Day Five: Empathy

                Day five: Empathy

                Whilst playing football last night, a friend broke his collarbone. It was an unfortunate incident which shows how rapidly our fortunes can change.

                With nascent budget cuts waiting to take their toll on individual lives, not just within Britain but also many parts of the wider world, it is worth considering what this means for poverty. Fintan O’Toole, an Irish Commentator, raised numerable interesting points on this subject in a recent interview with the BBC’s Arts & Ideas podcast. He spoke about the need for ‘ethical austerity’. Economic retrenchment is not just about elusive numbers. It is also about our way of life – our philosophy as a country. The interviewer, Philip Dodd, raised a prescient point: those who speak of the need for austerity are more than often those who have never had to live through it.

                Here is a declaration of interest: I have never lived in poverty. The chances are that if you are reading this, you have not either. This is something to celebrate – we should be grateful for the opportunities afforded to us. Equally, however, we should also disdain that many people are not similarly placed.

                Yet it is easy to fall into the same divisive norms: us/them, superior/inferior and so forth. This overlooks one simple fact: We are all human. We have similar dreams, aspirations and ambitions. By no means are they identical, but the very existence of such desires it a staple of humankind.

                And so, it comes down to a simple question: Would you like to live in poverty? Some people like to frame this as a solely ideological point. It is not. You can argue for a more or less egalitarian society within this. The point is that everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living.


                This brings me back to my injured friend. As a waited in the A&E whilst he was being x-rayed, I spoke to the woman sat next to me. She blamed the sweeping cuts facing the NHS on the number of ‘foreigners’ ‘we’ have let in. Politics and economics aside, it was startling how assuredly this comment was made.

There are numerous arguments for and against immigration. This is not the place to discuss them. However, one thing I will maintain is that most people seeking to enter the UK do so because of the opportunities afforded here. That is a compliment. As bad as things may appear at times – but that is life - the UK is a remarkable place to live in. So rather than simply rebuke those ‘foreigners’, it is better to ask why is this happening. The debate can progress from there.

Two more days to go.

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