Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 21st December 2016

Christmas is almost here. Over the last month the council has supported a variety of seasonal events around the Town Centre, including a production of A Christmas Carol along the High Street.

Dickens’ classic tale is a mainstay of the season, barely a year goes by without some new interpretation making it onto our screens, although I have to admit my favourite remains The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Crawley even has a direct connection to the story as John Leech, book’s first illustrator, once lived at the Tree in the High Street.

Yet, for all the talk of remembering the ‘true meaning ‘of Christmas it’s all-too-easy to forget what that meant to Dickens. Charles Dickens wasn’t only a novelist, he was also a tireless campaigner for social justice, fighting to improve the quality of life of the poor in Victorian England.

Dickens was appalled by the inequality he saw around him and in A Christmas Carol he sought to confront the society of his day with harsh truths about the consequences of inequality in a way which wouldn’t immediately alienate his audience. Nonetheless, the message remains clear: what good does it do to horde wealth when you have the opportunity to create far greater happiness for yourself those around you by treating others well?

It’s 173 years since A Christmas Carol was first published, yet poverty persists. For all the technological progress, rarely a month goes by without some new report highlighting the slide back into Victorian levels of inequality.

Charles Dickens certainly spun a good yarn, but as powerful a metaphor as he was able to create with A Christmas Carol, it’s not enough to think of charity only at this time of year nor will charity in itself be enough. We need fundamental change to how we operate as a country,- around the world voters are making it clear they believe the current system is fundamentally broken.

A better world is possible, one where everyone has the opportunity to enjoy a Merry Christmas, but if we want that future it’s on all of us to work to create it.

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