A CAUTIONARY TALE OF TWO CITIES 2016 COURTESY OF CHARLES DICKENS, an article by Alwyn Dow
‘It was the best of times it was the worst of times. It was an age of wisdom and it was an age of foolishness.’ So begins Dicken’s ‘Tale of Two Cities’ Paris and London, at the time of the French Revolution. One might believe that those sentiments are as true today as ever they were then, so let us explore further.
Dickens is driven to despair at the short sighted and selfish nature of mankind n both cities as he explores a tragedy in the making through his characters. Both cities are corrupt but in France the euphoria of the Bastille soon becomes tarnished by the excesses of Robespierre and others. Dickens wants his readers to acknowledge a similar corrupt regime in England in order to deter revolution, but he realises that as ‘the lower classes are powerless’ so his writing must serve to warn and inform the aristocracy to mend their ways, but he is not hopeful. Despite all this he continues to see the good in people, more notably Carton’s sacrifice at ‘Madame Guillotine’ in order to save Darnay.
Fast forward to 2016 and firstly let’s acknowledge that both countries have their fair share of corruption at the top, but for now let us substitute the EU for France. The EU does indeed have problems of governance and rectitude and so does the UK but what is the best way to deal with them? Some UK critics have despaired of reform in Brussels and would tear down the edifice that Britain and 25 Nations have constructed so carefully over the years. Now here the spectre of the Bastille comes to mind. The argument goes that we should abandon the EU and walk away leaving a metaphorical destruction of our joint EU foundations; but to what end? The destruction of the Bastille led to decades of conflict and uncertainty without resolution until war restored peace in Europe. Likewise the virtual weakening of the EU as Britain exits will do irreparable harm not only to the UK and Europe but to the world at large.
Let us avoid a repetition of history and modify Dicken’s words as follows. ‘It could have been the worst of times, but if we choose wisdom over foolishness we can make it the best of times by building on more than twenty years of solidarity, and by voting with our feet to REMAIN IN THE EU 2016’
Alwyn Dow, June 2016