It’s Good to Talk

It’s Good To Talk

The greatest thing about theatre is the different reactions, feelings and emotions of seeing, hearing and feeling a production. And yet, theatre itself does not capture that reaction. The most powerful theatre is a tragedy. Furthermore tragedy is not tragedy unless it stirs up a reaction. Again, traditional theatre does not capture that.

Traditional definitions of Art return to “Art for Art’s sake” constructs. However, as Theatre of War, in conjunction with GlenArt, demonstrated powerfully tonight is that it can and should serve a far greater moral purpose.

Tonight saw a wonderful event expertly and creatively coordinated by the splendid Fiona Macdonald. Guests could not fail to be amazed as they approached the blue lit-up Edinburgh Castle towering coldly, but resplendently, over the hubbub up flashing lights and Christmas funfairs below. The Great Hall’s fire provided warmth to those who entered for tonight’s event (and it truly was an event… Much more than merely a performance). The night began with Piper Daniel Laidlaw VC ‘ s pipes being played expertly by a Pipe Major from the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The same pipes that led Scottish KOSB troops out of gas filled trenches at the Battle of Loos in 1915, wonderfully kick started tonight’s affairs. Attendees would be inspired to “go over the top” and take action in support of those who suffer the mental trauma of war.

Jason Issacs, Lesley Sharp and Bryan Doerries then read on the Greek Tragedy of Ajax. Their powerful production was followed by a panel discussion on the impact of war. This was no high faulting panel but was drawn from a local community who know the topic so well. Veterans, charity worked and wife’s of veterans, shared their interpretation of the play whose resonance was as striking now as it was when first heard by Athenian citizenry.

Bryan Doerries then engaged the panel and audience in discussion. It is a well oiled machine having been done over 300 times before from New York to medical units and army barracks in modern day war zones.

Professor Douglas Cairns from Edinburgh University commented in the fact that the Ancient Greeks institutionalised issues. One did not just read The Iliad , but in Athenian Society all went to the Theatre on mass.

It makes for an interesting reflection. Do we need to establish more “community” around key issues? Would this allow for more cathartic renewal, understanding and momentum to be created? With many issues, there is no one easy reconfigurable truth (those who believe so are deluded) and it is an ongoing process of learning, development and progress within concepts and discourse.

With significant issues, like PTSD and mental health issues, the primary mode of therapy is talk. So with that in mind, can I add my appreciation and advocacy of projects like “Outside the Wire”/Theatre of War and GlenArt?

The Greeks knew you just could not bottle certain things up and there needed to be the cathartic cleansing and refreshing of theatre.

The first of Doerries questions tonight was why did Sophocles write at all? My own thoughts as an educator and historian were around a) the process of recording and b) part of his own learning process (making sense and reflecting). Other answers ranged from guilt, cleansing to triumphant aims. The last of the three main questions that facilitated flowing conversation tonight was “how often do we intentionally or unintentionally leave people alone?” The military piper who had earlier played Laidlaw ‘s pipes so proudly reflected from the audience they in the last month a fellow soldier had confided in him that he was contemplating suicide. Before seeking professional help, the piper slept on hid friends floor that night to be with him and protect. The news was a bolt from the blue.

And so, and event like tonight…. Punchy, pride ensuing, pity evoking and Powerful…. Did it galvanise me to do more? Well, as Professor a Cairns and Doerries stated, Greek tragedy was to comport the afflicted and afflict the comforted.

Theatre of War presents again tomorrow at Mackintosh Queens Cross, Glasgow.

As I return on the train I ponder the tragedy of Ajax… His fearsome, terrifying figure set against the strong honour values and leadership he displayed. Tonight, and ongoing, we witnessed the collaborative leadership of modern day heroes like Fiona Macdonald whose values create strong forces against some of the fearsome and terrifying forces facing communities today.

A final word goes to my favourite quote if the evening and one much used by my fellow do author Kevin Murphy. We proudly used it in our first book together, Determined to Succeed. It aptly sums up thoughts on a magnificent evening brought together by some wonderful people who are creating momentum with their powerful actions.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” (Roosevelt)

NB apologies for any typos. A hastily written review on a busy and bumpy train journey home!

