“James Scott, from Forum for Action on Substance Abuse (FASA), said the message is not getting through to young people.
"There is less of a fear of dying. There is less of a fear of taking things, maybe people not thinking that it will be them," he explained.
"They think it won't happen to them, or it's a bad batch, or a bad tablet they've taken', and actually no, it could just be the fact you're taking a drug that's illegal, a drug that isn't meant to be in your body.”
This quote from UTV news tells us a lot about a large section of our young people; there are many out there with no hope and who simply don’t care about life anymore.
Forty per cent of young people, who are unemployed seldom, if ever, leave the house. These are the new legions of social outcasts that we are creating around us. We are generating in our midst a whole subclass who shall never effectively contribute to our society and who shall grow into adulthood feeling alienated from the world.
I suppose in fairness to them you could ask, ‘what has life to offer you?’
Compare that to the elation that many of us felt when we read last week that the price of houses in the New North has bottomed out and appears to be on something of an upward trajectory. We put so much store on the value of our little castles and our perception of personal wealth is often caught up in the value of a few bricks and mortar.
The problem for us all is that we believe that this recession shall soon come to an end and all shall return to normal. The monitor that ordinary people use to figure out how the economy is going is the value of their home; if the value of Casa Turlough is on the up then all is good.
If, on the other hand, Casa Turlough is making no progress in the value arena then the economy is not providing security for us all.
House and land prices are the two items that we can all identify with and they are easy to understand.
But what shall happen if this recession goes on for years to come? And that is very possible; Japan went into recession in the early 1990s and still has not recovered. Now it is trying desperately to stimulate its economy by printing money. Only time will tell if this works or not.
The real problem that we face as people is that we still put too much emphasis on what we own rather than what we are. The man with the big house and fancy car is still valued more than the unemployed man in the executive house and who has no car.
That’s human nature.
Another thing that is happening to us is that we are all getting older and with this unremitting passage of time comes the dreaded ‘MAS’ or middle aged spread to you and me.
The problem with my MAS is that it came too early and stayed too long!
Michael Symonds, professor of developmental physiology at the University of Nottingham, says the answer is to adopt a healthy lifestyle - or find a hobby that expends lots of energy.
"I've got two allotments, six children and I bike 20 miles a day," he says. "I'm the same weight as I was when I was in my 20s."
He also recommends avoiding processed foods high in sugar and fat, growing your own vegetables and reducing work stress.
He adds: "Research shows that disrupted sleep patterns can have an impact too. The propensity to obesity is more prevalent in shift workers because of this fact."
What annoys me about Michael Symonds and men like him is that he states the blooming obvious and somehow makes all us feel guilty. We all know that we should exercise more, but I haven’t the energy because I have a middle aged spread.
We all know that we should not worry but look at the price of houses. And we all know that we should eat better food, but which tastes nicer, a piece of boiled cabbage or a well made, delightful biscuit?
If we all did everything we were supposed to do what a boring place it would be; there would be no gossip, no feeling superior and no pointing fingers.
There has been a bit of finger pointing at poor old Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the week. It has been claimed that Assad has used chemical weapons on his own people. What is happening out there in the Middle East?
Do you remember Paddy Ashdown? He was a leader of the Liberal Democrats for a while and he also served in Northern Ireland during his military days. If I recall correctly he was based in Gough Barracks in Armagh. Paddy is a proponent of the idea that what is going on in the Middle East is a Muslim civil war.
This opinion is highlighted in other reports. According to a recent report by the Brookings Institution “a strong argument can be made that the Shi‘a-Sunni divide is well on its way to displacing the broader conflict between Muslims and the West as the primary challenge facing the Islamic societies of the Middle East for the foreseeable future. Such sectarian conflict is also likely to supplant the Palestinian occupation as the central mobilizing factor for Arab political life.”
The Brookings Institute is a huge US institution that goes back to 1916 (that’s really old for them Yankess) and has many wise people studying world affairs.
But I disagree with them in their analysis and here is my reason.
To the outside world, the conflict in our wee country looked like a religious war, the Catholics and Protestants were fighting one another for control over a piece of ground. But the fact that one crowd were mostly Catholic and one crowd mostly Protestant was an accident of history not the cause of the conflict.
The cause of the conflict was injustice, not the religion of the people. The most important element in any society is justice. The riots, the uprising and the civil wars that are taking place in the Middle East are the result of one group desperately holding on to their supremacy.
The British and the Americans have been good at this; they have learnt that the rich have to give the poor just enough to live on so that they don’t get too restive. Give a man enough to live on but not enough to really cost the economy too much and you can create huge housing estates where people live right on the poverty line but have enough to keep them from getting caught up in a revolution.
Meanwhile the rest of us worry about house prices!
We even invent a name for those people who are on the bread line; the long term unemployed.
One of the most basic human instincts is that which calls for justice.
Justice is giving to each person what is due to them.
