Letter from the editor: Communal empathy

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I suppose the point of observing a minute’s silence is to spend that time in quiet contemplation so, before the Chelsea v Manchester City football match yesterday, I did just that.

We had been asked for a minute’s silence to show our support for the people of Japan, who are still enduring the terrible after-effects of the recent earthquake and tsunami.

It was immaculately observed — who said that football supporters don’t know how to behave? — but I realised that, when the referee blew his whistle to signal that the minute was over, I hadn’t been thinking about Japan, but Libya. Was this wrong?

Instead of doing as I had been asked, my mind had turned to the women, the children, and the innocents caught in a battle for the soul of Libya that promises only more bloodshed, and to our soldiers who are once again being put in harm’s way. It’s not that I believe we had a choice — the international community just couldn’t stand by and watch Gaddafi’s troops slaughter their own people — but I don’t think I would have been alone in the crowd thinking about that perilous situation.

Which in turn led to another thought: at any given moment, somewhere in the world there is suffering on a large, sometimes unimaginable, scale. So perhaps it would make more sense that, before every major sporting occasion, we ought to have a minute’s silence. We could then reflect on a much more regular basis — and not just when Comic Relief comes around, or when a big disaster dominates the news — that, for many, many people, the world is an iniquitous and dangerous place. And perhaps then, charity — as well as communal empathy — will become a more common aspect of our lives.