When he was about 12 I told my son that he shouldn't curse - not because cursing is bad, but because he doesn't have a real reason to curse. You shouldn't say that your life is fucked up unless your life is fucked up, and he doesn't know what fucked up is. And so while there is something to respect about Jay Z, I do puzzle about my daughters' choice in music. They do have the decency to listen to it out of my earshot, as do their addictions to the petty bullshit that runs through pop culture. I was listening to Fishbone's 1991 single "Bonin' in the Boneyard" and recall that their record corporation wouldn't even let them say 'funky ass bass'. Times have changed for the worse and people curse, but we really don't know what fucked up is.
His name was Charles John Huffam Dickens and he died during Reconstruction. I have yet to determine how much it might have been on his mind, and when time permits, I will. He was certainly one of the coldest eyes for detail in the detrius of civilization of the English speaking world; he could not have been immune to the charms of American slavery. That is, for what it's worth, our darkest chapter, and for all that - it's not so damned dark. The darkness of Russia's 20th century is so overwhelmingly ghastly that it's difficult for me to give us any credit for spine, though you must admire our nerve.
So while I poke around for the equivalent of Conquest to plumb the depths of Chinese depravity, I do know what I want to get from Dickens - some flavor for the shit smell of London in the days when workhouses were the norm. I want to get the feel of what it's like a half to a full order of magnitude more socially polluted than what's going on here in the - Dont Tase Me Bro Generation. I know I ought to have a gun or two for my dumbbell strategy, but knowing when to shoot is more important than knowing how.
You see, every day on Google Plus, middlebrow America is pissing and moaning and yes, cursing, about how depraved American society is. I ain't buying it. The ATM networks may charge you 3 damned dollars for an out of bank transaction, but they still count the money out right, and maybe we ought to pay that much for the convenience. In fact, maybe I'm going to join the ranks of those selling leeches for the boneheads seeking immortality. It only makes sense that for Charles Dickens, and Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, Hopkins, and two dozen others - all of their works can be had for free or close to it. But if you want tickets to see Justin Beiber, well.. I'm not buying the expensive insanity or Linsanity of going Gaga over anything. That's for the young, bored and illiterate who, with any luck, will be out of a job and learn to live without all the disposable income competing in our economy for people with brains. What was it that Neal Stephenson said about the best minds of a generation writing spam filters? Our society is not depraved, it's just lazy and uncomfortable. But that's an opinion as of yet uniformed by the details of the Dickensian.
Not for long.
London, like the Holy Grail's Monty Pythonite who the Witch turned into a newt, got better. And all of the blather going on America's lightweight media, both old and self-righteously new, sounds to me like the illogic of the ensuing discussion about whether our society is actually a bitch of a witch. To much free fucking speech and no real thinking.
How bad was London and how did it get better? I think maybe Dickens has the answer I'm looking for.