Irish doctor with too many thoughts, too little time and a blog that's supposed to check in on reality.

Monday, July 10, 2006

It’s All Black and White for Me, Baby*

Simon McGarr at has written a summons of sorts, a wail into the greyness of Irish politics - he wants to us to vote for change, to vote for the opposition.
The phrase “vote for change” has been forever sullied for me by Puff-Daddy-Diddy-Combs-Sean (or whatever he calls himself), REM, Bright Eyes, and Bruce Springsteen and their musical rabble-rousing in the run up to the last US election. It now just sounds trite and reminds me of John Kerry windsurfing.
That unfortunate association aside, Simon has a point – not one I agree with, but a point nonetheless – “I don’t have any illusions about the opposition but they have a single shining advantage- they represent a change. They can make new decisions, go in new directions. And they can reverse the bad decisions and wrong directions we’ve taken.”
He takes a number of issues that as a 30 year old aware of the temporal power of some political decisions to outlast his lifespan, he feels quite strongly about: MRSA; “officially sanctioned programme of torture”; road deaths; crooked housing developers; Luas/Metro problems; Bertie’s non-existent Bowl; e-voting and Fianna Fail’s tendency to attract megalomanical sorts that are more loyal to the Executive’s wishes rather than the nation’s need.
I’m not exactly happy with all these things either but I think I will be voting for the coalition again – not because I agree with their sometimes bad decisions, but I simply do not trust Enda Kenny or  Pat Rabbit to not make any more bad decisions or to improve on what we already have.
Voting for change is not enough – we must be voting for something, for an approach based on more than “not being the government”. From what I can see Labour/FG have been pulling shapes** about these issues rather than offering constructive alternatives – and in reality there aren’t always alternatives.
Simon rightly expresses his frustration with those who state that changes in “life and death” areas like MRSA infection rates will come slowly. I’m at a loss though to see what else can be done in hospitals that haven’t already been started – hand and hospital hygiene have been major priorities in any hospital that I have worked in. There are definitely many where this must be improved on, but Liz McManus as health minister is going to change anything, except give us higher tax bills – the changes that still need to be instituted can only come from the bottom. In fact, I had to undergo a 3 hour session on hand hygiene (washing your hands is simply not official enough a term) as part of my induction as a non-consultant hospital doctor, this on top of several such sessions as a medical student. MRSA and other such antibiotic resistant infections are an unfortunate side effect of modern antibiotic use – VRE is equally worrying as is VRSA in the emerging resistance fields. C. Dif, the severe diarrhoeal infection that is killing more than MRSA, is literally a side-effect of life-saving antibiotics that kill off other organisms allowing C. Dif to multiply.
I have absolutely no problem with Shannon airport’s use by American troops or with Luas/Metro issues – again I have yet to be convinced that the opposition can offer anything more.
The road deaths issue is an interesting one to leave at the government and Gay Byrne’s feet – Gaybo’s appointment does seem stupid but is this not an issue about personal responsibility? The government can not sit in our cars with us and tut-tut at crazy overtaking – in fact I nearly feel that we have too many gardai pointing their phallic like speed cameras at us from behind bushes. If I was going to vote on road safety, I would vote for the party who would make all straight roads 100kmh zones instead of just looking at where the road goes to give it a ranking. For example the Ring of Kerry is a 100kmh zone. Those who attempt to kamikaze-drive that very scenic part of our landscape at 100kmh deserve the pile-up that’s coming to them. However, the perfectly safe, straight and wide roads of the midlands that lead you from one small hamlet to the next village need not be passed at a measly 80kmh.
No political party is going to come out and say that speed cameras don’t work and we’d be much better depending on well trained drivers with a strong sense of personal responsibility. But personal responsibility and civic duty can’t be solved by the government; they can’t even be learned by example from our public figures.
I’m not going to go through the rest of Simon’s list – I agree with him that these are important problems – but their existence is not enough of an incentive to vote Bertie and co out of office. Simon wants a discussion – let’s do it. But let the basis of the discussion not be the need for a change of votes, but a change of solutions.

[From my recent music listening = *”Black and White” by the Upper Room and **”Pull Shapes” by the Pipettes]



Blogger Simon said...

great post. Do you have an logon btw

July 10, 2006 10:23 p.m.  
Blogger Auds said...

I do actually but have never used it.

