by Turlough Quinn
The Olympics are upon us. A week to go and we shall start a feast of sport unequaled in these past four years. At the time when London was awarded the games about seven years ago, the world was a different place; money was plentiful, hopes of a great future were high, house prices rising and there was full employment.
How the world has changed. But we shall still have a party. That’s the thing about human nature, we always find a reason to go on. From the beginning of time people have competed in all sorts of games and competitions. The Olympics themselves are the restoration of the ancient games of Greece, when Greece and Athens were the major civilisations of the world.
There will be a festive atmosphere over Britain and we need it; a time to forget all our troubles and woes and get on with enjoying ourselves. For me the highlight shall be the 100 meters and the running of Usian Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter. Can anyone beat him? His joy and laughter when he is on the track is infectious. He has a natural joi de vivre which I suppose comes with being the best.
I’ve a tenner says he’ll win by a clear 0.2 seconds. Any takers? I can’t wait to see Usian bolt down that track as fast as a bullet.
Competitors come to the games from every corner of the earth. One of the great things we learn from foreigners is that we on this little island are not the centre of the world. We only think we are. Over 200 countries will be represented. People of different colours, races and creeds shall gather to do their best, win or lose. Friendships shall be forged, old acquaintances renewed and a little growth in world understanding shall take place.
That’s the way life is. We learn a little more about each other and ourselves every day. It’s called growing and it is one of the most beautiful experiences we can ever have. We grow a little every day and we grow into the people we were meant to be. And respect between nations shall also grow a little, so let’s all sit back and enjoy it.
Not much respect down south this past week. Its seems that Cathal Magee, the head man of the Health Service Executive resigned and Dr James Reilly, Minister for Health, did not bother to tell the Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore.
“Eamon de Gilmore,” a small man with a big ego, began life as an activist in the republican movement and after several rebirths and regenerations he ended up leader of the Irish Labour Party. As fate would have it he became deputy prime minister of the Free State by default; Cowen and Fianna Fail were unceremoniously booted out, enough people saw through Enda not to give him a majority thus Enda needed a whipping boy; enter Eamon and his band of merry men.
However, no matter what fun we make of him Mr Gilmore is entitled to be treated with respect the same as the rest of us. I like taking the mick out of Mr Gilmore because his arrogance makes him such an easy target. You can always bank on Eamon to do a U-Turn when things get rough. Remember, “Its Labours way or no Way.”? This now infamous catchphrase was soon dropped when Eamon got the reins of power. It had to be. The country needed European money and “realpolitik” took over. The banks had to be kept afloat!
On the subject of banks, what about HSBC: “money launderers to the world.” The Trade Minister in David Cameron’s government, Stephen Green, was Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of the HSBC when it was up to its neck in shady dealings on behalf of rogue nations and Mexican drug barons. And according to the United States Senate Committee looking into these things he has serious questions to answer.
The chairman of AIB, which owns our local bank First Trust, was drafted in from HSBC to clean out the Irish banking system. Eh, its appears that he is named in a 330 page report by the US Senate into the shady dealings of HSBC. Michael Geoghegan, a top adviser to NAMA is also named in the report. He was HSBC’s top senior executive for almost the entire period covered in the report.
Social Justice Ireland's rich-poor gap widens
The rules of normal people do not aply to these men. They are above the law. Can you imagine any of these men having to resign or even to answer serious questions about their behaviour in this country? Of course not! Compare this to the Social Justice Ireland report.
Social Jusice Ireland issued a report last week that showed that the income of those at the bottom of the social pile fell by 18% in one year while for the top lot, their income rose by 4%. What is worse, Social Justice Ireland was able to show in this report that this was the result of deliberate government policy. How can this be? Think about it for a moment.
Who does a recession really hit? Has it hit you hard?
In truth, during this past four years of recession and financial turmoil I have not missed one meal. Perhaps I have not gone on holiday as much as I would have wished, not gone out for a steak dinner every week, but that’s no big deal. We adjust, save a bit more, spend a bit less, but overall things are ok.
Who does the recession really hit? Not us. It is the bottom 10% of the scale, the people without jobs or who lose their jobs. The rest of us make do; we get by. The number of people really hit by a recession is not big enough to cause serious problems for the government. It is only when things get desperately bad as in Greece or Spain that people take to the streets. We are not there yet in Britain or Ireland.
