By Peter Neville Lewis, Jun 19 2018 08:54AM
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.....it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.
Charles Dickens’ opening lines from A Tale of Two Cities (1859) have a familiar (and ominous?) ring about them today. The Age of Enlightenment had triggered the French and American Revolutions and in England the Great Reform Bill of 1832. 1848 saw further upheavals across Europe as individual states sought national identities. The Industrial Revolution and scientific advances were changing the nature of economies away from a land based agrarian model. But the dark side of all this was Blake’s ”satanic mills”, appalling conditions for the poor in the new fast growing cities, child labour exploitation and the excesses of imperial expansion. And yet we still applaud the Victorians for their boldness, imagination and discipline as they re-invented the post 18th century model.
Today we have similar trends as the internet, social media, e-commerce, AI and global travel etc dis-intermediate the status quo – the best of times (for the winners) and the worst of times (for the losers). Wealth has been created on an unimaginable scale. The “haves”, the elite, the winners prosper but look around and the seeds of social disintegration are sprouting. Cyber attacks, abuse of private data, fundamentalism (to the right as well as the left), human trafficking, the refugee crisis, falling levels of trust etc etc.
Despite our technical advances, the best of times are being slowly swamped by what could turn out to be the very worst of times.The signs are there for all to see that the fabric of society has started to fray and in some places rot. Humankind cannot bear too much reality wrote another literary great, T S Eliot. Perhaps that is why we are getting so much fake news?
What has happened to moral progress though? Or religious and family values? How can humans regain their humanity, decency and respect? We desperately need some world leaders who can lead us to a better place – but do we have them?
Let us all hope that some great men and women (perhaps the key lies here?) emerge soon or Dickens’ winter of despair may start to take its toll.
Pedro the Jester