If COVID sent the world to sleep, Putin's so-called "special military operation" in the sovereign country of Ukraine was the wake-up call. So intrusive was this alarm that it has mistakenly revealed the hangovers of western countries, whether they be an acceptance of dirty money, an acceptance of dirty energy, or an acceptance of dirty foreign policy.

And in a world of bad hangovers, the sobering reality is that the U.K. is in a state of hypocrisy.

At home, our hangover was realised by the euphoria of foreign capital, with no questions asked about who, what, and where from. Like magic, in came cash for expensive houses in the centres of our cities; houses that, if not empty, are being reimbursed by you and me at prices we can barely afford. And silently profiting from our blissful acceptance are Russian oligarchs and foreign officials, whose countries' regimes are incandescent with human rights abuses such that their fiery glow still penetrates our closed eyes even when we look away. No amount of hashtags will change it. As we protest against the violations in Ukraine, still we pay the villains that commit those violations. Yet when foreign intervention suits the needs of those in power, they are all too happy to look the other way. The Brexit vote has since received concerns over Russian interference. Yet, those in power were not only happy to ignore this inference when it suited them but also blocked the security review. And we, the public, have paid the price ever since.

We gladly shake the red right hand if it means some benefit to our country or, more likely, our political servants. Even as I am writing this, our Prime Minister is flying to Saudi Arabia to shake hands with a man who, if not ordered, was complicit in the beheading of 81 people in a single day.

Boris Johnson shaking the hand of Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Boris Johnson at the onset of the fuel price crisis, shaking the hand of Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ©Stefan Rousseau/AFP/Getty

It is to Saudi Arabia, towards which even the U.S. have cancelled shipments, that the U.K. sells weapons to the tune of £1.39 billion in the form of missiles and bombs. Some of these bombs will undoubtedly have contributed to the almost 9000 civilian causalities after being dropped above the skies of Yemen, to which, at the same time, the U.K. has provided around £400 million in aid over the past 3 years. In fact, the U.K. is the fourth largest donor country to Yemen this year. This alone is maddening. But consider this; could we contemplate supplying weapons to Russia whilst supplying aid to Ukraine? Yes, the global circumstance is different, albeit slightly, but the hypocrisy is staggering.

You might say that it is "just business" and that our country must behave like this if it wants to stay ahead. And the depressing reality is that you might be right, in some twisted way. But every time we take such actions, the thin veneer of our morality wanes. What right do we have to be the moral arbiters on the world stage if our hypocrisy shows in such obvious stains?

Even the institutions we helped create at the end of the last terrible international conflict, to be the great global moral arbiters, have been recently exposed as hammers made of glass, unfit for purpose. The U.N. showed up for its inability to act independently against members of its own permanent security council, with the general assembly able to do little else than condemn the already condemned and make futile demands.

Instead, countries look to NATO to provide some sense of security, with Sweden and Finland aiming to join most recently. This practice has removed the idea of resolute national sovereignty for those living outside of Europe and its immediate environs indefinitely, with countries such as Tibet in the past, and Ukraine in the present, left to go it alone with whatever aid they can conjure. The hypocrisy being if you are important enough, if you look somewhat similar, and if you have enough money, perhaps your country will be protected from war, genocide, and famine.

This is the world the young people of today will inherit. A world of blurred lines and increasing injustice, where the moral and emotional burden is placed on the shoulders of the individual. Perhaps a perfect representation of this is the U.K.'s new refugee – sorry, Ukrainian refugee – scheme. Hailed by some as a world-beating scheme, through which most Ukrainian refugees will travel, where individuals must apply to house refugees themselves and carry the emotional and financial weight of care. In a monumental show of hypocrisy, at the same time, the incumbent government has passed a new nationality and borders bill that restricts the passage of refugees travelling through other countries. This bill has come under U.N. scrutiny for defying international law. And still, we applaud ourselves.

A UK Food Bank
As we send billions to Ukraine, we cannot even spare a million to feed our own people. Image sourced from the New York Times.

As we shout in our streets for those abroad, we do nothing to help those closest. In April this year, 13.8% of households experienced food insecurity, meaning 7.3 million adults and 2.6 million children were uncertain of where the next meal was coming from, despite our boast of being the fifth largest economy in the world. Our domestic politics is a mess. Hypocrisy has weaved its way into the very fabric of Westminster, with COVID party scandals and policies that flip-flop more than our Prime Minister's sandals. The same Prime Minister who was called an outright liar in parliament and is currently under investigation by the metropolitan police for breaking the very same lockdown rules he set in the first place. The same Prime Minister who claimed that there was nothing to worry about regarding inflation and is now dealing with the greatest cost-of-living crisis in decades. Yet we will ignore the hypocrisy. We will still vote conservative, because "all the politicians are the same", because "it's better than the alternative", because though you're running out of bread, you hold out for the promise of cake.

Sean Ryan
Sean Ryan

PhD in Chemical Engineering. Interests in politics, society and economics. Born in Manchester, living in London. Loves to experience different cultures and indulge in different viewpoints.

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