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Neil’s November Challenge – #GivingTuesday extension

Dear tweeters

You will see below that I have embarked on four arduous challenges this month in return for supporting four charities. Each week we have smashed the target set. However, now that Black Friday (awful thing!) has passed, I am (as you would expect) going to raise the bar even further! Between now and the end of #GivingTuesday I am going to try and raise over double the £400 made so far for the four charities below. If we can break the £1000 mark I will keep the beard until the RSE Young Academy of Scotland plenary meeting on Dec 14th.. I will probably look like Forrest Gump by then…. But hey ho, all for a good cause. If the figure stays where it is ….my wife will be pleased to have a cleanly shaven husband. If the figures hits £1000 overall….four happy charities before Christmas.

See the email below and thanks for your support…. Sincere thanks to those who have supported already!

Best wishes


Dear Twitterati

This month Neil McLennan has embarked on a No-Vember a Charity Challenge.

No-shaving. I will continue to keep this facial growth until December in return for donations to charity.
No-beer. Having missed October’s dryathalon, I am going to do it now in November. Again, to keep me off the booze can you guys please keep to fundraising targets?
No-Facebook. This is going to be hardest. (I will keep to a weekly check in re facial growth, some quick updates and to keep promoting these fab charities).
No moaning- we have enough negativity in the world so a month of being happy with our lot is my target.

To help keep me off Facebook and filling your walls with endless education chat; to keep me from drinking, shaving and moaning can you help raise a whopping amount each week for some great charities?”

Each week Neil’s donors has hit the £100 target within days and even hours. In this, the final week of his challenge he is hoping to double the donations for each charity making it £200 in total for each one and even try to break the £1000 mark overall.

Neil is looking for your help to support Friends of Anchor (cancer care and research charity), The Compassionate Friends (support for families who suffer a child bereavement), PoppyScotland and the Samaritans. The links for each charity are below, please consider donating to help some of great causes.

Each week Neil has received support and backing from some other bearded figures who have “checked in” and confirmed Neil’s beard growth. A few updates are attached to the links.


Actor Jason Isaacs does the beard check-in at a Theatre of War / Glenart event (more of which in next blog post) at The Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle tonight.

Sent from my iPad

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#BeingHuman with Terry Waite OBE


Some people dream of visiting the Seven Wonders of the World. For me wonders come in all shapes and sizes…. And more importantly as well as places or things, they come in the form of some inspirational people. If the Seven Wonders of the World were people I think I had the pleasure of meeting one of them this week.

Aberdeen University’s brilliantly supported and created #BeingHuman Festival as part of the first Festival of Social Humanities ( brought 77 year old Terry Waite OBE north to the Granite City. It was an event skilfully facilitated by Professor Anne Glover in which the audience were given a deep and meaningful insight. The title of the session “Survival in Solitude” being in my diary must have perplexed my colleagues as to how I viewed my team working (thankfully I work with a brilliant team of people and would not need to go on such a course….. if indeed one existed!).
Waite spoke for around an hour and I had the pleasure of spending a short amount of time with him afterwards. Although, in this short amount of time I felt as though I knew the man well and certainly came away feeling as though he knew something of me and really cared. The true sign of a good leader is how they make you feel when they walk away.
Waite’s story is well known as a church envoy and negotiator trying to free four hostages in the Lebanon in the late 1980s. It was a situation that turn for the worst with his capture. It was to last for a number of years with over four of them in solitary confinement.

Waite talked much about surviving that experience and many quotes sparked imagination when he spoke. However one which he mentioned early on struck a chord and a chain of thought throughout his presentation and after. “Good language has the capacity to breathe harmony into the soul.” For me his speech and his message was s one of cooperation and, more importantly communication, in the face of conflict, and now increasingly, complexity in our fast changing world. Whilst the purpose of the lecture was not around books- his reflection on books was very apt around Scottish Book Week.

Waite reflected on his re-reading of poetry and the Book of Common Prayer in his head as a means of survival. He was, and is not, a clergyman but a layman. His faith endured and both the word of God and words in general came through as constant supports when in solitude. He told of him writing his autobiography in his head during his time in captivity. He only had pencil and paper but two times and made do with forming up the ideas, the structure and the content in his head- all the time storing it for his eventual release from captivity.

