I came across a clip of Billy Connolly the other day giving out his usual stuff. I was intrigued by his inability to complete a sentence without the word 'fuck' or any of its derivations appearing and reckoned that by omitting these words his act would shorten by about twenty five minutes. Billy of course comes from a long line of Glasgow comedians who began operating in the pubs around the city. In those places the act spoke direct to the people and spoke in a way they understood commenting on their daily grind, and grind it was in most cases, and bringing a Glasgow 'black' humour into the audiences lives. Many lived very rough lives indeed, dockyards, railway engineering, a variety of heavy industry and squalid overcrowded tenements many of which were not removed even in the nineteen sixties.
Billy no doubt began his career as a comedian as a welder in the shipyards, a Catholic welder at that in shipyards that were strongly protestant in their outlook! The sectarian divide remaining strong even today in the west of Scotland, not that any were Christian of course but it was a badge to wear so you knew which side you were on. he progressed to pubs and joined a group called the Humblebums if memory serves me right. At this point it is normal to yell "You're more Bum than Humble!" Since then he has been welcomed in ex-pat Scots worldwide, made several TV programmes about art which apart from clips from his act were excellent, done TV in the USA and taken part in several films. Now he has a couple of nasty diseases which will eventually do away with him.
However it is the needless swearing throughout his act and which appears to be the thing nowadays with all comedians if a laugh is required. Occasionally it works but constant repeats just take away the need for wit, which may well be why so many make use of it, to cover up their lack of wit. When Tony Hancock took to the stage at fifteen in front of an audience of soldiers he told lots of crude jokes. He wanted to be a comedian and was advised to "Cut out the dirt as you will get laughs but that won't make a comedian of you." He never used it again. His stand up got him somewhere but once on radio in his own show his talent mixed with excellent writers offered wit so powerful that in those days half the country listened in to the show. The nation stopped to listen and later watch on TV, it could not happen today and there are none who could pull that audience.
Crude jokes can be funny, a swear word in the right place gets a laugh but constant repetition just loses an audience.
The other day David Cameron the Prime Minister took time to contact his local Council head to ask why they were cutting back on social services, libraries, old folks, social work and the like. His idea was that there was plenty of room to make cuts in the 'back room' and made a suggestion or two concerning these. He was given a telling off in no uncertain manner. The council leader informed him that as his government was cutting back the cash councils receive cuts had been made, so many cuts that there was no longer any room to cut behind the scene as that had been removed and on his governments insistence more cuts were demanded. Her letter was shall we say 'full and frank' and it made clear the Prime Ministers lack of comprehension of what was happening in his own county let alone his own country. It must be said Oxfordshire where he is a member of parliament is one of the richest county councils, just let your imagination turn to those who have little wealth!
This got em thinking about the rich today and those in the past. Human nature being what it is, grasping, selfish and concerned with the self first, has always made a division in society, the rich get richer, keep in with one another and the divide between them and 'the rest' grows and remains. Does this always happen? Indeed not one prime example is the Victorian era when many were rich took positive action to change society and improve the lot not just of their workers but of the world around them in general. The motive on occasion was a happy workforce is more loyal and works better and for many a religious motivation based on the 'social gospel' that was preached by many during those years. How can it be some asked themselves once money flowed in their direction that we have so many who have nothing while we have plenty? Some claimed, as the 'Daily Mail' reader does today, that laziness makes them poor, while others knew better.
The Victorian population of Britain & Ireland was around twenty five million. In England around eighteen million lived and it was reckoned about one third of these lived in poverty, that's six million people! Of these the majority had food for the day and work for tomorrow but around a third of those, that's two million, did not have work tomorrow. That's poverty for you! Those who did have work spent at least ten hours a day six days a week (Saturday half day beginning to appear in the 1860's) working. Housing was shoddy, rents high, no work meant no home and for many women working the streets selling themselves at times of economic downturn was the only way to survive.
There are those today who would turn us back to that.
Those who considered they ought to do something soon did so. Titus Salt became famous for his use of 'Alpaca' wool and from his wealth built a new factory with accompanying township in the model village of Saltaire. His concern over the conditions within Bradford, which while mayor he tried to end, caused him to move outside the town. His village provided workers with healthy conditions, hospital, school and churches. When he died and was buried in the Congregational church he built the attendance was numbered at one hundred thousand. Port Sunlight grew from similar sources, the Cadbury family built Bourneville and other similar villages came to pass elsewhere. In this and neighbouring towns the Courtauld family built hospitals, provided doctors, schools and housing in places for the workers. Braintree Museum began as a school built by the Unitarian Courtaulds and later the infants building was added. The family still operate in the area and a great many buildings bear the name 'Courtauld' somewhere upon it. Crittalls and other companies also offered as decent conditions as possible in the circumstances, and I am sure a few decent companies exist today.
So I ask why is it that today the wealthy do nothing for those in need? There is a welfare state that provides and most of us have benefited from this at one time or another yet this government is dedicated to destroying all that has been built up since the war. The common consensus of what the nation required was ended with Thatcher, the selling off of trains, buses, steel and so much else is now continued by this cabinet who are following the same procedure to kill off the NHS! Privatisation on rail has failed and still costs the taxpayer huge amounts, Gas & Electric were sold off and cost the nation far more than before, and the end of the NHS will lead to much health deprivation nationwide. What is more with no opposition bar the SNP in the English parliament nothing can stop this dangerous path.
I realise some spend large amounts on social needs but the impression given is that the rich get richer while the poorer struggle. Of course it is not like mid Victorian times, few go hungry, however far too many struggle and a majority of those are working people! While the taste of wealth makes people loath to do without many are having to and are not keen on the experience, others can cope especially with friends and family helping and there are those happy to live of large state handouts. These do not struggle while many working do and this situation ought to be dealt with. However while George Osborne can sell off the Royal Mail and allow his Best man to make ten million pound profit from selling on his shares the next day I feel people such as those have a requirement to care for those who struggle. The Victorians led the way, a few continue such aid, it is time those reeling in so many millions they cannot possibly spend them decided to put this cash to good use and benefited the world at home and abroad and not kept their cash in their pockets. They will answer for this one day.