Cheer up, it may just happen

6:57pm Monday 17th May 2010

By Alison Thomson - Great train blogger

Can’t in all honesty say I’ve missed the commute this past fortnight — I’ve spent much of my time enjoying the delights my home town has to offer. Oh, fellow commuters, wouldn't it be marvellous if we could all spend more time by the seaside? How I've enjoyed hearing the ice cream van go by daily with Greensleeves blaring out. (Did you hear the one about the mean-fisted dad who told his child they only played Greensleeves when they've run out of ice cream? Now that's plain cruel.)

And what a time to get into the Brighton zone with the festival going on. I was particularly cheered by the news that this year, they’ve brought the train companies on board. So for example, when guest artistic director Brian Eno wrapped up his This Is Reasons for Optimism talk last night, he said that he realised some people had trains to catch — but wasn't he aware that they wouldn’t have to leave early at all, because there were special late festival trains to take visitors back to town. I wondered whether he was, in fact, just giving those who were bored and didn’t want to stay for the Q&A session a chance to hotfoot it to the bar without embarrassing themselves.

I couldn’t leave, though. I thrust my hand up three times to ask a question, and each time I had a different one in mind. (I should add at this point that I never got picked, but read on and you may agree that was a good thing.)

In brief, the talk suggested that we have the power to create the world we want to live in — it simply depends on our perception of it. So if we’re living in fear, the world will become a fearful place, and if we live in trust, we can make a world that is trustworthy. Eno blamed the media for reporting bad news and said it contributed to our feelings of pessimism, because we believe the world around us is bad. As a journalist, I wanted to ask him if he thought I might have any reason for optimism, not just because he was dismissing my trade but also in light of the fact that fewer and fewer people are reading newspapers. A far more erudite question was pitched, however: “Are we an elite?” Short answer: “Yes.”

My second question related to what Paul Ingram, of the British and American Security Information Council (BASIC), had to say about nuclear proliferation. If we’re trying to think positively about the future, surely the one big problem is the overpopulating of the planet. We need to reduce the human presence if the planet is to survive, so you could argue that we need nuclear proliferation to prevent human proliferation, or some other kind of cull. I didn’t ask it because I thought I might be lynched. Interesting point this avowed Quaker (who would never sanction a lynching, I could tell) made — that for Iran to be taken seriously on the world stage, it has to develop its nuclear capability. Can't argue with that.

My third question would have related to what Jocelyne Quenelle, from Kids Company, said, about how children are the answer. I love Kids Company and everything it represents, but I couldn’t shake from my mind the first thing she said, which was that a Unicef report puts the UK bottom of 21 developed countries in terms of looking after our children. I don’t know what parameters were used to produce the survey, but it made me feel quite pessimistic and I wanted to ask why we humans have a predeliction for latching onto bad news. That negative little nuggat stuck in my mind far longer than anything of the positive things she said about Kids Company. But maybe that's just me.

I can’t say I came out feeling particularly optimistic, but I try to hang onto a few of the choice morcels Eno himself gave us at the outset, such as My Society, a charity that runs helpful websites like theyworkforyou.com, whereby you can track your MP’s activities. (Sounds like good news, especially since we went blue in Hove — how in Pangloss's name did that happen?) And finally the other speaker, an environmental lawyer who in his other life is a Zen Buddhist (that was unexpected!), said it only takes one candle to light a large area of darkness. That’s deep.

(And now I have to giggle — because having just gone onto the Festival website, this is what I read: “Please note due to rail replacement engineering work the late night Festival train will not be running on Sun 16 May.” Not exactly what you’d call a reason for optimism — but that Eno fella really is all-knowing, how could I ever have doubted him?)

Back

© Copyright 2001-2017 Newsquest Media Group

http://www.theargus.co.uk

Click 2 Find Business Directory http://www.theargus.co.uk/trade_directory/