October 08, 2010

The resonance of Dickens' Sketches

The dilapidated, swarthy, grimy environment of Victorian London captured in the peremptory pictorial way only one Charles Dickens was capable of is surely a thing of the past, is it not? Politician's, ever-since the abhorrent poverty-stricken circumstances were exposed by writers like Dickens, have taken on the mantle of reducing the deficit between rich and poor. The welfare state has been introduced. Benefits are, sometimes too, available to peoples in need of financial support.

One only has to turn to the recent Conservative party conference in Birmingham, and maybe regress a little further in time to the 2010 General Election, to find that the issue of "helping those that need help" - that already hackneyed Tory expression - is a core concept at the heart of the 21st century's political purlieu. So why does the following Dickensian quote (from 'Seven Dials') still resonate with us?:

The peculiar character of these streets, and the close resemblance each one bears to its neighbour, by no means tends to decrease the bewilderment in which the unexperienced wayfarer through 'the Dials' finds himself involved. He traverses streets of dirty, straggling houses, with now and then an unexpected court composed of buildings as ill-proportioned and deformed as the half-naked children that wallow in the kennels.

Granted, there are very few if any ostensibly 'half-naked children' wallowing in kennels per se. However, if clothes can serve here as a metaphor for a paradigm of morality and intellect that modern man shares, Dickens' observational narrative indeed resonates with too many public eyes' today.

The arbitrary guttural gesticulations and gropes of the proffered crown jewells the pre-adolescent exhibits - a learned trait no doubt - today on street corners, outside chip-shops (whose signs - far from me to be symbolic - are either decaying into a state of rigor mortis, or, in the case of the more tawdry flashy, kitsch, neon-based "Hasan's Kebabi" signs; their vicious flashing of ultra-violent colours which have emanated from a bad episode of Noel's House Party, exude enough visual damage to kick-start an epileptic endemic) in their chip-shop-sign-coloured tracksuits represents our society's biggest gap in wealth. A wealth of propriety.

I will add very quickly that I am all too conscious of falling into the trap of manifesting a condescending at best account of what I deem 'unworthy personages' whom I encounter as I traverse my daily route from university to my flat... And I am aware that I am afforded luxuries which the clamorous cadres whose constant consternation cannot fail to register in my sometimes timorous conscience.. And further still that just because I perceive morality as 1) not drinking 10 cans of stella before 1pm 2) refraining from shouting at a wife, child and dog that I bought into my realm of existence and 3) not castigating anyone whom one would perceive as being 'more intellectual' than oneself simply for the fact that they have actively sought to pursue knowledge and it's final frontiers; it doesn't mean my viewpoint is 'right'. Thank you Nietzsche. However, this self-aggrandising exercise that, for want of better and more PC (actually sod PC - a bizarre legislature in itself) term, the 'common estate-based man' undertakes on a daily basis, his irksome, iresome, fury-fuelled attitude towards anything subsisting in peace, is surely evidence in itself that somewhere, the 26-35k he and his family of reprobates receive in benefits for being angry, aggressive, absolute and Aryan, is not being earned, needed or appreciated.

I'm absolutely sure my expository remarks have been aired many times over. Ed Milliband and his satanic crew of sycophants are probably making similar noises in a dungeon somewhere with Brutus and Nero. I cannot say I would necessarily wassail any politician's right now, but Red Ed has to bore the brunt of it for now. But the reason I draw on the fact that my noises have been wailed from many vociferous social whales before myself is that the issue is as old as humanity.

Of course, according to our 'good' morailty or whatever lack-lustre connotations that has, we will always advocate helping the weaker breed. Or as Mr. Cameron so romantically put it this week 'those with broader shoulders will have to bear more of the load' - a beautiful image of a 6.4ft 18st body builder shoulder-pressing someone's house in one arms and their financial post in the other could have found not greater outlet than a piece child benefits rhetoric? However, there is the case of the self - if indeed you believe in such a construct.

I don't blame Mr. Cameron or any other politician for their short-comings as a 'leader of men, of society, of life'. No, no. In fact I sympathise with anyone that has to make such bold decisions. The fact is, Biker Dave is in the position of deciding for others. And he is there, as was Brown, Blair, Major, Thatcher, etc.. (put down your political swords)through bloody hard work. Of course - we return to opportunities and luxuries again I realise - he has been afforded the psychological drive and paternal bank balance to be in such a role now. It is all very well for every Bob, Barry and Bamboo-shoot to shout, stink and sqwark about 'savage cuts that will affect them, and not him, or the fellas in their ivory towers!' - a common axiom presented at this weeks question time; but their positions are inexorable different, and responsibilities nothing like akin.

I see that this is a harsh disposition, and a somewhat heartless one. but when Barry and Bob's son tirade against an old lady, or a yummy mummy, or a rude-boy - depending on your street references - my sympathy somewhat abates with the cut-affected folk of this land. I think ultimately, I am appealing to our primal instincts. As animals with the power of communication and reason, we all inevitable have a drive and desire to look after number one. Which certainly explains both the combative postures of the youngsters on the street in their tracky's and Mr. C and his ensemble in toffy ties and jackets.

Charles will conclude for me:

If the external appearance of the houses, or a glance at their inhabitants, present but few attractions, a closer acquaintance with either is little calculated to alter one's first impression.

June 2021

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