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Sunday Mercury SAYS: Credit crunch Christmas may be good tidings.

THIS is the point where we at the Sunday Mercury would usually wish you all a happy and prosperous Christmas.

But we are keenly aware that this festive season is going to be very unusual.

The global credit crunch has bitten hard in recent months, leaving the Midlands as badly damaged as anywhere else in the world. Jobs are disappearing, homes are being repossessed and mortgage payments are soaring.

For many of us, this holiday season will be a lean one, and you could be forgiven for thinking that Christmas spirit will be in short supply.

But with the big day less than a week away, it is time to look forward to the festive period with high hopes.

It's difficult to find an upside to our current economic woes, but there is one plus point. It has allowed for the rabid commercialisation of Christmas to finally be countered.

We should revel in the chance to spend time with our families and loved ones free of the pressure to produce perfect presents and money-spinning surprises.

Who really needs a new iPod, a 60-inch Plasma TV or a Nintendo Wii?

What we need is to reconnect with our communities, with our neighbours, with real life.

We have heard plenty this year about "Broken Britain". Our streets have become lawless, dangerous battle zones where drugs, brutality and intimidation reign supreme. More than ever, people are disengaging from society, turning to crime, joining gangs and leaning towards violent religious extremism.

The Government can try harsher sentences, extra cops, more money for rehabilitation or new prisons. But the answer to our troubles lies inside our communities.

We have become distant from one another. Never have we been so isolated from our neighbours and our own culture.

A recent survey by the BBC showed we are now a "lonely" people, with our ability to identify with our local area all but destroyed by the rigours of the modern world.

This Christmas is an opportunity for us to heal our wounds together.

If anything can create the harmony we so desperately need, it is the common financial crisis that is affecting us all.

We have a chance to come together. All it takes is a new spirit of forgiveness and unity.

This year, more than ever, it really is the thought that counts.
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Title Annotation:Leaders
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Dec 21, 2008
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