Please scroll down for the title you would like to read. Here you will find Thoughts on ...  

 

Questions for Easter

 

Why we must cherish the NHS  (see comment re eating healthily)

 

In praise of plastic

 

A mantra for the New Year: be loving, be kind, think well

 

Brexit - a global, good news story 

 

 

Thoughts on ...

 

Questions for Easter                                                                 23/3/18

 

I have never really understood the meaning of Easter but its place in western culture continues to fascinate me. It presents the ideal opportunity to ask some of the most fundamental questions we can ever ask about ourselves and our universe.


Questions such as: what happens to us when we die? Is there a God? If there is, who is he or she, and where does he or she come from? What does he or she do, particularly in the endeavour of saving us from our sins or indeed preventing us from sinning in the first place? How did the world begin? Why are we here? What is the meaning of life?


Questions. Questions. And here’s another one. Why bother asking such questions? Haven’t we got better things to do with our time this Easter? Like go shopping for chocolate eggs, have a day at the seaside, cut the grass, catch up with social media, go out for a meal and get back to those unfinished bits of DIY.


We all have more than enough to do this Easter without troubling our heads with too much mental wrestling in the philosophy zone. But it doesn't hurt once in a while to spend a few moments pondering the big questions about our existence - preferably not while we are driving the car in the heavy traffic that clogs up our roads at this time of year.


The reason we do ask questions and seek answers is because, as human beings, we have an instinctive curiosity about world we inhabit. The development of language has provided us with an infinite capacity for thought which allows us to explore a wider range of issues than those our prehistoric ancestors pondered upon.


Over the years I have tried to work out the answers to the big questions referred to but I accept that, for various reasons, other people have different answers. But where we can come together and agree with each other is, surely, in an acceptance of our common humanity and a belief that trying to lead a good and loving life is far better than the opposite.


This for me is the essence of the Christian message. It's not about loving God, it's about loving each other. It's about doing good in this life, not about what will happen to you in the next one. It's about putting into practice the words of the New Testament: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Mark,13), But I say unto you, love your enemies, (Matthew, 5) and, from the great parable everyone learn from, A certain Samaritan had compassion on him. (Luke, 10)


The events of the first Easter became central to the founding of Christianity as a religion and for telling people about the teaching of Jesus Christ. It seems to me that many of the ethical principles that Jesus proclaimed provide us with some of the best guidance for living that has been devised and for this reason I am happy that Easter continues to be celebrated.


So this Easter let's set aside some time to think about some of the big questions associated with its meaning. And this Easter - whatever our beliefs, however busy we are, however unloving and angry we may feel, let us all love our neighbours, love our enemies and try not to walk by on the other side.

 

Note:


I do wonder how many people these days think about the religious significance of Easter and how many are familiar with the story. It should be taught in all schools and pupils should be encouraged to explore its meaning.

See: Hosanna Soft Hosanna
 

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Quite long but maybe worth reading in full if you are able to spare the time.

 

Thoughts on ...

 

Why we must cherish the NHS                                                   8/3/18

 

If there is one item of news that is certain to receive extensive coverage in the media over the coming months and years it will be the condition of the NHS. Given the propensity of news editors to focus on the negative and to feed our appetites for the sensational there will be a permanent procession of stories about the problems with our health service.

 

There will be stories about pressures in A and E departments, patients kept on trolleys in corridors, cancelled operations, long waiting lists, inadequate funding, staff shortages and serious mistakes with treatment. There will be reports on budget deficits, problems with recruiting, low staff morale and more. As story follows story, it is difficult now, and will be difficult into the future, to resist the impression that our health service is on the verge of collapse.

  

Well it's not. In fact the opposite is the case. The NHS is delivering care as it has never delivered it before. This should be the sensational headline in all the news outlets - a sensational headline for the sensational care being delivered.