So the poor people are left to fend for themselves. There are simply not enough of them and those of us with jobs think it is best to ignore them. But this recession is a little different when we think of it.
A lot of people got caught up in the whole “buy for let” mode of thinking and are now stuck in a place where their investments are worth a lot less than they paid for them. They believed the lie peddled by governments and bankers that the boom would never end. However, it is no good blaming them for our woes. We pick up the pieces and go on; when blaming stops, healing begins.
As with everything there is a silver lining. Society has come back to its senses. We all went a little mad, myself included. A moment’s reflection would have shown us the folly of our dreams. From now on I promise to be a little more careful.
People are strange creatures. We swing between one excess and another. Either we spend nothing or we go on a spree. There seems to be no middle ground.
What does all this tell us, the Olympics, the banks, Gilmore and Reilly and the report of Social Justice Ireland?
It tells us we are people, human beings made up of a thousand fears and hopes, love and pity, and every other emotion you could imagine. When God made people he made a question more than an answer.
What do we really want, what is important to us and why are we here? These questions and the answers to them are what makes life so wonderful.
The Olympics are about hope. The banks about greed. Gilmore and Reilly about arrogance and hurt pride. The Social Justice Ireland report about poverty, either of money or of spirit.
We all have these emotions in abundance. That is why we can identify with what is going on. We feel joy at the Olympics, anger at the banks, laugh at the antics of Reilly and Gilmore and we should feel shame when we read about inequality in our society.
Yes, human beings are more of a question than an answer. But sometimes real evil breaks into our lives.
James Holmes is alleged to have walked into a cinema armed to the teeth and shot 12 people dead. How can a man do such a thing? I don’t know. The best that I can say is that we all make choices. We choose between good and evil. Over time the choices we make form our personality and way of behaving. In 7 billion people, there have to be some extremes. Add to that the availability of guns and you have a dangerous cocktail.
Life is all about choices. Every day I make a hundred small choices between what I should do and what I should not do. Often I am driven by greed, lust for power etc. Other times I choose to do what is right.
On the 17th Dec 1983, a week before Christmas, an IRA bomb killed six people outside Harrods store in London. By coincidence an Anglican bishop was being interviewed on the news when the first reports came through. The newsreader asked him, “Where is God in all this?” The bishop gave an inciteful answer. “All our actions either add to the deposit of evil in the world or the deposit of good. These actions add to the deposit of evil,” he replied, before continuing, “As a Christian, I try to add to the deposit of good.” I have never forgotten his words.
When I say that human beings are more of a question than an answer,
I am making a serious point.
London 2012 Olympic Mascots
We all have to answer this question, “what essentially are we?” every day of our lives. If we choose to do what is right we are on the way to maturity and happiness. If we choose to do what is wrong or evil, we are on the way to God knows where. As for me, I know where I’m choosing to go next week. I’m choosing the Olympics, where hope and effort shall triumph.
I hope Mr Assad takes some time off from killing his people to watch the games with me. Oh, and if you are down in Dublin, be sure to tell Eamon Gilmore that the Olympics are on. Nobody else seems to tell him anything.
1 Trillion (in double-stacked pallets)
How much is a trillion dollars? I have no idea either; the number is simply meaningless to me. How many starving children would it feed, and for how long? Again I don’t know. But James Henry of the Tax Justice Network estimates that the super rich have at least 21 trillion dollars and probably nearer to 32 trillion dollars hidden away in tax havens.
This is obscene if it is true. Pope Benedict says in one of his recent writings that justice demands that there is a God. He says some things are so unjust that our very nature cries out for justice to be done. How would any person hiding billions of dollars (a trillion is a thousand billion, if that makes it any clearer) out of greed, while people die of starvation, face a God who loves the poor? I don’t know how these facts make you feel but they make me angry.
The ball, made by
Irish company O'Neills,
being used for
a Gaelic football match.
Down went Tyrone and Antrim. A bad weekend for Gaelic football in the north. The only consolation we have is that Donegal looks good. At least they shall carry the Ulster flag forward. Oh, for the glory days of Tyrone at their peak.
Well, there’s always the Olympics in London and Usian Bolt to look forward too.
“Maybe its because I’m a Londoner,
that I love London town…….”
“Our God is a great God.”
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Weekly column published in Observer Newspaper group, N.I.