Big Brother watch­ing you and your plas­tic

Irish Examiner - Farming - - COVER STORY - Cor­mac MacCon­nell cor­ma­c­sea­

I’ve en­joyed a mighty two weeks en­ter­ing the au­tumn, in­clud­ing a Kerry wed­ding and a siesta in Water­ford.

Dur­ing that time, I have not been mean in any way.

I have stood my round when it was due, and be­haved in a cour­te­ous and civil fash­ion. It ac­cord­ingly strikes me very forcibly this week that in all that fort­night, I have not han­dled real money at all at any stage.

It has all been bloody plas­tic, and plas­tic, lads and lassies, is our real en­emy in the mod­ern world.

I fear plas­ti­ca­tion, in all its forms, even more than I fear Don­ald Trump and that boyo with the quare hair­cut and the hy­dro­gen bomb in Korea. And that’s the pure truth, yet again.

We now know that plas­ti­ca­tion is slowly poi­son­ing our en­tire world.

It is hap­pen­ing dra­mat­i­cally in the oceans, where fish stocks are be­ing wiped out by hav­ing their in­nards blocked with plas­tic. It is hap­pen­ing also in our lakes and rivers. Plas­tic moun­tains are build­ing up across every land on earth. Look in your own bin for im­me­di­ate proof. Look in your own fridge too. Look into the rear of all the refuse trucks groan­ing past with their bel­lies, like those of the whales, stuffed with plastics. The stuff is ev­ery­where. About 20 years ago, I used en­joy go­ing into my bank branch in En­nis.

There were very pleas­ant and chatty lady cashiers there who ac­cepted my pa­per with­drawal slips, and handed me out wads of crisply com­fort­ing cash in re­turn. Then, that bank, like all the oth­ers, re­dun­dan­ti­fied those lovely ladies, and in­sisted on me ac­cept­ing a bloody plas­tic card for all fu­ture trans­ac­tions.

I have been very un­com­fort­able with that sys­tem right from the be­gin­ning.

I am of the cash gen­er­a­tion, like many of you, I’m sure. Nowa­days, my wal­let is empty of cash, but fat with a whole range of the plas­tic cards, through which Big Brother is keep­ing an eye on me. I sus­pect that, with the depth of per­sonal data on those cards to­day, Big Brother not only knows my DOB but also, the Lord be­tween us and all harm, my ex­act DOD also. Plas­tic be­comes more pow­er­ful and more per­va­sive daily, in every way.

It goes right across the scale. For ex­am­ple, I have a strong weak­ness for splen­did smoked mack­erel from Union Hall. Suc­cu­lent, when you can breach the plas­tic vac-pac in which they are mar­keted. A few years ago, that was a sim­ple op­er­a­tion, but nowa­days, I need a sharp knife to get in to my lus­cious mack­erel. It is the same story with the whole range of foods which are now pro­tected by al­most im­pen­e­tra­ble plas­tic sheath­ing.

I am ex­pend­ing nearly as much en­ergy free­ing my food each day as I gain from the food it­self. Yet again the truth. But let’s re­turn to those bloody bank cards.

Even if I know that I have funds in my ac­count to cover my pur­chases, I am al­ways un­com­fort­able us­ing my card at check­outs in stores or in other re­tail ar­eas.

Many times the ma­chines have re­quested that I re­peat my PIN process all over again, as cus­tomers pile up be­hind in the queue.

It has not yet hap­pened me at an ATM that my card has been swal­lowed up and not re­turned to me, for what­ever rea­son, but I al­ways ex­pect that to hap­pen once the bloody thing dis­ap­pears into the bow­els of the ma­chine and it be­gins to mut­ter and groan. There is a new and more fright­en­ing di­men­sion to the plas­ti­ca­tion process, which is even more fright­en­ing. You al­ways re­tained some slight sense of be­ing in con­trol when you had to en­ter your PIN into those check­out ma­chines.

Now that con­trol is to­tally gone, be­cause of this new tap tech­nique, whereby your card is sim­ply flicked over the ma­chine, and you and your PIN are re­dun­dant al­to­gether. Am I right or am I wrong? I hope the most of ye are read­ing this from hon­est to God pa­per for­mat rather than from a flick­er­ing plas­tic screen!

End of cash and the rise of plas­tic: two weeks with­out han­dling real money have left Cor­mac un­com­fort­able.

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