 

We see this amazing care being provided all the time. Whenever there is a tragedy involving loss of life and serious injury healthcare workers are immediately called upon to treat people at the scene and in hospital. We see footage of major incidents regularly on our screens and continually see reports about equally distressing small-scale tragedies for which medical treatment is required. Moreover, we all know family members and friends who have received emergency medical treatment of some sort and we are reminded of the need for a rapid response whenever we hear an ambulance siren.

 

But emergency treatment is just a tiny fraction of the incredible care being delivered by the NHS around the clock. It is non-emergency treatment which makes up by far the largest part of the care. We can see this on our screens too. I don't watch many documentaries about the provision of healthcare but when I do I am fascinated to see what is going on. I find myself particularly absorbed when viewing surgical procedures and I am in total awe of how the different components of our anatomy can be repaired.

  

It is non-emergency care that brings us all into contact with the NHS. The reason will normally be discomfort or pain in some part of the body which can either be remedied quite easily or may be seriously detrimental to one's health. Since any part of our anatomy can cause suffering the number of possible sites of pain and illness is vast. We rely on healthcare professionals to diagnose disorders in any of these sites and to take steps to treat them.

 

As everyone knows, treatment can take many forms. It begins with a consultation where our disorder and its symptoms are discussed and the proposed method of treatment is set out. We can then be offered medication to prevent infection, numb pain and alleviate specific symptoms. We can be given blood tests, X-rays and scans, be connected up to tubes that drip fluids into us, have broken bones repaired, receive chemotherapy and undergo surgery. Miraculously we can have organ transplants and be fitted with various replacement body parts.

 

We can receive advice, treatment and care in our homes or in hospital. If the former we will be treated by a GP, if the latter by a specialist in a particular field such as cardiology, oncology or ophthalmology. Both at home and in hospital we can be assisted by having a wide range of equipment to use. This can include simple but invaluable items such as grab rails and walking frames to the latest technology employed in an operating theatre.

 

The extent of society's collective health needs is colossal and complex. We know the scale of this by looking at our own experience of ill health and the experience of loved ones and friends. A glance at the NHS website will confirm what we know. It contains a long list of conditions and treatments some of which will be unfamiliar to us.

 

There can be absolutely no doubt that all of us have a better quality of life, and also live longer, because of the NHS. Our physical and mental suffering has been greatly reduced as a result of prompt and expert treatment and close monitoring of our conditions ensures that further medical attention can subsequently be provided if necessary.  A huge psychological benefit of the provision we have is the reassurance that help is instantly available at no cost if we need it.

 

My own experience of the NHS is that I have received, and continue to receive, outstanding care from many people employed in the service. I am massively grateful for the knowledge and skills of the doctors who treated me many years ago and grateful for the way my condition has continued to be closely monitored. I am grateful to my fellow taxpayers for funding my treatment and paying for the medication I still take.

 

In addition over the years I have witnessed the care that loved ones have received. This too has been outstanding, none more so than the care provided by the oncology department at my local hospital.

 

Inevitably there are occasions when the system does not function as smoothly as it should. Many people at some point will probably have experienced long waits in waiting rooms, delays in getting appointments, and difficulties getting through to their GP surgery on the phone. Whilst these for the most part are minor inconveniences some patients, sadly, have suffered the tragic consequences of serious medical errors.

 

A recent survey has shown a fall in public satisfaction with the NHS since 2016. It dropped the following year by 6% to 57%. One of the top reasons given by respondents for this dissatisfaction was long waiting times for GP and hospital appointments. Other reasons that were listed were staff shortages, lack of funding and government reforms, problems that people have been aware of more because they have featured in the news rather than because they have felt the effects of them directly.

 

It is not surprising that negative headlines about the NHS affect our perception of its performance. Since it is our money that is paying for the service, and our health that is at stake, it is clearly right that shortcomings are identified and made public. It is our politicians' duty to do this and pursue any questionable decisions made by the government of the day. 

 

But it is also their duty to find constructive solutions to problems and to seek ways to improve still further the care the NHS provides. Regrettably they sometimes seem more interested in seizing on difficulties for the purpose of gaining party political advantage than for the purpose of finding solutions. 

