When Nadia and Saeed come to London, they live in the mansion that they arrived in. While Nadia adjusts without much of a hitch, Saeed feels uncomfortable. When narrating about Saeed’s adjustment to his new existence, Saeed “felt in part guilt that they … were occupying a home that was not their own, and guilty also at the visible deterioration brought on by their presence” and was “the only one to object when people started to take for themselves items of value in the house” (132). This contrast between Nadia’s self-preservation and Saeed’s morality begs the question, how does one be moral in times of crisis?
On one hand, Nadia’s enjoyment and willingness to do whatever she can to do to survive is perfectly reasonable. After all, it’s hard to blame her for using the few liberties she can, e.g. looting laptops from her former workplace, taking a shower, and snatching some valuables from the mansion, because ultimately, it’s nothing compared to the hardships of migration, hostile militants, and sexual assault that she deals with. I doubt anyone would argue that anything Nadia does is unreasonable or even wrong.
In contrast, Saeed abides by his moral code of conduct even as the world around him throws him for a loop. Even as his mother dies and he’s forced out of his hometown without his father, he still remains adamant in his moral code. He still refuses to have sex with Nadia, objects to looting their mansion, and even feels guilt for living in the mansion, even though it gives him a reprieve from the months of hardship before him. His behavior is unquestionably morally upright, but it’s unknown how sustainable or realistic his behavior his. Without the pragmatism of Nadia, Saeed would still be stuck in the Greek camp, completely broke, and without a comfortable place to live. Saeed’s goodness is unpractical and ultimately self-defeating in a world where surviving is a struggle.
I believe that in the end, that one cannot be fully moral in this world, especially not in times of crisis. I don’t mean to say that our moral compass needs to be compromised completely for the sake of getting ahead slightly, but that sometimes one must act less than morally for their own sake. This practically comes at a condition, because only those without a good standing need to act immorally as any privileged enough to not have to act improperly simply shouldn’t. Ultimately, being good in the worst times I believe means doing the most good as you can while living contently.