I travelled by train to Birmingham yesterday to meet an old friend, so had more time than usual to read The Guardian. It was a sobering experience.
I read that the U.K. is ranked the worst place in Europe for quality of life, that Gaddafi may be hiding in Algeria, and universities in Britain are still failing to find places for poorer students. A judge had decided that a woman who has been suffering for over eight years from extensive and inoperable brain damage, has double incontinence and is fed through a tube, must still be kept alive because there are signs that, in the judge’s words, she has ‘positive experiences’.
In Saudi Arabia a woman had been sentenced to ten lashes for doing something a woman should not do in that country, namely drive a car. (The King commuted the sentence).Six London policemen have been convicted and thirty four others disciplined for fraudulent expense claims. 1019 officers are implicated, apparently to the tune of £3.7m. There was a report that the CIA set up a fake vaccine scheme in an effort, through DNA scrutiny, to find out where Bin Laden was, and rumours that NGO’s were being used for this scam, and had to be moved from the area in case of reprisals.
And so it went on. An average day I suppose, of alarming news about shame, scandal and tragedy. I am moving toward the end-time of my life and part of me would like to ignore the appalling things that happen in the world, but I can’t. It helps therefore to balance elderly disenchantment at human failures with signs of success.
So to Birmingham. When I arrived on a warm autumnal day, the city was vibrant with life, especially young life of amazing ethnic variety. Meeting my friend we wandered though the crowds and though hardly part of the scene, smiled at it all with pleasure, and borrowed a bit of it for ourselves.
I felt the same when watching the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool on TV. The Party Leader, Ed Milliband, gave what we thought was a responsible and entirely fresh political thrust at what the country might aspire to. Cynical and jaundiced media mostly thought otherwise. Even more impressive were the many younger people who spoke during the debates. Informed and positive, they represented for me and no doubt for the delegates, signs of hope. Long may they prevail, and help create the better world that one day they will help to bring into being.