Recently, a couple of events were brought together by fortune's wind to inspire this post.
1. I was reminded of a Rudyard Kipling poem that I truly love, in the comments section for one of the posts at Borepatch's Blog.
2. I spent a little time (far too little) conversing with people whose social/political views are very different from my own. This happened via a couple of different blogs/sites and we were debating about the recent Washington battles over tax "cuts" and unemployment benefits extensions. I have fairly eclectic tastes when it comes to my internet wanderings and as a fringe benefit I get to mingle with people who don't see things the way I do on all matters. That's a good thing. I get to hear from them what they think, and I get to share my views with them. Hopefully, we learn from each other.
3. My Daughter lost her job right after Thanksgiving. Yep... there's never a good time to find one's self unemployed, but its hard to imagine a classically worse time than right smack dab in the middle of the Holidays. The Bank for which she worked has been steadily cutting back staff, and the axe eventually came down on her.
Those three things made me wax nostalgic for the sentiment expressed by Mr. Kipling in his poem "The Gods of the Copy Book Headings", which was published in 1909. If you aren't familiar with the work, its a commentary on the various schemes of Social Progress that cycle around over and over right up to the modern day, and how those schemes require a denial of some basic, immutable truths. Its also about the dangers we face when we turn away from those truths.
First, a bit of translation for the modern reader...
This is a Copy Book:
I don't know how common Copy Books are these days, but in Rudyard Kipling's time they were standard fare in schools (as they were in mine). Generally, each page had a Heading at the top which the students were required to copy over and over on the page below, to teach them penmanship. The Headings were usually snippets of commonsense wisdom, like: "All that glitters is not Gold" - that sort of thing.
When you read the poem below, you'll see reference to the "Gods of the Market". This is not a reference to The Free Market, as we might use it today. Its a reference to the Public Market, which was a prime location for early Social Engineers to preach their current version of "Change" to the masses.
The Gods of the Copybook Headings
As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
See why I like this poem so much? Strong messages there, that's for sure.
Oh, and now the good part - my Dearest Daughter has already secured a new job. She starts it today, as a matter of fact. Little bit of a paycut from her last position, true. However, because of how she was raised, she instead sees her new salary as a substantial raise over what she'd be getting should she sit at home on the couch. She also has a strong lead on two more jobs that she should hear about in a week or so, that could potentially put her in a better position than she was in at the beginning of all this.
You'll notice the conspicuous absence of the multiple layers of The Government Deluxe Social Safety Net, without which we would all die starving the the street. I don't propose that people don't need help from time to time. Nothing wrong with that. There are times when fates conspire against you to the point where prior planning, family, friends, and the local community just aren't enough.
I get that.
I just have a problem swallowing the premise that without the benevolent handout from The Government from cradle to grave - we are all doomed. That the answer to someone who hasn't been able to find some sort of a job in 2 years is 13 more months of cash payments.
Everyone seems afraid to talk about that, for fear of hurting someone's feelings who is having a genuine hard time. They are also afraid to bring it up because they'll be called heartless and cruel for expecting people to step up and pull their own weight - even if that involves taking a job that isn't their "dream job".
My Daughter learned the lessons of the Copybook Headers very well, and she's never even seen one. I wish everyone "got it" as well as she does.