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Where is Charles Dickens when you really need him? 

June 21st 2005

Charles Dickens

"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, 1841

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 labor markets.


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?

By Bob Strodtbeck

Bob Strodtbeck has been writing editorial commentaries since 1993.  He has professional experiences in pharmaceuticals, radio, and education.  He has also served as a church elder in an Orlando congregation where he has made his home since 1986.


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Some common misspellings: Dikens Dicknes Irac Irak Charls Cureosity Curisoty


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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Sunday, July 11, 2010 01:18 AM