A prisoner in the United States, Benjamin Schreiber, has been serving life since brutally murdering a man in the 1990s. He recently appealed to the court to be released; he’d become gravely ill last year and emergency doctors managed bring him back from the dead five times.

I was technically dead so I’ve served life, he told the Iowa Appeals Board.

Nice try, Benjamin.

Part of me thought, ‘stay where you are Ben mate’; all your meals provided, free telly for life etc etc. You don’t want to come out and face all the craziness that this world is offering now, very different when you went inside.

I wonder did he watch the futuristic, real life scenes on the news from Wuhan in China of white boiler suited folk with surgical masks stopping the few people out in desolated streets to check for the Coronavirus.

Apocalypse now.

Shreiber’s story is one of those “editor’s picks” that my smartphone alerted me about with a “plink” at some ungodly hour; along with offers of cheap finance, a DVD of “The Winslow Boy”, and other sundry stuff including how I can lose weight easily.

I read recently that rates of depression among teenagers have risen at the same pace as the rise in the number of smartphones.

Considering I’m a serial offender at staring at my device, it’s rather hypocritical of me to bemoan the lack of actual conversation; but we’re in times where people are communicating less and, it can be argued, society is caring less about the misery that others go through.

It’s said that every generation thinks that things are so serious that they will be the last people in the end times; and we get dire warnings of how climate change is accelerating the end of our planet.

Was it not always thus? In 1954, when a radio adaptation of George Orwell’s tale of a nightmare future was broadcast, the BBC was bombarded with complaints about the terrible vision. “If that is what the world is going to be like, we might as well put our heads in the gas ovens now.”

This was, after all, a generation which had just been through the horrors of war; and again we were reminded this week of the unbelievably evil depravity

of man’s inhumanity to man at Auschwitz. Holocaust Day should be highlighted every year.

The great line featured in the real life legal battle on which the above-mentioned film, The Winslow Boy is based, “Let Right Be Done” often seems not to apply to the evil of this world.

As I focus on all this wrong, I’m very conscious that there is also great and the good; and that good will prevail.

And centuries ago, John Wesley’s advice was “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

It’s just sometimes hard to trust in mortals to improve the lot of others.

Fear not, as we are approaching…..Brexit. The Mail on Sunday’s editorial headline was “Rejoice! You live in a free country for the first time in 50 years.” That’s all right then. And just to prove it, our pockets will be full of shiny new 50 pence pieces to mark the occasion.

Change is on the way, too, in the Republic with an election coming up on Saturday week, the same day Ireland face Wales in the Six Nations rugby.

The campaign has been fairly lacklustre but has focused on some of the issues.

One commentator said that the Republic’s economy was “booming”, which will come as something of a surprise to those homeless people living rough on the streets.

Housing and health appear to be the main issues, with the battle over the plan to increase the pension age being debated as well.

It’s amazing that the average price of a home in the south is over 300,000 Euro, with rents averaging 1,400 Euro; even up to 2,000 in parts of Dublin.

One survey shows the top 10 prices in European capital cities for renting a one-bedroom apartment in 2018. Berlin is 10th at 990 Euro and London is top at 1,750. Dublin is the second most expensive at 1,650, away ahead of places like Stockholm, Copenhagen and Paris.

I read one very telling tweet: “I was in a taxi and the driver told me that a relative who moved to Dublin is sharing one room with three other people, and each of them is being charged 500 Euro per month. The landlord has three more rooms in the same house, and earns 6,000 Euro per month. We talk a lot about supply, and not enough about greed.”

The Government’s failure to deal with the housing crisis enables this greed, and now that houses are commodities to make a profit from, it means that many people simply cannot afford a roof over their head.

No wonder the people of the Republic want change.

But what can they change?

In one of the TV debates, a head to head between Fine Gael Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin, the Fianna Fail leader who has effectively kept Varadkar in power, the presenter Pat Kenny asked a bizarre question.

Coming up to the centenary of the Civil War, should the two parties merge? Bizarre, yes, but you wonder if there is much between them.

In Britain, Liberal Democrat Vince Cable once delivered a withering assessment of Gordon Brown that he’d gone from “Stalin to Mr. Bean.”

Looking around the political landscapes in several countries, you really do wonder if the comedic comparison could easily transfer. Or at least, in the week that Monty Python’s Terry Jones passed away, maybe we could be kind and just use his line about some leaders: “He’s a very naughty boy!”

The humour will be lost, though, on the many vulnerable people across the British Isles.

This past week saw the death of former SDLP leader and Deputy First Minister, Seamus Mallon. Now there was a politician of courage and conviction, who had a passion of helping people. We could do with more like him.