I have been doing a short course to learn about the differences in cultures between the East and West of the world, to enable us better to befriend our neighbours from other countries to make our city a friendly place to live.
In the West our culture is focussed on:
- often not community or family focussed,
- time and efficiency orientated,
- equality between sexes,
- secular and sacred divide,
- having companions through work or the activities we do,
- fragmented families,
- the expectation of the state to care for our elderly and infirm.
Whereas in the East the culture is:
- much more heavily focussed around family and wider extended families,
- communities working and coming together to achieve something,
- care for one another especially within the extended family,
- relationship and hospitality orientated,
- religion centred,
- more segregated roles in society.
Having discussed these differences in cultures with some friends who're also on the course, it got me thinking about how our society works and how it has become what it is today, as only a few generations ago our society's values were probably more like the East's are today. We did not institutionalise our elderly or infirm, we cared for them within the extended family, women were expected to care for the elderly alongside the children, so how did our values change on these things?
Well, in the 1940s just after the end of World War II the Welfare System was created, it was a system set up to support those who were unable to work due to ill health, learning difficulties, disabilities etc without the fear of having to enter the dreaded "WORKHOUSE". It was especially important for the government to set up a system in which to support those who were now unable to work due to disabilities sustained through the war. It was a revolutionary system alongside the start of the National Health Service (NHS) which went on to provide free health care to all. It offered support to those who really needed it, to reduce poverty and improve education and health in our country. Those who lived throughout the transition into a Welfare State and the NHS must have seen a truly transitional community, and even now working in the NHS I see elderly patients who are just so grateful that we have a free healthcare system in which they can be treated for they remember the fear of their parents when a family member became ill or unemployed.
Unfortunately for those of us who're younger and have always lived within the system, it is what we have always known and we expect to get as much as we can for "FREE" (after all we do pay into the system!) and this is what has changed and altered some of the values and cultures within our society.
- We expect the best service that can be offered.
- We expect the government to pay up when our relatives become elderly or we are unable to work for whatever reason so why should we have to help them?
- We no longer need to save money just in case we fall ill and cannot work as we will receive a benefits such as sick pay.
- We no longer have to care for our elderly relatives as they can go into a nursing home which the state will pay some of the costs of.
- We no longer have to worry about losing our jobs as there will be money we can rely on.
- There are a few who rely on the Welfare State for their income and have become apathetic about the need to work.
- We also know we can get a basic state pension when we reach retirement age, so we do not need to work until the day we cannot.
Do we take our Welfare System and National Health Service for granted, should we be more appreciative of what we can have for "FREE"?
We have lost many of our previous responsibilities where we had to care for elderly relatives, bring them into our homes, share our finances with them when they were in need, take more care of our finances so we had something to fall on if we fell onto hard times. Would you consider bailing your brother and his family out if he was made redundant or would you expect the state to pick up the bill? Would you have cared more for your family if the only other option was the dreaded workhouse?
Has having a state welfare system affected our "family" lives and created generations who expect to get as much as they can by paying as little as possible and not have to take responsibility for their extended families? We have become so focussed on SELF and what "I" can achieve, not having time to offer to others because we are so time and efficiency focussed.
Don't get me wrong I love the welfare system and the National Health Service and also hate paying my taxes but really I want to get you thinking about the background behind the beginnings of the Welfare State and NHS. Why it was created, for the good of our communities but also what a shift has happened in our communities and extended families since the beginnings of the Welfare State. I realise there are also many other changes which have occurred in society which have altered the way communities work.
In my great, great grandfather's diary, it lists the accounts of the financial support he had to offer his own father in his old age up to his death. Would we expect to do this today? (The story of my great, great grandfather - Edward Davidson can be found on Ruth's Ancestors blog - The Davidson Family Chapter 8 and 13 onwards especially Fig 8.15.)
Copyright © 2013 Ruth Hogan