Sunday, 23 September 2012


I for one am swept along with the country’s summer celebrations. I love the Olympic flame and I love the Jubilee. Not everyone shares my nationalistic joie de vivre, preferring as they do to moan and groan and whimper and complain. ‘It’s expensive’, ‘it’s jingoistic’, ‘it’s nonsense’, they cry. ‘Who cares about the Queen?’, they continue. ‘The Olympics? Puff!’, they add disdainfully and then go on to tell me in no uncertain terms how much the security is costing. Ok, so the queen lives in palaces and owns priceless jewels and works of art. She has servants and handmaidens and her subjects bow and curtsey to her and call her ‘Your majesty’. But she was born into her world without choice as much as a child in Syria was born into his. Of course it isn’t fair, but wasn’t it ever thus? It isn’t fair that enhanced, large breasted, cartoon like women who pay thousands of pounds for unnecessary cosmetic ‘work’ are feted in this society and make a fortune by way of their ‘celebrity’, and it isn’t fair that little children in far flung corners of the earth are cast out of their society because of disfiguring hare-lips and other physical handicaps that blight their lives; lives that with a only a few pounds could be truly enhanced by cosmetic surgery. Every day on every news bulletin comes stories that sicken and depress and makes us wonder at man’s unerring inhumanity to man. War, slaughter, holocaust, terror, famine, murder, rape. It’s as though the BBC news is on a constant loop. There is only so much horror that we can absorb before we reach for the radio dials and switch off. There are only so many column inches that we can read before we turn the page and try our luck with the crossword. Closer to home, I listen to friends who are stressed or depressed. Their jobs are either at risk of being lost altogether or have changed so much that they cannot bear to go to them. Of the best students with whom I did my teacher training, one couldn’t bring herself to walk back into a classroom and another has already resigned. Another friend popped in to see me earlier this week to tell me that management had informed them that one hundred redundancies are to be announced within the next few months. Another, a nurse, is so unhappy with her working conditions and how her job of caring for her patients is being compromised by cuts that she cries as she drives around to do her visits. Yet another, a social worker, is so rushed off her feet with more and more cases as more and more families face crises and fall apart that, ironically if not altogether unexpectedly, she has no time for her own. The world is a very serious place right now. Some of the problems are unpalatably horrendous, others deeply sad and still others, enough to shake the strongest of constitutions. Which brings me back to the Queen, diamonds and a country celebrating a jubilee. The dictionary’s definition of jubilee is any occasion of rejoicing or festivity. Given what I’ve just written, I could be accused of being frivolous, trivialising the demons and despots that tyrannise the world. On the contrary. In straitened and in brutal times, the human spirit has always attempted to soar above the hell that is at times human suffering. I have often wondered how holocaust survivors carried on, how they found love and brought up families in a ‘normal’ world. The psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote after his long imprisonment at Auschwitz that, ‘man’s deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose….after all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord's Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips’. I wouldn’t be disgusting enough to attempt to compare the suffering of those who have truly looked hell in the eye with those who are struggling in Britain in 2012; a time and, to use the much mooted political parlance, of austerity measures, but what with our own troubles and those of the world’s which we are constantly fed, and which render us impotent and useless, in our own small way, we too need to find meaning and purpose. Hanging up some bunting and participating in a street party or equally cheering on team GB at the Olympics may not, on the face of it, seem very meaningful, but I would argue that it is the small stuff that sustains us in dark times. The parties and events for the Jubilee and the athletes and the coaches who have trained for a lifetime, will for a brief moment in time remind us how joyful it can be to come together as a community. Whilst there are those who will continue to be cynical about such events there are thousands more who will have baked, made record breaking lengths of bunting, mowed recreation grounds, organised, choreographed and swept and cleaned. It is just as the dictionary described it, an occasion for rejoicing. The day after the bank holiday will come soon enough. The news reports will continue to inform us of the slaughter of innocent children in Syria, the alleged murder of six sleeping children by the hand of their parents, poverty, unemployment, the continued double-dip recession, the apparent hopelessness of it all. But most of us will, as we have done since time in memorium, continue to search for meaning and purpose and where we find it will probably be in the most unexpected of places. For the time being God Save the Queen and God Save Tom Daley. We are relying on you more than ever. 31st May 2012

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