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Nepal and beyond

6/11/15: There’s an episode of Friends in which Phoebe, the only really interesting (as opposed to likeable or funny) character, decides to work out if there is such a thing as a truly unselfish act. Everything she tries proves either to be in fact not a good thing at all, or something from which she benefits by making her feel good about herself. 

It’s hard in life to do the right thing sometimes. Especially when some of the issues are so fantastically complicated. What should we do, for instance, as a country, a school, an individual, about the fate of so many Syrian refugees? 

Every religion I can think of has the same golden rule of ‘Do as you would be done by’, from ancient Chinese philosophy to Hinduism and Christianity. Jesus was particularly tough on this. He told those who asked him how to live a good life to love God and their neighbours as themselves. He told his disciples to give away their worldly goods, to leave their family, and to follow him. Nothing complicated about that, although the leaving your family behind bit is particularly hard to come to terms with and sort of paralyses us. 

Toby Ord, a young Australian philosopher at Oxford University, set up some years ago a charity called Giving What We Can. He gives 10%, or a tithe to the medieval historians amongst you, of his own earnings every year to those in the world who need our support. He does this on the basis that those of us who earn more than the UK national average wage are, in global terms, millionaires. And because his logic is simple: if you can, you should. Over his lifetime he calculates he will contribute £1 million and he hopes his example will encourage others to do likewise. 

This weekend at Bryanston, we will host our annual Nepal Fair and hope to raise somewhere in the region of £12k at the fair and an additional £23k thanks to Mr Dickson’s extraordinarily generous offer to cut off his dreadlocks. We shall do what we can, and in doing so make things a little better in Nepal. It won’t change the world but it will make a difference. 

We have supported charitable work in Nepal for well over 20 years now and will continue to do so; this is not something we can one year decide not to get involved in, as these small charities have come to rely on our regular support, especially as the world’s focus moves on to the next disaster. Whatever charitable activities we undertake, they won’t be one-off acts designed to make us, Phoebe-like, for all her best intentions, feel better about ourselves for a short while; they will be careful, thought-out, ongoing and simple. Because that’s what works. I very much hope we continue to get such opportunities and in the meantime, let’s do all we can to make this year’s Nepal Fair a success. 

See you there!