Discussion about the health service will necessarily reflect different views about how society should be organised, and specifically about how much funding should go into public services. However, when politicians simply exchange slogans based on entrenched opinions this does nothing to advance rational argument or find solutions that will benefit everyone.

 

What we need to do is look at all aspects of the NHS rationally and objectively. At a national level our politicians should establish a cross-party forum to discuss the way the service is operating at present and to plan for the future. At a personal level each of us should think carefully about the sort of service we want, about how it should be funded, about how its shortcomings can be overcome and about the improvements we would like to see. We should not be leaving our politicians to do our thinking for us.

 

And it is a lot of thinking that has to be done. It will need to cover all sorts of issues and look at them from every angle. Practicalities will need to be addressed as will philosophical and ethical issues. Difficulties should be discussed openly and honestly, but always with due sensitivity.

 

There are plenty of issues that need to be thought about carefully - more carefully than when they become party political footballs and more carefully than is required for a tweet in response to headlines about problems in A and E departments.

 

We should begin by looking at whether the system can be organised more effectively. Surely it cannot be difficult to solve the bed-blocking problem. This would save money and free up beds for other patients. Pressure on beds would be eased if care packages for frail patients were arranged more speedily and if convalescence were arranged in other settings, such as with relatives or in nursing homes.

 

Similarly we ought to be able to ease pressure on A and E departments with simple organisational changes. GP surgeries and health centres should provide 24 hour A and E cover for minor injuries allowing hospitals to concentrate on emergencies that require specialist care.  

 

More fundamentally we should seriously consider whether our current system of primary care should be continued or whether instead we should have larger health centres and community hospitals where more specialist provision would be available, including basic A and E cover. 

 

As well as looking at organisational effectiveness we should think carefully about how we might be able to reduce the demand on the NHS by doing more for ourselves and our loved ones. Can we, for example, do more to look after our loved ones by having frail members of the family stay with us when they need to be cared for? Can we do more to support each other when people are suffering from any kind of anxiety in order to prevent this developing into clinical depression? Can we do more to remind each other about the sort of food we should be eating and the amount of exercise we should be taking? And can we be unwavering in our insistence that our children eat healthily?

 

I am sure that everyone can do these things and do them willingly, and with love. I am sure, too, that we can all do more for ourselves as well as our loved ones. We must all learn to appreciate the benefits we derive from a healthy lifestyle and learn to understand and avoid the things that damage our physical and mental health. Schools must strongly convey these benefits and dangers to young people so they have the knowledge and understanding to set them on the right path. As adults they should have this basic knowledge continually reinforced by seeing regular public health messages from the government.

 

Ultimately it will be a combination of self-discipline and encouragement from others that will improve our health and well-being. If people are firm with themselves and each other, and if GPs firmly advise their patients to change their lifestyles and give them strategies to do this, it should be possible to reduce the harm caused by problems such as obesity, alcoholism and substance abuse. This will be good for people individually because it will prevent avoidable suffering, and it will be good for society as a whole because it will lower demand on the NHS.

 

Less demand for health services should reduce their overall cost and ease the financial pressures on the system. In the fullness of time it might even mean that public expenditure on the service need not increase.

 

It seems to me to be totally irrefutable that being healthy is better than being unhealthy. For our own sakes, therefore, we should do all we can to keep in good health, and taking responsibility for our own health and well-being undoubtedly plays a big part in this. But there are two other reasons why we should take responsibility for our own health. The first is that we have a duty to our families to avoid making unnecessary demands on them by causing ourselves to become unhealthy. And the second is that we have a similar duty to society as a whole to avoid making unnecessary demands on the NHS.  

 

Talk of responsibility takes us to the most fundamental question we need to think carefully about, the big political and philosophical question: how should healthcare be provided? Should it be provided by the state collectively through general taxation, should it be the responsibility of individuals to make their own provision for themselves and their families, or should it be a combination of the two? I know what my answer is.

