Thanks to Stevie over at https://steviet3.wordpress.com/ for nominating me for the ‘Three Quotes for Three Days’ challenge.
The rules of the challenge are:
- Three quotes for three days.
- Three nominees each day (no repetition).
- Thank the person who nominated you.
- Inform the nominees.
For my first quote I am going to take one from George Bernard Shaw:
The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity. From “The Devil’s Disciple” (1901), act II
I heard it recently during a television programme commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan Disaster. For those who missed the publicity surrounding the anniversary and too young to remember the actual event, mine waste stored on a mountainside slid onto the village school burying it and many of its occupants. 116 children and 28 adults were killed.
At the subsequent enquiry the barrister acting for the villagers used that quotation during his summing up. The enquiry found that the people responsible for siting and maintaining the waste tip should have been aware of the risk that it could become unstable and ought to have taken steps to prevent what happened.
The significance of the quotation for me was in relation to my researches into the Irish famine years 1845-’52. Few now doubt that the suffering caused by the repeated failure of the potato crop was far worse than it needed to have been, nor that the attitude of many of those in positions of power contributed to the entirely inadequate response to the evolving situation.
The words I would have used to define that attitude would have been an absence of empathy. Shaw’s words offered an alternative: indifference. It’s what happens when people in positions of influence and power perceive a problem and either ignore it, as at Aberfan, or impose a solution regardless of the consequences for others.
It also characterises the way supposedly civilised people sometimes respond to modern crises like the arrival on European shores of refugees from poverty stricken and war-torn parts of North Africa and the Middle East. There was a vox-pop piece on a BBC news programme recently in which a bloke from Devon said: “We can’t look after our own, why should we bother with them?”
To which my response is along the lines of “sorry mate, but we do care for our own.” (There will be more about this in my next piece). We have health care free at the point of delivery, education free up to the age of 18. Those who designed some aspects of the benefits system could, however, be accused of indifference. Indeed, that is exactly what Ken Loach has done in his award winning film, I, Daniel Blake.
We also have a media, and quite a few citizens not unlike that man from Devon, who are so indifferent to the plight of those of our own citizens in genuine need that they characterise them as scroungers. The real point is that it should not be about choosing between looking after ‘our own’ and caring for others. We should be sufficiently concerned about all those in need, wherever their origin, to support whatever steps are necessary in order to relieve their suffering.
Jennifer Young http://jenniferyoungauthor.co.uk
Val Tobin http://www.serenitynowgifts.com/