Artist concept of Kepler in space.
reference to the 221st meeting of the American Astronomical Society in California. And you know the Americans, they like their facts and figures.
It turns out that the Kepler Telescope, one of these new modern telescopes that operate in outer space, had found planets around 17.3% of stars that it has observed. From this a Dr Fressin was able to deduce that there are approximately 17 billion planets in our galaxy that might be habitable.
Wow! The neighbours are coming to visit...or are they.
Let’s think about it for a minute. Why do we spend all this time, money and effort on trying to find out if we are alone in the universe?
Where have all the young men gone?
The only man I know who would really want to find another world out there is Enda Kenny. Last year over 200 young people a day left Ireland to look for work in fairer climes. If Enda could find a nearby inhabited planet that was building a few houses for our little green friends, then he could get all these disgruntled young people far enough away to not be a problem.
Emigration from Ireland is now at the same levels as it was at the time of the famine. What a record for our Enda, he must be really proud.
To April 2012, 87,000 people left Ireland. But the good news for Enda is that in the same period there were 1200 less children born as there were fewer women around to have children. This is what’s unique about this wave of emigration; more women are leaving than ever before.
But in case you think that it is only the Free State that is having problems you should read this:
“One in 10 young people in Northern Ireland feel they cannot cope with day-to-day life, according to a survey.
The Prince's Trust Youth Index indicated young people not in employment, education or training were significantly more likely to feel unable to cope than their peers.”
What are we as a society doing when our young are under such pressure? Have we changed so much the way we look at the world that our young no longer feel part of it or is there a change in our thinking that has left a large portion of our population behind?
Ian Jeffers, regional director of The Prince's Trust in Northern Ireland, said: "A frightening number of unemployed young people in Northern Ireland feel unable to cope - and it is particularly tough for those who don't have a support network in place.
"Life can become a demoralising downward spiral - from a challenging childhood into life as a jobless adult. But, with the right support, we can help get these lives on track across the region."
Are you a producer or a person?
There is a bigger question here and it is one that goes to the very heart of how we see ourselves in this society; put simply we can rightly ask, “Do we live in a community or an economy?”
We all like to think we live in a community but increasingly we are coming to see things purely from a money perspective. Everything must have a value, must be efficient, and must meet the targets set. If you can’t produce efficiently and meet your targets, you’re out.
Let me give you one example. I can leave my home in Clady, drive 14 miles to Randalstown and the M1, then head to Belfast, Dublin, Cork, Galway or Limerick and I shall hit traffic lights only at Yorkgate. When was the last time you were in Dunleer or Castlebellingham?
Last year we were going to Kilbeggan for a few days and I met a friend in Dublin for lunch. We left our friend at two in the afternoon and as we did not have to be in Kilbeggan till five we decided to drive along the old road. After Maynooth, which is really a suburb of Dublin, the small towns were totally dead.
Kilbeggan itself, which lies just off the M6 to Galway, is a ghost town. What is all the rushing for? We kill the villages because everyone is in a hurry. Galway is beautiful, but it will still be there in half an hour!
This way of seeing the world, as an economy rather than a community, has serious implications for us all.
People are seen as units of production and as consumers leading to an attitude of the more you produce and the more you buy the more valuable you are.
If you are a young man on the Falls or Shankhill who neither produces nor consumes, then what use are you to anyone. And in many ways the media and society reinforces your feelings of uselessness.
This is another aspect of the huge divide we are seeing developing in the western world at the moment. The rich, those in work or those who are retired but have disposable income, are valued. The poor and non productive are valueless.
This is where community plays its part; human beings function naturally in groups of about 200 people. It does not matter if you live in a city or a farm; we naturally divide ourselves into little groups.
Internet Eyes offers rewards to
people who detect shoplifting
and other crimes on a network
of security cameras
image from tech.uk.msn.com
Big Sheila is watching you!
But we always have to keep a watchful eye on these things; we all need a big brother, or perhaps a big Sheila.
“A security firm has sparked controversy in Britain by outsourcing monitoring of CCTV footage from shops to ordinary people in Australia.
Cornwall-based Internet Eyes offers rewards of up to £250 (€300) a month to people who detect shoplifting and other crimes on a network of security cameras.
It has now expanded into Australia to enable users some 12,000 miles away will be able to access footage from 200 cameras over the internet and pocket cash for identifying suspects.”
It’s becoming an ever smaller world. Wouldn’t it be marvellous if one of our emigrants who could not find work in the New North was able to catch one of our overpaid MLAs at something dodgy!
Here’s a thought for all you would be snoopers. If you could lodge a camera anywhere in this past week where would you have put it?
I would have gone straight to the Unionist Forum, no doubt about it! I wonder what they really talked about.
Democracy is an odd thing. When Sinn Fein was a minority they squealed about the abuses of democracy from the Unionists. Now that the shoe is on the other foot we have the Unionists complaining. That’s the north for you, whether it is the New North of the post good Friday agreement or the old north pre 1968. Democracy is used to suit our own ends....and we’re all guilty of it!
Will Northern Ireland ever be a real functioning community? I don’t know if it ever shall be but before it becomes a functioning proper community we have to end the “us” and “they” mentality and move on to a “we” way of thinking.
