A beautiful city

Read in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ (1859) of Charles Dickens:


Have you read all those newspapers publishing on Paris this weekend? On all those killings, violence in the streets, terrorism, islam. Can’t get enough? I prefer rereading Charles Dickens. Dickens published his great novel on the French revolution in 1859. His own life was in a crisis. He divorced. In 1858 he decided to write ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, a novel on London and Paris in 1798, the year of the French revolution. Private and public revolution assembled in one book. His favorite source was ‘The French Revolution’ of Thomas Carlyle. The novel we wrote is almost Dostoyevski-like. It’s about Dicken’s obsession with destructive violence. Violence of the mob. “He regarded violence as the necessary end of violence; prison as the consequence of prison; hatred as the wages of hatred. He preached that we must not allow society to take on the condition of frustrated anger in which men become mobs and the world is violently upturned.” Such dangers, wrote George Woodcock in his introduction, could not be removed by repression, but only by recognizing and alleviating the conditions that caused them. So reread Dickens.

Charles Dickens had no programme for an ideal society. What he critized were the wrong moral attitudes of people. We have the moral choice between changing society and changing oneself. Better change oneself. “It is in fact by a moral resurgence that Dickens hopes to defeat the threat of revolution, and the idea of such a resurgence is clearly linked with the theme of resurrection that permeates every level of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’  and assumes an almost grotesque variety of forms.” Nothing new. Very difficult indeed. Dickens: “Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious licence and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.” (…). Just before the guillotine Sydney Carton thinks these thoughts: “I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.” A minute later he dies.





One response to “A beautiful city”

  1. Jan Ritsema van Eck Avatar

    As one of the leading experts who worked on ‘Welvaart en Leefomgeving’, I protest against this misrepresentation of almost all aspects of our long-term scenario study. It seems that the author of this review did not read the report and has not even taken a look at the graphs and maps in the article in NRC he is referring to. There is not only bad news but also good: we made a high scenario as well as a low one. Under the high growth scenario, the economy will grow at 2% per year and the population will grow to 19.2 million by 2050. All regions will grow, except the few regions that already have experienced population decline over the past decade. Under the low growth scenario, population decline on a national scale will not set in before 2030 and even then it will be modest: from 17.1 million in 2030 to 16.4 million by 2050. This is not even close to the demographic shock such as experienced by regions in Germany and eastern Europe over the past decades. The annual growth under his scenario is 1% per year. Both scenarios do not show high unemployment, administrative crises or budget cuts.

    The ‘surprising fact’ that the experts think that the Randstad will lose power in each scenario compared to the provinces around it, is blatantly wrong. Instead, the current trend of concentration in the Randstad is assumed to more or less continue under both scenarios. A quick look at the maps in the NRC article shows that growth is highest in the Randstad, specifically in the Noordvleugel (the area around Amsterdam). Only for households, the growth rate under the low scenario is about the same for the Randstad and the Intermediate Zone (Overijssel, Gelderland and North Brabant). In absolute numbers, growth is of course much larger in the Randstad. The remark that ‘Amsterdam will certainly not explode’ was made in that context. It did not refer to the discussion on the recent fast growth in Amsterdam, but to the possibilities of accommodating such growth. We are confident that Amsterdam will be able to find space to build enough houses for almost half a million new inhabitants that are expected in the region under the high scenario.

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