 

I am firmly of the view that healthcare should be provided collectively by society. This is because it is my belief that we have a deep desire within us to care for each other. When people need help we instinctively want to give it. It doesn't matter whether they are loved ones, friends, acquaintances or complete strangers it is part of being human that we show them compassion and do what we can to support them.

 

The NHS is a great way to show our individual compassion collectively and give practical help to those who need it. We should see it as much more than a system of communal insurance. It should stand as a beacon of human compassion and of how we are able to organise ourselves for the purpose of putting this compassion into practice.

 

The collective provision of healthcare will work best when it is accompanied by two pieces of individual behaviour. One, as has just been mentioned, is that we must always do as much as possible to take individual responsibility for our own health and that of our families. The other is that whenever we receive treatment we should remind ourselves that other people are paying for us and we should always remember to be grateful.

 

I have no objection to people making their own provision for healthcare by taking out private insurance. If they wish to take responsibility for themselves in this way they should have the freedom to do so provided this does not adversely affect the care that is provided for others.

 

The issue of making our own provision through private insurance prompts an intriguing question. If we could all comfortably afford private care, and this were able to provide a better health service for everyone irrespective of their income, would we then want an NHS?

 

I would. Because when we pay privately we are essentially paying for ourselves not others, but when we pay for the NHS together through taxation we are paying for other people as well as ourselves. As I have suggested, caring for others is an instinctive need within us and doing this collectively is a way to fulfil this need. The NHS is a clear expression of a caring society and it is something we should cherish.

 

It must of course, strive to improve further what it provides. It should minimise the minor inconveniences, eliminate as many serious errors as possible and continue to deliver better outcomes across all areas of care. Mental health should be made a much higher priority and, if the idea proves to be effective, social care should be integrated into the system. A longer term aspiration should be for single rooms to be available to everyone staying in hospital.

 

Every minute of every day dedicated healthcare practitioners and support staff demonstrate their skill, commitment and genuine concern for their patients' well-being. We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. We must never take what they do for granted. They are all heroes - the cleaners, consultants, nurses, hospital porters, junior doctors, paramedics, radiographers, GPs, physios, administrative staff and many more.

 

And neither must we ever take the idea of the NHS for granted. We must be willing to fund it generously through fair taxation, we must keep striving to improve it, and we must cherish it for the immense contribution it makes to the quality of our lives. It is in the interest of all of us that we cherish it, and cherish it we must.

 

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Thoughts on ... 

 

In praise of plastic                                                                    21/1/18


A great invention, plastic. One of the greatest ever. But it's taking a battering at the moment. So it's a good job it's not easily breakable.

 

If we pause to consider how ubiquitous it is in our daily lives we can immediately see how it adds to our all-round well-being. Where would we be without the convenience of having kitchen and bathroom liquids stored in plastic bottes, without the low maintenance of UPVC doors and windows, without plastic guttering, mobile phones, tablet computers, televisions, hoovers, kettles, plugs, sockets and electrical insulation? On a personal level where would I be without my dustpan and brush, my washng-up bowl, my biros and my glasses? As for our physical well-being where would we all be without the plastic used so widely in many facets of medical care?


Plastic is an amazing and incredibly versatile material which is utilised in countless products. It is flexible, light, strong and durable. It is relatively easy to manufacture, easy to make into different products and cheap. Our comforts and convenience would be immeasurably diminished if it had not been invented.


So let us not get carried away in a frenzy of hostility towards plastic. We should acknowledge the immense benefits it has brought, and continues to bring, and be grateful to all those who have been involved in its manufacture and development. We would be struggling without it but I accept that it can also be a problem.


The most unpleasant problem is when it is carelessly discarded. Apart from being unsightly it can harm creatures in the natural world. As the television series Blue Planet 2 so graphically depicted, it can be particularly harmful to marine life. Environmental campaigners should be saluted for raising our awareness of the extent of plastic pollution.


This is not the only problem. There are problems with the manufacture of plastic products which raises the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a result of the energy used to produce them. And there is perhaps a concern among some people that apart from incineration it cannot be destroyed and could just keep piling up in some form or another. In the unlikely event that this were to happen I see no reason why it should not be gathered up in suitable locations and grassed over to create some interesting artificial landscape.


