One of the benefits of having two homes is being able to look at life from different points of view. My favourite pass time is putting Serbian approach under scrutiny of English psyche and another way around.
Ever since embracing life on the dump island, I have been admiring English sense of charity. While I head straight for hedonistic retreat of Mediterranean coast, two of mine English friends spend their entire summer holiday in Nicaragua helping locals with issues of everyday life. While my modest investment in local economy of the holiday country gets undermined by my visceral need to steel figs off the trees, D&K are building a solar panel to provide the electricity for a local school. Year after, they get a little disappointed by the fact that the panel has been stolen as soon as they have left, but they do not get demoralised. They persevere on their quest to make the Earth better place for all.
I have mixed fillings watching what happened to poor Liverpudlian Gillian Gibbons upon allowing her seven-year old Sudanese pupils to call their teddy bear Mohammed. The idea of sacrificing comforts of one’s safe home in order to help with the education of disadvantaged others is unquestionably noble one. Surely, one part of the experience is embracing local culture. As well as being shocked by prospect of having 40 lashes, or even being killed for such an innocent mistake, I cannot help wondering whether a decision to take up life in a Muslim country means that you have to know and understand the basic rules of the culture and religion of the country you are heading to.
Another overenthusiastic British, Kes Gray, after an attempt to promote multiculturalism by naming a mole Mohammed in an illustrated children’s book, realised that it might not be such a good idea and postponed reprinting of Who’s Poorly Too. The creatures from children’s literature are stuck with Christian names until further notice.
How can being charitable be purified of our unconscious wish to impose our standards of life on others? It is worth remembering that a little knowledge coupled with a big enthusiasm can harm as much as it can help.
In the meanwhile, Serbs find themselves in an advantageously “safe” position of having to understand their own believes in order to help themselves, let alone the world around them.