Social & Edu Reform in UK Now: What Would Dickens Do? What the Dickens Would you/Should you Do?

There now follows a party political, no, sorry, individual opinion type broadcast on behalf of the, erm, people. The people of the UK who are disenfranchised, suffering from social inequality and under represented by fault of history or social evolution or some other disadvantage. Who are we talking about? It’s women and ethnic minorities who don’t have equal respect in terms of current gender or other types of pay gaps. It’s the systemically under privileged who have socially and culturally evolved into positions of lower economic class, security, opportunity, advantage and wealth over time. Shock and horror you may gasp, how dare they speak out as if they are entitled! Entitlement belongs only to the entitled. Based on what entitlement though?

Look back through the history books and you’ll soon see that entitlements of the currently so called privileged are founded on very precarious foundations of exploitation, oppression and abuse. So is it entitlement then or just whitewashed injustice which somehow people manage to wash their hands out to avoid guilt or blame by the distance of time and othering? It wasn’t me! I didn’t do that. It wasn’t me who kept women as objectified property as a household good. It wasn’t me who took the slave ships to Africa and kidnapped people, enslaving them and robbing them of their own history, cultural, social and human capital. It wasn’t me who benefitted from that industry and was able to take advantage of the evolution of capitalism in the UK based on the industrial revolution that took place around it. It wasn’t me who prospered because of all that… oh, wait…

But how far in the history books must we go? Haven’t civilisations always conquered the weak and exploited them? The Assyrians, the Greeks, the Romans, the British Empire, etc, etc. Didn’t England itself defend itself and lose against the invasion of the Normans, the Romans, the Vikings? How far back, if we chose to do so, must we go to start making reparation for the history of economic social injustice and how it has evolved into the current beast it is today? Well perhaps a good lawyer or two could sit down and work it out.

It’s true: the history books don’t make for very pleasant reading if we were to start unravelling and building a case for compensation for social inequality of the gender and ethnic minority exploitation kind. But imagine if you will how an honest appraisal of the economic damage done might look on the balance sheet if for the sake of argument, it were calculated. And why shouldn’t it be calculated and claimed against? Wouldn’t Lloyds of London be very quick to claim against much less noble materialistic economic losses? Who would stand to make the biggest losses if this came about in such a day of reckoning? If claim upon claim for retrospective compensation were made it would certainly address current inequalities, so much so that perhaps the bankruptcies and loss of land and entitlements going back to feudal times would cripple the foundations of current society. But wouldn’t that be an honest treatment of social inequality? And wouldn’t it be one that would probably stop gender pay gaps and the like (to say the least) from arising again. If people couldn’t afford the law suits, would they ever dare pay a woman any less than a man for the same work done?

During the Ofqual reforms of now current GCSE English exams and specifications we were reintroduced to Dickens. I was irritated by that at first. However, I now applaud it. It reminds us of the power behind the social reformists of the time. Dickens was a social reformist, arguing against poor laws and amendments that didn’t really help the poor, and in fact kept them poor and maltreated. There were and have been great social reformists throughout British history that have stood up against social inequalities and injustice, and improvements have been made on the basis of this. Social reform groups included the Chartists, the women’s rights movement, reforms led in parliament by such as Earl Grey, Lord Melbourne and Robert Peel, and political leaders who saw through great reforms in their time such as Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone, Lord Salisbury and Herbert Asquith.  The social reforms that took place during those times were momentous and helped the UK to become the so-called democracy that it is supposed to be today. But what does it mean? Who are the social reformers of today? What do they need to do?

History is the greatest judge but do we really have to wait for the history books before we realise something should have been done? The facts are staring us in the face quite rudely. It’s true that white privilege exists, while it’s also true that young white males also often underperform and are underachievers in areas of social deprivation. If Dickens were alive and writing today with his hat of social reform on, what would he be writing?

I think it would be a dystopian novel, set in the near future, where those with white (often male) privilege sit and rub their hands about how good they’ve got it, but all along there’s a people’s revolution brewing, much like the Russian or French Revolution, and very quickly those with white privilege will fall from their lofty seats of historically founded entitlement at the hands of a change in legislation: the introduction of the ‘Social Inequalities Compensations Claim Act’, which provides free legal representation to make retrospective claims for compensation of economic disadvantage (back pay with interest) due to current or historical kidnapping, enslavement or exploitation of individual, family or ancestral blood ties. Such claims will allow any protected by criteria of Equality Laws to level current economic disadvantage by proving current or retrospective inequality due to being treated unequally, and exploited, kidnapped, enslaved etc. This dystopian novel will seem dystopian for those whose worlds would crumble. It would possibly give them as characters a chance for redemption if they were to then have an Ebenezer Scrooge like change of heart and embrace the new social reforms. The novel would of course have a utopian ending from the perspective of all those suffering under current social inequalities. Economies would be wrecked and ownership entitlements would be all up in the air. But isn’t this what would be really needed in order to create real change to REALLY address social inequalities as we see in our world now?

The history books, as said, will judge. When looking at the history of the Russian and French Revolutions, it is easy to take side with the peasants. Something did need to change. As to what change is needed now and how it could happen is still an open book.

In the meantime, what we do urgently need is to: close the gender pay gap, even up representation of women and ethnic minorities at senior leadership level, and provide free childcare for employees around flexible working times. I don’t think that’s too much to ask when company cars of top executives (mostly white males) are BMWs. Is it?

I’d like House of Lords support with this. And monarchy led projects. Please.

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