As someone who has lived in both countries I’m here to tell you that the US is a very much more Protestant country than Britain is. We in the senior branch of the Anglo Saxon community having got this the right way around.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been making masked food deliveries to housebound people in their new home of Los Angeles, as Meghan praised the benefits of home-cooked meals for the community.
The couple, who dressed casually and were accompanied by security for food parcel drop-offs over two days this week, volunteered with Project Angel Food to help those who are ill or vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday, images of the couple on CCTV were shared on celebrity websites, as the charity’s director said they had “quietly continued delivering meals to relieve our overworked drivers.”
Leave aside the amusement of the security bods following them along.
The American idea is that you, the individual, have to be doing the charitable works. It’s not just the outcome – more meals delivered to the hungry – that matters, the blessed ones have to be doing the actual hump work. This is how you get Wall St CEOs standing on the buffet line – serving on it – and handing out sliced turkey to the homeless at Thanksgiving.
Sure, there’s a merit to it, walk a mile in my shoes and all that. But this free market Papist (something of an odd breed to be sure) would argue that it’s a very Protestant idea. The shriving of the soul can only be done by the direct action of the individual, that action having to be the heft work of charity itself.
The British idea – despite our rather inventing Protestantism, at least certain forms of it – concentrates rather more on the good that is done. Thus things like the division and specialisation of labour come into play. What this means is that the Wall St CEOs (OK, City Grandees) don’t end up washing the feet of the poor.
They have certain skills, like knowing how to run things, finance them, scramble for resources. They also know lots of rich people they can tap for funds. So, that’s the sort of thing they do. They might well enjoy themselves at livery dinners while they do so but we are getting the job done by allocating the work to be done among those best skilled to do it.
Yes, sure, this is a tendency, not an absolute, it’s also an observation by just the one person who is known to get more than the occasional thing wrong. It is though, to me, one of the differences between the two societies. American charitable endeavour all too often seems to allocate highly specialised, skilled and valuable labour to menial tasks. It is necessary to volunteer and that means going and doing the grunt work. The British, or perhaps more English, idea is that people do what they’re individually good at as a contribution to the overall endeavour.
Think on it. Would Crispin Odey do more good works if he were to proffer cups of warm soup, personally, to the homeless or if he devoted his admirably efficient capitalist skills to making money that could finance cups of warm soup to be offered to the homeless?
The American idea would have him with ladle in hand, the British doing what he does do.
Sure, it’s possible to see the point. Only by splitting and sharing the cloak and the cold does true shriving happen. And yet that’s not the efficient method of cold alleviation, is it?
Which brings us back to Rachel, Duchess of. She’s dragging Harry along in what to an American seems like an entirely natural way to conduct charitable work. Sure, it’s for a bit, and as an exercise, but it’s doing the actual heft work of the manual labour etc. While that English way could be that two famous peeps, who can get near anyone in the world to pick up the phone, might go off and use those skills to say, oooh, dunno. Set up a global games for injured veterans say.
The more I observe of Meghan and her way of doing things the more I realise that she just doesn’t understand us, the British.