Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

We should be inspired by true heroes and not celebrities

When anyone says ‘the world’s going mad’ — and people are saying it more and more often these days — I tend to agree.



Dominating the airwaves are the deluded, the selfish, the plain moronic.

There’s Jordan or Katie Price or whatever she’s called, talking at great length on ITV last week about herself, her tendency to take off all her clothes when she gets drunk (she can’t help it), and how she ain’t never ever gonna get back with her husband cos ’e dumped her.

And the sad truth is that her life is avidly observed by many — and there are many young girls who want to be her.

Then there’s the whole succession of so-called stars ‘doing good’ in developing countries or fighting the utterly futile cause they call climate change. That repeat offender, Bono, preaching about eco this or eco that, as his cavalcade of lorries and planes cart his gear around the world on tour.

No, let’s not dwell on such depressing drivel. What about people with real courage, people who should be hailed as role models yet just battle on quietly with their lives?

In the news last week we heard of the astounding bravery of 16-year-old Hannah Clark who was born with cardiomyopathy and medics feared her heart would give up within a year. When she was two, a donor heart was grafted on top of her own. However she suffered serious health problems because of the immunosuppressant drugs she was taking to prevent rejection of the organ. Then, tumours were found in her body and she needed chemotherapy — and she faced further surgery and treatment.

Amazingly, after all those years of suffering Hannah remembered to once again thank her donor’s family. For not only did Hannah and her family show remarkable courage, but so did her donor’s parents who, before burying their dearly loved child, allowed the heart to be used to save a life.

And there have been tributes everywhere this week to the immense bravery of our soldiers who’ve died in Afghanistan. Each one is a role model, each of their broken hearted family members an exemplar of dignity.

There was Lance Corporal Dennis, from Wales, who had just helped secure a helicopter landing site so casualties could be airlifted away for treatment when he was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED). It was said that he had been deeply affected by the death of his close friend Lance Corporal Nigel Moffett, of the Light Dragoons, from Belfast, earlier in the tour. Seven of the eight British soldiers killed in Helmand in one day just over a week ago, were victims of IEDs. Again, they were targeted when they went to the aid of their comrades.

One of the dead, Rifleman Joseph Murphy (18), was attempting to carry a colleague to safety after he was wounded in the first explosion, while Corporal Jonathan Horne (28), from Walsall, and Rifleman William Aldridge (18) were also killed trying to help casualties from the first explosion. Rifleman James Backhouse, also 18, was trying to clear a route for his fellow soldiers when he was caught up in a blast and killed.

The Taliban’s tactics were said be like those of the IRA here — an explosion is set off to lure more soldiers into their evil trap ... and the more deadly assault. Cowards killing the brave.

Head further east for another fine example of courage — the Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (64), who has spent much of the last 20 years either in jail or under house arrest. She’s currently on trial because an American man swimming across a lake to visit her at her home was allegedly a violation of her house arrest conditions.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner studied at Oxford University and could have settled down to a comfortable life in the UK — but returned to Burma to lead the pro democracy movement.

It’s widely believed that she’ll be found guilty at this trial which is being conducted in secret. But she has never been deterred from her goal, nor her beliefs, despite the power of the country’s military dictatorship against her.

Of course, there are many thousands of truly courageous people who never make the headlines. The charity Release International has highlighted the case of young Christian Ishtiaq Masih who was beaten to death by radical Islamists in Punjab after he accidentally drank out of a cup reserved for Muslims at a roadside café.

Masih had ordered a cup of tea at a stall but when he went to pay the cashier noticed a cross around his neck. The stallholder and 14 of his employees set upon the defenceless Ishtiaq, beating and stabbing him to death.

People like these are true examples of inspiration, steadfastness, honour. In this crazy world, they’re the people who give us hope for the future.

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