Where is our Charles Dickens?

Whilst I was on holiday, as I’ve mentioned, I read many books, including one of Dickens’.

Dickens was very much a social commentator of his time. Many of his books show the greed of his fellow man, the cruelty and, more often than not, the social injustice that we understand was prevalent in Victorian times. If you were rich, you were fine but God damn you if you were poor. If you were poor, you relied on handouts, were thrown in jail for becoming bankrupt (even if it was through no fault of your own) and, as a last resort, there was always the poorhouse.

There was no such thing as “social security”, since there was no security. Some rich people gave money to help the poorhouse but most did not. The people running the poorhouse would not think twice about starving the poor they were supposed to be looking after – “Please sir, may I have some more?”

His idea was to give a nudge to society, a wake up call, to change things.

And they changed. Particularly during the 50s, many things were introduced to change people’s lives for the better. We had a National Health system, there was help when you became unemployed, no one had to be homeless. There was a safety net. We no longer have poorhouses and people are not so desperate that they had to rely on handouts.

Erm, well, now it seems that in the UK (and elsewhere, including here), we seem to be proceeding towards a Victorian era again. Social security benefits are often referred to as Benefit handouts (with no sense of irony) by the DailyHateMail. Food banks exist. I mean to say, food banks EXIST! How is that possible? How, some centuries after Oliver Twist asked for a little more tasteless gruel, did people become unable to feed themselves but instead have to go to places to be handed food just to stop themselves from starving?

People like Tiny Tim are again alive and, erm, not well. In fact, once they get to working age they are, more often than not, considered to be “fit to work” and so get their “benefit handouts” stopped to “encourage them” to find work.

There will always be people who will “crack” the system to gain more at the expense of others. People who will cheat the system. The focus, for some, is the so-called “benefit scroungers” but, surely, the tax avoiders/dodgers are the ones from which the most money will come, if you’re really serious about improving the lot of the country in general?

Dickens was a great political commentator allowing people to read his stories and find within them the necessary moral statements. Of course, not everyone would read his stories. After all they made uncomfortable reading. I mean, children starving – not a nice thing to read about, is it?

What we need now is another Charles Dickens. A Charles Dickens of our time. Instead of the White Knight or Robin Hood, where is our Charles Dickens when you need him?

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