Are you comfortably numb?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

How many times have you heard a British person say...

1) Wow, I'm so glad we have a really good, free, education system that gives you degrees that are some of the most globally respected!

2) Isn't it great that we have politicians who are generally honest and kept accountable, despite mucking up sometimes? (If any of you dare to say that we have corrupt government, please read up on the state of South American and African politics, and then come back to me!)

3) I'm so thankful that over in this country, we have a generally very high standard of living, and more than we need.

4) The NHS is so good! Having free health care at the point of treatment is such a blessing!

5) I'm so grateful for the police in this country. I know that if my house is burgled or even if I'm just lost, I can turn to them to help me, without shooting me or stealing from me.

Even though I suffer from culture shock whilst being in Brazil, sometimes the 're-entry' of coming back to Britain after just a few weeks can be as bad. Being faced with almost obscene levels of affluence after seeing the reality of a poorer place (albeit well off compared to other parts of the world or even Brazil) is often hard to deal with.

Earlier this week, we lunched with a family who live in a small house with 2 bedrooms and a large kitchen/dining room/lounge. There were around 10 people living in this place. Was there a word of complaint? No. They cooked us an ample lunch and showed us every kindness.

Compare this to Britain, where a family can justify upsizing to a bigger house because their 3-bedroom semi is too small now a second child is on the way, and I cannot help but baulk somewhat. It's not the fact that we are rich in England (because God has given us material things to enjoy to his glory) so much as our ignorance as to just how rich we are. And sometimes it's not so much the ignorance, as the insatiable obsession to have more, to earn more, in quest of a happier life that is unreachable while we are so materially driven. I mean, why are we so obsessed with having the next level up? We buy a better car in the expectation that when we get that pay-rise, we'll get an even nicer one. We get on the housing 'ladder'. You can never reach the perfect rung; you're always climbing.

The phrases above sound so ridiculous because in Britain we love to moan. We moan about the state of the education system (be it top-up fees, Section 28, or A levels getting easier). We complain about the NHS, forgetting that even in America, a vast proportion of the population can simply not afford to get ill. We denounce our politicians for being untrustworthy liars. Maybe it's time to take a step back and realise just how much we are blessed with.

I know this sounds glib, and it's been said a thousand times before, but it's true. What comes out of our lips more? Complaints, or gratitude? I'm just as guilty as the next person in this but another visit to Brazil has helped to realign my perspectives. I don't mean we shouldn't refrain from any criticism when things do go wrong or when our politicians do lie and the health service does fail us. I just mean our general attitudes could perhaps do with a makeover.


  • Good post, but number 2 is wrong. No South American country has started an illegal war recently.

    By Blogger Tom, at 1:01 am  

  • Are you moaning, Bec?


    By Blogger Anthony, at 10:39 am  

  • Well, do you think I am?

    By Blogger Bec, at 1:51 pm  

  • Well, not excessively. I think what you say is spot on. To be British is to moan. But, speaking for myself, my response is often simply to moan about how much we moan, which just adds to the problem.

    I won't moan about your post - you mention plenty of things to be thankful for. So maybe if Christians were to stop moaning and be thankful (in public) then we would be more distinctive?

    Gah! I'm moaning again!

    By Blogger Anthony, at 2:22 pm  

  • Good post. We are not nearly grateful enough to our God and our leaders in this country.

    However, I suspect something more radical than thankfulness/moaning changes might be needed... perhaps a good old fashioned puritan understanding of sin and grace...

    But yeah, good post. Agreed. My fiancee Adele had reverse culture shock after only two weeks in Bulgaria in a gypsy community. The culture shock lasted longer than her journey!

    By Blogger Paul, at 1:39 am  

  • Amen!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:32 pm  

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