His enduring faith in humanity and solid adherence to communication and cooperation were consistently clear throughout discussions. One episode helped to highlight this beautifully. His guards released him from the shackle of his chains during a time when he was very much so unwell. He was allowed to go to the toilet. On arriving in the cubical he found an automatic weapon on top of the toilet. Naturally thoughts started to rush through his head. Interestingly, when I mentioned this to others they immediately spoke about the thought of taking ones of life. This was at no point even mentioned by Waite on the night. The only thought was the initial rush as to whether he could use this as an opportunity for escape. However, just as quick as that thought came into his mind, it was replaced by the thought as to why he was there in the first place. He had arrived in the country to negotiate the release of prisoners though peaceful means. As such, he could not and would not, use this as an opportunity to shoot his way out of captivity. On leaving the toilet he informed the guard of their careless leaving of the weapon in the cubical and was returned to chains against the radiator in the room where he was held. A marvellous example of real life application of the morals and values by which one leads their life in the face of potential diversion. A wonderful comment was that of the unintended consequences that can come from what seem logical and clear actions. “Release a dictator by force and you release forces you cannot control.” Sometimes we need to let natural law take its course.

Whilst Waite kept communication top of his mind with thoughts of poetry and song he also pleaded for books from his captors. There was a perverse irony when one of the first books he got given was “Great Escapes”. Another, “A Manual of Breastfeeding” was perhaps of less potential value. The guard himself clearly was unable to read. As he read through the small number of books he had the guard insisted “read slower, read slower.”

On the second occasion of being given paper and pencil (the first was during a sick mock execution early in his capture) Waite used it to draw a picture of a penguin. This drawing was perhaps as misplaced as the Breastfeeding Guide, however it was his symbol and communication to the guard. Despite his illiteracy the guard now knew what symbol to look for when sourcing books and was able to bring Waite the sort of literature he yearned for. Mills and Boon were endured and Westerns were acceptable, albeit he did not really get into them!

Just as the written word and spoken word served to help his survival, so too did song. When guards asked him to sing Waite regaled them with “God Save our Gracious Queen” and the hymn “Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past.” During the last week of his captivity a $10 radio was placed in his room. He managed to connect with the BBC World Service and listened to the Last Night of the Proms. His thanks for the World Service and enormous debt of gratitude is one we should reflect on where good, free, open and helpful communication are valuable in a world where communication is often misused and as a result its freedom placed in jeopardy.

Whilst music and words played its part, so too did more discrete and evasive communication. Tapping his name constantly on the wall in a basic code (1=A, 2=B, 3=C, 4=D and so on) he was taken aback, although not altogether surprised, when messages starting coming back through the wall. He had always suspected another prisoner was kept in the area and John McCarthy, held in the room next door and they updated on news such as the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Waite received little other communication from the outside world. However did receive one card from a lady back home. On his release he asked the lady how she managed to get the card to him. An envelope addressed TERRY WAITE, C/O HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON seemed to do the trick! Ironic given Hezbollah still deny capturing Waite! Waite was to later return to meet his captors twenty years later. That in itself was a story worth listening too.

However his release and return to normal life took time to sink in. “It was like coming up from the seabed” Waite explained, “like a deep sea diver, you need to take it easy”. A Cambridge fellowship ensured and this allowed him time to think and not rush back into anything. His later work with Hostage UK has helped many families who have went through the agony of losing loved ones and not knowing if they are going to come home or even if they are alive.

I asked Terry “how do we ensure communication and cooperation is at the heart of our workings in a world of conflict and chaos.” His focus was on trust. “Political settlement cannot happen unless there is some degree of trust on the ground” he affirmed. And his response was by no means idealistic. When focussing on the current state of affairs we discussed the brutality of the forces currently at humanities’ pearl. Regrettably, for the protection of people in the region, there will need to be some force used. We are living with a situation that is no longer a local problem but a global one. Force after all sends out its own communication. Whilst it needs better global cooperation that might be around this common theme to start with. Early signs of that emerged with historic images in the past week of President Obama and President Putin sat huddled together over a coffee table. The time spent together and the open communication was as progressive and it was overwhelming to witness.

It is perhaps sad to reflect that their unity and common identity is against “the other”. I would also reflect that outpouring of support for the French flag over the past week- facebook pages changed, world heritage sites and major buildings lit up and flags waved- can only really unite people in adversity. It is a well known phenomenon that it is easier to identify with what you are against than positively affirm what you are for. How sad it is that it is only when there is a common enemy that we can declare what was stand for and unite. When will the world unite for humanitarian purposes- education, clear water, food and shelter? Maybe even peaceful coexistence. This message is exactly the same for those undertaking the attacks. It is a message for all those who find it easier to continue to cycle of violence than grapple with the more challenging issue of peace. How do we end the alienation that leads to extremism and radicalisation?

