The world needs a change of heart ... before it's too late

At a time of unprecedented disruption, with public events being shut down and social contacts restricted everywhere, it is good to know that some things can still be relied on. Cost what it may, Trident will still prowl the oceans 24/7 ready to bring hell on earth to millions of people and environmental catastrophe to our long-suffering earth. And we will eagerly blow billions on its replacement, Dreadnought.

Shysters and crooks in the guise of respectable global businesses will continue to make eye-watering profits out of selling new machines for killing people. Britain will still be the second largest arms manufacturer in the world.

And in exercise Defender in summer 2020, Nato will hold the largest deployment of forces to Europe in more than 25 years with 20,000 soldiers ready to deal with the so-called Russian threat.

But is all this frenetic militarism not beginning to look irrelevant? It is surely time to reconsider our priorities and concerns. We must ponder the glaring anomalies and unjust structures that have created the unhappy world we see around our (for now) affluent bubble. Should the gazillions we spend on killing each other not now be diverted to helping each other? Shouldn’t we place humanity before profit?

This plague has biblical resonations, appropriately. We think we are incredibly sophisticated with our dazzling technologies. The truth is – morally – we are right back where we started.

In Deuteronomy (30.19), we read: “I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both you and your children may live”. Up till now, we have chosen killing to solve our problems. Religious leaders have pleaded we recognize the essential unity of the human family - in vain. We simply can no longer do this. As Martin Luther King said, “We must live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.”

Our choice is stark. We face speedy extinction in 12 years through environmental catastrophe, or instant oblivion in 12 hours through global nuclear suicide.

Our only hope lies in metanoia, or a change of heart. Christians used to be very keen on this. They called it repentance. Maybe now, at the eleventh hour, we should try it. We can still build a better world.

Brian Quail

Glasgow

We no longer have the right to be this selfish

"Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die" could well be the guiding principle of some of those who have stocked up so generously – careless, in their fatalistic attitude, towards their responsibility to their fellows.

Self-preservation may be the panic-driven selfish motivation of others.

Whichever driving force is behind their behaviour, it reeks of the self-entitlement society which has percolated through our country ever since the 1980s. Rights regulate their conduct rather than responsibilities

The former are geared towards the individual while the latter centre round the community.

At this time of crisis, the community should be the focus of attention whereas the last 40 years have revolved round a light regulatory touch programme, leaving gaps big enough to drive a coach and horses through in all walks of life.

This crisis may well put that nasty genie back into its bottle and reopen the sense of community spirit which we allegedly revere when we nostalgically recall the major crisis of the Second World War through rose-tinted glasses.

A proper perspective may be brought back into our lives after this pandemic has run its course, and crippled our economy and communities with its ravages.

Then will be the time to build a new dynamic political consensus where responsible capitalism with an emphasis upon fairness for all could emerge to purge us of the gross inequality born of the individualistic ideology which crucifies today's world.

Denis Bruce

Bishopbriggs

So annoying, Sir Patrick

Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance is, clearly, a clever man.

Why, then, does he start sentences, condescendingly, with the word "so"?

The word is a co ordinating conjunction.

John V Lloyd

Inverkeithing

The end of nationalism?

Surely coronavirus has sounded the death knell for Scottish nationalism. It may take some time to finish it off but the process has most certainly started and there can be only one outcome.

Nationalism in the midst of a pandemic is now seen as totally irrelevant and as dead as the parrot in the Monty Python sketch. Even on the more extreme fringes of the SNP, there must be some seeing the truth about what is important – and what is not – unfolding daily before their very eyes.

Remaining united and facing difficulties together strengthens every single one of us in the UK.

Alexander McKay

Edinburgh

A Boomer's verse

Neil Mackay's portrayal of the changing face of the generations war (Herald Voices, March 22) reminds me of the time back in 2015 when I entered a "challenge" at the Yarrow Ettrick and Selkirk Arts Festival to write a "Border Ballad" in a form of Scots on a modern theme.

Taking a leaf out of Pete Townshend's book I chose as my topic My Generation (what could be more modern than that?). My poem – Merch o the Baby-Boomers – naturally described a lifetime spent on protest demonstrations.

I hadn't realised that the MC at the awards ceremony would be the Duke of Buccleuch. A fellow boomer in terms of age.

A somewhat surreal conversation resulted – which I won't go into here!

Mary McCabe

Glasgow

The stark reality of pensions

I suspect that Douglas Morton is in receipt of a large Civil Service pension so decided to challenge me ("Public sector pensions, the facts," Letters, March 22). He does admit that civil service pensions are unfunded so taxpayers pick up the bill.

If he had not dashed off a quick response because of my "gold-plated" pension comment he might have absorbed what I said about pension funds in the private sector having fallen from 5.3 million in 1997 to 1.5 million in 2019 whereas the public sector's increased from 4.5 million to 5.2 million. Surely that should be the clue.

Approximately 33 per cent of council tax goes into the pension fund. Numerous council salaries are well over £50,000 a year, so large pension cost. A director of resources said that pension schemes were "wholly unaffordable and unsustainable for local authorities".

Mr Morton quotes the 1980s but that is 40 years ago and public pensions have changed – for the worse. As for him asking why I want to "level down" pensions in the public sector instead of "level up" in the private sector, his comment just shows how financially unaware he is.

Clark Cross

Linlithgow

• I am a regular follower of your excellent letters page, and give the odd contribution from time to time. However, rarely have I felt so strong a need to respond to a letter as I have this week.

Douglas Morton's criticism of a contribution by Clark Cross the previous week just shows out completely out of touch with reality those in receipt of public sector pensions really are. Let me say that I don't now if Mr Morton is lucky enough to be in receipt of one, but I'm guessing he is.

He says the average civil service pension a couple of years ago was £10,000. Does he not understand that such a sum is far beyond the wildest dreams of many similar workers in the private sector?

Does he not realise that, in the private sector, an employee might pay in 6% to their pension, and they'll be lucky if their employer pays enough to match that amount, while in the public sector, the employer – who is funding by the taxpayer (a fact Mr Morton conveniently sidesteps) – pays in anything up to 20% of the employee's salary, on top of their original 6%?

For the avoidance of doubt, that's anything up to more than three times the mount and employee pays in, compared with barely matching the employee contribution.

A five-year-old could tell you that such a difference means the public sector worker will enjoy more than the private sector worker could ever dream of – and remember that that extra money comes out of the pay packets of the general population.

Mr Morton also says that the private sector should "level up" its pensions, rather than the public sector "levelling down". Again, how out of touch can somebody possibly be?

In an ideal world, I'd like to "level up" my children's pocket money to £25 a week, but I can't afford it. Or I'd like to see the state pension "levelled up" so this is all irrelevant, but that would bankrupt the country.

Isn't it funny how, in the real world away from gold-plated – and, yes, I used that term deliberately – public sector pensions, simple economic reality rules?

Isn't it lucky that such inconvenient truths don't get in the way in Mr Morton's world? And isn't it sad that he forgets to thank the rest of us for paying through the nose in our taxes so he can share such wisdom from his ivory tower?

Dave Anderson

Dundee