I had to do the NCT this month. We drive relatively few miles in the year now, but we have to keep the car in proper shape. A reminder with a code and a pin number came in on the e.mail, but we’re only in the infant class with regard to the internet for business; in fact I bristle when I hear older people being bullied into conducting business ‘on line’, especially bank business. So I made the booking by phone.
The kind and professional human contact takes the nerves out of filling in forms. But forms are a feature of our modern life.
Herself wanted to renew the passports, on the half chance we might join a pilgrimage to Lourdes. Down to the barracks for the application form, over to the photographer in the chemists, back to the barracks to have these signed, down to the post office for the ‘express’ passport service.
Something less complicated was the doctor-only medical card. Renewing the car tax disk involves more filling in. And if you want the fuel allowance, you have to submit a means test, which involves more forms.
Many of these connections to our society require a PPS no. The various government departments can keep a good track of you and your tax affairs and much other business with this number, though I’m told by some who have to visit the dole office on a regular basis that these departments are a long way from having joined-up thinking.
I can imagine nothing as frustrating as getting different answers to queries from different counters in the dole office, or from different departments.
But I didn’t mean to get into a crib. I was just reflecting on how all the bits of information about us stored here and there, from the births and deaths registry, to the PPS number and everything in between, all add up to making us Joe (or Jo) Citizen.
We may laugh at this definition of our human place in the country, but imagine for one minute if you had no papers: no citizenship, no nationality, no person-hood in
the eyes of the bureaucrats.
I can see a poor Afghan swimming ashore on a Greek island, having lost all his possessions and his papers in the Mediterranean sea: the first question he will be asked is, ‘Where are you papers?’, and this makes him very vulnerable from the off.
When we welcome migrants, just as our forefathers and foremothers were welcomed into the US and UK, we supply them with papers, and to give them status as citizens of the world, and maybe later, citizens of Ireland.
Our State has done a reasonable job of looking out for us citizens. We are not unaware of its faults; today this Citizen is in the mood to affirm all the good it actually does.