Altruism versus rejection

A classic example of the instinct of cultural rejection being more powerful than the instinct for generosity is occurring right now in Littleton-upon Severn. The team of civil servants to whom David Cameron has given the task of integrating 20,000 Muslim Syrians refugees presently living in Jordan into the life of this country happened upon Littleton-upon-Severn, a comfortable middle-class village of 100 houses in the county of Gloucestershire.  It happens to have a empty business park next to it, which would ideally serve as a reception centre for 1,000 of the refugees.

The villagers have rejected the proposal, particularly as Cameron has promised to house the Syrians over the next 20 years. Littleton-upon-Severn would likely be occupied for all that time until individual families are dispersed individually to final homes with jobs and English language training.  Although the reception centre would be entirely self-sufficient and have no economic impact on the village, it isn’t a prison camp so some of the refugees — certainly the children and teenagers among them — might well want to take walks into the village nearby. Thus, the villagers clearly don’t want to happen.

Usually, middle-class people are well to the fore in charity efforts to help the unfortunate. Usually, however, they are professionals with good salaries, retired people with pensions or young people already being trained in the professions or spending a gap year before resuming education.  Their jobs or their leisure time will never be affected in the same way as working-class people who might be.  The Littleton-upon-Severn situation is thus an obverse example of what is usual.

What need to be said is that everybody — rich, middle-class or working-class — has an instant for both altruism and for job or social rejection especially if ingress numbers appear to be too high. Which instinct comes out on top in all cases depends on circumstances.

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