It Was the Best of Times…And Not

I don’t know how to sum up an extraordinary year like 2011, so I won’t bother. Revolutions, general strikes, occupations — it’s a radical’s dream come true. 

But as I head off the grid for a couple of days to read and begin writing for Truthout’s new blog site, Speakout, I cannot help thinking about the conditions driving these global rebellions from Cairo to Oakland. After all, these historic upheavals would be unthinkable without the mass immiseration of the last decades. 

Sorry to bring a turd to the picnic, but walking through Penn Station late last night on my way to the subway home I could not ignore the rows and rows of homeless people bedding down on the hard floor for a semi-sleepless night in the financial capital of the empire. 

Looking at them, I thought once again of the words that have echoed in my head for months now. They’re the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, his 1859 classic set in Paris and London before and during the French Revolution. So it is Dickens, the great Victorian critic of social stratification, who best sums up this past year:

 

IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way —  in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

 

Not too bad for literary technique either, eh?

All the best in 2012!

 

 

2 responses to “It Was the Best of Times…And Not

  1. I actually started reading a bit of this book recently… after limping through several Dickens books in college I wasn’t expecting much but the opening chapter at least is really brilliant

  2. Cary Appenzeller

    Happy New Year, Sherry! I enjoy your blog!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s