Let’s have our own Christmas truce.
After all, it’s one hundred years since those brave young men stood up to turn the world on its head. Perhaps it’s time for all of us – women, children and older men too?
Do we have the courage of our forefathers leaving their trenches?
Trenches? I’d say we are still living in trenches, just as deep and muddy as those others. Our institutions – Parliament, the local council - built with our own hands, just as surely as with a spade.
Then there’s our leaders. Back then of course those young chaps would risk the firing squad in search of what just seemed like the right thing. Now it must be easier.
How many of us voted for our leaders out of habit?
How many are leading us because many didn’t vote at all?
How many of them actually have a clue?
Look at our friends. Struggling beside us, thousands of them having to resort to food banks in the land that was supposed to be ‘fit for heroes’ in 1918. Surely they’ll join in and bring their families too? Isn’t Christmas all about families, craving the warmth and light of home?
Come on. Let’s ever so cautiously pull ourselves out of those trenches and yes, as it’s a Christmas truce let’s throw our weapons, those old arguments, aside.
That one about not having enough money can go for a start. Look at the wonderful prosperity of the UK; tax it more equitably, share it more fairly, use it more effectively. We don’t need to frighten the horses but we can transform the prospects of everyone living here. So that one about foreigners stealing our jobs, that one, can go too.
It’s easier to think clearly under a cold wintry, starlit sky. It’s a long way from London, so perhaps we can reflect on how many have had to go there and how much of us has been taken there as ‘coals from Newcastle’, leaving poverty and low expectations in return.
It’s peaceful out here. We can start to make some decisions for ourselves.
Look around at all the science, technology, history, culture, landscape; when we make our own choices we are world class. We can have the best public services, the best jobs and opportunities in the world.
Here they are, ‘the enemy’. Now that we’re closer we can see that they’re people, just like ourselves. Of course; let’s kick a football around, make some music, share some drink and food. 100 years on we actually share the same language, so let’s talk together about how we’ll strengthen the UK by being more devolved, more free.
Unlike the soldiers of a century ago perhaps we’ll choose not to go back at all, stay here, stick together in a common cause.
“Christmas” they say “is for children” and whether they’re far from home in the meanest of conditions, or secure and comfortable surrounded by all the best we can do let’s give them all some real presents.
Each and every one of them could have savings of their own to give them all a stake of investment when they’re grown. Oh and a big part of much better education will be the opportunity ‘if at first you don’t succeed’ - to try again.
The best present might be to shed our illusion that somehow, magically, any or all of us just know how to be great parents. We can teach young people to parent their own children better, listen to them properly, recognise that they have expertise in their own lives and engage them with decisions from an early age.
Maybe we should inform them better about their own community, their family legacy; we have a good story to tell, we can help build understanding and pride.
Christmas only for children? If we do our best for every single child we will eventually re-build the world for all of us anew. However this requires more than fine words, it really needs the dogged, daily determination and participation of us all.
This is a bloody demanding Christmas truce. Wouldn’t we be better off back in our muddy trench, sharpening our bayonets? Unfortunately, that would take us back to the poor, paltry, disempowered state that has been the North East’s lot for far too long.
If the soldiers of that first winter of the Great War had been able to hold their Christmas truce for longer they might have survived beyond the New Year. If we extend our truce beyond Christmas, refuse to go back to those old entrenched ways of being, we will find New Year 2015, full of possibility, galloping towards us.
Amongst all the enjoyable noise and nonsense of the festive season these are the oldest messages; light and warmth in the midst of darkness and the hope of every child, being born.
All the very best for a most enjoyable Christmas full of jollification and to a better future for North East England as 2015 beckons its opportunity to us all.