We are constantly being told that we live in a ‘fractured’ society (some would have it that there is no society at all). The red tops have us believe the country is made up of feral gangs of hooded youths randomly looking for prey while we cower in our living rooms terrified of leaving the house.
While it is true that the perception of crime and anti-social behaviour is on the increase, acts of kindness, civility, politeness are as much a part of our society as they always have been. Two weeks ago my wife was driving home around midnight when the car suddenly stopped, literally. Before she had the opportunity to call the roadside assistance, two people had stopped to help, offering advice, jump leads and a lift to near the house. In the end, thanks to the help of these two strangers in the night, she made it home safely and the car was rescued the following day.
Recently, I re-read the late Richard Titmuss’ classic work on giving The Gift Relationship. The book, which is still a sociological classic, looks at blood donating in the United States, the former Soviet Union and Britain. Titmuss compares the UK system of altruistic donation with the US system of payment for the donors. The work shows that the altruistic method is more effective than the ‘bottom line’ motivation of the US.
The reality is that people get pleasure and benefit from helping others but it’s the bad news of the feral gangs that gets the reaction the newspapers want. Rather like my reaction when I first read Titmuss 40 years ago; as a UK donor I was astounded to learn that people actually sell their blood in the USA.