Looking Backwards – Victorian Culture

What is it with the Victorian Culture?

There seems to be many associations with the Victorian Culture being presented to the British people in the last couple of years, in galleries, on television on radio. You start to wonder if there are politicians, multinationals or some think-tank behind the scenes pulling the strings; a campaign to send the country back to the dark ages.

The only thing that the Victorian culture reminds me of is boil-in-the-bag. The kind of food you would never really want to eat unless you like your food bland. The Victorian age was a disaster for the majority of people that lived in this period. Most of them were very poor and living in slums with no schooling. Most children would be working from a very young age in places that had no health and safety regulations to contend with. We forget that it only became a legal requirement that all children attend school in the 1950’s

So my question is why does there seem to be a move to glorify a period in English history so very bad for most people? It was shit! to put it plainly. People like John Ruskin and William Morris were trying to raise the quality of people’s lives supposedly through the idea of craft, quality of workmanship and were against the whole idea of industrialization and its motives. In this context we must remember although William Morris designs were made by hand they were generally bought by the wealthy. The following were the words of John Ruskin in a Lecture he gave that were true then as they are today:

“The nets which we use against the poor are just those worldly embarrassments which either their ignorance or their improvidence are almost certain at some time or other to bring them into: then, just at the time when we ought to hasten to help them, and disentangle them, and teach them how to manage better in future, we rush forward to pillage them, and force all we can out of them in their adversity. For, to take one instance only, remember this is literally and simply what we do, whenever we buy, or try to buy, cheap goods –goods offered at a price which we know cannot be remunerative for the labour involved in them. Whenever we buy such goods, remember we are stealing somebody’s labour. Don’t let us mince the matter. I say, in plain Saxon, STEALING-taking from him the proper reward of his work, and putting it into our own pocket. You know well enough that the thing could not have been offered you at that price, unless distress of some kind had forced the producer to part with it. You take advantage of this distress, and you force as much out of him as you can under the circumstances.” [page 230] ……………

“But this is only one form of common oppression of the poor –only one way of taking our hands off the Plough-handle, and binding another’s upon it. The first way of doing it is the economical way –the way preferred by prudent and virtuous people. The bolder way is the acquisitive way: – the way at present the various modes in which a nation corrupts itself, by not acknowledging the eternal connection between its plough and its pleasure; -by striving to get pleasure, without working for it. Well, I say the first and commonest way of doing so is to try to get the product of other people’s work, and enjoy it ourselves, by cheapening their labour in times of distress; then the second way is that grand one of watching the chances of the market; – the way of speculation. Of course there are some speculations that are fair and honest – speculations made with our own money, and which do not involve in their success the loss, by others, of what we gain. But generally modern speculation involves much risk to others, with chance of profit only to ourselves; even in its best conditions it is merely one of the forms of gambling or treasure-hunting: it is either leaving the steady plough and the steady pilgrimage of life, to look for silver mines beside the dice-tables in Vanity Fair-investing all the thoughts and passions of the soul in the fall of the cards, and choosing rather the wild accidents of idle fortune than the calm and accumulative rewards of toil. And this is destructive enough, at least to our peace and virtue.” [page 232; John Ruskin – The Two Paths: Lecture V; The Work of Iron, In Nature, Art, and Policy: Lecture delivered at Tunbridge Wells, February 16th, 1858]

If the 2nd world war had not occurred the British would not have had the investment needed to change their lives. They would still be sharing baths in metal tubs and using the toilet outside. New houses may not have been built and more forward looking minds to drive people to achieve greater things. Our culture should not be presented to take us back to the good old days because most of us would find themselves struggling to survive whilst the rich few play as always.

This era was a period like many others pretty bad for the most of us. The idea of individualism should also incorporate the idea of community for we are all individuals in a community whether we like it or not! Culture should not be used to brain wash people into ideas of grandeur but show we can do better. We are at a turning point the digital age is about to really take off and why does it appear that our heads of state are looking backwards. Making it more difficult to study at university, making state schools into what they call trusts run by companies that really represent ‘private schooling’ of course to screw the likes of you and me in the future out of money we probably do not have. The NHS has issues purely because the general wards are run by nurses who are agency workers (private companies again) who are not there everyday but move around, many who do not have adequate training to be called nurses. No wonder the quality of the wards is so poor. Lets not take example of the USA and follow them down some blind alley.

Current US Population: 315,148,416 million

The data presented here are from the Current Population Survey (CPS), 2012 Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC), the source of official poverty estimates. The CPS ASEC is a sample survey of approximately 100,000 household nationwide. These data reflect conditions in calendar year 2011.

In 2011, the official poverty rate was 15.0 percent. There were 46.2 million people in poverty. [US Department of Commerce  - United States Census Bureau]

The number of unemployed persons, at 12.2 million, was little changed in December. The unemployment rate held at 7.8 percent and has been at or near that level since September. [www.tradingseconomics.com]

Current UK Population: Estimated to be 63.2 million

The UK is the world’s six largest economy, yet 1 in 5 of the UK population live below our official poverty line, meaning that they experience life as a daily struggle. [http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/our-work/poverty-in-the-uk]

The unemployment rate was 8.4 per cent of the economically active population, up 0.1 on the quarter. There were 2.67 million unemployed people, up 48,000 on the quarter. The unemployment rate has not been higher since 1995 [Labour Market Statistics 2012; http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/february-2012/statistical-bulletin.html]

Encouraging the rich to move into our capital and force the rents up. Pushing small local businesses into decline through excessive business rates and rent, pushing the local population out of the city into areas where there is little or no work; Making public transport far too expensive to make it viable. Who are these nut cases have they ever really experienced life or are they the living dead? What happened to people being allowed a quality of life? It does not improve morale amongst people if they are expected to work like robots and not allowed some time of leisure and opportunities to move forward. What happened to real choice not the choice that multinationals would like to impose on us?

Culture from our near past should not be used to manipulate us. It is a disgrace that those at the top have so little vision that they would send us backwards. If you cannot do the job then let people through that can.

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