Belfast Telegraph

As centenary of WWI dawns, let's fight for better world for all

By Lindy McDowell

January 1, 2014. First day of a brand new year. As good a day as any to take measure of our times. And no better snapshot of our world around us than a few of the stories making headlines ...

Just in time to capitalise on the post-Christmas sales frenzy, a woman in England is reported to have put her baby up for sale on Gumtree.

Her baby.

In fairness (and this may be some small comfort to the poor mite when he reaches an age where he's able to peruse the small ads himself) she was asking for £150,000. A not-exactly-trifling amount, given that it's almost one week's pay for a Premiership player. Also – a nice wee touch this, I thought – she did stipulate that she required a deposit, as she was sick of time-wasters.

The mother says she was only joking (and let's be honest, we've all been there) but looking at your own little treasures as they bounce around the room, high on selection box sucrose, fighting over the Playstation controls ... you wouldn't actually go as far as to advertise them online for cash in hand. Ummm, would you?

Local headlines, and here we've also failed to do a deal despite Dr Haass overseeing 'talks on three contentious issues'. The progress, I suppose, is that we've narrowed it down to only three. Bearing in mind that we were pivotal in building the United States, providing it with presidents, drawing up its Declaration of Independence and even writing this down and printing it, some might say that the regular flow of American peacemakers/negotiators back this side of the Atlantic is reasonable payback. Still. Humiliating nonetheless.

Despite having more elected representatives, quangos, commissions, special committees and oversight bodies per square foot than any other nation on God's earth, we can't reach agreement by ourselves on even the flying of a flag.

The result of all the late-night Haassle comes down to the disappointing but not unexpected (there's an election in the offing) long-finger option of further talks. And, it's been suggested, possibly a new commission. A commission. Of course! Money well spent, you will doubtless be thinking, if you're still sitting there in that 12 hour queue for A&E. Or wondering how to make your pension stretch this month to cover food AND heating ...

We collect commissions here like some bewhiskered lepidopterist greedily amassing moth specimens. What next? A Derry/Londonderry Commission to establish once and for all what we're going to call the place. A Kerbs Commission to adjudicate on painting of kerbstones. An Old Firm Sportswear Commission to determine protocol in the wearing of football shirts.

Elsewhere in the world they are fortunate indeed that they don't have to grapple with such weighty matters ...

In South Sudan, as that country tears itself apart, there are reports that even in UN camps, food has run out. Back on our side of the globe this particular conflict makes fewer headlines than that other battle royal of our times. The war between Nigella and Mr Saatchi.

A footballer celebrates a goal by making a quenelle gesture – an upside-down Nazi salute which Anelka assures us was merely meant as a tribute to his good friend, the French comedian who has popularised it. And who, coincidentally, has convictions for spreading anti-Semitism. So, no harm meant. Unless you happen to be Jewish ...

The turn of this new year sees reports of children starving to death (in Africa, Syria, North Korea) and, in the UK, doctors horrified by childhood obesity rates. One 10-year-old girl cited in reports weighs in at 22 stone.

All this, a graphic illustration of a world still ill-divided. Of bloody conflagration and petty squabble. Of want and greed, racist bile and crass stupidity, man's inhumanity and nothing new there then.

As we enter the year that marks the centenary of The War To End All Wars would it be too much to hope that we might finally stop selling all our children short? Let's wish it anyway.

A peaceful New Year. A kinder one. A good New Year.

Belfast Telegraph


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