Sweet charity

My Christian friends consider they have given me a splendid home-thrust when, in the course of friendly debate, they give me a triumphant jab in the ribs and shout: “Where are your Socialist hospitals ? Show me a hospital that has been built by Socialists or Atheists.” I know how to answer now : I’ve been to a Christian hospital.

Wait! my Christian friends, wait until you trot out your rag and bone Goliath to me again, and if I can’t outdo David with a tissue paper sling and a cherry stone, I’ll——, whilst thinking out something to fill in the pause, I may as well relate my brief experience of the joys of a Christian hospital.

I had the toothache. Toothache is a splendid joke—to those who haven’t got it. It’s is one of the few particulars in which we carry out literally, the biblical injunction : “If thy tooth offend thee, pluck it out.” I hied me to a dentist, who, after the familiar tradesman’s smile, looked glum.

“Too big ! too bad ! too swollen!” and so on, said he. “Could only take it out after administering gas : price 7s. 6d.”

I said: “Too much !”

“Go, my friend,” he quoth, with the air of philanthropist, “to a hospital, where those who are afflicted and suffering, and who are also smitten with paucity of pocket, may have all the benefits the highest medical practice can afford for nothing or a very small sum.”

Having a very small sum, I went.

At eleven o’clock in the morning I waded through a most awful-smelling crowd of out-patients to where a vinegary female sat in state, who demanded my name and station, and why I had not a doctor’s letter. These preliminaries disposed of, I was permitted to sit with some fifty others who had preceeded me, for an hour and thirty minutes. It was “skin day.” All around me were the scaly, the scabby, and the loathesome. A little boy who sat next to me had no hair; its place was occupied by dry and dropping scales. I had gone to have a tooth out and had to run the risk of acquiring some horrible skin affection in the process.

Worse oven than this, one fountain and one cup existed for those who were athirst, and as the morning was oppressively hot, and the air like that of a tenth-rate laundry, the scrofulous, the ring-wormed, and those covered with sores, drank from a common vessel. Ugh! I tried to escape. I asked to be permitted to go out.

“You can’t leave here now except, through the doctors’ room,” I was told.

Suddenly a door opened and we were shuHled before another discriminating personage, who sorted us out into dental patients, skin patients, etc. I then learned that the dentist would attend at two o’clock. It was then 12.45 !

“In the name of common sense,” I asked, “may I not wait in the open air?”

“The door is locked,” was the reply. “You must wait.”

And wait, I did until 2.50, when the tinkle of a bell called me out of the evil smelling hall, where the shriek of tortured kiddies came out of the operating rooms ; called me into the presence of a boyish-looking chap in a white jacket, who I thought might be the dentist’s assistant. He was it. He was the official molar lugger.

“I want a tooth removed. Can I have gas, please?”

“Let me look at it. Um ! I will take it out in the ordinary way : we do not give gas.”

“But I have been sent here by a dentist who informed me you would administer gas for a very small sum.”

“Pooh ! we haven’t time for that.”

“But I thought this institution existed for the alleviation of pain.”

“The only way we relieve pain is by pulling your tooth out, If you don’t like our way you may go.”

“I cannot have gas, then ?” I asked, eyeing the obvious paraphernalia for its administration.


So I submitted to the inevitable, and presently staggered out into the best they could do in the way of fresh air. Out of the Christian hospital, over the gobbets of blood in the dirty yard, and into one of those houses of the devil—a “pub.” Here, for a very small sum, I was comforted with the juice of the grape, able to sit down and to think on the wonderful pitch of perfection to which the modern healing art, as exemplified in the modern, charitable, capitalist hospital, has attained.

Everything yields a lesson for Socialism, and if Christian Capitalism claims the credit for building, endowing, and administering its hospitals, it is quite welcome—it also fills them. It builds asylums, gaols and workhouses—and fills them. And if its administration of the hospital I attended is to be taken as a model, then Clapham Junction in a bad fog is not far behind.

Like the rest of the so-called charity of capitalism, although necessity impels them to build hospitals to cloak the slaughter and mitigate the degeneration of body consequent upon modern industrial conditions, the make they taking advantage of them as irksome and degrading as possible. Three hours and fifty minutes to take a tooth out; herded with some eighty or hundred other unfortunates, mostly suffering from some skin disease ; subjected to a searching inquisition as to one’s wages, rent, trade, and so on, with a view to seeing how far one would bear squeezing. And people talk of “sweet Charity.” Capitalist Charity is a filthy hag, who only attends to the sores of her victims, so that she may go down their pockets. She will die in the same ditch as her pot-bellied consort.


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