Protests spread around the world like Influenza
WATCHING country after country tumble into chaos across the Middle East is making me realise how fragile a world we live in.
It is jaw-dropping to see how quickly people in countries stretching from Egypt and Yemen to Iran and Libya have risen up to face off their governments and militaries.
Indeed, there seems to be a contagious feeling of empowerment and revolution spreading across the world, making me wonder if any of the unrest could eventually reach our shores.
Images from international news programmes of crowds going wild in the face of water cannons, tear gas and baton-wielding soldiers seems a great world apart from our quiet British streets.
However, interviewing Professor Dai Morgan Evans, of the University of Chester, who recently went to Egypt, really brought it home for me.
He had been on an archeological expedition to Libya and Egypt with his wife just as things were kicking off in Tunisia. He described the first demonstrations as ‘not unlike those in London’. Listening to his detailed account of the demonstrations erupting into violence in Cairo really brought it home for me.
But because our governments are so very different in Western Europe and America, any such ‘revolutions’ here would not be an easy comparison. We already have most of the freedoms people are now demanding in the Middle East. But it seems as in some ways here in the West there has been a growing anger and discontent against the way those in power are running things, mostly, I would presume, due to the effects of the economic crisis.
For example, over the past two weeks the governments of several American Midwestern states, including Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana, have virtually been shut down due to massive budget reform bills, including measures severely curtailing the rights of public sector unions. Huge demonstrations that are being compared to those during the Vietnam War have gripped their Republican-controlled state capitals, as Democrat lawmakers have fled their states, risking arrest, to prevent passage of the bills.
If they pass, the bills would affect hundreds of thousands of state workers including teachers, firemen, policemen, doctors and university professors. Indeed, many of those protesters have come right out and said they were inspired by protests against the Mubarak regime in Egypt to stand up to their own governments and demand change. And as such bills are being debated in several other states, demonstrations look set to get much bigger and uglier.
In the UK, we had our fair share of demonstrations late last year against the university tuition fee rise. With more budget cuts expected it seems perfectly logical to assume there will be future protests, perhaps equally large and even more intense.
It will be interesting to see how the two different situations play out in the Middle East and in the West, but hopefully these tensions can be resolved in a peaceful manner, helping us see clearly and find a common ground.
WRITING about the Hospice of the Good Shepherd over the past few months has really touched my heart.
Since November, when we first became involved in their campaign to raise £300,000 by the end of March, we have run many stories about the work they do.
At a pre-Christmas tour of the hospice, I was able to meet one of the patients, Linda Morris, as well as a couple of members of her family. Learning that she passed away a couple of weeks ago was extremely upsetting.
But hearing about how she was cared for and looked after prior to her death made me realise even more just how important is the work done at the Backford-based hospice.
It is good news to hear the hospice has managed to drop off about £75,000 from what they are seeking to raise, but now we in the final month of its deadline and a further £225,000 is still needed.
In such uncertain financial times many people are finding it more difficult to donate, but I sincerely hope together our community can help the hospice reach its intended target in time.