The BBC has made a three-part series called ‘Age of the Do-Gooders’, presented by Ian Hislop (who I love). I watched part one over the weekend, having recorded it during the week. It was splendid – all about Victorian philanthropists and social pioneers: people who totally changed the world by refusing to acknowledge that, as individuals, they may not be able to address huge problems and help other people.
What struck me was the way in which a few modern people, when interviewed about the various Victorians Hislop was discussing, commented along the lines of ‘of course, that would never work now – people are so different/selfish’. It wasn’t pointed out that this is exactly what would have been said to the original Do-Gooders when they announced that they were going to tackle the problem of slum housing or whatever.
And it’s obviously not true of the modern world, either – there are any number of modern examples of people who, through their individual endeavours, manage to improve considerably the lives of those less fortunate than them. I think that people like to believe that problems are unsolveable and situations are hopeless because it makes them feel better about not taking action themselves. I also think that people don’t believe that their individual effort will make enough of a difference. But it’s like my homegirl Mother Theresa said:
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
“Let nothing perturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything.”
(that last one quote is apropos of nothing, but I think that those are good words to live by)
And let’s not forget the wise words of the main man, Mahatma Gandhi:
“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”
Anyway, I don’t usually favour the literary spin-offs of TV programmes, but I hope that there’s an Age of the Do-Gooders book coming out. It’s all very inspiring stuff.