More Thoughts on Victorian Slum House
The series, Victorian Slum House has run its course. I must admit to having mixed feelings about the show.
I have to take into consideration that this happened in another country and in a different century. Also, the producers sped through the series, taking one decade jumps each week. There wasn't enough information to give you a well rounded view of events.
I couldn't help think that the producers were also making a political statement about social reform. While I don't deny that changes were necessary to bring living conditions up to decent human standards, I think the reformers went about it from the wrong direction.
They demolished and rebuilt many of the tenement buildings, believing removing the blight would improve living conditions. Unfortunately, they placed such tight restrictions for living there that it prohibited the vast majority (over 90%) of tenants to return. In one building, where hundreds could be housed, only 11 people from the original tenement were allowed to return. It seems inconceivable the reformers didn't think this through, but that's what happened.
The more successful reform was education. Meager as it was, it was still better than what they had before. Absorbing the work force into more skilled jobs also helped their financial situation. Every generation thereafter improved their lot.
No one in the US or UK today are as impoverished as the Victorians who lived in those slums of the 19th century, so comparing social reforms between then and now would be unfair, but there are small parallels.
Speaking as one who is 1) a minority, 2) a woman, and 3) from a lower income family, I can recall only one time when my mother accepted any charity, and that's when one of the nuns took my sister shopping for clothes.
I don't recall the specific circumstances, but some well-to-do person asked the nuns to award a clothing allowance to several youngsters. My mother, afraid of insulting the nuns, accepted, but the situation never repeated itself.
It was a kindness, I'm sure, but it didn't alleviate the greater problem of being poor.
To me, the finest service the nuns ever performed was when they acted as intermediaries for potential jobs. The nuns were a super network of connections long before Facebook or Linked In were born. They had their noses everywhere. If you were a good student and motivated, the nuns would do what they could to get you an afternoon job somewhere. It changed my perspective immediately. It changed my life! Once I had a toehold in the real world, I knew I could better myself.
I've worked since I was twelve years old, a far cry from my father, who had to quit school and go to work when he was seven. Yes. Seven.
The Victorians living in the slums of London (particularly in the 1840s and 1850s) were living no better than abandoned dogs. The biggest tragedy, aside from society discarding them, was that they were trapped. What trapped them was their lack of skills and education.
When I was growing up it wasn't unusual for teachers to encourage kids to take up trade school instead of college. Even today, a lot of kids aren't suited for college, or worse, take useless courses that don't prepare them for the real world. I loved Philosophy and History classes as much as the next guy, but let's face it, unless you planned to teach those classes, there wasn't a lot of future in a degree in those fields.
Had I been born wealthy I would've devoted my schooling to art history. Not given that luxury, I opted for a degree that could keep me in the arts and still pay for my groceries. Graphic design had other outlets too. I worked as a copywriter for retail, designed advertising, and designed physical displays, working myself up to management each time.
I freelanced, creating ads, designing logos, and designing book covers. It's a skill. One, I not only was allowed to choose, but one that's made me happy. People should always choose work that makes them happy. You always get a better product in the end if you enjoy your work.
I'm not a reformer and I don't know the answer to the world's ills, but I know from experience what changed my life. It's not enough to throw money at a problem. Teach a skill, offer a job, or mentor someone hungry for knowledge. These were the best gifts I was ever given.
The other side of that coin is that you have to be the kind of person that wants to improve his situation and will work at it for as long as it takes. That road is never short or easy. It might not even come in your lifetime, but it will improve life for the generation that comes after you.
My father worked at menial labor all his life. His kids, all six of us, graduated from university with honors. He might not have been able to give us much, but he instilled in us something even more important, the will to change our own stars. Sometimes all you need is a push in the right direction.
How old were you when you started working? Do you enjoy your work?
Ref first job - the boring old paper round, then moving up to delivering alcohol on a bike the size of a small tank. Basket attached. Finally reaching the giddy heights of working in the delivery van of Scott's Bakery. Got fat on donuts.
Good work if you can get it. :)
You mean the drinking stuff? Did it even reach its destination? I know how you like to tip the occasional glass.
I cannot imagine you fat at all.
Here's another insight. I was once called into my manager's office because I worked too many hours. I would average 60+ hours a week during my summer break. I worked for a newspaper that was open 24/7.
I was a squirrel too. I hardly spent any of it other than a small sum I gave to my parents every week to help out.
People always say they're hard workers, but I really was. I enjoyed it.
I have a real beef with one retail giant in particular. They had a system in place where they demanded you work no more than 35 hours a week, that way they didn't have to offer benefits. I don't know if they still do that, but it was a jerk move. I got tired of their games and left soon after.
That also touches on my other tenet, learn to do things myself. I don't always have Greg handy. There are simple fixes even someone with two left hands can handle. I'm proof of that. :)
My mom encouraged us kids to find something we wanted to do for work that we found enjoyable, whether it required college or not, she didn't push us that way. I found a career that until the past 6-7 years did provide enjoyment and a nice income. My sister did get a degree and a doctorate but never really put it to use. My brother started with the postal service when he could get his foot in the door. Retired recently after 35 years plus.
My first job was babysitting (isn't that the truth for most teen girls?) but then went on to tutoring, cleaning a beauty salon, office clerk, etc.
She always told me that she wanted me, my sister, and my brother to do better than her. If she were alive today, I'd like to think she'd be proud.
Thank goodness our school used uniforms. It helped immensely not having to buy new clothes every year.
At the end of the summer a lot of the parents tipped us, though, so I walked away with another $300.00. With tips it worked out to fifty bucks a week, but that was a lot of money in 1974.
In middle school a teacher pushed me to take secretarial courses because I was a very fast typist, but when I asked her about becoming a writer she told me not to be silly. More teachers throughout high school assured me that it would never happen, but one took an interest and encouraged me. Sometimes it only takes one person to believe in you. :)
One person can make all the difference in the world. It doesn't always come down to money, but it does take faith.
re: child labor
That was the way of things back then. The kids did all the work and the adults supervised. That was nice that the parents tipped you guys. I never would've thought to do that. They obviously knew what was going on from their kids.