It's important to know what you are fighting for

Cultural ignorance and intolerance, along with drunkenness, are the most defining of our character traits

Share

What a huge reaction, especially on social media, to last week’s column on “changes” to Charing Cross Hospital and its wider implications - possibly the largest I’ve ever had. Thanks to all who engaged with me - including those who disagreed.

That people care is not a revelation, more a confirmation of what I suspect. But the over-reliance of heart over head on both sides of the argument is alarming. One person’s conviction is another’s dogma; one citizen’s “right” another’s “entitlement”.

It’s symptomatic of the disconnect between the public’s expectations of public services and our inability to look within to see that unless we, the British people, change then those public services will always be controversially unsatisfactory.

What do I mean? Take A&E, the threat to which I wrote about last week. Have you been to A&E recently? Especially on a weekend night? It’s a hellish cross between William Hogarth’s Gin Lane and Hieronymous Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights”. Drunkenness is everywhere, placing huge strain on both NHS staff and the police. Strain equals cost.

And yet, whenever I dare question the unalienable British right to get “mortal” every weekend, some of you accuse me of being “anti-working class”. Because it’s not patronizing at all, is it, to equate binge-drinking as a hallowed right of Basildon man?

It’s the same with education. Many bemoan the supposed lack of good local state schools, query the annual increase in public exam grade averages in the face of what we nevertheless see as declining standards and all of us demand ever more of our teachers. Plus, we read endlessly that our graduates do not meet the needs of British industry and commerce.

But, we also display a dismaying lack of respect for teaching as a profession and teachers as individuals; choose our schools via insidious league tables rather than campaign against them; fight instead to take our children out of school during term time and sign up blindly to the notion that ever more students going to university is a good thing. Well, perhaps -  if they were studying subjects we desperately need them to: engineering, physics, chemistry, maths, languages.

Ah, languages. Too many are proud of a lack of fluency in other languages; defiant about a lack of understanding of other cultures. Yet, it doesn’t stop us all plunging in regardless to offer views on everything from Ukraine to Gaza, Iraq to the burka and halal meat.

This cultural ignorance and intolerance, along with drunkenness, are the most defining of our character traits (alongside politeness), according to last month’s “As Others See Us” survey of 5,000 people from other countries. More importantly, they are partly why our aspirations for our public services are unrealistic. We also simply can’t afford them the way we idealise them. Ignorance equals cost.

As a nation we rely too much on the post-problem fix, rather than prevention through education. Yes, we should fight for what we believe in – be that the NHS, education access and standards, or the rights of oppressed civilians overseas. But, we must also look within and ask ourselves, whether campaigning against Israel or for a local A&E service, if we really know on what grounds we are fighting? Oh, and thank you for reading.

Stefano Hatfield is editor in chief of High50

Twitter.com: @stefanohat

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Learning Support Assistant

£60 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Youth Support Workers Glouceste...

IT Technician - 1st Line

£19000 - £21000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPOR...

PPA Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Primary Teaching Jobs Available NOW-Southport

£80 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: **Due to an increase in dema...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Actor Brad Pitt  

The over-50s have the real voting and spending power — so why are we so obsessed with youth?

Stefano Hatfield
 

Daily catch-up: unbuilt buildings, the new Establishment and polling on Europe

John Rentoul
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London