independent

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Complaining should not be an obstacle race

Fr Michael Commane - The Way I See It

Do you ever ask yourself what your relationship is with society and the place you work? As a citizen do you feel you have a significant role to play in the life of the country? In your workplace do you believe that you are making a meaningful contribution? Which is more important, the individual or the State, the worker or the company? What's the role of the State? To protect the individual or to promote the common good? Or both?

Most of us get on with our lives. But there are occasions when people feel beaten down by the society. There are those who feel mere cogs in the wheel in their workplace. The story of how Joanne Hayes was mistreated is an example of how State power can be destructive. States, churches, large corporations, clubs, banks, associations, all have the possibility of mistreating the individual. When the individual comes up against a large organisation it is never on a level playing pitch.

In a democracy, the exercise of political power must respect the law, the constitution, and the will of the people, through the decisions of parliament. Do you ever experience a total sense of alienation, that you are helpless against the State, the big organisation? That terrible feeling of powerlessness.

My experience pales into insignificance, when compared with what people suffer, but the story is worth telling. Two weeks ago I was checking my phone bill. I noticed there were two text messages from two numbers I did not recognise. I checked my phone history, there was no record of my sending two text messages to the stated number. I phoned my provider. I was told it was a scam. I or someone else gave my phone number to some web address or some pop-up social media account. I stay well clear of all such scams. Once someone had my number they then sent me a text message and they in turn received the money from the phone operator.

I asked the phone company if they could protect me from such a scam. They told me they were unable to do that and that I would have to download an app in order to protect myself from such a scam. My smart phone is old and at this stage is unable to download apps. It means that any chancer or scammer can send me text messages and I am going to have to pay for them. That's outrageous.

The phone company agreed, in a gesture of goodwill, to credit me the two text messages but I was told that they were under no obligation to do so.

I am annoyed about it, angry too. Indeed, so angry that I decided to make a formal complaint to the telephone regulator. Over a period of a week I have spent at least 60 minutes trying to solve the problem. I'm not there yet. I plan to persevere but am I feeling frustrated and helpless. People should not be treated like this.

Far too often the individual feels helpless, is forced to cower in the face of the State or big corporations. That's why regulation is so important and all organisations must be policed. And making complaints should not be obstacle races.

German writer Hans Fallada published his best-selling novel 'Little Man, What Now?'in 1932. Back then little did he realise how pertinent the title would be in 2018.

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