My e-mail pen pal Jack C sent me a link to an article from The Independent in Britain about how a Pakistani immigrant family befriended an elderly Jewish lady who was in failing health and living alone.
I don’t think that stories like that are unusual, although they are not as well known as stories of conflict.
I think neighborliness and kindness are common among most people who follow a traditional way of life, whatever their nationality or religion, including the conservative and evangelical Protestant Christians whom some of my secular liberal friends find so scary.
Probably the Pakistani family thought it was unusual and tragic for an elderly person to be living alone and not with family and loved ones. I don’t think that happens much in Pakistan, and there was a time when it didn’t happen much in the USA or the UK.
This article reminded me of my current reading of the works of Jurgen Habermas, a German philosopher who distinguishes between what he calls the Lifeworld and the Systemworld.
The Lifeworld is the realm in which people relate to each other as individuals, like the people described in The Independent article. The Systemworld consists of two realms, the realm of government and bureaucracy in which compliance with rules and authority overrides everything else, and the realm of commerce and markets, in which everything is measured in terms of monetary costs and benefits.
As Habermas noted, the Lifeworld is not all good. People can be cruel and malicious on the individual level. And the Systemworld is not all bad. It makes possible a more orderly and prosperous world than would otherwise exist.
But in 20th and 21st century Europe and America, the Systemworld is crowding out the Lifeworld. We do too many things—have to do too many things—to comply with an impersonal bureaucracy or an impersonal economic system. We need to push the Lifeworld into the Systemworld, and not let the Systemworld colonize the Lifeworld.
A story about an elderly Jewish lady and her Muslim Neighbors who cared by Helen Stone for The Independent. (Hat tip to Jack).