26 October 2008

“Probably Doing a Wonderful Job”

Warning: This is a letting-off-steam-because-I-am-incensed-at-the-stupidity-of-some-people kind of a post. Remember, I am French born and raised, and not known for my submissive nature! Blowing off steam is my way of controlling the “Frenchie Temper” side of me ;-)

I received an email today that quite blew me by its cheer audacity and its condescending tone. Let’s just say that I am quite enraged about it.

Ok, wind back a few steps to explain:

First, I have never in my voting life (since the age of 18) written to any politician or elected representative. I just never have had the need nor the inclination for it. There was a time, in a different life, when I did write to quite a number of Heads of State, Ministers for Justice and Chiefs of Police in various countries around the world – snail-mail at the time – on behalf of prisoners of conscience who had been adopted by Amnesty International, to which I belonged for a good number of years. But in Ireland, I have never done it, until today.

Second, I am quite cynical about politicians in general. Though I always exercise what I consider not only a fundamental right - the right to vote - but a public and civic duty, I often end up voting “against” rather than for, e.g. voting for a candidate to keep another, or a party, out. Not the best way, I know, but I feel it’s better than not voting at all.

Third, Cathal’s birth has brought me into contact with a world I knew virtually nothing about, the world of Special Needs. And there, to my very naïve dismay, I find that all is not well (I know, I know, I should have realised, I am enough of a news-addict to have copped on, but I had not really got the full picture). So little Cathal is the source of my new found education.

A few months ago, I joined the Louth/Meath branch of Down Syndrome Ireland (I live in Meath) and I regularly get emails from the branch Secretary. I also joined DSI Forum. Between the two, I became aware of the proposed changes in the Budget for 2009 for payments of Disability Allowance for 16 to 18 year olds. A call for action came by email on Friday, and I decided to email various ministers, my 3 TD’s, all the Greens elected to the oireachtas (after all, they hold the balance of power) and a few independent TD’s (they too might hold that balance!) – and yes, Hammie, I did contact your newly independent Joe Sixpack! – as well as leaders of the opposition parties. After all, it’s as good a way as any to spend a bank holiday Sunday morning!

I carefully crafted my email, drawing from the statements posted on DSI website, and adapting my template to each recipient with regards to his / her position in or out of government. Nice, polite, stating facts, and using my democratic right to voice my opinion on what I see as a totally misguided and unjust proposal. I did mentioned I was writing as a concerned grand-mother of a child with DS, not mentioning his age, which is irrelevant here, a principal is at stake after all. In total, about 20 emails went out. Not bad for a first time! And nothing like the enthusiasm of the “newly converted” ;-)

To my surprise, I got an answer during the afternoon, from one of my own TD’s. The contents blew me. I will not name him, it would not be fair, though if you want to know more, my email address is in my profile.... Here is most of the email he sent me:

He started by thanking me for my email and went on to say:

“I take a strong view in welfare issues. My wife is a nurse specialising in disability.”

The cynic in me start saying; “So….? What has your wife got to do with anything?”

But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and read on:

“This is a difficult one because I actually don't think it was designed as a revenue saving exercise. I know people who are inappropriately in my view (but legally) on disability when they could quite easily get a job or go into training of some kind. I know two people who left school because of this provision.”

What? . . . Double take here, read it again. Yes, he did write this!

Ok, what’s next?

“ But I take your point - a reform like this shouldn't be introduced without a corresponding increase in education or training. The National Federation of Voluntary Bodies - who initially recommended this course of action - are meeting Minister Hanafin on Tuesday and I would be confident of a positive outcome.”

True, they did, along with a whole range of other suggested measures what were totally ignored. That WAS my point, if you had read my email properly! Let’s continue:
"However, notwithstanding that we must do everything to ensure no extra family burden financially, surely age 16 is too young to write off all young disabled people as unfit for work or training? Accepting that some are of course, through no fault of their own.”

Double take again…What???? – By the way, the word “all” was highlighted in the email, I did not stress it.

Read on:

“I will be talking to the Minister during the week and will keep you informed.”

Sure you will!...

And the conclusion – priceless:

“My best regards to your family who are probably doing a wonderful job.”

What (again!)??? Do you think his parents have a choice? Would you not do a wonderful job for your own children, special needs or not? So condescending!

Let’s just say that I will not be voting for him at the next General Election – didn’t last time, but definitely not next time!

I did answer him, very nicely, very politely, stating facts as listed on the DSI website, and bringing into play the principals of protection of the most vulnerable members of our society – my professional negotiating skills were strongly called upon here!

In conclusion, am I being “thick” here? Over-reacting just a tad?
In any case, the Political Cynic in me had a field day today! Thank you Mr. TD for Meath-East! You just confirmed what I always thought!

PS - As I have been typing this, I have been listening to Paul McCartney’s Ecce Cor Meum (yes, the former Beatle, a brilliant piece of “new classical” choral music). I was hoping it would help me cool down a bit. Not sure it’s worked! Dam it, I am still mad!

1 comment:

Jeffrey Goble said...

Condescention and the perception of dismissal that it delivers always stinks to high heaven. He gets minor points for responding to you, albeit in this fashion. The only real hope is that further dialogue might actually inform him beyond his current ignorance. Good luck.
Thanks for doing this.
I'm going, now, to google "oireachtas" - I don't think I could even pronounce it. Ah. 'Gathering', literally.