Why are people so different?


Blue Dragon Children's Foundation
Blue Dragon Children's Foundation

I’ve just been going through the “in progress” work that the wonderful Kristian (of Loondesign) is doing for Blue Dragon‘s website. The new “Kid’s stories” page details three tales of children who have found themselves fortunate enough to receive help from the crew at BDCF. Courtesy of a discussion I was having with someone on facebook recently, the third one made me wonder – why are people in different countries, yet in similar situations, so different.


I can’t link to the story directly as the site won’t be uploaded in its new form for a week or so, so I’ve pinched the relevant section:

Hanh’s story

Hanh grew up in Bac Ninh province with her mother, Khanh. Hanh’s father walked out on her even before she was born, so that mother and daughter were homeless and had to live in abandoned houses.

When Blue Dragon met Hanh, she was 12 years old and living in a decrepit old house with no electricity or water supply. The roof had caved in and snakes infested the toilet area.

Hanh was still going to school, but her mother could not afford to pay the fees much longer. This was a family in crisis.

Blue Dragon immediately offered Hanh support to go to school, and then we set about securing land for the family and building a house that they could be proud of.

Today, Hanh is in the final years of High School and looking forward to university. Their new house is kept immaculately clean, and Hanh displays her certificates of achievement from school on the wall for all to see.

Let’s get this down to the simple facts. A family of two living in horrid conditions as a result of being left with no money manage their best for 12 years. Someone offers them help. They get a new house, the child goes to school and does well. The house is cleaned and maintained – by them – and kept as good as new.

Compare this to the UK where we have a benefits system to help people who find themselves in such a situation. Before I begin, I know that not everyone is the kind of person who will do what I’m about to rant about, but a ridiculously large number of people are.

First of all, there wouldn’t be a the 12 year wait before someone “found” them. Shortly after financial problems started, they would be able to apply for assistance. A house would be forthcoming, or at the least a flat. Their rent would be covered and assistance given to find work. Schooling is, of course, free in the UK. As a nation, we are incredibly fortunate.

Given where I lived for 13 years (Bradford) and specifically the area within it, I saw far too many examples of people who took the free house and turned it into a complete dilapidated  pit. Lawns turned to jungles, rubbish left lying, windows broken. Absolutely filthy. The simple thought being that it cost them nothing and if it got bad enough they’d just be moved somewhere else – again, for free.

Children would refuse to attend school, assuming their parents bothered to try to get them to go. Instead, they’d spend their time loitering, committing crimes and ending up as the type of people who would be demanding another house of their own as soon as they were legally able.

The only major difference is that the Vietnamese family realised exactly how lucky they were to be given a fresh start. The appreciated it and showed their gratitude in taking this gift and showing how proud they were of the house and fresh start they had been given. A home to be proud of, academic achievements to boast about and a future they could never have dreamed of beforehand.

Here in the UK, we’re so used to getting something for nothing that we take our good fortune at being born in a comparatively wealthy country for granted. We’re like spoiled children – we want everything with no explanation as to why we’re getting it. To some extent it’s human nature to take the easiest route to solving a problem but some people, unfortunately, take this to extremes. Why put effort in when you can get something for nothing?

I think this is one of the reasons I enjoyed working in Vietnam so much, and especially with the children at the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. Everyone there appreciated what was being done for them. The vast majority took this piece of good fortune and turned it very much to their own advantage through hard work and with a great spirit. They knew they wouldn’t have another chance, and that they would have led a significantly worse life if they hadn’t.

If only we could make our own citizens realise how fortunate they are in comparison.

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Personally, I’m of the opinion that if a government can’t care for the basic needs of its citizens, then what use is it? Seems to me that the UK does this really very well in comparison to most. I don’t have a problem with a non-contributing, parasitic “maggot class”.

Health Care. Education. Food. Water. Emergency services. A place to sleep and bathe safely. A chance to get work. Roads.

Way I see it, all these things need to be freely provided to everyone, at a “survival” level, by a government. Nobody should have a “right” to any better than this lowest-common-denominator survival level: they want better, they need to contribute to society. The society itself then measures itself by how decent its survival level is.

By this measure, the UK is better than almost all countries: even the US trails way behind.

Dewi Morgan

Yeah – but who cares about the maggots? Really. What are they using up, that there’s a shortage of?

Lots of things, you’d say. But that’s only because the system is crap enough that we actually have a shortage of things we should be swimming in. Really, what would it cost the country, to give every single person the shittest possible copy of all of those things? Food; energy; clothes; waste disposal; a cell to sleep and bathe. Those are cheap! I can’t imagine anyone begrudging those to anyone. We give them to prisoners.

Education and healthcare: those are the biggies. We *already* give those free to everyone. Again, including prisoners. And again, I can’t imagine anyone begrudging those to anyone.

But the way we do it, rather than giving out the shitty stuff, is to give *money*. Food stamps in the US are a better system, but still imperfect. You can have up to $X worth of the food. But again, it’s not the worst possible food: it’s whatever food you want that’s that value.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x