Is It All A Troubled Dream?


150 years ago today Charles Dickens died. He is now regarded as one of the greatest writers of the English literary Canon. His great vision for highlighting the social issues of his day is encapsulated in his fiction and remembered in his epitaph as a writer who was,

“a sympathiser for the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed”.

I believe that Dickens is an unmistakeably English writer as his imagination stems from the uniqueness of this country`s culture. Dream is a recurring motif in his fiction, and this is something common to English literary tradition in general.


This is something that I can relate to, as my imagination derives from the deep roots of England. When I was a small child I would experience vivid dreams about returning to the dark woods that were once inhabited by my Celtic ancestors.


Now, with the advent of a unhinged political cult which seeks to erase national identity these dreams have returned. The difference is that there is an ending to them which is surprisingly comforting. I dream about returning to the lands of my ancestors and I meet their ghosts, as if they are the spirit of something profound to my existence.

Sometimes I can see them dance and frolic in unrestrained happiness. They are unselfconscious people but regal and dignified in the way they carry themselves, and as with all lost families they are overwhelmed with relief when they meet me again. Then at the end of the dream they guide me back home which is under the branches of a giant English Oak tree. Beneath this tree I am reconnected to my history and heritage which is undefiled and pure, and untainted by any malice.

It is where all English people began, as simple people who lived in peace and did not seek to threaten anyone. The sins of colonialism were enacted by those with evil intent and were not synonymous with these self-effacing people. It is difficult to discern reality in our contemporary world. Martin Luther King was a sincere and honourable man who preached love, peace and unity. His infamous “I have a dream” speech was in part an acknowledgement that to imagine a world free from racial prejudice was fanciful. His vision of a world where people are judged for their character rather than the colour of their skin has been ignored by the Black Lives Matter movement. These protests are fixated by divisive notions about white people. Most of the people involved cannot perceive that white people are not their enemy. Their actions besmirch the legacy of people like Martin Luther King who remained calm and peaceful, even as he and his community experienced violent racism.

Black people endured centuries of exploitation and subordination under the slave trade. However some of the greatest champions for their emancipation were religious Quakers from white communities. Christianity preaches love and unity. As fellow humans we can empathise with pain and struggle and desire that we should all be free. Benjamin Lay was one Quaker who was a fierce opponent of the slave trade but he was forced into exile because his views were deemed abhorrent.


(Picture is of Benjamin Lay.)

However before he left his coup de grace arrived when he announced to his brethren that the enslavement of Africans was,

“as justifiable in the sight of the Almighty, who beholds and respects all nations and colours of men with an equal regard, as if you should thrust a sword through their hearts as I do through this Bible”.

He then held up a hollowed out Bible which was filled with fruit juice. He took out a sword and sliced it through the Bible. Red juice splattered everywhere. His point was clear to everyone, but shortly afterwards he became very sick. He lived just long enough to hear that a new assembly would be created to preach against the evils of slavery.

I am a white British person with a distinct culture and heritage, that is an immutable fact. However it is pertinently non exclusionary and undiscriminating. History is complicated and Britain`s shameful role in slavery was not unique in the world at that time. Slavery was not synonymous with a specific race and nationality it was an evil ideology which belongs to the past. I hope that this awful dream of racial violence will conclude and we can all be free to live our lives.

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