Monday, October 25, 2010

your life would suck if you were victorian

Note: I don't pretend to know anything about the politics of Britain. I just thought the column discussed below was quite entertaining from a purely neo-Victorian cultural aspect.

Your life would suck if you were Victorian.

At least, according to Tom Shields' column in yesterday's Herald Scotland.  He compares suggested Coalition public spending cuts to "Victorian values".  Not that I know anything of politics in Britain.  But it's certainly funny to think that the Victorians "valued" any of the examples of the terrible quality of life that many Victorians had, compared to the relatively great quality of life most people in England have today.
Did you know that if we could get the child mortality rate back to what it was 150 years ago, it would cut £10bn a year off the family allowance bill?

Did you know old people got on perfectly well before the state pension was introduced in 1911? Mostly thanks to dying from malnutrition and disease before they got too old.

These days the working class live too long. With fewer jobs to be filled, they have become a luxury Britain can no longer afford.
He goes on to create a gloomy image of a neo-Victorian lifestyle based on the "Victorian values" supposedly "favored" by the Coalition government:
Rat-infested slums. Gruel in the workhouse. Bread and a thin scraping of margarine, if you’re lucky.

No state benefits to keep the wolf from the door.

No health service to keep the grim reaper from the door.

A return to rickets, scabies and snottery noses. You don’t see so many snottery weans these days.

Probably because there are too many hankies and not enough colds and flu on the go. And too many young folk with shoes that don’t leak.

Also, children are too well-nourished to be put up chimneys. If we had enough chimneys. There’s no smoke without chimneys.

This is why people don’t die of bronchial diseases the way they used to.

When was the last time we had a good old Victorian fog to raise the death rate?
This column is a perfect example of why one should know history.  When many people think of the Victorian era they are more likely to recall 4 o'clock tea stereotypes or a romantic image of swirling fog beneath gaslights.  Yeah, that fog was actually pollution, as Shields points out.

What Shields conveniently ignores are the wonderful aspects of the period, such as the conservative dress, the literature, the increasing literacy and educational opportunities for the population, and the reforms made to change the terrible "Victorian values" that Shields lists above.  But how would that prove his "point" against the Coalition government's public budget cuts?

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