January 21, 2009 by Pete Hulme
Millions of people everywhere have woken up feeling that the world has changed. What those of my age perhaps felt we would never see in our lifetime has happened. America has sworn in an Afro-American President. And truly that was a wonder and a joy to behold.
His inauguration speech though didn’t mince words. It’ll take more than one man, even if he is supposedly the most powerful man in the most powerful nation, to raise us out of the hole we’ve dug for ourselves.
Someone from BBC Hereford and Worcester approached me with a microphone in Hereford’s High Town the other day. He asked what laws I would like to see changed. Put on the spot like that I couldn’t think of any. After I had walked away beating myself up for having missed another opportunity to have a say, half a mile down the road I suddenly realised what I would like to have said. It isn’t, in my view, a question of a change in the law but of a change in all our hearts. That’s the issue. If we are to ‘pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off’ and make a new start, we’ll have to start with what Yeats in ‘The Circus Animals’ Desertion’ called ‘the foul rag and bone shop’ of our heart. This is where ‘all the ladders start’ which we can use to climb out of this pit.
If, as Dickens put it in the mouth of the ghost of Christmas Present in ‘The Christmas Carol‘, we don’t start to think of all humanity as our business, if enough of us don’t start to feel deep down that this is so, if enough of us don’t start to think in terms of what we can do for others rather than what can they do for us, no amount of leadership no matter how charismatic, no amount of money from whatever source, no changes in the law no matter how complex or idealistic will have enough effect.
It is not to my credit that I did not have the guts (though I told myself it was lack of time) to go back and find the man with the microphone and tell him what I really felt we would have to do. Instead I’m making up for it by saying it here. Maybe next time I’ll do better!
As Edmund Burke is supposed to have put it: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”
see Pete Hulme's Blog
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