- When civil dudgeon first grew high,
- And men fell out they knew not why;
- When hard words, jealousies, and fears,
- Set folks together by the ears,
- And made them fight, like mad or drunk,
- For Dame Religion, as for punk;
- Whose honesty they all durst swear for,
- Though not a man of them knew wherefore:
- When Gospel-Trumpeter, surrounded
- With long-ear'd rout, to battle sounded,
- And pulpit, drum ecclesiastick,
- Was beat with fist, instead of a stick;
- Then did Sir Knight abandon dwelling,
- And out he rode a colonelling.
I'm getting that gitchy feeling in my gut these days, that it's deja vu all over again. Japan is off my mind and American Politics are on it. Sorry light-entertainment seekers -- a semi-serious post follows.
I've long felt humor to be a great antidote to the human condition, which is chronic and can't be much improved even with modern antibiotics of anxiolytics. But humor simply moves the issue to one side, for a moment, and needs to be applied again and again. This is perhaps humor's most attractive feature: that it's not a solution--for solutions require heads to be knocked. And once the head knocking starts, it kind of takes over and where it ends, nobody can tell, and the suffering is universal. Except for the sociopaths. I think they have fun.
The cacophony of calls for harmony and peace amid simmering rage, righteous indignation, and desperate times seem to be reaching new heights, a new normal perhaps: It is time to Make America Great Again. It is time for White Rose protests. It is time. It is time.
I could pick and choose all the points I agree with personally and don't, see partial use but want to offer other considerations, name my tribe and find support with them -- take a side -- and yet something worries me in that. I feel like I'm lining up to knock heads. So I prefer unsolved dithering as a primary mode of social organization. Fewer heads get knocked. Less gets solved. We can each get on with our lives better, sit around a table and tell tales of the fish that got away, the amazing bar you came across, the wonderful things our kids are up to.
The Just Fight. To fight for justice. Of course there is no justifiable alternative to this, but the natural human tendency to go along to get along is very strong: and I think it helps avoid fights in which nobody wins. Of course the right thing to do is the right thing to do. Silence and inaction is silent, and can be both consent and protest. Love the person, not the crime. Stand up for what's right but never swing a fist. Love your enemy. The benefit of the doubt. Do unto others. And I know that when you stand in the middle of the road, you tend to get run over. Oh well.
As a kid in the early 70’s, I worried about nuclear war. There didn’t seem to be much you could do about it except worry, look out the window, watch TV for the latest news and if the doomsday clock had moved closer to midnight. Would it be tomorrow? What would it look like? But I was a kid, what could I do? Then Herpes. Then AID. Now Terrorism. Crimea. North Korea.
I think my generation loves “end of the world” movies and TV shows because we grew up worrying about the bomb, nuclear winter and the kind of end game from which civilization could not recover; the ray of hope in this scenario is the schadenboner of survival grief, the sweet sadness that a few of us and our friends just might to have a simpler, clearer and happier purpose in life after the apocalypse.
In 1982, I laughed grimly at The Day After. I knew that nuclear war would be much worse than what it showed. All the dying people in the gymnasium were quiet, serene, stoic. Nobody really dies that way except in the movies. Hollywood gunshots are like sleeping pills and (bad guys) who receive them fall over senseless the instant they are shot (good guys get it in the shoulder, wince a little, then get up and keep fighting). Reality is different and I knew that. When I was ten, I saw and listened to a man die after being hit by a car. It was a long, loud and obscenely painful process that seemed to go on for an eternity. No one knew what to do, so we all stood in witness, nothing more. In Hollywood, that’s three more car chase sequences, a love interest developed, and a witty catch phrase delivered.
I think we should be careful what we wish for, if we wish in Hollywood terms. The end of the world will be much more painful than we might think. I think it's always better to bumble onwards than to call the Moment’s bluff to set things right and make things better.
But let me undermine my own argument:
'In our time the destiny of man presents its meanings in political terms.'
I take a lot away from Yeat's poem published in 1938: both the ironies and the truths. Our lives, what is close to us, will always be far more important than what happens in Washington or Damascus. Had Yeats lived with television or the Internet, in which those things are brought into our living room and therefore made much, much more immediate (though still virtual), I wonder how different his poem would be.
I do recall a moment, in 1989-1992. The nuclear threat seemed passé what with the collapse of the Soviet Union. And somehow in an age of the greatest possible nuclear uncertainty, with no certain oversight of the enormous Soviet arsenal among the fragmented newly-minted Republics, we had an amazing moment of global hope: the end of history, it was said, the pure victory of popular democracies. A thousand points of light. Aren't we still there with even greater volume?
Can we handle everyone getting a say,
The steering wheel having wider sway
Without Mr. Truncheon come a-knocking,
And everyone just keep talking?
All the best fights are in the courts, with words and winners and losers just squaring off to go back to court again, because nihil novum sub sole - the solution is always another problem.
Let's stay Velvet baby.