The Daily Mail and for all I know other UK newspapers have been campaigning for the government to divert money destined for overseas aid to help those affected by this winter’s storms which have particularly hit people in the south of England. The idea has also been a popular topic on talk radio.
This notion brought to mind the poem ‘Perspective’ by Harry Graham (1874 – 1936). No doubt if he were writing today he’d put this a little more sensitively but the basic message still applies:
When told that twenty thousand Japs
Are drowned in a typhoon,
We feel a trifle shocked, perhaps,
But neither faint nor swoon.
‘Dear me! How tragic!’ we repeat;
‘Ah, well! Such things must be!’
Our ordinary lunch we eat
And make a hearty tea;
Such loss of life (with shame I write)
Creates no loss of appetite!
When on a Rocky Mountain ranch
Two hundred souls, all told,
Are buried in an avalanche,
The tidings leave us cold.
‘Poor fellows!’ we remark. ‘Poor things!’
‘All crushed to little bits!’
Then go to Bunty Pulls the Strings,
Have supper at the Ritz,
And never even think again
Of land-slides in the State of Maine!
But when the paper we take in
Describes how Mr. Jones
Has slipped on a banana-skin
And broken sev’ral bones,
‘Good Heavens! What a world!’ we shout;
‘Disasters never cease!’
‘What is the Government about?’
‘And where are the Police?’
Distraught by such appalling news
All creature comforts we refuse!
Though plagues exterminate the Lapp,
And famines ravage Spain,
They move us not like some mishap
To a suburban train.
Each foreign tale of fire or flood,
How trumpery it grows
Beside a broken collar-stud,
A smut upon the nose!
For Charity (Alas! how true!)
Begins At Home—and ends there, too!
Thanks to Project Gutenberg for the text. And though I am not comparing the impact of being flooded out of your house with the events described by Graham I do think that taking money away from our foreign aid budget to deal with this crisis at home is an appalling idea put forward by people who routinely object to overseas aid in almost any circumstances. The last two lines of this poem could have been written for the Daily Mail’s editor. He should be ashamed, but that’s not a sensation he’d recognise.