Friday, 4 January 2013

Wall Street Shuffle

Wall Street Shuffle

Responsibility and optimism are the keystones of a true gentleman’s character they had said. George always tried to follow that maxim.
Like his brothers, he had volunteered. Unlike them, he had returned. The men followed him, even across the Somme, trusting that a gentleman knew what he was about. They had ragged him, of course, but all in good fun, about his habit of carrying an umbrella instead of a rifle. ‘More likely to get rained on than shot. None of you buggers can shoot straight, why should the Hun be any different?’ praying that were true.
Now, his business had died too, mown down by unseen and inexplicable forces, he would face up to the failure that would put good men in the poor house. That was responsibility, he thought. And optimism? Well, he still had his umbrella; and two hundred feet wasn’t really that far down, was it?

150 words

This story was written for Angela Goff's Visual Dare 'Between'


  1. WOW. As a history teach coming up quickly on the WWI and Great Depression units, this one really hit a chord with me. Dovetails with what we know happened, and with a swelling optimism that turns gradually sour, and then heartbreaking in the final words. WELL DONE.

    1. Hi Angela
      Thanks, as ever, for commenting. As a history grad myself, I often feel that the 'elite' get a bit of a raw deal, both from revisionists who view historical events through determinedly modern lenses, and from the 'soundbite' tendencies of the media. They went off to fight willingly, eagerly in many cases, believing (to paraphrase Stan Lee) 'with great power comes great responsibility. It is perhaps easy for modern students to underestimate concepts like honour, duty and patriotism and not to realise that these values were a far greater social currency than in the present day. I wish you the best as you try to inculcate an understanding of this period in your students.

  2. This is quite touching.

    On the subject of honor, duty, and patriotism, I recently learned about this Kipling poem, of which the Wiffenpoof song is a parody.

    But where is the line between patriotism [good] and imperialist nationalism [not so much]?

    I really struggle with this when I see shallow "support the troops" symbolism put forth by people who allege to be patriotic and realize that we have put our people in harms way for no good or logical purpose.


  3. Hi Jaz

    You make a good point. I was not endorsing thoughtless jingoism and I have some qualified regard for Samuel Johnson's quote that 'Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel'. However I believe that it is only truly accurate if the person slips into 'methinks he doth protest too much' territory.
    I was making a point about historical context, not recommending it as a modern world template. I do believe, however, that there would be social benefits if people took responsibility for their actions and inactions more widely than has become the case in recent years.
    Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment!

    1. Just one more brief thought on the issue of the current level of gushing public support for the military. The current wave of enthusiasm is much what I would expect when both our countries are actively engaged in conflict, but I would refer you to another Kipling poem. This more accurately reflects the more enduring underlying sentiments in western societies towards their armed forces throughout their history.
      Historical Note: 'Tommy Atkins' was a generic shorthand name for any unknown soldier in the UK.