To conclude, my time with Mr Waite was a once in a lifetime experience and an educational experience in humanity. His real interest in the charity work of my Neil’s No-member Charity Challenge was delightful although his feeling that I should keep my beard was less warmly welcomed by my wife nor my mother! Alas, he cannot get it all right. After all, he is only #BeingHuman

Neil’s November Charity Challenge is ongoing with four charities benefiting from a month with No Shaving, No Facebooking (except weekly updates on beard growth), no drinking and a conscientious effort not to moan)
Donations are gratefully received for the following charities. Please “breathe harmony into the soul” by communicating through your own good donations:-
Poppy Scotland (supporting Veterans and their families):-

The Compassionate Friends (supporting families who suffer child bereavement)

Friends of ANCHOR (Supporting Cancer Care and Research)

Samaritans (supporting whoever needs it at any time!)

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Hector the Hero


(Pic from Eden Court Website)

Hector, or Hector the Hero as I will always refer to him, lived up to all expectations and more. I found out about the play having recently taken the train to Inverness with a history teaching colleague to watch Not for the Heroes at Eden Court. Not only was I impressed with this production but was very impressed upon my first visit to Eden Court. A fabulous venue which on the day we visited, was busy with a mix of students adding to their English Literature Studies and History pursuits alongside more seasoned theatre campaigners.
Signing up to Eden Court’s mailing lists I was taken by the advert for Hector showing a die cast of a White Pith Helmet wearing Gordon Highlander apparently knocked down and face down. A more striking image to capture the demise of this heroic Scotsman could not be found.
This time, my wife and I chose to watch the production at Woodend Barn in Banchory. Like Eden Court, this was a new experience but one to be repeated. A fantastic venue combining a lovely eatery with warming, rustic artisan fair on a dark, cold night; a relaxed lounge area with a broad selection of books; a gallery (on our visit displaying an exhibition exploring the toils, tears and tribulations of families in the oil and gas industry who move around the world) and the flexible space in which the theatre production was staged.
Hector, or “Fighting Mac”, as he was often also referred to, was a figure of interest to me during my university days. The story of the son of a crofter turned soldier turned Major General startled the imagination. Hailing from the Black Isle Hector MacDonald went on to serve his country with distinction in the Second Afghan War. Here he was offered a Victoria Cross or a commission. Hector perhaps felt this his kairos. Little was he to know that it was to turn to peripeteia. His move up the ranks had been phenomenal and perhaps he should have taken the medal and all that went with it.
A dark brown cross pattee, made from cannons captured from the Russians during the Crimean War hanging from this Scotsman’s broad cheats by a crimson ribbon would have looked very grand indeed. Unlike other military decorations where his name would be inscribed around the edge of the medal on this piece COLOUR SERGEANT HECTOR ARCHIBALD MACDONALD, GORDON HIGHLANDERS would have been inscribed on the back. Furthermore he would have gained an annual annuity which at the time of offer would have been £10; although in 1898 Victoria raised the pension to £50 for those who could near earn a livelihood (today holders of the VC and GC are entitled to £10,000 per year for their valor).
Nevertheless Hector declined the piece of metal and being bought and sold for English gold. The medal was never inscribed and the tax man never opened his pooch. Hector opted to continue his Boys Own Adventure. He fought in the Boer War and at the Battle of Majuba Hill again came to the attention of his superiors for his heroism. This time a sword was the reward for this distinguished service. Later he saved Kitchener’s reputation in the Mahdist War, during the battle of Omdurman, using not only gallus but also tactical awareness and superior thinking under pressure. After the South Africa War he was knighted after further “daring do” at Bloemfontein and Pretoria.
His next deployment was to command in India and from there he was moved nearly a year later to Command British forces in Ceylon (since 1972 Sri Lanka). Famous for its export of cinnamon, rubber and tea , this was to be a very different posting for Hector. And so the play picks up the story…
Unable to find his footing within high colonial society, Hector applies the same brutish force to command of volunteer troops much to the displeasure of local socialites.
A secret wife and child back in London are unveiled in the play. Whilst benefiting from monies sent back by Hector, the hidden MacDonald’s are deprived of the sort leadership of the family which he reserved for marshalling men of arms. Whilst his family is not known about amongst Ceylon society, what is becoming fast known about is his meeting with his bank clerk’s two boys. With perceptions wrong, but firmly fixed, the “influencers” of British Ceylon society make it their business to engineer the downfall of the Scots military commander. When it looks like their plot is going to result in unpredicted “friendly fire” in their own camp they make it their mission to ensure there is no way back for Hector and not only do they rid their high society of his rougher ways but that he as a man falls completely. A whispering campaign followed up by unscrupulous reporting and investigative journalism ensures that everyone reading about Hector puts two and two together. The heroic figure that had appeared upon cigarette cards is now taboo and out of favour. Seeing no way back Hector avoids a planned court martial by ending his own life with a pistol. A sad end given the way in which he had not only avoided bullet and sword before but also protected so many front line soldiers and superiors (Roberts and Kitchener amongst them) by his service and superior command.
This Ed Littlewood production wonderfully captures the injustice. The system puts you there and the system takes you away. The inference could not be clearer.
On reflection, the play could be perceived to reflect on Scottish-English tensions. However it wisely makes no explicit reference to this now overdone construct. Some audiences will however see or make the inference. Looking at the present and the future though there are others more than happy to take up the baton of power and assume “the elite” positon. What is more, they are happy to wreck others lives in the process of their own enthroning and maintenance of the grandeurs that accompany such authority. Detractors beware, the force is strong with this one.
The juxtaposition of the Woodend Barn art gallery “oil and gas families” exhibition and Hectors life and downfall also bore a striking and starling resemblance. Chasing adventure, pursuing “the ultimate win”, travelling the world and service comes at a cost. At least it does when there are home comforts and responsibilities to consider alongside these noble pursuits. On this evening, the venue was very comfortable and both the venue and the truly excellent cast met their responsibility – of providing an entertaining evening of theatre and meeting the heroic expectations of all who attended.
On leaving one could hear Banchory loon James Scott Skinner’s 1903 fiddle lament Hector the Hero. As ever, the only high ground is the moral high ground. Hector’s name lives on and his service story is respected and remembered. Through music and the name we conjure up images of the man and what he stood for. What is more in 1900 Hector was 25th most popular baby name. By 1950, 1975 and 2000 it had dropped from the top 100. It is now reemerging. But then, maybe this is in reference to the Monarch of the Glen’s Laird, or indeed the Trojan Prince or possibly even the Arthurian legend- Arthur’s foster father or indeed the half-brother of Lancelot, Knight Hector de Maris. Thankfully some things are universal and international! Maybe we should travel more of the world after all and immerse ourselves more in cultural curiosity. Maybe it smooths the rough edges!

