THE YEAR 2012 is the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’ birth, and his life is as interesting as any of his novels.
As a struggling young journalist reporting parliament, Dickens heard many impassioned and reasoned speeches against the new Poor Laws, which introduced the inhumane system of workhouses, punishing those whose only crime was poverty.
Novels such as ‘Oliver Twist’ put the system under the spotlight, and showed lawyers, local politicians and those benefiting from the system as villains. By focusing on individuals, and using humour and pathos, Dickens motivated those within the system to work for reform.
In spite of the welfare state, ‘Please sir - I want some more’ is still a cry today, as the financial crisis continues.
Last night’s news [at time of writing], had details of initiatives for the young unemployed , and a crisis in winter fuel costs for some pensioners. It is heartening that many better off older people are giving to charities the fuel allowance they may not require, but horrendous that some folk have to choose between food and heating. When we give to others- in time, attention, food or money- we are sharing only what we have been given.
As we remember and enjoy Dickens’ stories, may we remember even bankers and moneylenders such as Scrooge can be reformed, and that we live in the best of times and the worst of times, in a caring local community.
Wendy Shepherd, Methodist Church