Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Britain of 1947: A less selfish society

Many thanks for your emails in response to my recent Daily Express article on how Britain coped in the winter of 1947.

Reader Graham, who is approaching his 60th birthday, was born in his grandmother's house which had no electricity and with rationing still in force, there was not a lot of food for either him or his mother.

"I wonder how, as a nation, we would cope with life if the same conditions were to visit today!", Graham asks.

The answer, I fear, is not very well. Our increased material prosperity since the 1940s has not made us better people, but more spoilt and self-centred. Yesterday's horrific report on the amount of elderly people suffering financial abuse at the hands of their own children, tells its own story.

In my piece on 1947, I told how villagers in Llanstephan in Wales had risked their lives to dig out an eight-mile route through to Carmarthen so that a soldier, who had contracted a serious disease while in the Army, could be driven to his parents’ home. In the individualistic 'I've got my rights' Britain of 2007, how many people would act in such a selfless way?

Of course there are still many people who do put their lives at risk to help others, such as firemen and
lifeboat crews. But too many people nowadays are concerned only with their own selfish, material needs and not with the common good. That's great news for the greedy global corporations, whose end goal is to transform all of us into amoral, alienated consumers, but for humanity as a whole, the era of what the psychologist Oliver James has labelled 'selfish capitalism' has been a disaster.

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