Hector plays at various venues across the country from now until December. Full details at

A huge congratulations to the cast and all involved. One wonderfully put together production.

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Can we ever bring an end to global terrorism?

I wrote this paper in 2011 for the final of Thinker of the Year. Not much has changed since then and the messages are as important today as they were back then. My opening could easily be replaced with 13th November, suicide bombing at Baghdad funeral, 19 dead, 33 injured; 12th November suicide bomber Beirut, 43 dead, 240 injured; 9th November, 14 year old girl suicide bomber at mosque in Fotokol, Cameroon, 5 dead and over 20 injured; 9 November, Ngouboua, Chad- two suicide bombers kill 3 and injure 14 in a suspected Boko Haram attack on a small village on the shores of Lake Chad. As in 2011, the list goes on and on. Again, these are the less well known incidents: not the 13.11 Paris, not the Charlie Hebdo; not the Woolwich killing, not the American atrocities.


• February 13th Karbala, Iraq: female suicide bomber, Shia Pilgrims procession; 35 dead.
• May 27th Lahore: car bomber and gunmen; 30 dead.
• August 17th Nazran, Russia: bomb, police station; 25 dead, 164 injured.
The list goes on, and on. And these are the less well-known incidents: not the 7/7, not the 9/11; not the Moscow Metro, not the Madrid.

Terrorism is all around us. As the world gets smaller, and the economy contracts, worryingly terrorism is a consistent growth area. In 2000, terror attacks numbered 423, in 2009, 10,999 . Terrorism could affect any one of us at any time. Unlike other issues for discussion – health, law, education – there is nothing you can do about it. Your life is in their hands. Or, can we bring an end to terrorism?

At this very moment, experts are working at the US defence laboratory to develop a sci-fi-like ray gun. It emits powerful electromagnetic impulses that can disable enemy hideouts, roadside bombs, cars and suicide bombers’ equipment. It can even shut down the mobile phones often used to activate devices. The advantage?: ‘soft kill.’ Currently, the only way to stop a bomber is to disable them. Even this does not always stop the explosion. Furthermore, a killing continues the cycle of hate.

