Belfast Telegraph

Why we seem to have learnt nothing from our past horrors

By Nuala McKeever

I was given a beautiful watch for my birthday last week. It was a minute fast, so I pulled out the pin and turned time back. Just by a minute. The next day I had a phone call with someone in California. Working out what time to ring, he suggested by email that I call him "tomorrow". I had momentary confusion – does he mean HIS tomorrow or MY tomorrow? They're eight hours behind. They're in a whole different day. They're still in yesterday.

The following day I made the mistake of sitting down to eat dinner with the news on Channel 4. Gaza. Awful. International law being openly flouted by the state of Israel for decades now, with no sanctions by the powers in the West. All that international democracy that countries went to war to protect and defend 60 years ago, all just conveniently set aside when it suits certain people or groups. The bloodshed is happening right now, but the attitudes and the aggression belong to another era. They're in the last century.

And then a passenger plane is shot down over Ukraine by, at the time of writing, Russian-backed rebels. I look at my lovely new watch and wonder, "Is this watch really slow or is it actually fast? Very fast? Am I actually living, not in 2014 but in pre-1914?

What has happened to democracy? What has happened to the ideal of laws and agreements and internationally accepted norms, set up to protect the world from imploding?

Have we, as a world community of developed nations, become bored with fair play? Have we lost sight over the passage of time, of the horror of what life was like before we decided that democratic law was the best way forward? Are we the new, young, entitled generation, quick to demand what we want, with no sense of responsibility for what we must give?

It seems we've allowed ourselves to be sold the dream of entitlement for so long, we've started to believe our own PR.

"You deserve a holiday!" "Treat yourself, go on, you deserve it!" "Have the bigger car, you know you want it!" "The dream house/holiday/husband/wife/body/child can be yours for just $XX.99!!! Take it! Help yourself! You deserve it!!!!"

Endless growth, perpetual ease, hot and cold running everything on tap – the creed of greed has trickled down into our semi-detached lives and into our fake Louis Vuitton purses and wallets and into our TV-addled, over-stimulated brains. And now it's trickling back up into our national politics.

Forget justice! Fair play is for losers! Might is right! If you've got it, flaunt it! Short term gain, what's in it for me, don't think beyond the moment of instant gratification. Give in to your animal instinct for survival, comfort and domination.

Wow, it's as if the last century of learning from our wars and appreciating the ultimate futility of killing to settle differences, never happened. All that effort to crush Hitler and stop him annihilating a small, defenceless people to further his neurotic, paranoid dream of racial superiority, was it in vain? Has it only served to beget another monster from the ashes of his victims? Have the Zionists learned nothing? Or have they learned too well?

Glasnost ended the Soviet nightmare of Stalin's crazed, murderous regime. Have the new Russians learned nothing? Or have they learned too well?

The Greeks invented democracy thousands of years ago. We let it go. We brought it back. It works. Let us learn well from our past before all our clocks are put back to the Dark Ages.

Boys, it’s time to become men

Between the 24 guys in Magaluf and the two young men outside El Divino nightclub recently, I have to say I don’t fancy the standard of young males on the scene these days.

All the focus of these two stories has been on the young women. But what’s going on with the men?

Is this the result of decades of teaching respect for both sexes? That males still don’t respect themselves enough to respect the dignity of females?

Women are NOT responsible for how men act around them. Men are responsible for how they act. End of.

Comedy isn’t a patch on reality

I can see why RTE passed up the chance to make Father Ted, way back then. They obviously realised they didn’t need made-up stories of ludicrous, unbelievable behaviour by people in positions of authority. The news would do just as well.

Thank you to Ned O’Sullivan, Senator extraordinaire, for taking our minds off Gaza, albeit briefly this week, with his demand that something be done about the seagulls in Dublin because they’ve “lost the run of themselves”.

He’ll need a cup of tea after that stirring, finger on the elbow, speech. He will, he will, he will ...

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