Wednesday, 26 September 2007

The juxtaposition of the pitiful

Walking the none-too-mean streets of my none-too-mean city today, I was jolted by two things ten feet from each other.

To my left, a man drinking a cup of coffee from a cardboard cup with one hand while juggling his crutches with the other; my double take was when I saw that his left leg was missing from mid thigh. There was a time when you didn't see people with missing limbs in Ireland. Medical care was good enough that hacking off limbs wasn't something doctors had to do all that often, and we could afford to fit people with prostheses when it came up. The first time I ever saw someone with a leg just gone and not even a peg in its place was in Jerusalem in 1990. Threw me then, still throws me now. Where are Ireland's new amputees coming from?

And to my right, a prosperous man in his thirties watching over his child's push chair. Which is one of those oversized overspecified all terrain vehicles which seem to have evolved in the same way as the owners' taste in SUVs. I've become accustomed to stepping out of the way of these ludicrous mobile shrines to the God of Personal Satiety - like their bigger SUV brothers, they don't corner too well, and their drivers take the view that it's up to other people to figure out how to get clear rather than for them to pay attention to what they're doing - and I don't for the most part pay them too much mind. Life's too short, I'm mad about enough things already, and hey, think of the children!

Well I do. Specifically I think of how many children could get access to clean water if these bozos had instead bought the kind of push chair that they themselves had spent their childhoods in and given the change to Concern. But let that pass, because bozosity in push chairs may have peaked once and for all.

This push chair had disc brakes. As God will judge me in this life or the next, I am not making this up. Disc brakes. I am trying, without success, to imagine a scenario in which disc brakes on a push chair would perform a useful role. In what hilarious combination of circumstances could you conceivably get a push chair up to a speed where the only way to stop it was to use the kind of stopping technology usually relevant only to high performance cars? And if you stop it that hard, given how top heavy these things are, wouldn't it just flip immediately like an original Mercedes A class taking a corner? Other than giving me fresh reason to despair at the self indulgence of the people I share this island with, is there any point at all to disc brakes on a push chair?

And is there any point at all to pretending that this is a community any longer when you can see on one side of you a man who cannot afford and apparently has no-one who will give him an artificial leg, and on the other side a man who has so much spare cash and so little sense of what it is to be a man that he can lavish it on buying a baby-SUV, disc brakes and all that cost more than an artificial leg would cost in real money and does a job so much less useful?

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