What is the State of Our Community?
Note: Let me offer a short piece this week as we approach the 4th of July holiday weekend in the US. Enjoy. Previous installments of my weekly blog from 2013 are located on my website at http://stevemarshallassociates.com/steves-blog/
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”
This phrase, taken from the famous opening paragraph of Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel, 'A Tale of Two Cities, ' points out a major conflict between family and love, hatred and oppression, good and evil, light and darkness, and wisdom and folly. Dickens begins this tale with a vision that human prosperity cannot be matched with human despair. He, in fact, tells about a class war between the rich and the poor. It also describes a time of despair and suffering on the one hand and joy and hope on the other.
This is an apt phrase to be used in the context of today’s world when, the 1% are enjoying luxurious lives, while the middle-class is struggling under the yoke of inexorable economic decline. That is why in the context of the transformation in times, wealth, inequality, and accumulation of wealth have become modern themes which we hear more about every day. Especially of note in this election year, one presidential candidate is using it in his speeches to remind us of the "golden old" times.
We Are Going to Make America Great Again!
His bandwagon is festooned with banners exclaiming the above promise, but is it really true and just what were those "good old days" really like? Spotlighting the time when Dicken's published 'A Tale of Two Cities", is certainly not a time that anyone would agree were the good old days. Poverty, disease, war, famine, and social revolution were rampant and made up a good portion of the themes of his novels as well as many of his contemporaries.
In reality, Dicken's story, actually tells us about a time of chaos, conflicts, a time of despair as well as little happiness. It, in fact, tells us about a time of extreme opposites with very few in-betweens.
How Will He Make America Great Again?
From my POV, his plans and methods for making America great again will do little more than bring us back to a Dickensian world of fear, anger, hate, division, and ultimately, despair. This banner promise of his describes our current time of controversies and contradictions aptly, but his solutions to our societal and economic woes; this proclamation of revolution for oppressed civilians will not "make America great again.” His simple style of messaging appeals to a narrow cross-section of people looking for an ideology that takes away their responsibility to think and act for themselves. Also, his oversimplified view of the current world situation divides the world into two camps; the people vs. governments.
Charles Dickens does the same thing in 'A Tale of Two Cities;' he compares two cities, Paris and London, during the tumultuous period leading up to and including the French Revolution. The proclamation of revolution for oppressed civilians held the promise of a “spring of hope”; while, at the same time, for the outdated political systems of that time, the French Revolution was a “winter of despair” which led to death and destruction of the wealthy classes. This phrase, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" has great value in the comparison and contrast of the two situations and environments, which, though they occurred over 200 years apart, are eerily resonant today as we move toward a pivotal US Presidential election in November.
In closing this blog, on the eve of the 4th of July American holiday, which celebrates this nation's independence from the yoke of British rule in 1776, I have become an advocate for revolution! A revolution against demagogues like Mr. Trump, and all those who promise us oversimplifications and black and white solutions to today's very complex problems.