There's no use fighting it. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat, put your hands up and say "it's finally arrived". No, I'm not talking about the IMF. I'm talking about Christmas. I've tried to ignore it, but it's everywhere. Santa is in Liffey Valley and there were carol singers in Dundrum last weekend.
As you read this, I'm being dragged, groaning, around a Christmas Fair in our town hall. Switch on the airwaves and Marty Whelan is "ho-ho-ing" about the price of Tesco booze and ham fillets. "Every little helps," he says. It would help a little if you didn't sound so bloody chirpy, Marty.
Retailers are piling on the pressure to spend before the government picks our pockets. Last week, a Deloitte report estimated that, while this year's Christmas binge will be down 10.6%, it will still be the second-highest in Europe. Ireland DEFINTELY needs some time on the shrink's couch.
One group that won't be bingeing are the families involved in Pacub's (Protest Against Child Unfriendly Budget) latest campaign. Pacub is asking needy children to write to Brian Cowen, telling him what they want for Christmas. There are no Xboxes on their lists, just some very sad requests.
Don't worry, I'm not going to write a maudlin letter to Santa Clowen and his chief reindeers, Rude Elf (Sweary Mary Coughlan) and Blitzing (Brian Lenihan). The campaign did make me think about what I'd like, though. I set the obvious things aside – money, prospects, new underwear – and focused on something that's been gnawing at my stomach like a swarm of carnivorous butterflies. It's a mixture of anger and fear. I want Cowen to make this feeling go away for Christmas – but I know he won't. The drip-drip of what may happen in the budget is wearing me down. Will there be a property tax? Will I have enough money to survive? Will Ireland survive?
It's a constant stream of undiluted unfairness. Wherever you turn, there are dire warnings alongside examples of how we Irish don't 'do' accountability or personal responsibility.
Last Thursday, RTÉ reported that former Anglo chief David Drumm may keep an interest in two US houses (one's worth $6m) despite being bankrupt. He owes creditors €13m. Where's the accountability in that? How is that fair?
Yesterday in New York, the US Marshals Service auctioned off Bernie Madoff and his wife's possessions. Even pantyhose and worn socks were sold. It was an act of public humiliation – the Madoffs being stripped naked.
Drumm is no Madoff, but when you see how bankers like him have ruined their fellow citizens, you want to see them equally humiliated. You want justice – or at least some revenge – for Christmas. I'd like to see those responsible for the backlog of almost 3,500 complaints to the Financial Services Ombudsman finally being held accountable. I'd like to see them horse-whipped around my Christmas tree.
It's not just the powerful that are chipping away at national morale. We're all guilty of it to some degree, even at community level. Take the Finglas people who 'borrowed' 1,000 sandbags last week. The council had placed them at two coastal sites before the storm and had to ask the army for an emergency supply when they 'disappeared'. "I'm all right, Jack. To hell with everybody else." How is that a fair way to treat your neighbours?
Or what about Tracey Sugg? She caused a road rage incident when she drove into a bus lane in rush-hour traffic. The bus driver, believing she had endangered lives, behaved aggressively to her. His behaviour was inexcusable but did it really warrant the system compensating her €10,000? We endure her kind of thoughtless, selfish driving on a daily basis. More civic-mindedness is on my Christmas wish-list too.
New figures show that 40,000 Irish people tried cocaine last year. On Wednesday, Anthony Long was sentenced for causing the deaths of Brendan Donnelly and Lee Salkeld. He drove into them after consuming a cocktail of alcohol and cocaine. Is it fair that grieving families have to pay for the self-indulgent vices of fellow citizens?
Or is it fair that TDs' salaries will rise next year, as the queue looking for food parcels outside Dublin's Capuchin Day Centre is increasing too?
Pile up all the day-to-day inequalities in Irish life. Place the TD and the selfish driver beside the banker. Highlight the lack of caring at all social levels – and despair. When people in Finglas show as much respect for their neighbours as bankers like Drumm did, you wonder if this country is worth saving.
Then, after you've examined the mess we've made of things, read those Pacub Christmas letters to Cowen. There's one that stands out. It reads: "All I want for Christmas... is to be a member again of the soccer club, because I could be a great goalie for Ireland, but mum and dad can't afford it".
When did we as a nation start raiding the piggy banks of our kids' dreams?