I find that I have to write this before the end of the Olympic days in Brazil. The news bulletins here in Britain have spoken of little else for weeks: the gold medal by one or other British athlete is the first headline each morning.
And hidden somewhere in among the end-pieces of the news, there are sometimes stories from Syria. Almost like tiny fragments of debris: things found among the ruins. I keep wondering – as I have done almost since the beginning of this war – just how huge the aftermath of it will be. The longer it continues the greater the shadow somehow, and the more terrible the stories that emerge.
But we do not really care. I continue to have this awful sense of the way in which we rank human beings: somehow there is an order of importance. We know that white Europeans essentially come top, and news from other places has to be pretty desperate before we take much notice. Even with all the horror that emerges concerning Syria in the end, I do not believe for one moment that we will be changed by it. We may think we learn for a time; the truth is that we will forget once more.
So what is the point of writing at all? I sit beside my computer screen in the tranquillity and late summer beauty of Highland Perthshire in the north of Scotland. I have the freedom to write what I want; as is evidenced by what I put onto the screen. It is a kind of prayer for the forgotten people of Syria; a cry into the darkness that we might look and listen and remember.
Somehow the suffering I see on my screen and at the news stands puts all my petty concern into perspective. I think of my beloved five year old child – for whom I would do anything, were it necessary – and I think of the fathers of Syria who can do nothing for the pain and cruelty and hunger that their equally beloved little ones are suffering.
Here in Dunkeld, in this most beautiful corner of Scotland, we are known for our music. I had the idea of gathering together some of the better known musicians to give a concert in our Cathedral, on behalf of the Syrian cause. We found a charity called Edinburgh Direct Aid and we asked them to come to speak to us about the work they were doing to alleviate the suffering in Syria. We hoped that a few would join us from the local community: this is only a small rural village.
The cathedral was so full that we had to find extra seats for people. There were over 500 present. That day, after a magnificent concert, we raised £5 000. We were pleased: it had been worthwhile. Then came the amazing news: someone present had been so moved by the event and what had been created that they were donating £20 000 to Edinburgh Direct Aid. Mighty oaks and little acorns.