Way back when, when I was in the Hole in the Wall Gang doing sketch shows on the BBC, we featured a couple called Barry and Sandra Aldernice from North Down.
In one sketch, Barry says: “Y’know, I used to worry a lot about the Troubles, but then, I stopped reading the papers and found I worried a little less. Then I stopped watching the news and found I worried even less again. Then finally, we moved to Cultra and now I find I don’t worry at all!”
This week, I’ve been doing a bit of a Barry. I don’t mean I’ve moved to Cultra. Well, not literally. Rather, I’ve been not wanting to watch or read the news because it all seems unremittingly, overwhelmingly awful.
I know this is nothing original or new. And I know everyone but the most hard-bitten journalists probably has periods like this, where they just want not to see or hear any more pictures or stories of death, destruction and despair.
No more reminders of our apparent impotence in the face of Nature, viruses and other human beings intent on their own selfish agenda. Floods, flu, murder on honeymoon and assassination at the supermarket. Enough already.
But sometimes you just can’t get away from it. The information seeps in and the “big” questions begin to rise. They press upon you whether you try to ignore the pressing or not. “What’s it all about?” “What’s the point?” “Why do these things happen?”
It’s hard to see how we can all just tootle along in our everyday lives sometimes, when events and tragedies of such magnitude are happening around us.
How come the big questions don’t force their way onto the news agenda, maybe as an “And finally ” item? Just once, wouldn’t it seem appropriate for us to stop a moment and actually talk out loud to each other about what the f*ck we’re all doing???
It may not stop floods and mudslides but it might help stop the other tragedies.
The paradise island of Mauritius is something of a powder keg because of the huge gulf between rich and poor.
To steal money from a relatively wealthy tourist might seem a much simpler way to get cash, than to work long hours for little pay.
But would the dissatisfaction with less money be so acute if others weren’t flaunting material wealth as the ultimate goal and symbol of success?
If we talked on TV and in the print media about co-operation and how we are all in this together (life, that is) instead of constantly highlighting our differences and fostering fear of difference, would a young man feel so entitled to go out and shoot down a group of strangers with a readily available gun?
Do we take responsibility for how our value systems impact the rest of the world?
Experts agree that there’s enough food and energy in the world to give every one of us a decent life.
What there isn’t, is enough food and energy to sustain a world where a selfish, powerful minority (us) hogs the lion’s share because we say we’re entitled.
Until we can each of us say “I am responsible for what happens” then there’s no way for us to stop the tragedies.
At best we’ll just shuffle them around a bit and hope they don’t land with us too often.