Well phew. And pant and gasp. Yesterday I did the Omagh Half-Marathon on behalf of Trócaire ( and thanks yet again to the generous sponsors of my run, we smashed the £1000 target and are currently sitting around £1750. If you haven’t donated and would like to, you can do it at http://www.trocaire.org/sponsor-me/judejcollins/omagh-half-marathon .
What was it like? Long. And painful. I gather there’s a torture technique, used in places like Iraq, which involve slapping hard on the soles of the victim’s feet. That’s what it was like. There must be an answer in terms of cushioning your ageing soles against ground-smack. If you know tell me, or my running career just did its swan-song yesterday.
This morning I was on BBC Raidio Uladh/Radio Ulster’s ‘Sunday Sequence’ with Andrew Dougal, CEO of NI Chest Heart and Stroke. Appropriately enough we were discussing - no, not torture - charities and their place in our society. Andrew naturally argued the case for them and the good they do. Who could quarrel with that? Seeing a need and responding to it goes back to the Good Samaritan. But - and this was what I argued - this often opens the doors for government to cut back on funding for the area in question. What does it say about a society when it spends billions on weapons of death and leaves the purchase of cancer-treatment equipment to local generosity? Reverse it for a year and let’s see. Have the government pump money directly into hospital equipment/addressing poverty and have a Defence-Forces-in Need day, where celebs can dance and sing and dress up, and the donations be passed on to the Defence Forces. Or does our society believe in giving death-dealing equipment more support than it does life-giving?
What we didn’t get round to discussing - and I wish we had - was the philanthropy of massively rich individuals. In one sense as well as being fashionable in the US of late, it’s a good thing; in another it’s a display of power, of the loaded one’s pity for unfortunates not as rich as him/herself. Doing good, as someone once said, “with thunderous stealth”. With probably some tax advantage lurking in the shrubbery. Until governments decide to arrange long-term policies so that the injustice at the heart of these matters at home and abroad are addressed, we'll be saving one beaten-up beggar and there'll be another ten thousand waiting down the line.
We see people’s principles, George Bernard Shaw said, not by what they profess but how they live their lives. If the same goes for societies, the Western World has some pretty ghastly principles.