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EVERYBODY NEEDS GOOD NEIGHBOURS

09-06-2007

Dr David Nicholl reflects on the folk next door - who in his case include the father of a Guantanamo Bay detainee and a Birmingham handcuff maker.

Neighbours - can’t live with them, can’t live without them. I’m not referring to the Aussie soap opera, but all of us, we are all neighbours, and sometimes that can lead you into strange terrority indeed.

When I think back to 2004, it was seeing one of my neighbours, Azmat Begg, the father of Moazzam Begg pleading that his son should either be released from Guantanamo or charged in a proper court that was a personal inspiration.

I was appalled at the injustice of this and felt that there should be something done to correct this. As a Christian, I’d always felt that ‘Love thy neighbour’ was a good guiding principle.

Then in 2005, I was stunned not only when Clive Stafford Smith, the human rights lawyer, told me that all the shackles used in Guantanamo were made in a Birmingham factory, but speechless when I realised that in my marathon training I had sometimes been jogging past the factory owner’s house. “God, you are having a laugh!” I thought.

Initially I was very angry at this neighbour, but then on reflection, I thought what this actually boils down to is ethics. We need some people to be doctors, some to be journalists, and yes, we even need some people to be handcuff makers.

The point is, all of us can rip people off if we choose too. I could enrol patients into unethical drug trials, the Stirrer could print a pile of scurrilous lies for increased copy and a handcuff manufacturer can choose to supply regimes that utilise torture.

But we all have a free will, we can choose to make as much as money as possible and not worry about the consequences or we can choose to do the right thing.

Finally, this week, I met another neighbour- we needed to get a babysitter for last night’s premiere of “Taking Liberties” and I popped a note in her door, forgetting that her Mum was a journalist. Before you know it, she is ringing me to ask if she can do 1000 word piece for the Birmingham Post.

Strange things neighbours - sometimes you need to help them, sometimes you need their help and sometimes you have to tell them when they are doing wrong. Just don’t forget about them.

Maybe if we all paid a little more attention to our neighbours, big and small, the world would be a better place.

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