I was very sorry, because this morning, Sunday, December 31, at 3 am I could not sleep. I woke and started to compose, in my head, a happy New Year message, and then realised what an incredible number of people will not have a chance of one, for long to come. So, I started to write this on the last day of 2006, instead. Being a misery on the last day of the year is excusable, not on the first. I looked back to’37, I was 14 years old, poor, and each year was getting better and with it I too was successively happier.
So I went to a history book and looked up 1937- and got a hell of a shock. While I was trotting about getting happier, in fact ’37 was pretty awful. In Moscow the Show Trials for the Stalin purges started; the Spanish Civil War was in full swing, and Italy and Germany were having a practice run; The Basque town of Gueranica was annihilated, prompting that painting by Picasso; Japan invaded China; Buchenwald concentration camp was opened and German Jews were required to wear the cross of David on display; and to crown it all, nuclear fusion was discovered in Italy. I suppose one should say ‘It was ever thus’.
Instead of going back to bed, I then tried to analyse why these massive horrors occur. We, in Northern Ireland, have had over 30 years of mayhem and I don’t seriously think we are better off than we were in ’69, on the contrary, and we are still being bombed. Some blame religion, quoting the Crusades, the Conquistadors, Islam, and Northern Ireland, but they are only cover for greed, personal self aggrandisement and desires to expand. Killing never solved anything, 1914 to 18 saw one of the greatest carnages ever, but what followed from ’37 onward, in Europe and Russia dwarfed it.
Perhaps, after all, I can hope we, the custodians of the world, will see a little more sense in 2007 and each of us will get closer to attaining what we would wish for ourselves.