“Gross impiety it is that a nation's pride should be maintained in the face of its poor.” William Penn wrote these words in 1669. We have no means of knowing what his voice might have sounded like when he read them aloud, as he undoubtedly would have done, but when I hear them in my mind's ear, they are spoken with firmness and a touch of anger. They are words we do well to heed in our own time.
This is a small and densely populated island. Most of us live in urban or semi-urban environments. Even if we are fortunate enough to have some space around us, it is likely that work will take us into the area of traffic jams, parking problems, overcrowded trains, queues and their attendant frustrations.
These were to be the 'legacy olympics'. Regeneration of run down areas, the enthusing of young people with the ideals of sport and healthy activity, the showcasing of the UK (or at least its south-eastern segment), new stadia and facilities - all these have been presented as the quid pro quo for massive expenditure and the likelihood of a gridlocked capital city.
“A hundred grand is not premier league. Two hundred grand to 250 is premier league.” The language of the huckster employed by Tory Treasurer Peter Cruddas in relation to access to the Prime Minister is ugly and dispiriting.
“Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets. The rich and the poor.” These words from Disraeli's 1845 novel 'Sybil' could have been written for Norwich MP Chloe Smith.
“Even the burial of his body in the Abbey was a species of theft when you come to think of it”. George Orwell's words came into my mind as I watched the ceremonies surrounding today's 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens.
You once described yourself as “the quiet man”. It didn't quite work for you at the time, which is a pity, because quietness implies a capacity for reflection, listening and, in the words of our Quaker 'Advices and Queries', for finding space to “consider it possible you may be mistaken”. These are not qualities which are much in evidence among our noisier politicians.
Schadenfreude is a disagreeable trait in human nature. But most of us will at some time have fallen victim to the spiteful little voice which ricochets around the outer edges of our consciences, whispering gleefully, “Good. Serves them right.”