No innocent human being deserves being poisoned with chemical weapons so that another group can live like kings, just as no innocent human being should be killed by a drone sent by a soldier 6000 miles away to protect the imagined interests of a country.
In order to provide a smoke screen for our inability to live in a just society we invent enemies and come up with excuses for our behaviour.
A few years ago Bin Laden was the enemy. Now Bin Laden is gone and Muslim Fundamentalism has become the new great evil of the world.
Eh, what about the way that the west has sustained regimes in the Middle East simply so that we can get oil? These regimes have hardly been an outstanding example of justice and civil rights.
The new aspect of the Middle East is that we are all seeing it on TV. These things happened everywhere; if it wasn’t chemical weapons it was the odd massacre. Cast your mind back to Rwanda about twenty years ago.
Who is the only country in the world to drop the nuclear bomb? And they had perfect justification; they had to end the war.
The world is too complex for easy answers. Even in our own wee back yard a few hundred malcontents from one side or the other can stop progress.
The Troubles have been over for twenty years and yet we can’t even speak civilly to one another. Talk about inventing an enemy.
The enemy now is the ‘insult to the victims.’ That seems to be the best reason that Peter Robinson could come up with when he decided to withdraw support for the peace centre at Long Kesh.
The real reason, as we all know, was internal DUP politics and infighting in the unionist community. But he can’t admit that so he shifts the blame onto the old enemy, the IRA. Any peace centre would glorify the men of terror and that would never do.
Unfortunately for Peter we can all see through it.
Northern Ireland is a false country. It was set up to perpetuate Protestant Ascendency and now that it can no longer do so the poor old unionist politicians have no real agenda other than placating the nay sayers.
“Mr Robinson's problems began as soon as he launched the project. The DUP failed to win the argument and failed to win over the Orange Order and other key interest groups. Speaking about the Maze project to the BBC's The View in June, Danna Cochrane from the RUC George Cross Widow's Foundation declared: Think again.”
I take this quote from an article by Martina Purdy on the BBC website. Two things in this paragraph strike me; the mention of the Orange Order and the RUC George Cross Widow's Foundation.
Who made these groups the moral arbiters of Northern Ireland?
This is an example of the great lie that sits at the heart of all Unionist politics; that there is only one bad guy in the country, the IRA, and that Northern Ireland was a great wee place where everything was grand.
Northern Ireland was a seething cauldron of hate, discrimination and bigotry, nothing more, nothing less.
The uncomfortable truth that Unionism has never been able to deal with is that the IRA did not exist in a vacuum.
They were a response to Unionist injustice in the same way as the Arab Spring, the rising in Syria and the constant Palestinian struggle is simply the people’s way or reacting to injustice out there.
The unionist population has never faced up to the injustice perpetuated upon the nationalist people of the north and until they do so this country is going nowhere.
I can understand that Danna Cochrane is insulted by a peace centre at the Maze.
Can she understand the insult to the nationalist population that the RUC were given the George Cross?
And to hear that the Orange Order has to be ‘won over’ if we are to make progress turns the stomach of every nationalist.
The Brookings Institute has fallen into the same trap that the British press and intellectuals fell into in Northern Ireland for thirty years; find an enemy and blame him.
The real enemy is always the same. It is man’s injustice towards his fellow man.
Did you ever wonder why the ‘Right wing’ is called by that name?
Because they cannot conceive of anyone else being right other than them. They are always the ones with the money and the good jobs, like the people who work for Brookings or the English media.
Let’s see; the Conservatives in England, the Republican Party in the United States, the Northern League in Italy (northern Italy is by far the richest part) and True Finns in Finland.
The right wing have a habit of talking down to the little people insisting that they know best, with the arrogance spewing out of every orifice, and they can’t understand why we don’t listen to them.
Bring a little justice to the people of the Middle East and see the violence stop. Challenge Israel on its treatment of the Arabs and stop looking at the splinter in our opponent’s eye while ignoring the plank in our own.
By coincidence last weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the great speech by Martin Luther King in which he told us all that he had a dream.
It was a speech that fundamentally changed attitudes in society because it gave a voice to the inner feelings of the downtrodden.
I think the speech should be read and studied by every man, woman and young person in the New North.
“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of ‘Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of colour are concerned. Instead of honouring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad cheque which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’ But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we've come to cash this cheque - a cheque that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”
I don’t know about America today. I take King’s words as true at the time. But I do know that we all marched and voted for civil rights from August ‘68 on. And in truth we have achieved a level of equality but it must be guarded and guarded diligently.
Northern Ireland was based on the mistaken belief that Catholics were inferior. Over the years the resentment built to the place exploded.
History will be repeated if we fall into the same trap again. We cannot let unionist intransigence lead us into the hate game; if we do we are playing right into their hands.
The bank of justice is never bankrupt because we are made in the image of him who is the author of justice!
Life will get better, we must keep our hopes high; even though a great team didn’t win this weekend!
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