A few years ago I dreamt that I had kicked the bucket and ended up in Hell. I was in the middle of a recurring boring dream at the time and for me the idea of never-ending boredom was far worse than an eternity of fire and brimstone. It would have been my hell. And I got to thinking that maybe that’s what hell is all about if there’s a hell. It’s custom-made to suit the individual peccadilloes of the entrant. You see a person made of fire retardant material would have no bother at all with Hell. “Arragh I’ll do it on me back,” they’d have roared at St Peter as he directed them away from the pearly gates.
You see a punishment that isn’t really a punishment isn’t a punishment at all. Giving up avocadoes for Lent isn’t any bother if you never cared if you saw an avocado ever again.
All those times in school when we hadn’t read our Peig Sayers and we shoved copy books down the arse of our trousers so that the welts of the sticks from the Christian Brothers were taken by the 100 A5 Leaf Lined pages. You never remember those, whereas it’s the ones that were lashed across the bare hands that remain most in the memory. You see when you evade punishment then you lose any motivation to change your behaviour. If the time is no bother then the crime is no bother.
This all comes to mind this week as I read of plans to fine people according to their wealth. So if you’re caught speeding and you’re well off, then the fines you pay are higher. The plan is that if somebody is caught speeding and they’re earning fifty grand a year, that the fine will be a thousand euro rather than something like €80. It came about as experts (an expert is just a local lad who went away ) are struggling to come up with ideas to make drivers slow down on our roads and as a consequence to bring down the shocking rate of mortality and injury we have each year.
Like all ideas that people want to introduce in this country, this has worked well in Scandinavia where one famous case saw a millionaire who was caught speeding fined a whopping €54,000. Bet he thought twice before putting the boot down again.
These extreme measures are being considered by the authorities because at the moment, we are not put off by the propsoect of paltry fines that will not for one minute make you stop and think about what you have done. This week in the UK the new guidelines for speeding fines is that the minimum offence should start from a rate of 150 per cent of what you earn weekly. And that driving disqualifications from between seven and 60 days will be imposed on offenders fairly swiftly.
These may all seem drastic, but the Road Safety Authority is keen to find some way to make motorists stop and think about what they are doing when they decide to press harder on that accelerator. It will be interesting to see how this progresses.