It’s been a lovely summer. The weather has been wonderful, Team GB triumphed in Rio and on the outside everything seems upbeat as we march optimistically through September and into an Indian summer.
Then I turn on the news and see the horrific scenes in Aleppo and it pulls the rug from under my feet.
Though I’m an avid news follower, I seldom watch the news on TV. Yesterday evening, however, I did see the news from Syria again. Each time I check in, the devastation seems to be worse.
All six of the UNESCO heritage sites, glorious, irreplaceable historical landmarks, have been damaged or completely destroyed, villages, towns and cities have been razed to the ground, many people are dead, lives have been ruined.
The images of the small boy who survived an Aleppo airstrike were on every possible media medium a few weeks ago but last night’s pictures were to my mind, even more haunting. A young child was being pulled from a pile of rubble with the dust still rising following the destruction of his home. He was limp, motionless, barely alive. He was rushed immediately to hospital by ambulance and I don’t know how he is now but it was heart-wrenching to see the fragility of his life flashing across my television screen. I suspect the rest of his family is dead. Yet one more family destroyed by conflict in Syria. This war is a huge phenomenon and yet how many of us are really paying attention?
I don’t mean to be inward-looking, but I think it’s inevitable that most of us are. We are caught up by our own busy lives and our focus tends to be on the small things that make up every day. Working, seeing friends, maintaining family life and other minutiae. Sometimes my most pressing concern is what the heck I am going to make for supper or if the trains are running late. I feel a bit embarrassed saying this but am comforted to know – and I do know! – that I am not the only one who operates at this trivial level.
When big stories break, I don’t believe that newspapers and the radio have a patch on TV. The visual impact of the images on the screen can never be underestimated. It blasts atrocities into your home and forces you to pay attention. It’s not comfortable but I welcome the reminder of the great wide world out there. It jolts me and gives me perspective. I do feel humbled and inadequate as I sit in my comfortable home with running water and food on the table.
What can I do to make a difference? How can any of us help orchestrate change?
I recognise that my contribution to solving the world’s great problems is never going to be gigantic. I am no stateswoman but I can open my eyes wider to what is happening around me and, critically, engage with others. Simply by talking about the issues, we keep these important issues in the public eye. As Edmund Burke famously said, “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Well, add to that women and I agree.
Find out what is going on in your local area and join in. Or send financial support. Just don’t do nothing.
UK charities currently raising funds for Syria include: