What does civilisation really mean?

I mentioned "civilization" in passing in my last notes - and that got me to thinking.

There are so many traumatic stories of human endeavour and in the process of that endeavour, suffering. And we are all familiar, in some form of the adage "adversity introduces you to your strengths". But I am wondering if "suffering and adversity" are really the same thing?

We witness, constantly, with our incessant twenty-four-hour continuous news, the human suffering in some part of the world or more likely several stories of human suffering occurring simultaneously - Be it - not enough to eat, no clean water to drink, being under constant fear of attack, being raped or captured and tortured, drowning whilst trying to get to safety, or ravaged by disease, and these are usually man-made or at least man-controllable, let alone the natural disasters that periodically occur.

And that is not taking into account the daily suffering that so many people endure - the sort that is going on all around us all the time - right in front of our noses - and yet we find a way of ignoring it or turning a blind eye.

examples, such as domestic violence, abused children, abused anyone, people sleeping rough on the streets, the gimpy kind of slavery that we hear more of, sweatshops, and all this is going on in our "civilised society".

Well, I don't think this is terribly civilised.

I don't like it because it is surely a reflection of and on me and makes me feel uncomfortable and depending on my mood - rather or terribly ashamed. Because, as John Donne would say, I am a piece of the continent, a part of the main. So it follows, I am partly responsible? I allow it to go on without vehement protest.

I am one of the really fortunate people whose life is not touched by starvation or daily terror - I am fine. It is not to say I have no worries - of course I do - but I have plenty to eat, arguably too much - I'm quite a big fellow and unlike my school days, people don't tend to attack me any more, not physically at least. I live in a country where there is the enforced, rule of law. I am able to wash and shave and wear clean and ironed clothes, I have a house that is warm. I am one of the lucky ones - I have my bum in the butter - so to speak.

But does that make me civilised?

If a person lies and cheats in the name of profit because making a profit is part of their job - is that behaviour civilised? If that person is wearing a Saville Row suit, does that make them civilised? If they wash and shave every day and drive a nice car and have highly polished shoes, does that make them civilised?

Don't get me wrong here - I personally am so far from perfect, so far away am I - I am not able to even see perfect. Yet I can criticise others with the best of them. And I am definitely and unashamedly naive.

We humans seem to slip into some ambivalent malaise when we are ok. Why are we so excepting of others suffering when we are ok? Should we not be up in arms screaming at those in charge - "Do something and do it now"?

When, 18 months ago, the spate of escaping refugees paddling furiously across the Mediterranean Sea, landing in Greece and making their way up to Western Europe, there was an outcry of?

Well not what I expected frankly, except possibly Chancellor Merkel. I thought the EU would rush to the rescue these people. Make a plan, share the responsibility for rehoming these Human Beings. I thought that is how the EU would behave because that would be civilised - wouldn't it? Surely that would show the world how a civilised union of democratic independents would all come together to save and nurture people so unfortunate and brave.

When I travel to London I go via Liverpool Street Station where there is a memorial paying homage to the Kindertransport Children, rescued from the Nazi purge during the nine months preceding the outbreak of war. These children and teenagers came from Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria and the free city of Danzig. The irony of Mrs Merkal being the one urging the EU to do more to help the escaping refugees two summers ago is not lost on me. And what was her reward?

Is there no shame anymore? What is it with Human being who have their bums in the butter?

But what a catastrophic failure of the EU! Perhaps their darkest hour - and the UK doesn't come out of this clean and shiny either. We just stood by and did as little as we could get away with.

What I do know, is that if it was me in one of those boats, with my wife and children, escaping for our lives, I would want to be rescued and I would be eternally grateful to anyone who offered my wife and children a blanket, some food, a drink, a roof, a new chance for life.

So it was with the ten thousand Kindertransport Children and teenagers rehomed in the UK. Many of them signed up and fought in the war and others went on to contribute hugely to the wealth and civilisation of the UK. So much so, that we remain indebted to many. "What goes around, comes around". It is one of those unwritten laws of nature.

A similar situation is now faced by all of those Human Beings lined up along the Mexican US border.  Is that the best the USA can do? Is that the message of the leader of the free world. Send the Army, Forcibly separate the children, detain in horrible conditions. Is this the behaviour of the civilised western world? Really?

If this is how civilised people really treat migrant refugees, leave me out of it, I don't want to be civilised. Let me be one of the unwashed and smell of stale BO - let me be dirty, unshaven and eat with my hands and wear rags. I will still be more civilised than the people who govern and turn their backs on these migrant people. The behaviour and treatment by the western world to those desperate refugees is not civilised, it is harmful to mankind. How can, in all good conscience, men and women enter a parlimentry building of legislature, where ever it is, and not be outraged. How can they sit on their hands and watch this play out time and time - again and again in a different part of the world, let alone their own countries border - why are they not screaming "action now - help these people".

Surely the measure of being civilised is how we treat and attend to those who are in need and are weak and vulnerable. I was brought up to believe that that is the job of the stronger and better off, because with all of the advantages that go with privilege - there goes responsibility to look after the weak and needy. That was the sworn duty of a Knight. Valour, chivalry, and honour.

We have become indolent, fat, lazy, selfish and are becoming...........un-civilised. We must all fight back - fight for those who can't fight for themselves. Bring on the Random Acts of Kindness. If we as individuals care enough - we can do something about this.

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