Vignettes of Ruin and...

Monetas Amadánus (the God of Money and Mockery)

In Greed on May 17, 2011 at 11:49 pm

I live in a ghost estate.

“The new capital of the North,” they said, and charged us €200,000 for the privilege of being part of the dream. It was considered to be almost “cheap” at the time.

What a bargain!” said family members, friends and colleagues who had undertaken loans bordering on half a million for their little castles of modern convenience.

The bargain we had bought into was a one bedroom apartment that had yet to be built. It was a year and a half before we moved in. The bedroom looked out onto land stripped of its natural identity save for a few tangled trees. We could barely see it anyway, the glass was covered in a thick layer of dirt and dust thanks to the perpetual grind of machines used to build more and more places of pointlessness.

Now, the centre of this proposed beacon of affluence is only semi-complete and the machines have fallen silent. Like an unfinished drawing, the outskirts are bare, rough lines, indefinable and without substance. The wealth that once saturated the coffers of a tiger economy no longer exists to support the delusion.

The road to the train station is where the illusion falls apart. The path on the right is populated with pristine apartment blocks, full of glass, warm wood and softly painted brick. At night the truth is revealed. No lamps are alight in these pristine windows. The rooms are barren and featureless, empty eyes looking out onto the scarred wasteland that lies on the left side of the path. To the ordinary pedestrian, the view of divested earth, laden with the detritus of abandoned building materials is obstructed by seemingly endless hoarding.  This hoarding is plastered with now old advertisments.

A place where you can raise your family! Coming soon: Schools, playgrounds and creches! A place where you can finally live a healthy life! Coming soon: Gyms, swimming pools, and zen cafes were you can drink green tea and eat fresh salads! A place where you never need ask for anything because it will already be here! Coming soon!

The photographs are full of smiling plastic people who can’t believe their sheer luck in finding a place they can truly call home. But the once slightly garish colours are now starting to fade. The girl who could have once been me, twirling amongst the flowers with her arms outstretched, utterly carefree, her skin is now blistered and discoloured. Her teeth are the colour of rust, her smile a snarl.

She is now some kind of monster.

Funny how I feel like her after all.

A maelstrom of gulls and rooks constantly circle over the disused land, shrieking with excitement and impulse. I don’t want to know what has them so worked up. But I imagine the carcasses of some naive couple, not unlike us, jobless and moneyless in the destitiute backyard of their dispossessed dream of the perfect home.

It is only a fluke that we are hanging on. We have just enough disposable income to meet the tax increases, the levies, the rises in the cost of “mandatory” insurance, the unmanageable cost of pensions from which we will never benefit.

Our economy is growing, yet we are in throes of a relentless recession that is showing no signs of abating. The reason is this: none of our banks are self sustainable, viable enterprises. They recklessly loaned money to developers, to millionaires to fulfil every flight of fancy they could summon. Exorbitant sums were given to people not so well off, without stress testing to make sure it would be a manageable process for them. I once asked for a loan of a couple of grand through the internet and a few days later, it was there in my account. No questions asked. I never spoke to anyone. They just gave it to me. A veritable chain reaction of economic collapse was taking place on an international scale and here was no exception. Our financial institutions became zombie banks.The responsibility of funding them was foisted upon the ordinary taxpayer, without question or without referendum. Our economic survival hinges on restoring viability to the banks, said the few people elected to represent many. We must continue to plug the yawning black hole of debt accumulated by banks, we must uphold the investments made by foreign bondholders else we hold no credibility with the markets, else we destroy our economy irreparably. Yes they took a risk in investing but we have to make sure their gambles pay off.

I wish someone would guarantee me a win with the gambles I make.

Before we knew what was happening, deals were being struck and we were being forced to borrow billions to fund the hand-outs the banks repeatedly asked for.

We need more. Twenty four billion is not enough. We need another ten. Another fifteen. We need more.

Let it all burn.

It is already burning.

Money we earned, money we have yet to earn, money our children are supposed to earn, it is all gone.It has no meaning or purpose, only to make those standing on our shoulders weightier.

I have a secret account. My runaway fund. A number on a screen I nursed every friday for the last few years. Just looking at the numbers made me feel secure. Soon it would be more than just numbers- it would mean freedom.

But as interest rates surged and we struggled to find the new balance between money we now earned and a level of leisure we could no longer support, I had no choice but to use it to eradicate burgeoning debt.

And now the account is empty. My escape hatch nailed shut. I can only see the sky through two inch glass. I know it’s there, I just can’t touch it, can’t feel it. The walls of the tiny apartment shrinking around me, the lives of neighbours impinging on my privacy, nowhere to go, nowhere to retreat to without stumbling into somebody else.

I pray to Monetas Amadánus. Give me a winning ticket. Give me a viable tip on a bet. Give me a windfall in returned taxes. Give me the death of a remote and rich relative I have never met or known existed and a will in which they gift me their estate. Give me the chance and I will pay you back tenfold! I am gripping a crisp white envelope that has just been dropped through the letterbox. Anything could be inside.

It is a TV License bill for €160.

Monetas mocks me.

Praying to him has never worked, no matter how many time I or anyone else resorts to it. For it is not our misguided belief that money can solve our problems upon which he thrives. It’s the debasement we put ourselves through to accumulate  it, the meanness that possesses us as we try to hang onto it, and the desperation we feel in its absence that allow him to take root in our hearts and feed.

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