Wednesday, 17 August 2011

A Tale Most Timely

So freakishly enough with the riots going on at the moment, I happen to be halfway through A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens intense exploration of the French revolution from both sides of the channel.
The funny thing about it is, that despite being published in the mid 19th century and discussing events which took place within the 18th one, the lessons which it could have taught us long before last week, if we had only let it are huge.
To be honest its simple enough : Treat people like sh*ts for long enough and they start behaving like sh*ts. Now don't get me wrong I am not defending the conduct of the people - who contrary to popular belief were both young and old and of every race imaginable - for whom physical destruction was the most satisfying way of articulating themselves. I personally, being both working class, a graduate and of a mixed race background inevitably feel taken advantage of and trampled all over by the government. However, I, like the vast majority of young people, would rather talk or write or sing or dance or petition about my problems then use force. The physical approach not only risks hurting other people and of course ourselves -why trash your own garden and then complain you can't sunbathe in it? - in more ways than one. It does also go a very long way to proving the government's misconceptions about working class and young people right.
So according to Dickens in these ' of times' slash '...worst of times' what's to be done? Well as I say I haven't quite finished the novel but so far restraint seems to be the order of the day; there is a time and a place for everything and careful thought must come before action. Although this is not the late 1780's. Perhaps in our 21st century world, we can find it within us to act like the intelligent, articulate young people that we are and quietly wait for the right time to shout with our voices as opposed to bricks, fire balls, and the lifted contents of JD Sports.
And for them, those distinctively middle aged, upper-class guys up top, what could they possibly learn? Principally I suppose that you can't run a man's child over with your carriage and bid that he 'eat grass' lacking bread and expect no tears of hurt to be shed. In a country which proclaims to run a system so tight that no-one however lowly or however high is out of the reach of the long arm of the law, it is more than a little frightening, that the politician's and bankers who steal the taxes from our pockets and the fiscal strength from our infrastructure to the tune of thousands of pounds a year (in bills for the cleaning of moats and duck ponds and replenishment of private jets) escape with a slap on the wrist - if that and little else - whilst a young person stealing 3 bottles of mineral water to the tune of £3.50 can receive four months in Jail. Shame on you Messrs Cameron + Clegg. Shame on you. Of course he should be punished for taking part in criminal activity regardless of his motivations but perhaps we can show some semblance of balance and perspective here. If I had my way you'd both be banished to the naughty step. Oh and whilst you were there I' d advise you to read something from within Dickens' cannon. Taking the opulent and expensive educations you have been lucky enough to afford into account - I personally couldn't have afforded to go to 6th form without the precious EMA you have now cut - I find it hard to believe you haven't encountered him in the first place. I long since have. Yes, it might surprise you to know that simple folk like us sometimes sit at home and read the classics or in fact do anything that doesn't involve skulking around on street corners with our hoodies up. Perhaps when you read him this time, pay attention. I'm sure you'd agree the 140 yrs since his death is a long time within which to be stepping backwards.

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