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Do we in the UK lack empathy in our treatment of refugees?

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Living as I do on a tiny island nation named the British Isles this is my thoughtful response to a recent article suggesting we in the UK lack empathy in our treatment of, and how we regard, refugees.

The ongoing generation of hate seems to have flooded this world of plenty and abundance causing countless millions of ordinary non-extremist, non-politically-minded, non-extremist-religious family folks to become homeless, nation-less fear-filled refugees just surviving in squalor in grudgingly, and barely supplied with international aid, overcrowded camps.

As just one example; meanwhile from the commencement of the Syrian peoples' uprising, in the country of the refugees' birth President Assad, desperately clinging to power, uses his subservient military might to reduce Syrian civilization to widespread corpse-strewn rubble; and apparently no one on this planet is prepared to stop him. It can be no surprise that ordinary people who have no other way of avoiding the suffering inflicted by others upon them would risk their lives by fleeing to us in the West to seek sanctuary in the countries of the EU. Any dilution of empathy, and sympathy by UK citizens for the plight of those fleeing refugees seeking sanctuary, is surely tempered by the obvious limitations set whilst 'trying to fit a quart into an already over-filled pint pot'.

It is difficult for most non-politically conversant folks individually to separate the 'wheat from the chaff' information-wise, torn as we all are between longing to believe in the integrity and utterances of our elected governments, and often being filled with doubt as to that integrity when also being flooded with thought-provoking highly intelligent offerings posted on the web. For example; is the current selection of whistleblowers made up of courageous heroes revealing decades of undeniable governmental sleaze, or are they dastardly villains betraying their country? It all depends upon whom you listen to and whom you choose to believe, and so really you, yes you reading this, make the choice and then, just like us all, you live with the unforeseeable fortunate or unfortunate future outcome of that choice.

To me this suggests that, you and I have a clear duty to self to rise above media-provoked emotions and instead to apply clear thinking when faced with these choices. You could ask yourself why this or that writer wants you to believe what he or she has written. Experts abound on this planet but only you are expert about the world you wish to live in, and so only you can choose to courageously work towards creating that world. One voice in the wilderness soon grows to millions of like-minded irresistible voices that demand to be heard, but as usual it relies upon one courageous voice to start the chorus.

Public 'Pavlov Dog' responses to certain constantly repeated words and phrases are often the product and result of Media pressure and politicians' sound-bites frequently causing confusion between such words as 'immigrants' and 'asylum seekers' and 'illegal immigrants.

It isn't that we in our safe respectable UK homes lack empathy with the world's less fortunate folks, but that our personal supply of empathy has become so stretched and diluted by the sheer numbers of unfortunates that deserve empathy, sympathy, and especially deserve material help. As I mentioned before, in the UK most of our knowledge about this planet's unfortunates is culled from the TV or the Web, and thank God none of it personally experienced by us first -hand. A typical evening of TV viewing is frequently interspersed with more and more repeated heart-rending pleas made by this or that current TV or sports celebrity from these or those charities to support their efforts with donations, and even for ongoing direct-debit donations. Each year we are all media-swamped by the save the children red-nose appeal during which current TV celebrities are screened while visiting filthy shanty towns in this or that third-world country where half-starved children play amid alleys through which raw sewage flows unchecked.

Alternatively during these televised visits to foreign lands we viewers are exposed to the sight of adults and children scrabbling to survive by salvaging what they can from the garbage dumped from the near-by affluent high-rise city. All of this ongoing and ever-increasing media pressure, year after year, eventually acts as a drain upon our sympathy and our pockets, and finally leads us to ask why year after year do these shanty towns continue to exist? Also, why are there still so many half-starved and/or ill children available to be eagerly displayed on our TV screens? At what stage do third-world governments accept the responsibility for allowing these appalling situations to exist?

Several years ago, long before 9-11 and the international debacle that followed and continues on to this day, I saw on television a dramatic, maybe prophetic, fictional story about an African man in Africa who in desperation to escape from war and poverty started walking northwards. He was determined to reach and enter those fabled lands of peace and plenty; the European Union, this simply in the hope of finding employment and a better and safer way of life. En route more and more desperate Africans joined him so that when he arrived at the coast of North Africa it was with a vast multitude of the similarly desperate, only separated from their goal by the need to obtain sea-going vessels. The drama ended inconclusively with the Africans obtaining vessels and heading en-masse for Gibraltar and the coasts of Spain, whilst meanwhile the leaders of the EU nations, with armies poised, tried to decide how to either respond or react to this vast influx of refugees.

This was just a TV fictional play but we in the West now face a similar situation, with violently conflicting political and religious viewpoints added to the mix and not just from Africa. Once again we face masses of refugees heading to us in the West for safety and aid whilst their desperate plight is being totally ignored or abused and used by the opposing religious and battle-crazed factions. Some kind of political solution will have to be found soon because obviously given the choice these countless refugees would prefer to live in peace in their own familiar countries rather than trying to adapt to western languages and lifestyles. We don't lack empathy, but east is east and west is west. Trying to mix the two is not a lasting solution.

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I'm David Brittain, aged 76, English and living in Essex on the beautiful coast of East Anglia in the UK. I'm a low income retired pensioner with a selection of dreary ailments with which I definitely won't bore you, and a selection of opinions and (more...)
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