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We got a birthday, a coffee shop for you, a poem by Margaret Atwood, oh and an op-ed piece. (You are only here for the poem by Atwood, we understand)
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Paul B. Janeczko was born on July 27, 1945.
He was an American poet who published 40 books in the 1980s.
Writer's Favorite Drinks
Here is a coffee shop for you to check out
270 Lafayette St, Soho, between Jersey and Prince St
With eight locations in New York alone, La Colombe is one of the city’s leading ladies of coffeehouses. The best location for writers is in NoHo. Sorry to those other spots, (It's like Handsome Jack, it's nothing personal) It’s busy in this coffeehouse, but there’s ample seating for settling in and letting your creative muse loose. Personally, I am just going to settle in and enjoy my lunch here. My creative muse is cranky on some days. Mostly Sundays through Thursdays, and on Fridays and Saturdays, they are busy. Wait a minute... I just realized that my creative muse could be lying to me! They say that they are busy every day of the week! Or am I lying to myself, because I am the creative muse? Oh boy, it sounds like I need to sit down and have a cup of coffee. Perhaps a draft latte from La Colombe. Welcome to La Colombe kiddos.
“YOU FIT INTO ME” by Margaret Wood
you fit into me
like a hook into an eye
a fish hook
an open eye
Charles Dickens's Unique Philosophy Towards People – Op-Ed Piece
Charles Dickens is one of the greatest authors of all time, producing many classics that are still widely known. He wrote A Tale Of Two Cities, which is the bestselling novel of all time, by the way, and its opening lines are some of the most paraphrased of all time. You will often read an article like this one, and the blogger will quote the beginning of A Tale Of Two Cities to convey the idea of difference and familiarity in a situation, to let you know that there is not much separating the nothing and the everything. Dickens penned classics like Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, and many more. The man was one of the most prolific writers of all time and should be admired for the many characters and stories that he gave this world. If you write like Dickens, then you are doing something right. Heck, if you write as much as Dickens, you should give yourself some credit. I read somewhere that the dude wrote 4-5 pages for his novels per day. That is some serious writing going on for the Victorian-aged man.
In all of those stories, from the one about the two men of different lifestyles, the child from the slums that is not as bad as he seems, or the greedy banker on a spiritual journey, he had a very unique philosophy about people; good people can have bad jobs. In other words, you shouldn’t judge someone based on the career that they have or what they do from 9-5 (or in some cases, whenever they work). There are other acts aside from that job that can determine a person’s goodness. This sounds like something we would all agree with, as we see it as fair and just, and that is nothing less than what we expect from ourselves in the modern culture we are in. We no longer have gladiator games. We no longer have slavery, and we certainly know not to judge a book by its cover. This is something that many of you probably think is not that different than how you view the world as you travel your life going from your job to your friend’s house and every place in between. And you can’t be more wrong there. Although this philosophy is one that many agree with at first glance, there are elements to it that I am sure, with further analysis, you at least disagree with.
Let me ask you this; is the prostitute who gives pleasure to a stranger for a living a good person? Or how about the criminal convicted of a crime? Is he a good person after he mauled and then beat a stranger and took their wallet? And what of the tax collector who each year asks for a little something from you? Does he have a case for being good?
Now, I can almost guarantee, like Joe Namath in Super Bowl 3, that you would not say that these people are good. The prostitute sells her body to desperate and willing men capitalizing on the lust that never leaves a man’s heart. That very act trumps anything good that she can give the world. The criminal stole from someone, committing one of the ten commandments. (You know the one about not stealing) We have the prison system for a reason, and that is enough for him not to warrant being good. And the tax collector robs from you, utilizing from society’s need always to have taxes. Again, the act he does while at his job is bad enough for all of us to think little of him. They are bad people because the very job that they have is bad. This is a fair point and one that many of you, I am sure, would argue.
Can they each not get more morale jobs? Why does the prostitute have to resort to such a thing? Many women struggle, but not all are in that profession. Couldn’t the criminal had not stolen? You know many poor people, and not all of them steal from any passerby while they walk down the street. Couldn’t the tax collector have gotten another career? You don’t want to hear that they are good with money, because if they were, why wouldn’t they be in a more noble field, like some that you know, that is also good with money. If the individual was any good, then this person would automatically go to a better, more good job. Some of you may even make this claim as if the bad person is at fault for being where they are, to begin with.
