An old friend always enjoyed fantasising about winning the 'Lotto.' When challenged one time by the theory that money cannot buy happiness he immediately replied, "But I could afford a better class of misery."
The true value of the big win though is independence. It raises you above the majority of day-to-day impediments to places of enjoyment and pleasure. The freedom not to work gives you over eight more hours in every twenty-four to do what you want with. Doing what you want is infinitely easier when price is no object. Distance is no object either and you could travel and stay where you like on a fluffy cushion. The common nagging worries that bring on stress just disappear. Chequebook in hand the world is your oyster.
The Catholic Church rarely had much success converting the wealthy and there's a good reason for that. Their wealth was their independence, both of mind and means. They did not need hope to cling to nor did they desire the burden of unwanted guilt being promoted by Catholicism. And make no mistake, the Church sold guilt as their masterful controlling product. The guilty masses are pliable and frozen in fear. They will do as they are told, believe whatever you say and most importantly, act in any manner you decide for them. It is the core of catholic unity and the recipe for a rich and powerful religion, all based on the cult of "original sin."
We are all sinners, the catholics are told and only a life of repentance, remorsefulness and contrition will do.
Back in 60's, 70's & 80's Ireland, it was impossible to imagine that the church would falter, never mind fail. Its grip on society was just so total. The most powerful in the land genuflected to the Bishops. Appearance in church on Sunday morning was mandatory for the ambitious among us. Births, deaths and marriages were all affairs of the roman collars and controlled from start to finish by them. Guilt though was always the underlying driving force to all of it. The guilty are helpless and easily manipulated. It took a spate of publicly reported child molesting cases to finally rattle that guilt and start the questioning. When the response to those questions became contempt that they should even be asked, the guilt began to melt everywhere. That the hierarchy of the church couldn't see what all the fuss was about at first, tells a lot about the rarefied air they were breathing. Then up pops a Bishop, no less, on prime time television to confirm he has a love child. In the context of the church's preoccupation with sex, or the prevention of it, this was a nuclear explosion across the land. I mean, a Bishop, having it off with a mere mortal and for pleasure too presumably. It was all too much.
The mood quickly changed with so many of us looking inwards and asking ourselves, "What have I to feel so guilty about?" The progress downhill was rapid after that and true catholics are now a minority in this land of ours. The late nineties then were a time of freedom and joy, laughter and beer and a damned healthy dose of sex to go with it. The country rocked. Guilt was gone and the need to pay for it as well. We were free for the first time in hundreds of years to the pitter-patter of Riverdance and the music of U2. The Celtic Tiger was born from a massive export trade surplus and Ireland's first and only industrial revolution began with pharmaceuticals and the IT giants. In the absence of guilt, the money flowed and the rising tide did lift all boats. The power of the church was broken and with that stranglehold now gone, all kinds of personal expression was possible. That mood of exhilaration drove us at high speed into the noughties.
But the ruling classes were really horrified by the new feel-good factor sweeping the land. The riffraff and the glitterati were out of control and ignoring all the orders being given by the better offs. A way had to be found to rein them in and get them back in line, marching to the appropriate drummer. Some little thing was needed to wrest control back into the hands of the powerful. And indeed, who would be the powerful of the future? Then somewhere, sometime, someone thought about it and asked, "Why re-invent the wheel?" If guilt worked so well for the catholic church for thousands of years, why not try it all over again?
But what could the masses be made to feel guilty for? What brand of guilt would they unquestionably pay good hard-earned money for? My theory is that health was settled on as a no-brainer. The Lord himself had said that, "The sick and the poor will always be with us," so that was the first part of the equation. But traditionally the sick were treated with care and respect and that was what had to change. If the sick could be made to feel guilty for being sick and further made to understand that the sickness was their fault, then guilt would surely follow. A groveling gratitude for treatment could then take the place of the haughty expectation of a cure. Guilt would change the culture and put manners on the upstarts.
Public Health was born and armed with as much State funding it needed, it set about making the case as to why we are all guilty irresponsible people needing to repent and pay for our sins. In the absence of Catholicism, Public Health became the new morality. It had/has nothing to do with curing the sick and everything to do with penalizing them. The real beauty of it from the perspective of its exponents, is that any one of us could become sick at any time, thus we are potentially guilty. The mantra, 'prevention of disease' becomes the justification for a financial penalty for lifestyle choices. Everyone has eaten meat at some time in their lives and Public Health have "proved" that meat is a high risk food. So, it's probably all your own fault you feckless dope.
Smokers got hit first and if you want to understand the precedent for an unexpected attack on something that makes you happy, look back at the last twelve years of persecution that the smokers had to endure. Denormalisation is an endless process to ramp up the guilt and segregation is a form of isolation whereby righteous people can stand and sneer at their fellow man. Guilt will always have elements of resentment and hatred because it is a negative emotion. A case can be made regarding the risk of anything to your health by the stealthy mis-use of a science like epidemiology. Proof of your personal reckless stupidity is easily manufactured if the financial penalty you will have to pay is high enough. Obesity and alcohol are currently the subjects of the treatment smokers got ten years ago. These are big budget items so the stakes are high. Financial reward awaits the promoters of such penalties as well as the power of control over the masses. Minimum pricing and plain packaging are tools of guilt and control as well as a huge source of revenue for further damning research to be made up.
It is an appalling cycle of sickness that we are all too guilty to oppose. Fear of illness, especially when everything is so risky, (we are constantly told), makes us all to willing to accept responsibly and feel guilty for it. Guilt brings the baggage of the quiet shame felt for sins we must have committed. It also makes us easily led especially when the media are the conductors of the fear-mongering orchestra. It nearly makes one hanker for the innocent good old days of the Catholic Church …………. nearly! But Public Health is the new religion so the question must be, "Are you a true believer?"
But, that's my theory anyway.