Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Dickens Reports on the News


More homages to my literary hero, accenting his power of prophecy. 175 years ago he wrote these words (from the novel Barnaby Rudge) that do more to illuminate our current predicament than anyone on Fox News or even CNN can shed light on. Listen to him describe our clueless leader:

• The despisers of mankind are of two sorts. They who believe their merit neglected and unappreciated make up one class; they who receive adulation and flattery, knowing their own worthlessness, compose the other. Be sure that the coldest-hearted misanthropes are ever of this last order. (p. 203)

• As great men are urged on to the abuse of power (when they need urging, which is not often), by their flatterers and dependents, so old John (Don) was impelled to these exercises of authority by the applause and admiration of his cronies, who should shake their heads and say that Mr. Willet (Trump) was a man of the good old English (American) sort; that there were no new-fangled notions or modern ways in him, that it would be well for the country if there were more like him; and more was the pity that there were not… (p. 251)

In another passage, he talks about a meeting of a group of apprentices wanting to overthrow their masters. It could well be describing the Tea Party folks or the Neo-Nazis and Klansmen that marched in Charlottesville or all those disaffected white folks screwed over by Wall Street who blame people of color and liberal policies for the loss of their privileges (which still exist everywhere except in their head). Words in parenthesis my contemporary substitutions:

Under the Constitution, their people had, in times gone by, had frequent holidays of right, broken people’s heads by scores, defied the law, nay, even achieved some glorious murders in the streets, which privileges had gradually been wrested from them, and in all which noble aspirations they were not restrained: how the degrading checks imposed upon them were unquestionably attributable to the innovating spirit of the times, and how they united therefore to resist all change, except such change as would restore those good old English (American) customs, by which they would stand or fall. After illustrating the wisdom of going backward, by reference to the crab and the not infrequent practice of the mule and donkey, he described their general objects: which were briefly vengeance on their Tyrant (liberal) leaders (of whose grievous and insupportable oppression no person of their kind could entertain a moment’s doubt) and the restoration of their ancient rights and holidays…which they pledged themselves to pursue with fire and sword when needful. Then he described the oath which every member of that noble body took, binding him to resist and obstruct the Lord Mayor (President Obama).

 Interesting? More to come.

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