There are problems with recycling. One is that the recycling process itself adds to greenhouse gas emissions but a more serious issue is that not enough recycling is taking place either in our own country or in other parts of the world. This means that too much new plastic is being produced, with the harmful effects just referred to, when recycled plastic could be used instead. Given the alarming statistic that a million plastic bottles are purchased around the world every minute this is a serious concern.


Finally there is the problem which has recently made the headlines and which, in fact, has prompted these thoughts. I am referring to the packaging issue. Using plastic in the packaging of food and other products is a trend which is running out of control at present and it is questionable whether much of it is actually necessary. The argument for its use in food products is presumably that it protects them from being damaged or contaminated as well as making them easier to transport to the point of sale, display on the shelves or take home in a carrier bag. And meals that are ready to put in the microwave or oven understandably require their own particular kind of packaging.


Packaging is also out of control with non-food products. I do not understand why the card reader I recently bought needed to be packaged in rigid plastic into which I had to force my way with a pair of scissors. It, and other similar items, could just as easily come in a small paper bags which would make them easier to open and reduce the cost to the consumer who ultimately pays for the packaging.


It could be argued that there is nothing much wrong with plastic packaging if it is more convenient and the plastic can be recycled. This can be countered by saying that two things in fact are wrong. They have already been noted: damage to the environment caused by production of this packaging - unnecessary damage if the product is unnecessary; and damage to the environment caused by the recycling process.


This problem with packaging can be solved quite easily, however. Either as a result of pressure from consumers or the government, plastic packaging can be removed altogether from certain products or biodegradable packaging can be used instead. This can be made from paper and card, both of which are compostable.


One national retail chain, Iceland, has committed to eliminating plastic packaging from all its own-brand products within five years and there is no reason why all national retailers and supermarkets should not do the same. Consumers can exert pressure by informing food stores that they do not want plastic packaging and in addition they can politely ask shop assistants to remove it.


Dealing with the concerns about the production and recycling of plastic generally will obviously require more scientific research but I see no reason why it should not be possible to come up with innovations that reduce the amount of energy used in both processes. As for improving the amount of plastic recycling that takes place it looks as if the situation is about to change significantly. Evian has just announced it will produce its plastic bottles from 100% recycled plastic by 2025 which hopefully will encourage other companies such as Coca-Cola to have equally ambitious targets.


Which leaves us with the problem of plastic rubbish. In theory this should be easy to solve. No one should leave any litter and nothing made of plastic must be carelessly discarded and end up killing creatures or plants or any kind. It is people not plastic that is the problem with pollution.


Individually and collectively we must become much more self-disciplined in our disposal of waste and ensure that all plastic from households and businesses is always recycled. And by we I mean the whole of humanity wherever on the planet we happen to live.


We must take responsibility as individuals, families, small firms, large firms and other organisations, to keep the environment free of plastic bottles, plastic cups, plastic packaging and plastic of any kind.(1) Taking responsibility ourselves is the most effective solution to the problem of plastic pollution but more government intervention will be effective too - as has been shown with the 5p charge on plastic carrier bags.


People need to take responsibility in every corner of the planet and governments in every country must be prepared to take action. This is easy to say but not so easy to do. Given the vast amount of plastic rubbish which is flowing into the sea down certain great rivers in the world it may be that international pressure will be required to persuade some governments to do more.


Despite the problems associated with the production of plastic and its disposal it seems to me that as yet they do not represent a huge threat to humanity or the planet. Recycling can be improved, and the use of plastic packaging, plastic bottles and plastic containers can be greatly reduced. And if individuals, businesses and governments ensure that waste is always collected and properly processed the scourge of plastic pollution can be brought to an end.


The problems with plastic clearly need to be taken seriously but they should not be overstated. They are not that difficult to solve if people are educated to cherish their environment and take personal responsibility for looking after it.