July 10, 2006 10:25 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely you mean *NOT* going to change anything:

definitely many where this must be improved on, but Liz McManus as health minister is going to change anything, except give us higher tax bills – the changes that still need to be instituted can only come from the bottom

July 11, 2006 5:12 a.m.  
Blogger Auds said...

Anonymous, indeed I do.
I don't think Liz will change anything positively at all.

July 11, 2006 12:09 p.m.  
Anonymous copernicus said...

Liam Twomey would get that portfolio, I imagine. He's been a far more effective parliamentarian than Liz on health and lands blow after blow on Ms Harney's record. I suggest a little bit of research rather than the blithe acceptance that the Opposition doesn't have any policies (where the hell do you get that idea?) which means actively negative policies are a superior electoral choice.

July 11, 2006 12:48 p.m.  
Anonymous Simon McGarr said...

I'll write a proper response to your post in a while. I want to do a little digging on the bookshelf first.

However, could you clarify something for me? Do you prefer the status quo, even though you acknowledge it isn't good, to any change on the basis that the change might be for the worse? (The "Better the Devil you know" approach)

Or, do you actively prefer current policies because they you think they are the best possible in all circumstances?

Or, finally, have you examined the alternative and actively dislike it to the point where you think the current flawed position is preferable?

Or something else entirely?

July 11, 2006 2:16 p.m.  
Blogger Auds said...

Copernicus - I never said that the opposition have no policies (why would I?) - I just don't think that their policies would make of much of positive difference.

Simon - my heart trembles at the threat of bookshelves but am looking forward to it.
A combination of all 3 really - speaking from a purely personal point of view, there are some things that I agree with the oppisition on but like all voters, my panoply of interests are carefully ranked and there are some things that I strongly believe in and therefore will vote based on that smaller number of things. In my case, predictably enough, abortion and ethical stem cell research rank highly, as does an oppisition to a more socialised health service and fondness for lower tax rates.
I'm not dismissing all of the "alternative government's" policies, but in my case will be voting for what we have, imperfect as it may be.
My main point from the post is that a vote for change is the last step on the journey - a change of direction, ideas and policy solutions must come first.

July 11, 2006 3:52 p.m.  
Blogger Auds said...

Copernicus - I would have presumed LIz McManus in health would be an integral part of a new government - I don't know enough about Twomey's clout to see him in health.
Liz has been knocking around health for quite a while now and after seeing her talk about it at conferences I got the impression it's an area that shé's personally very passionate about.
But my knowledge of these kind of things and potential cabinet seats is absymal.

July 11, 2006 3:55 p.m.  
Anonymous copernicus said...

You're probably right about McManus seeking the seat at Cabinet, but Twomey is a more competent choice - not that that is how seats are divied up.

I never said that the opposition have no policies


Voting for change is not enough – we must be voting for something, for an approach based on more than “not being the government”. From what I can see Labour/FG have been pulling shapes** about these issues rather than offering constructive alternatives

Hey, I'm just a guy with a degree in English and 5 years experience with editing work, but even to my untutored eye, the opposite of "something" must be "nothing" and in the phrase "rather than offering a constructive alternative", the words "constructive alternative" cannot but be construed as a synonym for "policies".

So I don't mean to be mean, but a little "reality check" seems in order. You did suggest that they had no policies other than to not be the current government, which even you must admit is a completely daft proposition re two professional political parties working day to day on legislation, committees, reports etc. etc. etc.

It would have been more temperate to say you didn't like the policy alternative, although I have a really sneaking suspicion that you haven't engaged with it, and have no intention of engaging with it either.

July 11, 2006 4:53 p.m.  
Blogger Simon said...

in fairness "offering constructive alternatives" doesn't suggest lack of policies it suggests lack of good policies

July 11, 2006 10:02 p.m.  
Anonymous wulfbeorn said...

Yea I'd love to vote for the Opposition... if it didn't consist of a socialist party, another socialist party, a terrorist socialist party, and Fine Gael.

July 11, 2006 10:51 p.m.  
Anonymous copernicus said...

Aw crap. Wulfbeorn's back.

Yes, Simon, if you ignore all of the other things Auds wrote, it could very possibly, if not entirely convincingly, bear that interpretation. But not in this instance, I'm afraid.

July 11, 2006 11:44 p.m.  

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