Where is our sense of community?
Well, the people of the UK have done it. After our third general election since 2015, the people have elected the government they deserve.
It was one of the oddest elections, with people voting to block candidates rather than voting positively for someone. Despite overly-ambitious manifestos, daily lies, character assassinations, deceptive practices, and no one ever mentioning the contents of the EU deal, we have a government. It’s all summed up beautifully in the words of Rabbie Burns when he wrote, “sic a parcel o’ rogues in a nation”.
When our leaders behave like children and our children behave like leaders it’s time for radical change. However, it is unlikely to come soon, unless we get rid of some of the old guard and get new, young blood – people who are respectful of each other and have at least some life experience and a degree of integrity.
To be honest I’m sick of hearing empty politicians chanting a mantra of party straplines. We need people capable of debating issues.
Incidentally, it would be revolutionary if interviewers gave them a chance to reply, without rudely jumping in at every opportunity to make themselves look good, the result being that the public learn nothing.
The election is behind us now and we can scrutinise every policy that was ever promised.
But hey, it’s Christmas time and our city, like every other, is a buzz of excitement.
Some great things are going on. Charities raising funds for those less fortunate and a plethora of children’s charities benefiting from other people’s generosity. Indeed, the milk of human kindness is not running dry at all.
I was particularly struck by the initiative of staff at the Len Ironside Centre who, of their own volition, set about helping the needy over the festive period. They aim to provide a safe and, may I say, welcoming place.
Individuals will have access to a hot meal, showers, food parcels and companionship. The call has gone out for food items (it’s hoped to provide stovies or macaroni and the like). But they also need donations of blankets, disposable cutlery, toiletries, juice, tea, coffee and milk.
Local businesses have been contacted and anything that helps will be accepted. Any items like gloves, hats, scarves and socks would also be a blessing in this cold weather. Donations can be dropped off at the centre.
I would commend the centre’s staff for this caring, voluntary project, which will help see vulnerable people through a special time.
As we look forward to 2020 I wonder what we can do to make our space on this planet a bit more comfortable.
I’m not a great believer in New Year’s resolutions, mainly because I fail to implement them. But one thing I would love to see, which is sadly missing today, is a return to good manners. Perhaps if people respected each other rather than adopting a “me first” approach. How often are you browsing shop shelves when a selfish person walks in front of you?
Similarly, how often has someone pulled open a door, walked through, then let it shut in your face? My generation were taught to hold doors open, but oddly enough it’s now my generation who constantly let them shut. Unfortunately, many younger people have never been taught manners by their parents.
Impatience is one of today’s worst features. People seem in a desperate hurry and take no time to consider or even speak to each other.
Social media has given many the idea that everything must be instant. A lack of patience leads to petty disputes. I find people talk but seldom listen. Those interviewers in the media who constantly interrupt and talk over others wrongly give the impression that it’s OK to do that. It is the height of bad manners.
Perhaps it is just nostalgia, but as a child our neighbours were also our friends. We looked out for each other, sharing food and lending items in difficult times. We seemed to be real communities. I used to run messages for different neighbours and they kept an eye on me and the other children in the area. Such responsibilities now appear to have been passed to charities.
Society as a whole has become disconnected from a sense of caring, leading to the attitude that “it’s someone else’s problem”. The council, NHS, or other public body are often blamed, rather than asking “what can I do to help?”
This is why I so admire individuals who put themselves out there to help others. Perhaps if we all did a little bit more, not just at Christmas but year-round, we might be spared news of some lonely person living on their own who has passed away unnoticed.
Next year let’s resolve to be more interested and concerned for those in our communities.
There is so much to be done. I believe we wouldn’t have the volume of mental health problems if we all took more interest in others. The old adage “a problem shared is a problem halved” might have a more positive meaning. So come on, what are you going to do? I challenge you.
Len Ironside is a former champion wrestler who served as an Aberdeen councillor for 35 years, four of them as council leader