Jesse’s Hereford Times column: Happy New Year!

Let me start by wishing all Hereford Times readers, and their friends and family, a very happy New Year!

A New Year is always a point of transition, and a moment to reflect.

One of the most striking things about 2016 was the number of great artists and musicians who passed away, including David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Carrie Fisher, Harper Lee, George Michael, Alan Rickman, Victoria Wood and Prince. 

To someone born in the 1960s, like me, these losses feel all too personal.

But the last few days have seen the deaths of two great thinkers who have also had an enormous impact in less well-known ways:  Tony Atkinson and Derek Parfit.

Tony Atkinson was a pioneer of welfare and development economics, addressing fundamental questions about how economies grow, who benefits and how more people can be enabled to live better lives.

Derek Parfit was an extraordinary philosopher, who arguably thought deeper than anyone has so far about what makes people who they are, and what matters and should matter to them in life.

The test of a thinker is often not what answers they give, but what questions they pose. Both Tony Atkinson and Derek Parfit posed new questions, about inequality and personal identity and a host of other issues, which will occupy others for generations. No less than our great artists, they are fit to be mourned and celebrated.

One of Parfit’s themes is that what matters in life, as in death, is the connections and memories we leave with others. So it is a privilege for me to be able to congratulate the ten Herefordians who have been recognised in the New Year’s Honours list.

Their achievements are many across various different fields:  Olympic sporting success, military derring-do, services to education, the Church and healthcare.  They have all followed very different careers, with very different experiences and very different skills.

But there is one thing that they all have in common:  a dedication to improving their communities, their county and their country.

So, let us take their success as an example and think about what we can achieve over the next twelve months.  There are so many local charities and community groups that could do with a helping hand.  If you can spare the time, please do think about getting involved—they will benefit, and so will you.

And here’s wishing you a prosperous, healthy and happy 2017!