Let the fightback begin
But the Greeks are fighting back. Kristina Tremonti is a Greek woman who was studying in the US and was home on holiday when her grandfather’s prostate cancer started playing up. The family took him to the hospital and could only get him seen when they paid a bribe of £250.
Kristina has set up a website allowing people to tell when they have had to pay bribes and to whom they had to pay. Such websites already exist in India and Kenya. That’s what society does; it takes the abuse for so long and then the people turn on the abusers.
Unless of course you’re an Irish banker, then you can abuse the system and people as of right.
"In the beginning, people were surprised to see the stories they were previously only hearing at dinner tables or with friends," Kristina says. "But now I really believe there is a pan-Hellenic attitude of civic duty growing."
"People are frustrated, they're angry, they feel cheated, and they feel abused. They feel they have been threatened by a system that has rendered them powerless in front of it."
This feeling of helplessness is not confined to the Greeks or the ordinary people. Here is a very interesting article summary from Der Spiegel.
“What happens behind closed doors at an EU summit, when European leaders are among themselves? Der Spiegel has reconstructed the negotiations at the most recent meeting in Brussels in December based on documents and accounts given by numerous sources. It was a summit of hopelessness.”
The German newspaper gave an in depth report on the behind the doors meetings over the two day summit in earlyDecember. It did not make happy reading. While America is getting on with business and moving towards some sort of recovery, Europe, because of Frauline Merkel’s insistence on good housekeeping in national governments, is holding everything up this side of the Atlantic.
Do you remember the last woman we had in power who was obsessed with housekeeping?
She was an Iron Lady, and she was willing to let the people suffer any financial or social pain so that she could get her way. History has not judged her too kindly; Britain has lost a lot from her time in power.
Ideology v people
When an ideology becomes more important than people then the ideology is wrong. It does not matter what the ideology is, once people are regarded as disposable then the whole thing has gone too far.
A person dying of starvation in Greece to save the Euro is wrong. People committing suicide because the “debt must be paid” is wrong.
“Moral hazard” is the bankers way of saying “die if you want too, wee man, we’re getting our money.”
That’s what happens when we live in an economy, the money is the ideology and the person does not count.
When we live in a community it is slightly different. In fact it is a lot different. That’s why the Credit Union movement gets so much of its debt paid; people feel the money owed to the credit union is money owed to the community. When we see Danske Bank written above a money shop we have no connect.
Next month Italy goes to the polls to elect a new government. Berlusconi, the black haired 76 year old, wants to challenge the German ideology of austerity. What will happen if he wins?
There could be a clash of ideologies. Merkel wants austerity and Berlusconi wants expansion. So far America has gone for expansion, Japan is now following suit with £100billion in investment in the country and Europe is holding out on austerity.
Expansionism says we have to get the people back to work and give them some hope. In expansionism, although it is driven for economic reasons, the people are recognised as important.
Austerity says the bankers have to be paid. The bankers lent money recklessly but they still have to be paid. The bankers come before people, countries or anything else. If we let Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and Spain go unpunished then we open the doors for everyone to abuse the system. We must show them who the boss is. That is the thinking of the Germans and French.
And in the middle of all this the community keeps functioning as it always has done and always will do.
Liam Keane is a community activist, even if he does not know it. He saw a giant pothole down in Cork and made a video of himself swimming in it. The next day a shamed Co Council had the hole filled in; austerity says there is no money to fix a pothole, the community says fix it.
Australia is getting roasted. Forest fires all across the place, Tasmania in flames and the community is pulling together to try and help each other. The weather men had to put a new colour on the weather charts, purple, for the heat wave that is happening in Australia. Purple now signifies temperatures above 50 degrees.
As I write this I see that sixteen police officers have been injured this afternoon as part of the flags protest. The Unionist Forum is not a community group. It is not open to everyone. It works towards an ideology; we shall fly the flag no matter what. That’s the wrong way to go about things.
Bye Bye, Ms Merkel
Soon we won’t be bothered with these things. Soon we shall be cut adrift from the rest of Europe, alone and unwanted, floating out into the Atlantic with nowhere to go. We are going to leave the EU.
Britain has never really committed to Europe. It was always a semi detached member who made it plain form the start that if it did not rule the roost then it would take it pound sterling and go home.
De Gaulle, him of the funny hat and the big nose, was right. De Gaulle said that when it came to a choice between Britain’s interests and Europe’s interests Britain would always do what suited Britain.
De Gaulle was right. But what he neglected to mention was that in any choice between France’s self interest and the interest of Europe France would also do what suited French interests.
Every country puts itself first. That is what countries are. They are a self serving collection of thousands of little communities that have a whole lot of things in common.
The problem with Northern Ireland is that we are a whole lot of communities who can’t stand the sight of each other.
We need a new ideology. Let’s put the people of Northern Ireland first. And that includes the 10% of our young people who feel that they cannot cope in this society.
You know what I think is missing in today’s lifestyle?
Relationships. With all our gadgets and gizmos, we’ve lost touch on what really counts. Here’s something to try; make time this week and talk with people around you. I mean, really talk to them. Concentrate on what they are saying, don’t be thinking about what you need to do or buy. You will be amazed at the results. The world will continue to have its problems but you will have created a bubble around you of people who care about you, not about what you can produce.
“Our God is a great God.”
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published in Observer Newspaper group, N.I.
17th Jan '13