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Description of a Social Worker?

"His early wakened sensibilities and reflectiveness had developed into a many-sided sympathy, which threatened to hinder any persistent course of action … His imagination had so wrought itself to the habit of seeing things as they probably appeared to others, that a strong partisanship, unless it were against an immediate oppression, had become an insincerity for him. With the same balance he was fervently democratic in his feelings for the multitude and yet, through his affections and imagination, intensely conservative; voracious of speculations on government and religion, yet loath to part with long-sanctioned forms which, for him, were quick with memories and sentiments that no argument could lay dead"

(Deronda D. (1995)  George Eliot. London. Penguin.  p364 First published in 1876)

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"To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?"

    (Cicero as quoted in Harris, R. (2006). Imperium. London: Hutchinson, p. 264)

"Men are born free and equal in rights. These rights are liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression: My country is the world and my religion is to do good."


(Thomas Paine, in The Rights of Man (1792) and Common Sense (1776), had defended  the French Revolution and the War of American Independence. His Age of Reason (1794), ‘a march through Christianity with an Axe,’ turned him from feted hero of the war in America to a hated antichrist.  It has been said of him that, as the inspiration behind modern western society we are all Paine's children. He is memorialised in America and France, and in 1964 a statue of him was erected in his hometown of Thetford, Norfolk.)

I wander through each charter’d street

Near where the charter’d Thames does flow

And mark in every face I meet

Marks of weakness, marks of woe

In every cry of every Man,

In every infant's cry of fear,

In every voice, in every ban,

The mind-forg’d manacles I hear


(The ‘Cockney Nutcase’ William Blake (1757–1827) could conjure up his hallucinatory vision in etchings and poetry. As a child he had clearly seen angels in the trees on Peckham Rye, preached liberation and on the streets of Lambeth, where he lived a highly eccentric life, he railed against the oppressions of the urban poor.) 

That there should be a class of men who live by their daily labour in every state is the ordinance of God and doubtless is a wise and righteous one; but that this class should be otherwise than frugal, contented, intelligent, and happy is not the design of Providence, but springs solely from the weakness, self-denial and perverseness of man himself. The healthy spirit of self-help created among working people would more than any other measure serve to raise them up as a class, and this, not by pulling down others, but by levelling them up to a higher and still advancing standard of religion, intelligence and virtue. 


(Smiles, S. (2008). Self Help (Oxford World's Classics). Oxford: Oxford University Press. First published in 1859).

Capitalism has left no other nexus between man and man than callous ‘cash-payment’ ...  It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour ... in the ice water of egotistical 

calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single unconscionable freedom – Free Trade.


Marx  K. and Engels F. The  Communist Manifesto 1848

Good morning; good morning!’ the General said

When we met him last week on our way to the Line.

Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of them dead,

And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.

“He’s a cheery old card” grunted Harry to Jack

As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack,

But he did for them both with his plan of attack.


Siegfried Sassoon, ‘The General’ (1917)

My uncle Jack was klled and my father Harry returned a damaged man

Guns, I said to myself, and went to the front door...

A slender finger of brilliant light moved slowly across the sky, checked, and remained firmly accusatory, at something it had found in the heavens. It was a Zeppelin! … a celestial maggot stuck to the round of a cloud like a caterpillar on the edge of a leaf … War now would be not only between soldiers. In future wars, the place of honour would be occupied by the infants in their cradles. For war is not murder. Starving children is war, and it is not murder … Men will now creep up after dark, ambushed in safety behind the celestial curtains, and drop bombs on sleepers beneath, for the greater glory of some fine figment or another. 

It filled me not with wrath at the work of Kaisers and Kings, for we know what is possible with them, but with dismay that one’s fellows are so docile and credulous that they will obey any order, however abominable. The very heavens had been fouled by this obscene and pallid worm, crawling over those eternal verities to which eyes had been lifted for light when night and trouble were over dark. God was dethroned by science. The eruptions ceased … We found ourselves gazing at the familiar and shadowy peace of our suburb as we have always known it. It was not and never could be again, as once we had known it. The security of our own place had been based on the goodwill or indifference of our fellow-creatures everywhere. Tonight, over that obscure and unimportant street, we had seen a celestial portent illuminate briefly a little of the future of mankind.


See Tomlinson, H. M. (1930). A Night Raid, in Blunden, E., ed. Great Short Stories of the War.

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between Johnnies and the Mehmets where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.


Inscription on the monument erected by Tturkey above Anzac cove where so many British, Australian and New Zealand men died  in the failed campaign to capture the Gallipoli Peninsular.

... the public resented girls taking the place of boys and we were subject to a good deal of abuse. The flats at the back of Lambeth Underground Station were a special hazard; most unwholesome refuse was showered down on us from the upper flats … one day a girl was hit in the face with a kipper. The Post Office were sensitive to these difficulties and to the emotional cost to their young employees of the daily delivery of wounded or ‘killed in action’ telegrams to distraught families. They set up a club and after each girls only nights there would be a string of boy messengers (called 'Piccaninnies') waiting to escort the girls' home. Unfortunately, this involved a walk down Union Street, a slum riverside street probably not changed since Dickens [sic] days; it boasted several pawnbroker shops outside each of which hung three brass balls. These were open until late at night and many a fight took place where perhaps father’s trousers or boots were for a meagre sum. It was one of these most viscous attacks we witnessed one night and the young woman was in a cringing poorly state. I begged my escort Harold, to intervene and he shocked me by saying ‘Not likely, he’s telling her he loves her.


1915.  extract from my mother’s  autobiography: Jordan, M. (1986). An Autobiography. Preston: Nemco Press 

For here I was in contact with what I most wanted, life in the raw. In those three years I must have witnessed pretty well every emotion of which man is capable. It appealed to my dramatic instinct ... I saw how men died. I saw how they bore pain. I saw what hope looked like, fear and relief; I saw the dark lines that despair drew on a face; I saw courage and steadfastness. I saw faith shine in the eyes of those who trusted in what I could only think was an illusion, and I saw the gallantry that made a man greet the prognosis of death with an ironic joke because he was too proud to let those about him see the terror of his soul.


The memoirs  of  Somerset  Maugham when a trainee doctor in Lambeth. These experiences were reflected in his novel ‘Liza of Lambeth’ which launched his career. See Maugham, S. (1990). The Summing Up. London: Mandarin. First published in 1938.

As long as women consent to be unjustly governed, they can be, but directly women say ‘we withhold our consent, we will not be governed any longer so long as that government is unjust.’ Not by the force of civil war can you govern the weakest woman … No power on earth can govern a human being, however feeble, who withholds his or her consent ... we have brought the government of England to this position, that it has to face this alternative: either women are to be killed or women are to have the vote … Human life for us is sacred, but we say if any life is to be sacrificed it shall be ours; we won’t do it to ourselves, but we will put the enemy in the position where they will have to choose between giving us freedom or giving us death.


From a fund raising speech given by Emmeline Pankhurst on November 13th 1913 in Hartford, Connecticut

The Social Worker is one who feels the claims of society upon him more than others, he brings to all his work this conception of duty as a member of civilised society to make his contribution to the wellbeing of his fellows...Above all else the first thing that a would-be social worker must learn, is a thorough appreciation of the outlook of those with whom he will come into contact. The social worker must try to put himself on a level with those who he is helping as they must become his fellow workers in creating a better state of affairs.


Attlee, C. R. (1920). The Social Worker

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