Our re­liance on plas­tic is far from fan­tas­tic Cor­mac Mac­connell

Irish Examiner - Farming - - FEATURE - Cor­ma­c­sea­mus101@gmail.com

Let’s be­gin by nail­ing a hard old truth to the win­ter mast as the cold winds of re­al­ity blow the scales away from my eyes and hope­fully away from the op­tics of the wis­est of you gen­tle read­ers also.

The cruel re­al­ity is that bank hol­i­days don’t ex­ist at all in any mean­ing­ful way for us. The moguls who run our banks close their doors against us for the oc­ca­sional week­end, yes for sure, but be­hind those locked doors they work away twice as hard as they nor­mally do. Bank hol­i­days are a fal­lacy and al­ways have been for decades now. And that is a harsh No­vem­ber truth.

When the doors of the banks are locked we have to head for our hard-earned cash to the blink­ing ATM ma­chines a few yards away. Do ye know what the ini­tials ATM re­ally stand for once your eyes are opened up at last?

I have this fact from a for­mer bank clerk re­cently who was caught up in the wave of re­dun­dan­cies in­flicted upon the hu­mans who used serve our fi­nan­cial needs from be­hind a row of friendly desks back in the old days.

This lady said that ATM is the short­hand for Ap­palling Ter­ror Ma­chines! I kid ye not on that score either.

It seems that the plas­tic cards we re­luc­tantly insert into the ATMS when we are locked out of the banks will yield us a lit­tle cash in­deed if we have been re­spon­si­ble enough cit­i­zens since we last faced up to those blink­ing green eyes in the wall. How­ever, in a hi-tech age with mys­ter­ies which bam­boo­zle many of my more se­nior gen­er­a­tion, like they do my­self for cer­tain, there are el­e­ments chipped into our lit­tle plas­tic cards which can be used to re­veal far more about our over­all life­styles and habits than we our­selves would read­ily dis­cuss with strangers. It’s all a bit spooky and fright­en­ing re­ally in keep­ing with the dark sea­son that is in it this week.

And in­creas­ingly it gets even more fright­en­ing in this view at least.

A cou­ple of years ago you were re­quired to care­fully and se­cretly punch in your PIN into the ATM. Right? Nowa­days, at an in­creas­ing level, and ye will have no­ticed this your­selves, there are many of those ATMS in all species of re­tail out­lets which do not re­quire your per­sonal hu­man in­put at all. The card is just tapped against the in­fal­li­ble (ap­par­ently) panel atop the check­out ATM and, again, as­sum­ing that you have been be­hav­ing your­self fi­nan­cially rea­son­ably well in the days prior, a green check­mark flashes up and your card is handed back to you and your ac­count deb­ited.

And I’m cer­tain the mar­ket­ing moguls in the banks and the com­mer­cial sec­tors else­where can use the de­tails of the trans­ac­tions in­volved to spot pop­u­lar trends across the mar­kets and use those for their mar­ket­ing strate­gies. A con­sid­er­able num­ber of the smaller bank branches that served ru­ral folk for gen­er­a­tions have been closed in re­cent years and in­deed months with more likely enough to fol­low. I think back to the banks in small towns and vil­lages of the past. When you walked in you were faced with cashiers’ desks pre­dom­i­nantly served by lo­cal moth­ers, wives and daugh­ters who prob­a­bly knew you and your lo­cal con­nec­tions and friends. The change to­day in the ATM era is dra­matic and telling. The ma­chines with the blink­ing green mouths are dec­i­mat­ing the hu­man staff at a very fast pace in­deed. Plas­tic is tak­ing over from flesh and blood. An­other truth there. Speak­ing of plas­tic mat­ters re­minds me that af­ter a very en­joy­able bank hol­i­day fam­ily cel­e­bra­tion in North Clare at the start of the week, I had a con­ver­sa­tion with a sea­far­ing fish­er­man who shocked me to the core with his de­scrip­tion about the im­mense vol­ume nowa­days of the plas­tic waste bob­bing in the seas around our coast­line.

Plas­tic waste, and the cam­paign against it, is now a real global prob­lem as we all know. Some steps are be­ing taken about ev­ery­where to try and re­duce the fright­en­ing pol­lu­tion poi­son­ing the oceans and one hopes that our na­tional cam­paign gets the whole­hearted sup­port it de­serves.

I think, af­ter a mighty bank hol­i­day week­end in En­nisty­mon and its im­pact on the plas­tic card that I in­serted maybe too of­ten into those dreaded ATMS dur­ing the craic and mu­sic, that I will likely soon have the chance to very ac­tively sup­port the an­tiplas­tics global cam­paign. It is about cer­tain that the next time I stick my card into the hun­gry green mouth of an ATM that it will gob­ble it up and nei­ther give me a few euro or my card back. In which case I will not look to have it re­placed and will feel quite right­eous that I am ac­tively sup­port­ing a very nec­es­sary en­vi­ron­men­tal cam­paign.

We’ll leave things rest here.

Pic­ture: PA Photo

The price of plas­tic con­ve­nience — many of the smaller bank branches that served ru­ral folk for gen­er­a­tions have been closed down in re­cent years, with more likely enough to fol­low.

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