Did the Enlightenment Pass Us By?

I’m a very soft hearted, gentle sort of person, and I love animals, so I tend to sign anything that’s going in the way of petitions or letters to one’s MP and what not. And I think that our Prime Minister and his merry band are being absolutely beastly to  everyone right left and center. That qualifies me as a ‘bleeding heart liberal’ I suppose. But I’m not altogether unsympathetic to the ‘tough love’ idea, I think it does people good to have to stand on their own two feet. But if their feet are covered in blisters and corns and ingrown toenails, you don’t send them on a route march until they’ve got them straightened out now, do you? It’s this ‘helping people back into shape’ that the government’s falling down on. They’re running down the National Health, and they’re putting financial pressure on the very poor and insisting that people with long term illnesses look for work. They seem to be convinced that if someone who can hardly stand, let alone make ends meet, that should be an incentive for them to start their own business or retrain for an exciting new career. And these unfortunates are not even the ones at the bottom of the pile. There are single parents, who never thought they would end up as single parents, who are trying to recover from the grief of a partner who died and left them in poverty and sickness. But to the Tory mind, a single parent means only one thing;someone who has had children ‘out of wedlock’ that they cannot afford to support and should therefore be sterilised to prevent them having any more. All are tarred with the same brush, and feathered, and hung out to dry. The fact that most single parents do not fit the common stereotype is never addressed. In the imagination of the Daily Mail reader, they are all ‘chavs’ called Sharon or Tracy who sniff glue and spend all their benefit money on booze and pizzas.

The problem is that people who are brought up with the notion that we can all ‘be anything we want to be’, that all we have to do is to work hard and prosperity can be ours, such people cannot afford to believe in ‘luck’ — particularly bad luck. If anyone can be unlucky, if life is just a random series of events over which we have little control, then poverty, ill health, disability, single parenthood, etc. can happen to any one of us. But optimistic, ‘right thinking people’ cannot afford to believe this. They have to believe that hard work, and — perhaps — divine help, will bring them success and good health. And they also have to believe the corollary, that lack of success, ill health, and suffering are the result of idleness and even ungodliness. It is primitive, magical thinking, but superstition is as rife now as it always was, and even more so in lean times. We are still living in the middle ages in many ways. For the majority of us, the Enlightenment has passed us by.

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About Zoe Nightingale

I am a writer of short stories, novels, poetry and non fiction.
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