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Alexander Masters, Stuart: A Life Backwards. London: Fourth Estate 2005. Theodore Dalrymple, Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee 2001. As we walk through city streets, it normally does not trouble us that we know almost nothing about the lives of those whose paths we cross. City life is supposed to provide freedom from responsibility for others, apart from our family or friends. Everyone else just gets a casual glance – except for when a “street person” appears, someone obviously destitute or desperate. Our first instinct is to look away, before they can make us aware of something we would rather avoid: the needs of strangers.

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