Technological solutions, however, do not solve an innately human problem. Technological solutions whet others’ appetites. ‘War is the locomotive of history’ (Trotsky), and the terror war is no different. Technologies start an arms race, with terrorists soon outwitting solutions and taking us back to square one. Prevention is better than cure. The same applies to human intelligence, airport security, passenger profiling, capturing terrorist leaders or killing off the proponents of terrorism in a Pharaohite manner. None are enduring solutions; none get to the heart of the matter.

Multiperspectivity is given lip service, where it exists at all, in politics, foreign policy, education and daily interactions. Today’s terrorist can be tomorrow’s government; your terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. The sooner we individually look at things from other times, places and perspectives, the sooner we come up with more meaningful solutions. We cannot hide from the ultimate aims of individuals and groups, but deeper exploration reveals that the commonalities are phenomenal.

We cannot simply blame Islamic fundamentalism as if it has its roots in religious zeal and Middle Ages mindsets. Its origins are in the current crises we are trying to come to terms with. Whilst it morphed into extremism in the East, the West’s swing right came about because of disillusionment and alienation. Both stoke fires of discontent. Solutions are possible by humanity working together ideologically. Al Qaeda is not an organisation but an ideology. The ‘anti-venom’ is not democracy. ‘Dubya’s’ generational challenge to instil democracy in the Arab world falters when viewing the Oklahoma bombings. Democratic countries are no less likely to create terrorists. For political freedom is only a stepping stone to economic freedom, social freedom and personal self-worth and contentment. Democracy is only ‘the first small step for mankind’.
Politicians would do well to stop the rhetorical, ‘we will never surrender to the terrorist’ attitude. The truth is, it happens. Terrorists become subsumed into political pacts or become politics themselves: George Washington, Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Nelson Mandela, and Gerry Adams. Political embracement is simply another reactionary solution.

‘Hard on crime, hard on the causes of crime.’ What about ‘hard on causes of terrorism?’ Never heard of it? Because ‘causes’ are too big to look at in one state and one parliamentary session. It is not politically expedient. No one will tackle this area except in a reactionary manner and through a self-interested, defensive approach. And so the world’s problems need a world response. It starts with individuals just as it ends with individuals so motivated that they blow themselves up in crowded places. People’s problems need people, not policy, not politicians.

Despite perceived individual advancements, the world is no better place for many. UN statistics show that 952 million people are undernourished . Core problems are heightened by ignorance, parochialism and the selfish. Better to turn a blind eye? I’m alright Jack! Better still: fight your own corner. As Ghandi said, “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind”.

Beyond the eye of the terrorists’ stormy fire, who is stoking it? We have all seen evil, heard evil but do we speak evil too? Do we challenge perceptions, defend others, prevent the cycle of hatred, do the right thing? Do we offer parity of esteem?

We all know about terror attacks through the media, who often plumb the depths of vulgarity. Don’t get me wrong, there are journalists who seek the truth, whatever that may be. In wartime, Churchill thought truth was so precious that it should be attended by a bodyguard of lies at all times. What about the current constant state of war we are in … critical state, severe state?

The media maintain the terror state. Terrorists would lose their raison d’être if they were not celebrated in one place, reviled elsewhere. Like crime, fear of terrorism is more powerful than the act itself. A halt on sensationalist printing and broadcasting? A halt on reactionary, defensive posturing against ‘the other? It is time to focus on positive news of co-operation, coexistence and common good. It suits ruling classes to have people in fear of ‘the other’. It builds cohesion amongst those left, and pump-primes the military-industrial complex. Maybe even the media-industrial complex?

Who can spread the good word, do the good deed and end the cycle of hate? It is not the scientist, the technology expert, the politician or the media … it is you and I (and what an audience of readers we have grasping this very possibility whilst grasping this very article).

Fight or flight was a Neanderthal response; communication and co-operation are the hallmarks of truly civilised human beings.

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Between January and April 2015 I led the RSE Young Academy of Scotland campaign for #AspirationalAdvice. We asked all Scots to share a piece of advice to young people on Twitter that will help them aim high, dream big, lift their aspirations and achieve their hopes and goals. Read more about this campaign and its outcomes in the logbook:-

Or watch our video showcase produced by the excellent Vivomotion:-

Or listen to my interview with one of the contributors, Scottish author Ian Rankin:-

Some of our contributors can be seen below. For all others search #aspirationaladvice on twitter

John Mackay

Heather the Weather tweet

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After seven years or so, research into Wilfred Owen’s continues…. more details here over the next few weeks:-

Meantime, here is one I wrote earlier:-

Wilfred Owen Stand To! Journal Article

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