Togetherness is strength – we are only as safe as our neighbour
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Togetherness is strength – we are only as safe as our neighbour

If bringing the private hospitals into public control is a good idea during this crisis, why is it not a good idea all the time?

Whilst the crisis itself is not a time for political point scoring, not a time for Trump style petty tantrums, it is a time for thinking about how our society is structured.

Because at this time, at this most extreme, most extraordinary time, it is clearer than ever what our strengths are.

Our strengths are our togetherness. Our strengths are our reliance on each other. Our strengths are looking out for each other.

Without those things we are weaker, we are frailer, we are more at risk.

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I am only as safe as my neighbour.

My safety, my health, my life perhaps, relies not just on my own behaviour but on his.

It is not enough that I do the right thing. He must too. It is not enough that he does the right thing. I must too.

This is the essence of society. It is why we have society. So that I, as an individual, can lead my life, my own existence, my own solitary pursuits, in the knowledge that it is an existence closely and intrinsically dependent on that of my neighbour’s.

Without my neighbour I can’t be me. My life can’t function.

So when I stop on the lane and, maintaining at all times the safe social distance, talk with the farmer, it is to check on each other, talk through a few things, reassure each other, support each other, encourage each other.

Be, for the length of our chat, our own version of society.

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At this time that comes very sharply into focus.

But, in truth, this is our lives at all time. Especially if we want our lives to be as good as they can be.

So it is more than welcome that the private hospitals of Ireland have agreed to hand over their facilities, their beds, their ventilators, their specialists, their staff and consultants, in to public hands. In reality it will save lives.

Yet, it is impossible not to ask the glaring question.

Why is all health care not in public hands anyway?

If it is obscene, as it is, to be safer or more cared for at a time of crisis on the basis of your wallet, then it is obscene all the time.

Health isn’t a pair of jeans or a car or a holiday. It isn’t something with a price tag on it. It is what a society provides to the best of its ability to all of its citizens.

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If I have fifty euro and you have ten should I have access to better health care than you?

If it is a good idea to prevent crisis, as much as possible, in Ireland’s health service now it is a good idea all the time.

That’s not even radical. It’s not radical in a crisis. It’s decent and necessary.

It’s not radical in ordinary times. It’s decent and necessary.

Only the greed of corporate profit would argue otherwise.

The announcement that Ireland’s private hospitals had agreed at this time to operate and cooperate with the government, with us, with society, without profit, wasn’t astonishing.

It was more than expected. It should be all the time.

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Likewise the banks, who are gleefully announcing that in the financial crisis accompanying this health crisis, they will continue to accrue interest payments whilst freezing loans.

Well, even if we didn’t before, we surely know the nature of these institutions now, don’t we?

Even though we have already once bailed them out, nationalized them, in effect, without any of the advantages of nationalization, they see the crisis as an opportunity.

Forget all those adverts about them being there for you. They are there for themselves. Again, if it was a good idea to own the banks in a crisis, why is it not a good idea all the time?

Why do we only try and make society fairer and better and more caring and kinder when times are bad? Why do we wait?

We are going to get through this. It is the one of the most profound things in any of our lives and we will never forget it.

But we will come out the other end. And when we do why don’t we live in a society that openly prizes fairness and compassion and the essence of community all the time?

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Why don’t we abolish private health care? What’s radical about that now?