Jim Duffy: The world will always disappoint, so focus on your corner

Billy Joel was heard singing for the first time by Jim Duffy on his number one hit Uptown Girl. Picture: Getty
Billy Joel was heard singing for the first time by Jim Duffy on his number one hit Uptown Girl. Picture: Getty
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2019 will deliver more geo-political chaos, so concentrate on enriching the lives of those around us, argues Jim Duffy

One could be forgiven for thinking that this has been one of the worst years for a very long time. As the global stock markets fall even further wiping out years of gains, while the President of the United States of America sits in the White House taking aim at the US Fed, the House of Democrats, Santa Claus and many others, there appears to be blame and animosity everywhere. Fires rage each weekend in Paris, which was once a place of romance. Religious intolerance is rife as polar opposites fight throughout the globe to ensure their god is the greatest. But, perhaps God has given up the ghost....

Combine all of this with the huge amount of angst taking place in newspaper opinion columns up and down the land and it is no wonder you all feel a bit punch drunk.

And I haven’t even mentioned the B word yet. Roll on 29 March to find out if the world does actually end.

The suicide rate for our veterans is not great and does worry me while Afghanistan and Iraq that they fought to liberate are basket cases. And so I could go on....and on and on. But, there is hope!

As I lay trawling my Spotify lists and searching for old songs that meant something to me over the years, up popped Billy Joel. Mr Piano man himself. The first time I heard Billy Joel sing was his Number One hit, Uptown Girl. It was fantastic and uplifting. A catchy beat with a terrific video to boot.

But, probably one of the best Joel songs ever written and performed was less uplifting, but a lot more powerful. This song outlined 100 headlines in a rapid fire style arrangement that were prominent between 1949 and 1989. 1949 being the year Joel was born and 1989 the year of this hit song, We Didn’t Start The Fire. And there was plenty to write about for Joel between these years. What a clever way to document all that was going on and had created the world that he lived in.

But, the poignant message that comes through loud and clear is that no matter what time you live in on earth, there is always conflict, change, upheaval and painful innovation. On top of this there are always stupid politicians, embarrassingly cringeworthy elitist episodes, the poor getting a poor deal, the odd war and big aeroplanes going down. Throw in sex scandals, banks failing, cyber terrorism and novichok along with that “feud” between the two Royal Duchesses and it keeps the red tops in business and us shaking our heads as we watch and read. In short, the world is constantly evolving and it will never get any easier – even for our children with all their fancy tech and (likely) new friends from outer space. No doubt by that time we will have screwed up a few more planets and made some more enemies, this time in other galaxies.

So just as Joel wrote about the 100 headlines and events that helped shape the world he lived in you too could write your song and I bet the headlines from say 1967 to 2018 would also paint a pretty startling picture. You will notice I did not say depressing, awful, woeful or sad picture. No, I have chosen my adjectives carefully as I believe with all my heart that this is just the way things are on this planet and that living with all this is art and part of life as we know it. It’s how we deal with it in our own minds that will frame how hopeful we each feel over the next few years.

Yes, 2019 will be pretty interesting and will probably give you enough to write a whole verse in your 100 headline song. British politics alone will present some big dilemmas. No Deal, Indyref2, Corbyn and what America will do with its moody President is all open for debate.

One could start the chapter right now of 2019 with... once upon a time there was a planet where no-one agreed with anything, so they had multiple referendums and wars just to prove that point and on and on and on. But, just as Joel documented his life journey via headlines, he also just got on with it. And I feel that having listened to his song again and the lyrics that make it so potent and impressive, there is nothing else for it, but to persevere and be optimistic. Of course, there is a part of me that wonders if this is me being a trifle grey and conditioned to accept. Perhaps, I should be looking for a JFK moment in the USA to enact some much needed regime change. Maybe some Presidential rendition to one of his resorts where he can live his live out in peace arguing with his model train set characters. Maybe even a good old military coup at Westminster to re-purpose the political village there and bring it all back to reality and not reality TV. But, no, that all seems a bit extreme and Billy Joel didn’t even go that far.

No, while the rage in the machine all goes on, it is up to us – you and me – to keep on moving onwards and upwards in all that we do with relationships, partners, neighbours, colleagues and friends. After all, is this not what life is really all about? So just as “we didn’t start the fire, it was always burning since the world’s been turning”, we know that it always will. Our job is focus and impact on the small world around us in as good a way as we can to keep turning the tide - in your own wee way. The rest will take care of itself. Just as it did in Joel’s era.

It always does....