In the Days of the Comet…
Although I’ve stolen the strap-line from the title of H.G.Wells novel, in which a comet causes a change in the air with the result that ‘The great Change has come for evermore, happiness and beauty are our atmosphere, there is peace on earth and good will to all men’, that’s the only thing I’ve taken. Because the plot of Well’s novel draws out the desire in minds for a new world, one of harmony and peace. He also uses it to float the idea of ‘free love’. Well, let’s be honest, our present situation is unlikely to inspire men’s minds into building any sort of new world, one designed to improve everyone’s lot in life, let alone to go that far. Human beings just are not built that way. More accurately, not enough are; and that’s one of the dichotomies of this species of ours. It’s always been that way; at the same time that men are performing wonderful acts of selflessness and heroism in war, other men are making huge profits from the misery of others.
In peacetime, some people give their lives to trying to improve the lot of those less fortunate, yet alongside them others give in to greed to achieve wealth beyond reason. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, as they say.
There’s a good example of this in our present situation. Captain Tom Moore, who turned 100 years yesterday, set out to raise £1000.00 for NHS charities, by walking, with his walking frame, 25 meter laps of his garden. By the time he’d finished, his feat had so caught the imagination that he’d beaten his target somewhat by raising £32 million. And that inspired other wonderful feats to raise similar funds – from children with spina bifida and cerebral palsy to people with brain injuries and others of Tom Moore’s vintage.
Tom Moore served in the Second World War, in the Royal Armoured Corps, and spent most of his time serving in the Far East, later becoming an instructor at Bovington Camp. He’s had an Honour Guard from hi old Regiment, been appoints as an Honorary Colonel of the Regiment, and had an RAF flypast for his birthday. He deserves every one of the many accolades offered him, as do all those others who followed his lead.
But alongside these heartwarming efforts, we’ve seen how very wealthy individuals, and the organisations they run, have sought to minimise their own losses by drawing from taxpayers resources instead. The media have been full of tales of Tim Weatherspoon, Richard Branson, and rich football clubs who have attempted to furlough staff at the taxpayers’ cost, in some cases only to back down when they were called out for it. Government Ministers and certain MP’s tried to shame footballers into taking a pay cut, blissfully and selectively ignorant of the huge sums these players had given to charities. The two Manchester clubs, for instance, pledged to pay staff even while they were laid off; and they’ve given large sums themselves to charities working with the NHS. Just this week Manchester United are delivering 60,000 meals to NHS staff in their area; and other clubs have done similar deeds, making facilities available and so on. Yet little has been heard from those same Ministers or MP’s on what the many billionaires in this Country could or should be doing.
Yet the question remains – why are these massive efforts from the likes of Tom Moore to the likes of Manchester United are so necessary?
In other news, the lockdown continues apace. The days go by. And I think, sometimes, how lucky we are, if we’re in a position to spend those days in comfort, in warmth, with company, and with plenty to eat. To spend them not in fear of an abusive partner; not in fear of financial strife; not in fear of losing our home. To spend them without having to watch a loved one suffer in pain and without even the comfort of family at their side. We who aren’t in that position need to be grateful for more than small mercies, because our mercies are large ones.
Away from the virus, there doesn’t seem to be much going on in the world! Of course all those disasters, tragedies, strife and stress which normally occupy our news channels must have considerately stopped for the duration.
Mention of strife and stress brings to mind an article I recently wrote on the brutal murder of Emmett Till. And it was while re-reading his sad story that I was reminded of other racially motivated crimes; of the people who lost their lives because they were different, and lost them in the most violent fashion. Or because they tried to help the disenfranchised. The subject is worthy of another post, but what strikes me about the mass of lynchings that went on until well into my lifetime is how on one side, they’re so brutal (I keep using that word, but only because it fits so well) and unnecessary, and on the other how the perpetrators not only openly did those deeds, but made a social occasion of them. And if the lynchings have stopped, the killings haven’t. Man’s brutality hasn’t gone away. Human hatred hasn’t gone away. Our capacity for greed and avarice hasn’t gone away.
In these days of the Comet, the air hasn’t changed…