I was touched by an anonymous letter referred to in The 33rd County piece by Damian Dowd in recent weeks. It was titled Someone’s sister, Someone’s daughter but in the third paragraph it became paramount that the writer is someone’s mother too. At the time of writing she was in deep distress at a late hour, haunted by her lack of bravery to end it all.
The thing is she was/is so brave, to put her thoughts down on paper, to try and process her journey in the shadow of systems that she believes is failing her. She has worked hard on her own after a martial breakdown to raise her children, children she is afraid of losing if she makes a desperate call for help, children that is preventing her from taking her own life.
“I will do my best to be, to exist as long as my children need me because I love them and I could never allow myself to hurt them.”
I sighed with relief when I read that sentence and silently hoped that the writer will continue to tap into her own strength while she is forced to make hard choices by a system that is failing her as a vulnerable human being.
The writer shares how she hides her true reality from people who know her. In the week that’s in it, I have been thinking about the masks that we all wear to help us get through, to cope, to create a happy space for our families, especially our children. And then there are the other masks…the masks government officials wear to emotionally detach themselves from the lives of those they are supposed to be supporting, those that feel more tricked than treated.
What if families who are in dire straits received more support and assistance, like what is offered when children are taking into care—all their needs are met and those who care for other people’s children are fully supported, and rightly so— but what if vulnerable families received the perfect box of tricks from government support before a crisis? With understanding and compassion carefully unwrapped with any other assistance that is required in exceptional circumstances, would people like the mother in the letter still be threatened the same way? Would fear still visit her in the middle of the night, the hour before dawn when things could not be bleaker?
Ghandi once said, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”.
Western societies, underpinned by capitalist intent, routinely undervalue and attempt to negate those who are deemed ‘unable’ to participate in the work force. Surely the quality of a person’s life should be viewed as more than just a commodity that politicians can choose to “cut back” on whenever they declare the need arises? Accordingly, it would appear that money, in the form of economic assistance, is increasingly becoming the measure by which our society acknowledges or denies the most vulnerable members in our society.
There is a song I love by Tom Waits, called Looking for the Heart of a Saturday Night. Due to my circumstances, as full time carer to my son, I am looking for the heart of an Irish society that routinely views those who are not “earning their own way” as some kind of burden? In the political systems of modern day Ireland, I fear the heart is long gone. And fear does not sit easy with me. It means the people of Ireland must rise up and face it head on, people like the anonymous mother…and the rest of us.