinder of a six-hour trek up a pile of loose rubble. Or so my girlfriend believes.

It's all your fault, you Welsh bastard

I don’t know, she might be right. As I walk here – typing as I go, thanks to my curious phone – I begin to feel a lot better. The knots are coming out, and I have a sense of somatic integrity I haven’t felt in a long time.

You begin to understand the pilgrimage, and why it was so vital to go up such a difficult and dangerous hill. It reminds you to appreciate the little things in life. Standing. Breathing. Moving around. Being without pain. These are things I value much more today.