'Are we generous as a nation?'
Oliver Shasha, FEET
- Credit: PA
Following the Russian invasion into Ukraine early this year, a humanitarian crisis prompted a nationwide effort for UK citizens to house Ukraine refugees fleeing the conflict in their native Ukraine.
The response of some 100,000 applicants was remarkable, and, to many, overwhelmingly surprising.
Up until this moment, the UK seldom represented a sanctuary of selflessness, nor a welcoming refugee utopia. In Bill Bryson’s Notes From a Small Island he remarked that : “Now, the British have become more greedy and selfish."
Without even hesitation, I am drawn to wholeheartedly agree, but why is that?
Just a month before Europe would itself become entangled in its most hostile conflict since the Second World War, I found myself in Thailand with my partner. The contrasts of widespread poverty with unconditional unity and generosity took me by amazement. A local lady even drove us around when we were lost, for an hour long journey, demanding that we pay only petrol costs.
As a product of Boris’s laissez-faire austerity Britannia, this inexplicable generosity was alien to me. Like Bryson I fail to recognise such generosity over here, and as tempting as it may be to say that this may trickle down from an unrepresentative political hierarchy, Thailand has a monarchical-political system that outweighs our problems tenfold.
Where differences may lie though are in lifestyle and consumerism. In modern Britain we are driven by status, our position in society and most of all our penchant for material goods. Whereas in Thailand there was a prevailing emphasis on the idea of money not just as a source of individual wealth, but as something for those around you to also benefit from. “We don’t buy things we don’t need until everyone around us has the things they do need”.
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As good as wealth may be at enriching our opulent lifestyles, has the luxury of endless consumerism stood in the way of our collective morality? Although 100,000 homes offered themselves up, that represents just 4.5% of the total households in the UK above the poverty level. Even though that seemingly small figure is a sign of progress in the eyes of a pessimist such as myself, we’ve a long way to go before our collective responsibilities can factor in the needs of others, much like they do elsewhere.
Oliver Shasha is bass guitarist for FEET.