Yeats was Right

Copyright © by Len Holman, 4/21/14


  In the aftermath of WWI (yes, we keep track of world wars, like we do of all the Super Bowls, except—thankfully—we don’t have to go to Roman numeral III or IV—yet ), William Butler Yeats wrote a poem called the “Second Coming” in which the confusion, anger, hopelessness, and sadness of the result of this “war to end all wars,” which failed to fulfill its promised results, was evident. 

  “Things fall apart,” Yeats wrote. “The center cannot hold/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world/The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned…”  And here we are, more than three generations later, and we know for sure that there IS no center, and that things DO fall apart, and that there are no ceremonies of innocence—except for those rites of greed during which the truly ignorant and unaware stand in line to get Google Glass or the latest smart phone.  None of this would come as a great surprise to a Daoist or a Buddhist or a Greek Skeptic. 

  But our age is one of supreme, and transparent, arrogance and lazy acceptance of technology’s superiority and ability to do-all and be-all.  It is transparent because we do not see our own attitude of superiority, a mindset which tells us that technology will eventually fix everything.  One casual glance at the latest news, however, tells (to those paying attention) a different story. A huge passenger plane has disappeared without a trace.  Several countries have deployed major resources toward finding it—with no success. Satellites, “pinger” locaters, side-scanning radar (courtesy of the U.S.) have all added “facts”—which have had to be withdrawn, to be replaced with other “ facts,” which all seem to be subsumed under the heading of “Theories.”  Crimea has been taken by the Russians, who also want a chunk of Ukraine. Iraqis continue to kill Iraqis, and the Palestinians and the Israelis cannot agree on anything except eternal, mind-numbing hatred and suspicion. Syria is imploding and no one seems able or willing to do much about it. Venezuelans protest in the streets; America sends drones to strike Yemen—as if killing a few terrorists (or wannabe terrorists) will solve anything important. 

  There is no end to both the arguments (“debate” is too noble a word for it) on Obamacare, NSA has infected the social media sites, which collect our info like kids collecting colored eggs at Easter. Afghanistan just had a decent election and the U.S. is congratulating itself on a job (a LONG job) well done, but the fat lady is just clearing her throat there, so I’ll hold off on the Mylar balloons for a while.  The Supreme Court just told rich folks to go ahead and buy whichever politician shows up at the door. Jeb wants the White House to have another Bush in residence, and everywhere we see that “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.”  South Koreans are still digging at the underwater wreckage of a ferry with more than 200 people, mostly students on a field trip, missing.  Our planet warms and we STILL want that keystone pipeline, and every once in a while, in between stories about politics and money, someone takes a gun and shoots up a school or a military base or a religious center. 

  At his stage of human history, we seem stuck…the falcon cannot hear, or willfully ignores—the falconer.  We assume our technology will fix the broken cup so well, we’ll never know, or remember, it was broken.  But the business of this planet is a people business.  We can send robots to Mars and invent voice-activated toilets, but can’t find a Triple-Seven airliner or prevent a crazy man from destroying his country or keep millions of refugees in cooking oil and rice.  We can’t come to agreements on anything of substance and when we do come to an agreement, it makes almost no difference to most Americans, and few of the world’s citizens.  It seems no social, political, environmental or military problem can be approached, let alone solved, without howling, screaming, and accusations which fall just short (barely) of treason. 

  There is no middle discernible and no middle wished for and no middle to be found.  Middles aren’t necessarily the goal, but they ARE a goal, versus no goal at all.  No one takes a step back, no one takes a breath, no one give the other side any credit for good intentions, and no one gives thought to anything.  It’s an amusement park ride with no brakes, and no one in charge of stopping the car from going off the tracks.  Where shall the rough beast slouch?  What shall it end up doing and how will we all be when it ends?


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