"Oh! if (sic) those who rule the destinies of
nations would but remember this --if they would but think how hard
it is for the very poor to have engendered in their hearts, that
love of home from which all domestic virtues spring, when they
live in dense and squalid masses where social decency is lost, or
rather never found--if they would but turn aside from the wide
thorough-fares and great houses, and strive to improve the
wretched dwellings in byways where only Poverty (sic) may
walk--many low roofs would point more truly to the sky, than the
loftiest steeple that now rears proudly from the midst of guilt,
and crime, and horrible disease, to mock them by its
contrast....In love of home, the love of country has its rise; and
who are the truer patriots or the better in time of need--those
who venerate the land, owning its wood, and stream, and earth, and
all they produce? Or those who love their country boasting not a
foot of ground in all its wide domain?"
Charles Dickens in Chapter 38 of The Old Curiosity Shop,
Reading Dickens is laborious, tedious
and time consuming. He gets frustratingly embroiled in minutiae
and, in the case of the book quoted above, leaves the reader to
wonder where the story is going. Coming upon such a passage above,
however, makes all the drudgery worthwhile.
Dickens had a strong grasp of the faults of
humanity and did not hesitate to show them through his characters.
He clearly pitied the poor--especially the working poor--and
sometimes brings readers to conflict over those who drove
themselves to poverty through their vices. In The Old Curiosity
Shop, for example, a kindly old grandfather has his house
taken from him and chooses homelessness with his granddaughter
because he is a gambling addict.
Before Dickens wrote the quote above he devoted
37 chapters to developing the idea that not all poor people are
virtuous nor all rich people greedy. The long literary trek
allowed Dickens to show that some people were better able to
control their vices than others. In Dickensí universe some wealthy
folk could be kind and generous, but some poor people could be
devious and foolish. Dickensí wrote about a world that is much as
we know it.
Please note that Dickens wrote his statement
when, "the sun never set on the British Empire." In that Empire,
the offices that "...ruled the destinies of nations...," were not
limited to the halls of government. Financial and industrial
interests inspired Britainís government and military to sustain a
global trading empire that brought great wealth to some, but
numbing poverty and exploitation to others.
So it is again, but set an ocean away from
Dickensí home. America is devoted to spending billions on projects
that end global terrorism and reshape governments to the liking of
global political and financial powers. As in Dickensí day not all
wealthy people are scoundrels, but knowing the good from the bad
in the modern world is becoming increasingly difficult. Business
leaders are generally isolated from the public by corporate
management structures and elected officials portray themselves as
saints to supportive audiences wealthy enough to buy tickets to
their campaign fundraisers and through media portrayals.
On the local level the importance of private
property and the value of work are being diminished. All levels of
government are enacting laws and regulations that drain revenues
from privately owned businesses, but give competitive advantages
to corporations that can attract operating capital from stock
markets or move operations to nations with low-wage, unregulated
Community influence on culture and political
thought is being further eroded by the ambivalence that government
is showing toward controlling immigration. Neighborhoods are
fragmented by language and custom. Children of
immigrants--particularly adolescent children--retain allegiance to
their homeland and, at times, even express animosity for this
country. These factors, among others, pose a threat to the
stability of neighborhoods and the nation, but
immigration--especially "undocumented, or illegal,
immigration--helps to reduce labor costs in this country.
Consequently, those who "rule the destinies" of corporate balance
sheets support open borders immigration policies.
Then there is Iraq. It is easy to be for or
against the occupation of Iraq, what is not so easy is to see the
long-term consequences that await this country if the
poorly-conceived occupation fails. If America pulls out of Iraq
abruptly, the global supply of oil will be further stressed by a
probable civil war that can embroil the entire region and
Americaís foreign policy establishment will have earned the
reputation of a hit-and-run bully.
If the Bush Administration decides to increase
Americaís military presence to take dominion over Iraq,
reinstating the draft is a probability. Demanding young people,
many of whom will be immigrant adolescents who regard this nation
with a degree of animus, to fight a war for undefined purposes is
not a formula that will engender public support for the nationís
political and governing systems.
America, by default of its Cold War competitor,
became the preeminent power on the globe. It is now under a threat
of taking a might fall largely because those who have aspired to
guide its destiny, both in government and industry, have given
little regard to, "those who love their country boasting not a
foot of ground in all its wide domain." Is it too much to
ask that leaders in industry and government give some
consideration in their plans for wealth and conquest to those who
have made America both profitable and powerful?