Are we ready to return to the morale of Victorian England? It was the age of ‘class structure’. It was the age of male domination. It was the age of female submission. It was the age of child labor in textile mills. It was the age of long work days and poor health and nutrition. It was the age of limited education for the ‘working class’. It was the age when the ‘upper class’ did not have to work. It was the age of Jane Austen and Charlotte and Emily Bronte. It was an age of terror for women and children. It was the age of universal masculine purity – an age where women were figuratively crucified for immorality. Is this the definition of society clamored for by modern day American Conservatives? The vote counting in the current Republican Presidential Primary suggests a strong affirmation of Victorian Era values.
John Fowles wrote “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” in 1967. I recommend this work as prelude to the works of Austen or the Bronte sisters. Fowles has accomplished a remarkable study in the puritanical domination of the era. The central focus surrounds Sarah Woodruff, the French Lieutenant’s Woman, and Charles Smithson, an upper class middle aged bachelor, engaged to be married, who befriends Sarah. Sarah has ‘sinned’ with the French Lieutenant – who left her. When Sarah is banished from her job Charles helps her financially and recommends she move to Exeter.
Fowles writes of Exeter:
There were brothels there, dance halls and gin palaces; but rather more frequent were variously undone girls and women – unmarried mothers, mistresses, a whole population in retreat from the claustrophobic villages and small towns of Devon. It was notoriously a place to hide, in short; crammed with cheap lodging houses and inns… safe sanctuaries from the stern moral tide that swept elsewhere through the life of the country. Exeter was, in all this, no exception, all the larger provincial towns of the time had to find room for this unfortunate army of females wounded in the battle for universal masculine purity.
Is this the society the modern day American Conservatives long for?
The evidence suggests so. Deny contraceptives to the poor – then condemn the poor women who get pregnant – then deny any aid to dependent children. If a child is fortunate enough to attend school then deny them nutritious food at school lunches. Cut the welfare roles. Deny aid to ‘those women who just have babies to get more money from the State’. And all of this we shall do in the name of Jesus Himself.
Shall we return to that time when only the privileged are granted health care and an education?
Shall we return to that time when factories had no regulations – where long work hours hobbled families, where children were forced to work to help support the family?
Shat we return to that time of a gilded aristocracy?
Shall we return to that time when wealth came from inheritance or investments?
Shall we return to that time when the Clergy was treated as the aristocracy, with dominion over social order?
Shall we return to that time when rules varied depending on class?
Shall we return to that time when being a “Lady” meant only women of the upper classes had an education, where a strict set of rules governed outward appearance and social behavior.
Shall we return to that time when only the upper class could enjoy the arts?
Shall we return to that time when only the upper class and middle class was allowed to read novels?
Shall we return to that time when women could only participate in select sports?
The Republican Conservatives are calling 2012 a pivotal year in the history of the United States. Pivotal because the election outcome will dramatically impact the future of this country. This is possibly the only thing about the false-conservatives with which I agree.