Charles Dickens would disagree with the idea of someone’s negative/positive job reflecting their true character. He often had stories where people were not judged on their morality solely based on their position. In Dickens’s eyes, the prostitute could be giving and kind and even good. The criminal can have a heart. The tax collector cannot be evil. Their character is not a reflection of their job.
This philosophy gets even trickier when we compare these bad people to the good ones. Let’s name three fields that would be perfect counters to each of the individuals I mentioned; a nurse, a cop, and a charity organizer.
All of those people are good, right? You see it now with our admiration for nurses during the pandemic. We say they are good because of the very job that they do. How often do we honor cops because we feel that their daily task is enough to be good? How about the streets and roads named after people who started foundations and charities? Ironically enough, the same bias we hold against the bad, we hold for the good. We give the nurses in their scrubs, the cops with the batons, and the charity organizers with their tables the benefit of the doubt. The nature of their job is good, so they must be good too. Not according to Dickens, though.
When you start to see what argument Dickens was presenting, you really see that he was really challenging the system as a whole. My god, according to him, a prostitute could be a better person than a nurse. The criminal can be morally superior to the cop. The tax collector can be better than the charity organizer.
Do you still agree with Dicken’s philosophy?
Saying it is something that many of us do without any thought. Get to know the person. Judge their character. But the more we analyze ourselves, the more we see we don’t actually do that at all. You and I will say that we give everyone a fair chance but will either of us give the bad people a chance for redemption. We say that the prostitute can’t run from her past. The criminal is forbidden certain opportunities by our legal system. We never want to hear from a tax collector unless it is tax time. God forbid, we present a bad person as on the same level as a good person. We’d get laughed out of the room, claimed insane, and hauled off to jail to be next to that very person who, moments earlier, we were defending.
To be clear, Dickens didn’t say that bad people are all good. He had a different way of judging them than the popular title/position rating we all do. Sure the prostitute can be bad, but it is not because she is hooking. The criminal can be bad, but not because he stole. The tax collector can be bad, but not because he asks for your money. And the same goes for the good. The nurse is good, not because she is treating you, though. The cop is good, but not because of his arrests. The charity organizer is good, but not because of their starting the cause. Each individual is to be judged as a separate case, not as one of many.
In order to be fair, though, Dickens has to judge the good people the same way, and that can be just, if not more controversial than the former, since he is calling out the ones that many of us see as good and saying that they are, in fact, bad.
We see this in two stories of Dickens, and these are only two; there are many others.
Oliver Twist – He is the classic example of a good kid from a bad family. He isn’t mean or evil or corrupt but is always put in a bad spot and viewed by society as scum. How many of you say that a kid you know will be a bad person because their parents are selfish and mean? I’m sure that a few of you say this, which is the opposite of the character of Oliver Twist. With this story, Dickens presents that a morally good kid can be deemed bad by us all. He also flips the script on what we view as parents of orphan kids since the guy who takes in Oliver Twist early in the story is cruel and mean to the kid. Parents of orphans are often viewed as being one of those good people because they take the kid in, but not to Dickens. You can be a parent of an orphan and still be bad.
Scrooge – The most popular character of Dickens is somebody that many of us would hate because of his job; he is a banker that tries to get as much money from people as he can. How many of you curse out the bankers that you know as nothing more than a problem in our society? They bought all the land! They run everything! They are evil! On the other hand, Dickens presents us with a character that is a part of this bad job category that we all know, but he has the audacity to have this character become good. The banker became a righteous man. In what world does any of us view that as realistic? None. I’m sure if I were to present this idea to many of you as you go up to the teller, you’d laugh at me.
"Give this banker a chance. This person can be good. This is only their job. See how they interact with others, how they are with you. Don’t view them as only a banker. They can be good, you know.”
“Shut up! This person is trying to rob me! They work for the bank, which makes them bad! Now get out of here, you scum, before I call the cops!”