Plastic is not the greatest problem faced by society. There are other issues that are a greater priority and should receive even more urgent attention - the ongoing conflict in Syria would be one example, and poverty and inequality across the world would be another.


The benefits of plastic hugely outweigh the problems it brings which for the most part can be solved or greatly mitigated. These benefits are evident in much of our daily lives and this is why I have written this piece in praise of plastic rather than joined the increasingly vociferous protests against it. Far from regarding it as a disaster I see its use as one of the great achievements of our civilisation.


I have looked at some of the websites that highlight the problems of plastic and I entirely respect the views of those who campaign on the issue. I can see the advantages of the lifestyle changes they advocate. Reducing the amount of plastic we use clearly reduces the extent of the problems it causes and I am more than happy to see this reduction come about. To this end, using glass bottles instead of plastic and then cleaning and reusing them on a commercial scale, rather than recycling them, is an idea that should be fully explored. And carrying water in a metal flask instead of buying plastic bottles is a change of lifestyle we can all easily make that would reduce the amount of plastic in the world.


Having taken note of what the campaigners are saying I will try life with less plastic rather than life with no plastic.(2) I will not be going plastic free of my own volition but will wait until I am told that it is so dangerous to the health of human beings and other living creatures that it has to be prohibited altogether.


So before long, I'm afraid, I shall, as usual, be placing a used plastic container in my sturdy, dependable recycling box - made of plastic, of course.

 

1 Moreover, we must keep the environment free of beer cans, bottles, paper and every other form of rubbish.


2 I already have my milk delivered in bottles but, in all honesty, this is for convenience not to save the planet.

 

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Thoughts on …

 

A mantra for the New Year: be loving, be kind, think well  1/1/2018


Be loving, be kind, think well. Easy to say but not always easy to do. I will try to remember this simple mantra in the months, and years, ahead, and, more importantly, try to put it into practice. I offer it as a thought for the New Year.


In fairness to ourselves we all try to be loving and try to be kind and we succeed most of the time. And most of us try to do some thinking about our lives and the decisions we make. But perhaps we can just do a little bit more in all three directions in the year ahead and having a mantra to repeat to ourselves may help in this endeavour.


What do the three precepts mean? The first, being loving, includes taking care of your loved ones, cherishing them, showing them affection; not getting angry, upset or annoyed with them; being sympathetic and supportive and always thinking about their needs. It means showing love to friends and strangers and to colleagues at work. It means having love in your hearts for the billions of people in the world you will never know especially those who are suffering in any way.

 
Being kind means performing acts of kindness, big or small, in your daily lives; doing these for loved ones, friends or strangers whenever the opportunity arises. It means being gentle and speaking kindly, listening and encouraging, and giving generously to good causes.


Thinking well, the third precept, means thinking carefully about issues and decisions in your own life and those that affect wider society. It means making up your own mind about them and not following the crowd - whichever particular crowd you identify with on any given issue. It means thinking about your values, your attitudes and your opinions especially if they have been held for a long time. It means thinking about what you say as well as what you do as careless words can cause hurt and upset.


There are plenty of other things we can aim to achieve this year apart from following the three precepts in the mantra - earn more money, improve our fitness, have a new kitchen, for example. But if we wish to help the well-being of our loved ones, of people we know and of strangers, and of our fellow human beings wherever they happen to live in the world, we have the power to do something about it. We do not need to wait for the government to take action. As individuals we can make the world a better place.


We can do this by trying to be more loving, trying to be more kind, and trying to think more carefully about our lives and our values. This will not only be good for the well-being of others it will make us feel better too and will therefore be good for own well-being.

 

For more about thinking well see my post on Good thinking.

 

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Thoughts on …

 

Brexit – a global, good news story                                          24/12/17

 

The story of the birth of Jesus is a global story. Its celebration is a global celebration. The Christian religion, which began with the story of what happened two thousand years ago, is a global religion. The Christian message is a global message. It is not the only global message with a religious basis but for reasons rooted in history it has become well known throughout the world.

