Penn is mightier than the sword

JUST give it a generation or so and society s horrendous problems of anti-social behaviour and violence should be history. The effort to engineer a nicer world is under way. We will look back and reminisce, Oh, yes, it all started in the first decade of

JUST give it a generation or so and society's horrendous problems of anti-social behaviour and violence should be history.

The effort to engineer a nicer world is under way. We will look back and reminisce, "Oh, yes, it all started in the first decade of the 21st century. What fools we were then not to smile and be pleasant to each other."

The Monty Python team got it right all those years ago when they sang the memorable words: "Always look on the bright side of life."

People hummed along to the tune but they did not take up the sentiment and the world became a darker more dangerous place.


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But now that is all going to change. I read this week that children will be given "happiness" classes in which they will be taught how to be cheerful and content.

Students will be "immunised" from becoming miserable. Their lessons will tell them how to cope with difficult situations and promote confidence.

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Already under way is a pilot project - which could go national - testing the effectiveness of what is known as the Penn Resiliency Program (unlike the pen resistance programme I used to operate when it came to school homework). It is based on techniques used in the United States.

And more than 100 teachers have already travelled to Philadelphia to learn how to teach children to look on the bright side of life. I wonder how many of those keen educators were doing just that on their trip to the other side of the pond, thousands of miles away from their miserable charges.

So the future looks good - but is it a false dawn when in fact it could be goodnight to the lot of us in the very near future.

No doubt there were some who breathed a heartfelt sigh of relief when the world and everything in it failed to disappear into a man-made black hole yesterday (Wednesday) morning the second after the most powerful-ever physics experiment deep beneath the Franco-Swiss border began.

Some pessimists predicted that switching on the Large Hadron Collider to smash particles together with fantastic force and recreate conditions in the Universe moments after the Big Bang would bring about the demise of all we know.

Others scoffed at the idea. The people I felt sorry for were those who went to the bookies to bet on the world disappearing when the machine lumbered into action. What on Earth did they think they would spend their winnings on?

There could have been a more localised coming together of particles as I drove to work around the time the Collider was being switched on.

Behind me in the traffic queue was a young woman who must have got up late. I spotted her in the rear view mirror using one hand to get the knots out of her hair with a brush. Then she used her fingers.

And then she used both hands to coiffure her hair as her vehicle edged towards the back of mine.

Just like the Earth could have been, I was gone in a split second.

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