Let’s hear it for the whingers

Dr Paul Heslin | 26 Nov 2018 | 0 Comment(s)

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Dr Paul Heslin feels that more people need to complain in order for things to change

Sometimes one name can get the reaction you want, out of a friend or a foe. Try it out. Just say ‘Joe Duffy’. Nine-out-of-10 cats who show a preference will say they never listen to Joe. I get more fun out of this by saying, ‘I meant Joe Duffy Motors, BMW dealers in Finglas’. Most doctors like BMWs. Fancy ourselves. So you are learning the art of creating doubt and confusion with one name: Joe Duffy.

Most say that RTÉ’s Joe Duffy is SO depressing. He promotes whingers. But these are the same people who say that they didn’t go to the Phoenix Park to see the Pope, but in fact actually watched every minute on TV.

I will put my hands up and say that I am addicted to Joe. Yes, I am. It is my caffeine hit. His show gets me angry, which I presume is his agenda and modus operandi.

This lunchtime, Philip Boucher-Hayes was covering for Joe. And I had just picked up a book written by Philip, (nephew of RTÉ’s Myles Dungan) and his wife Suzanne Campbell called Basket Case. We Irish, writes Philip, produce the best food in the world but the powerful people and politicians are not protecting nor promoting this important indigenous industry. They risk destroying the golden goose by neglect. Food should be protected from capitalist forces by nation states, says the book.

Back to Liveline. Today’s caller tells Philip that a big chain that runs many of the petrol outlets and associated food shops in Ireland loses money when a significant number of motorists drive away without paying. Most are accidental robbers who get distracted and apparently forget to pay, but some are real scammers and series petrol runaways, with changed number plates to boot.

Understandably, this is frustrating for companies, who can make one million per year on coffee, says Philip. And the legal system is frustrating, because despite bringing genuine robbers to court at great cost, they invariably just get a slap on the wrist. That is another story, of course.

So what do the big guys do? They charge the frontline workers, those students working on the their tills, and on minimum wage. If the customer does not pay, then the person on the lowest part of the rung has to pay. It is the job of the attendant to remind drivers to pay! Otherwise he/she is responsible for someone’s else mistake or crime.

Another caller added that in restaurants this can occur too, where customers don’t pay. Again, the lowly workers sometimes have to pay-up for the non-paying customer. Are you angry yet? This seems unfair to me. Seems just like the recurring theme that occurs in many situations of power. War generals make decisions from afar that affect the lives of frontline soldiers. Easy when it is not your son, your daughter. Of course, it is possible to pull power strings so that said son does not have to serve in Vietnam. All equal, but some more equal than others.

Now, some of you say that Joe is just about whingers. We need whingers more than we need the happy-flappy crowd. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. Whistle-blowers et al. What sort of police force are we going to have if we have no whistle-blowers? GPs are advocates and even whistle-blowers for their patients and for the health service, like Joe. Why we need advocates for patients I do not know. If we were all putting the patient at least closer to the front of the line instead of at the back of the line, then surely we would become learning organisations that are constantly improving. Instead, we have an administration that seems to want to pick on the weakest. Those most vulnerable in the health stakes are put through the most cruel bureaucracy. Ask Joe. This makes me angry too.

Some years ago, student midwives in Dublin were picked on for cuts to their pay and conditions. Junior doctors feel the same pressure to be slaves for less and less. Because they are less powerful. Because they won’t  complain. Because they are vulnerable. Don’t pick on the strong. Pick on the weaker.

And big business can pick on us for market share. As Philip and Suzanne say in their book, the big food companies have only one aim: Profit. This is easy to understand. They have no reason to step outside of competitive capitalist forces and look at our health, our long-term health costs, our best interests. The aisles on the periphery of the shop, with the less expensive and healthier options, are not where we are steered to spend our money. As the smoking empire said, you don’t have to deny smoking is not harmful. You only have to create confusion and doubt. That is how to increase profits and improve short-term gain for the few at the long-term loss to the community. Long live shareholder rights. Down with community values. Yes, I am angry.

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