That is when I skedaddle out of there, the low-life I am, cause going to jail once for defending bad people is more than enough for me.
This case of “good” and “bad” was something that Dickens flipped on its head.
Now, why did he believe this? There are a few reasons that he felt this way about people. However, I believe that the most important reason we constantly see in Dicken’s works characters that are judged by their actions, not their job titles, is because of his own upbringing. Charles Dickens is the epitome of rags to riches story. He had no formal education. He didn’t attend a prestigious college. He was from the slums of Britain. He had no family wealth. He had no royal blood. Growing up, Dickens was that kid from a bad family. He was from that bad neighborhood. So by judging someone based on their title is not fair in his eyes since that is what many did to him, and they were wrong.
Also, Dickens may have known some of those bad people personally and thought they were good; they just got bad luck. Since he was closer to the rats than royalty growing up, Dickens probably had his fair share of experiences with the bad people. He may have met a few prostitutes that were kind to him when they weren’t working. His father was an actual criminal, so you know that he always wanted the criminal to be viewed as good. How can the man who helped raise him to be seen as bad when Dickens was a good person? And perhaps he knew a tax collector or two that had a heart. Dicken’s philosophy was much more personal than many would think. It is why it is so frequent in his stories. He refused to believe that people were inherently evil or bad. He must have truly believed that no matter how bad a situation is, a person can still do good. In the broken-down homes, in the slums, in the whorehouses, there is still some there that are not bad, no matter how much we think that they are.
I’ve heard some argue that Dickens is promoting a Christian theory with his take on people. He presents us with a message akin to something Jesus would have said on the mount. And that is not that far off here. He is kind of saying, Dickens, not Jesus, that the first shall be last, the last shall be first, in a story form by presenting the bad people in our society as those who can be good also. Dickens represented many commoners in his works, similar to how Jesus walked with those of the low class. Neither men sought the company of kings or queens because they felt that those titles are not what made the person. Like Christianity, Dickens gives us a different way of judging each other than how we all think is natural and correct. He is challenging the very way we think.
This philosophy of Dickens is also very clever to use for Dickens as a storyteller because it gave him mass appeal. He comes across as fighting for the underdog and the everyman, which he absolutely was. It is nice to read a story when we see that the bad guys can have redeemable, even sometimes morally superior qualities than the supposed good. Who doesn’t like to see that the queen or some high-profile celebrity is no better than you and me? I know that I love it cause it shows that there is a higher standard for character, rather than the arbitrary rules that the rich and elite bestow upon themselves in order to give themselves honor. The bad people like the prostitutes, criminals and tax collectors, like that Dickens is giving them a chance, so they respect him. The good people, like the nurses, cops, and charity organizers, don’t like that he is treating them so harshly, but even some of them would agree reluctantly with Dickens. The good nurse who is kind and treats all of her patients with the proper care doesn’t want to be related to the one who is mean and treats everyone rudely. The good cop wants nothing to do with the corrupt cop. The fair tax collector doesn’t want to be in the same room as the one who tries to steal from every client. When we judge someone on their title alone, we risk the possibility of minimizing the actual good that many in those fields do because we see that person as one of many, and we fail to acknowledge their kindness is theirs alone and that the bad ones in the field do exist.
Dickens understood this, and for that, I really respect the guy. Also, for the whole thing about the number of pages he wrote per day. (It’s like damn dude, take a break) If he was around today, you know that he would be fighting for those immigrants who are taken advantage of by the corporations, or those in the lower parts of our society, because he was one of them. He very much believed that a person should never let anyone tell them that they are good or bad or worthless because only they know what good or bad they do. He wrote, “don’t judge someone until you walk in their shoes” for every story in his career.
Many times in literature, the readers view the classic writers as having been good for their time. They are old dead people who would not understand this world. Not Dickens, though. He wrote about something so simple in his stories, and it is why he is one of the best.
Judge someone, not by the badge they wear or the job they hold, but the very way in which they treat you.
It sounds easy and something that we all like to say we do, but Dickens knew better than that.
Did You Know?
Charles Dickens didn't finish his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, because of his death.
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About The Blogger
Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes that the reader shares that same passion.
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