05/04/2016 08:34 BST | Updated 05/04/2017 06:12 BST

Child Slavery in Britain? It's Time to Lose the Stiff Upper Lip

There are occasions when I find myself wondering whether some of us are too compassionate for our own good. We feel things deeply and we're affected to such a degree that we can't comfortably partake in activities others take for granted. For example, there are particular films which for the most part, we avoid.

Shooting Dogs; Black Hawk Down; 8 Years a Slave; Saving Private Ryan - these are movies I wouldn't choose to watch for entertainment. However, over the years I've seen them all. And I found myself troubled by each film, and they stayed with me (I wrote here about a particularly harrowing scene in Shooting Dogs).

Yet once in a while, because these are portrayals of true life events, I make myself watch. My theory is that I may be appalled by what I see, but the very least I can do is educate myself and feel a tiny ounce of the horrors endured by those less fortunate than me. I'd love nothing better than to do something productive instead; but I'm neither deluded nor arrogant enough to think I have the nous to even begin fixing the many, many atrocities taking place in the world.

Thank goodness then that we live in Britain - a country so Great we've (generally) little of any real consequence to concern ourselves with. Naturally, we have the usual gripes associated with taxes, pensions, and any other politics you care to mention. But the truly abhorrent crimes, perpetrated by those devoid of compassion? We're blessed not to have to deal with those as anything more than aid budget and the unease that comes with watching a film about undeveloped countries.

After all, when was the last time you opened the newspaper to a front page story about child slavery taking place on your doorstep?

Image source: Pixabay, CC0


I was utterly, utterly disgusted when I turned on my television yesterday morning to see precisely that. And worse - these children have been exploited in the worst possible way: at a time when they were so vulnerable they were reliant upon the humanity of others, they were manipulated and betrayed. We're a sentient species with the capacity for empathy, and with that privilege comes a responsibility to our kin - our children particularly.

I'm left bewildered and sickened at the nefarious actions of people I live alongside. They may not have been involved in the trafficking itself, but if they are forcing these children to work as slaves, then they are equally culpable. I don't know who they are - but they could be my neighbours; they could be yours. I'm ashamed to live in the same community as these morally corrupt, pitiless savages.

But I'm more ashamed to be a part of the problem.

These poor children are living among us. You may not see them often; you may not notice them ever. But if we were all a little kinder, a little friendlier - this situation would quite simply not be possible. The reprobates, and the defenceless innocents they harbour and sell on as nothing more than a commodity, would be unable to hide. If every person living in this country knew their neighbour, it would be impossible.

The stiff upper lip is not just about appearances; it's not just about you or me keeping ourselves to ourselves and preserving our pride. It keeps us aloof and it allows evil to seep into society unnoticed; and, I trust, unbidden. Yet we're effectively turning a blind eye to this repugnant wickedness. And that's shameful. Shame on you; shame on me; shame on 'Great' Britain.

Image source: Pixabay, CC0


So if there's any small thing we can collectively do to show our distaste and refusal to be a part of this insidious problem, it's to reassert our principles of community, and shore up our crumbling civilisation.

There are occasions when I find myself wondering whether some of us are too compassionate for our own good. This is not one of those occasions.

Kate also writes at The Less-Refined Mind: A Mouthpiece on Motherhood, Marriage, and Mischief. Join the mischief on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.