Belfast Telegraph

Why we need to keep alive our curiosity and compassion

By Nuala McKeever

Locked once again into rehearsal-purdah these past two weeks, not a lot of "real life" has penetrated my brain, given that I get home in the evening after a day learning how to tap dance (tap dance??? At 50???) and am fit only to lie on the floor of the shower in a sweaty stupor. But the odd sound from beyond the bubble of Tinseltown, the Musical, has reached my ears.

Thirty years after the first one, there's a new Band Aid single being released this morning. It's to raise money to fight Ebola rather than hunger, so some of the lyrics have been changed. I'm not sure it works quite so well, it feels very much as if they knew they had a good song and wanted to shoehorn the new idea into it whether it suited or not, but the intention is to help and that's better than not doing anything.

Also saw the Sainsbury's Christmas TV ad which has caused some controversy. Like the John Lewis ad, it's a long piece and tells a story. It's about the Christmas truce in the First World War trenches when young men, separated by a few yards of land, got up out of their holes in the ground and met and played football, before going back into their respective hells and resuming the fighting. No penguins in this ad, just lambs to the slaughter.

I remember Band Aid first time round very clearly. It seems like yesterday. Makes me think that if there was anyone still living who was old enough to remember 1914, I'm sure that distant time might well seem not so long ago to them.

Bono lamented that Band Aid-type events are still needed because the world still hasn't put its weight behind caring for everyone.

For once, I imagine, loads of people agreed with him when he said it's a pity we have to see the same old faces again. He's right. It's depressing that the same human nature traits that gave rise to the disastrous famine of 1984 are prevailing today. And if Wilfred Owen were alive today I suspect he'd be lamenting the fact that 100 years on from the slaughter of the First World War, we are still trying to settle our differences by taking each other's lives.

What a strange creation we are, human beings. In the same week we've witnessed the joy of those involved with landing a probe onto a comet moving at something like 38,000 miles an hour! For 10 years a group of scientists have waited to see if Philae would work. And it did. To see roomfuls of "geeks" cheering and hugging was uplifting. The television news led with the story even though, I'm sure, for most of us, it was something we hadn't really heard about.

Big moments in history. Demonstrating the zenith and the nadir of what is possible. Massive, respectful curiosity drove the Rosetta project into space. An enquiring approach. What if? What would it be like? What could we learn?

The same respectful curiosity drove the men out of the trenches in 1914. Who are those other people singing? What if I went and said hello? What might I find if I put my hands up and walked forward with an open mind?

Thirty years ago Michael Buerk's harrowing television reports on the famine in Ethiopia were also driven by respectful curiosity. What if I went and met these starving people? What if I saw them as individuals like me and you and not as "black babies".

Curiosity and compassion.

A combination worth reminding ourselves over and over again.

Thrilling TV with the sound down

I know, I know, you need another opinion about The Fall like a hole in the head.

Which is what I felt like giving myself as I watched it. With the sound down it's grand - moody, slow, dark and menacing. But when you can hear what they're saying, oh dear lord it's just horrendous. Where was the dialogue put together? In the shipyard?

Has Alan Cubitt the writer ever actually heard how people here talk? Synopsis so far - Beard, clunk, bra, clunk, another beard, clunk. Clunk, clunk. Sour look. High heels. Clunk. Roll the credits. (Can't wait for this week.)

Crushing weight of 'togetherness'

Today's independent report into how the Tory/Lib Dem economic policies have worked so far, shows clearly that they have made the worst-off poorer and the better-off half of the population better off.

So that's what George Osborne meant when he said we're all "in it together"? As in, we're all in it, but most of us up here are sitting on top of you down there, squeezing you to death with our growing weight?

Oh, and it hasn't reduced the deficit either, so not only is it barbaric, it doesn't even work.

Hey, let's elect them again!

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