 

The Pope and other leaders of the Christian Church will talk about humanity in global terms when they share their Christmas and New Year thoughts. Sermons preached from church pulpits in this country and overseas will refer to what is happening across the globe and prayers will be said for those who are suffering anywhere in the world.

 

There will be an abundance of other global associations during the festive season as there always is. Food and drink from many different countries will be an essential part of the festivities; many Christmas presents will have been manufactured abroad; media coverage will be global with the focus on Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, and on Sydney on New Year’s Eve; and there will be an assortment of American films to while away the time.

 

Most importantly there will be a myriad of global communications with families and loved ones who live in other parts of the world. Technology and social media make this an easy process nowadays but traditional communications in the form of Christmas cards and letters will still be used.

 

The world includes Europe of course. We will be eating and drinking produce from our European neighbours and many people will be travelling to European destinations. But the world is much more than Europe. The global community is much more than the European community. When Britain leaves the EU it must continue to trade and do business with its neighbours but at the same time must look to develop its own connections with the wider world. I am optimistic it will be able to do this successfully.

 

However, it must renew its global presence in ways other than through trade and business.  Not by trying to become a global military power again but by doing the opposite: by becoming a global, peaceful force for good in the world.

 

The society we have forged here in the United Kingdom falls a long way short of being perfect. There are far too many people struggling on low incomes while others can afford the comforts and luxuries of modern life. There are too many people who are trapped in cycles of substance abuse, too many, especially among children, who suffer because of relationship problems and too many who are vulnerable or disadvantaged for various reasons. There is much more we can do to improve the lives of our fellow human beings in our own country.

 

But that should not prevent us from looking outwards, way beyond the European Union, to the rest of the world and helping to make it a better place for the whole of humanity. It is what we do already whenever the government sends our quota of financial aid or assists with emergencies. It is what we do when the government discusses matters of pressing concern with other members of the international community. It is what individuals do when they donate money to overseas charities or choose to work in countries where there is poverty, disease or conflict.

 

But we can do more. We can build on the enormous fund of instinctive compassion we have for our fellow human beings and argue for strong ethical and moral frameworks to guide the governance of all countries and the way they interact with each other. Our belief in the rule of law and democracy, however imperfect the structure of the latter may be, can be used as an example to nations where there is political and social instability. Our compassion, generosity, sense of fairness, tolerance, diversity, self-reliance, respect for others and generally friendly dispositions, can also be used to show the sort of values and attitudes that contribute to the health of a society.

 

We can offer a new kind of leadership to the global community. We can offer it quietly, gently and with humility, with no flag-waving and no air of self-importance. We can offer it respectfully, valuing other beliefs and traditions, whilst firmly putting the arguments for tolerance, human rights, fairness and democratic institutions. We can offer it in a spirit of neighbourliness, love and compassion.

 

We can show leadership in the way we trade and do business by ensuring there is absolutely no element of exploitation in our dealings. We can aim to pursue trade deals which directly benefit the disadvantaged. We can insist that the highest levels of integrity are applied to all transactions and that any attempts to avoid or evade tax are dealt with robustly.

 

In international affairs we can show leadership in bringing peace to the world by taking an active role in conflict resolution. We can take a lead in the long-overdue enterprise of strengthening the United Nations. And most ambitious of all we can take a lead in ridding the world of nuclear armaments by not renewing Trident.

 

The leadership we offer will be through the example we set, through argument and persuasion, and through mediation in disputes. Wherever possible we should aim to offer it in cooperation with other countries.

By leaving the EU we are embarking on a new course which will benefit this country economically and politically. If we choose to embark on a new course in terms of our global obligations we can help make the world a better place. This will require us to build on what we already do and commit ourselves to a strongly ethical approach to relations with other countries.

 

If we succeed in this ambitious endeavour this will be a good news story for the UK, for Europe and for the whole of humanity. It will be a different sort of Brexit story, a global good news story and a fitting story for Christmas and the New Year.

 

See also: The EU referendum and a global vision

 

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