William A Gardner
Culture and Societies
KEEP in TOUCH
OTHER BLOG POSTS
The Distemper of Our times
When the last sun of 2018 sank below the western horizon I was uncertain whether to make an obscene gesture in farewell or focus on raising a hopeful glass of well-aged grape juice. It was a year to remember, one of near tragedy, plus one of local and global discontent, unhappiness, financial stress, violence and even hatred. This year the polarizing philosophical, social and political divides have become even more severe. I visualize two side by side speeding buses with people hanging out of the windows mooning or screaming at the people on the other bus while they careen down a highway toward a one-lane bridge. Each group accuses the other of setting out to destroy the country and the world, demanding that we all pick sides. Pick sides? Sh**t.
My reluctance to comment on matters political is being shredded by the insanity of public discourse and the lack of balanced reporting in most of the so-called mainstream media. The outrageous has become common. Ignorance is now wisdom. The asylum inmates have breached the walls and are sucking the addled brains out of zombie governments which desperately search for money to buy their way out of insurmountable troubles and stay in power. Bad policy hides behind poor science. The court jester has usurped the throne. Oh common sense, where are you? Perhaps huddled in a dark corner with your sad face pressed against a bullet-marked stone wall?
In future blogs I will explore some of the issues that appear to be tearing at the heart of our western civilization. But let us understand that what is happening is an existential challenge to the nations and cultures that have created the world in which we live and the standard of living that characterizes the developed world. The western democratic leadership appears to be confused and floundering because they are driven by ideology rather than reality. Their flopping around like a fish out of water reflects the fissures and geopolitical fault lines of our society. They are confused. The usual levers of social and financial power are no longer effective. Whether it is Trump, Merkel, Macron, May, Trudeau or other leaders, they are caught between a poor ideology and an increasing skepticism of their competence. It brings to mind an excerpt from the poem of W.B. Yeats written just after the First World War.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
A culture is like a cloth woven from beliefs and habits, human needs and animal desires, love and anger, technology and available energy, and the physical environment that supports and nurtures it. At this time of rapid change, as we are now experiencing, the cloth is becoming frayed. The patterning of society is held together by many threads and when the pattern is good the society works together and flourishes. But when it is stretched and the threads divided the pattern can be lost. And the danger is that the commonality and productivity that result from a good and proper pattern, once the cloth is sufficiently damaged, is replaced by conflict, anarchy, and an increasing decline in the general standard of living. There are many examples in history. We ignore that history at our peril.
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