Friday, 12 August 2011

Times they aren't a-changin

Many of us have read Tom Brown's Schooldays, but I still think this quote worth reproducing in full. It may be set in the culture of its times, but if we ignore that, then the problemThomas Hughes describes is still with us. We still suffer from a dim and disconnected political class who wish to ride on our backs without first asking what we think of the idea.

Well, well, we must bide our time. Life isn't all beer and skittles; but beer and skittles, or something better of the same sort, must form a good part of every Englishman's education. If I could only drive this into the heads of you rising parliamentary lords, and young swells who "have your ways made for you," as the saying is, you who frequent palaver houses and West-end clubs, waiting always ready to strap yourselves to the back of poor dear old John, as soon as the present used-up lot (your fathers and uncles), who sit there on the great parliamentary-majorities' pack-saddle, and make believe they're guiding him with their red-tape bridle, tumble, or have to be lifted off!

I don't think much of you yet - I wish I could - though you do go on talking and lecturing up and down the country to crowded audiences, and are busy with all sorts of philanthropic intellectualism, and circulating libraries and museums, and Heaven only knows what besides, and try to make us think, through newspaper reports, that you are, even as we, of the working classes. But bless your hearts, we "ain't so green," though lots of us of all sorts toady you enough certainly, and try to make you think so.

I'll tell you what to do now: in stead of all this trumpeting and fuss, which is only the old parliamentary-majority dodge over again, just you go, each of you (you've plenty of time for it, if only you'll give up t'other line), and quietly make three or four friends - real friends - among us. You'll find a little trouble in getting at the right sort, because such birds don't come lightly to your lure; but found they may be. Take, say, two out of the professions, lawyer, parson, doctor - which you will; one out of trade; and three or four out of the working classes - tailors, engineers, carpenters, engravers. There's plenty of choice. Let them be men of your own ages, mind, and ask them to your homes; introduce them to your wives and sisters, and get introduced to theirs; give them good dinners, and talk to them about what is really at the bottom of your hearts; and box, and run, and row with them, when you have a chance. Do all this honestly as man to man, and by the time you  come to ride old John, you'll be able to do something more than sit on his back, and may feel his mouth with some stronger bridle than a red-tape one.

Ah, if you only would! But you have got too far out of the right rut, I fear. Too much over-civilization, and the deceitfulness of riches. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. More's the pity. I never came across but two of you who could value a man wholly and solely for what was in him - who thought themselves verily and indeed of the same flesh and blood as John Jones the attourney's clerk, and Bill Smith the costermonger, and could act as if they thought so. 

Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes - published 1857


Demetrius said...

Essentially, Flashman has become the key role model for our times.

A K Haart said...

He has, yet the amusing rogue is still a rogue.