Sunday, 19 July 2015

Cheating the Elderly

Scrooge Budget?

“The Christmas bonus paid to pensioners in Jersey could be scrapped in a bid to cut a £145m deficit.” (BBC News)

Some people have been in Jersey for many generations. They were evacuees, or here during the war. They have seen privation and scarcity. But modern society has, up to now, helped redress their contribution to Island life, and that of others who have come to live and work here and build up the Island’s economy, and support charitable enterprises. They have retired, and live on a pension.

Up until now, there has been a light in the year at Christmas. As Dickens said, Christmas is a time for generosity, for giving, and they have had a Christmas bonus p to now just to sweeten that time of year. That there should be deemed no need for that is but a small matter, but Dickens thought that small matters were important. Here is Scrooge’s Nephew speaking on the subject:

“I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

And how is this Council of Ministers thinking “of people below them”? Not as fellow passengers but more as “another race of creatures bound on other journeys”. Small acts of generosity, such as the Christmas bonus may not seem much to Ministers, but they are the gleaming candle of hope that is a joy at Christmas, and they show that the State has not forgotten people, not in large things, like the Long Term Care Allowance, but in the small beautiful gestures that make life worthwhile to the recipient.

They show that despite all the needs of economy, all the needs for austerity, that once a year, there is still room in the heart of government for the common welfare to be their business, to show charity and benevolence to those who have contributed in their working life to this Island of ours. They would instead cheat the elderly of what little they have.

This Sunday is a story by the brothers Grimm retold by the wife of Joy Davidman, the wife of C.S. Lewis. It is about treating the elderly, and the message that undervaluing them, future generations will in tern be less likely to respect the elderly, and more likely to treat them as discardable election fodder.

The Little Old Man

“Once upon a time there was a little old man. His eyes blinked and his hands trembled; when he ate he clattered the silverware distressingly, missed his mouth with the spoon as often as not, and dribbled a bit of his food on the tablecloth. Now he lived with his married son, having nowhere else to live, and his son's wife was a modern young woman who knew that in-laws should not be tolerated in a woman's home.

"I can't have this," she said. "It interferes with a woman's right to happiness."

So she and her husband took the little old man gently but firmly by the arm and led him to the corner of the kitchen. There they set him on a stool and gave him his food, what there was of it, in an earthenware bowl. From then on he always ate in the corner, blinking at the table with wistful eyes. One day his hands trembled rather more than usual, and the earthenware bowl fell and broke.

"If you are a pig," said the daughter-in-law, "you must eat out of a trough." So they made him a little wooden trough, and he got his meals in that. These people had a four-year-old son of whom they were, very fond. One suppertime the young man noticed his boy playing intently with some bits of wood and asked what he was doing.

"I'm making a trough," he said, smiling up for approval, "to feed you and Mamma out of when I get big."

The man and his wife looked at each other for a while and didn't say anything. Then they cried a little. Then they went to the corner and took the little old man by the arm and led him back to the table. They sat him in a comfortable chair and gave him his food on a plate, and from then on nobody ever scolded when he clattered or spilled or broke things.

No comments: