Well that’s got your attention I suppose. Perhaps we could fall back on Plato who said “This City is what it is because our citizens are what they are.”
What set this off was the fact that during the last three months or so I’ve walked, lonely and largely unafraid, through the highways and byways of hospitals, care homes, nursing homes, dental surgeries and more.
I’ve watched a doctor so young that in her green pyjamas she looked like she ought to be dragging a teddy bear behind her; yet she coped with a frightened alcoholic with skill and compassion. I’ve sat in a curtained ‘cubicle’ in A&E by the bedside of a sleeping elderly man and overheard the conversation in the cubicles on either side and at the nurses’ station. I’ve had two roots extracted by a Polish dentist who is so good that should she ever decide to go back to Poland I’ll probably have to resort to working through my single male friends to find one who scrubs up well enough to entice her into staying.
Sometimes in all this process I’ve been the patient, sometimes I’ve been there to help and support, and frankly I prefer the latter role.
It’s not just hospital nurses, I’ve seen lasses behind the desk coping with computer systems that work with the slick alacrity of continental drift and yet they still manage to smile. I saw one lass in the offices who was so mortified by the way the system had screwed up a patients appointment that she personally dropped off a new appointment letter for the patient on her way home from work.
I’ve talked to porters who manage to keep cheerful, cleaning staff who get overlooked and people of more than a dozen different nationalities.
I suppose it might help in that this is the North, we’re not a high wage economy and even the salary you get working in a care home looks good money.
But the big question, are these people angels? Of course not; they’re something far more precious, they’re ordinary human beings trying to do a tricky, difficult job, and trying to do it with compassion.
And what about Maggie and society? Well what she said was “And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour.”
And what did I see? A lot of people with families of their own to support; people who may have aging parents or young children or dysfunctional friends of their own. But they’re people who rise above this and get on with the job and CARE for those their work brings them in contact with.
Frankly it’s contemptibly easy to strive for ‘peace’ or work for ‘equality’. What’s really difficult is to be nice to the people you meet during the day, to care for people who’ve frankly got no-one to blame but themselves, to help the unfashionable, the un-sexy, the unwashed. Society doesn’t do this, people do this, and it is because people do this that we have a society that’s worth a damn. And if you want a better society then the hard way to improve it, but the only way that works, is for you, as a person, to actually get down in the muck and strife of the every day and help people, as individuals, one at a time.
Yeah legislation can help, probably as often as it can hinder, but new laws on their own will save no-one. Indeed as Tacitus said, “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.”