Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Second Coming by Bill Kirton

The original blog I'd scheduled for today was (and still is because I'll post it next month) intended to be an entertaining aside about what great readers children are and how open they leave their imaginations. But the relentless cynicism of our rulers, their hypocrisy and their recent, blatant demonstrations that they know it and couldn't care less if we do too has forced my hand. The Google tax thing, the 'bunch of migrants' crack by Cameron - well, make your own list, there's plenty to choose from - they're profoundly depressing, and (lucky me) I've never been a depressive.

After that, I suppose it’s important to add a disclaimer. The blog expresses my own opinions and is not intended to represent in any way the ethos, philosophy, or collective political leanings – if there are any – of Authors Electric. Some readers also may ask why I've chosen such a topic, which doesn't seem to have anything to do with writing. My excuse is that nothing I've read or heard anywhere comes close to expressing my fears and despair better than the concluding poem. It doesn't solve the problem, but it gives it frightening substance.


First then, the title. My subject is the re-election of the bloke in 10 Downing Street but I actually stole it from two writers. One is John Niven, whose novel The Second Coming  is hilarious and not only envisages the sort of heaven I’d love to spend time (indeed, eternity) in but also gives a highly believable version of how the story of Jesus might repeat itself in a 21st century context. I’ll get to the other later.

Next, I make no apologies for the fact that the most, indeed only, powerful bit of this post was not written by me. Sometimes, though, we need our real writers, our geniuses, to capture things, movements, stresses, fears, Jungian and Freudian nightmares which many of the rest of us apprehend but can’t satisfactorily fix in words. Some may accuse me of being melodramatic but I find the prevailing political ideologies and rhetoric sinister, dangerous, toxic. And those in power are making sure that there won't be change any time soon.

Last May, my blog post fell on election day.  It was an effort at a light-hearted (although still serious and wary) satire on that process, but my fictional fairy tale came nowhere near the grotesque actuality of the outcome. I've waited, just in case my fears proved groundless, but (surprise, surprise) they haven't. The messages coming out of the government 'we' (apparently) elected are predictably clear. 'Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war'. Bye, bye, human rights. Eff off, foreigners. Hi to health and education for those who can afford it. Any infrastructure still in public hands? Flog it. Single mothers? On your bikes. Social housing? Don't be silly. Oh, and tax evaders? Help yourselves.

But it’s even worse than that. It’s an opening up of sour divisions between citizens who face the same ‘enemies’, share the same interests. It’s divide and rule. It’s an unleashing of cynical forces of discord, self-interest, ignorance and darkness.

And here’s where my second title source comes in.

One morning, I heard on BBC Radio 4 a very familiar poem, written for a different troubled time (and, coincidentally, by a man with sometime fascist leanings) which (spookily) summed up the fears I had and have about what the outcomes of ‘our’ choice of government may prove to be. It’s the W. B. Yeats poem The Second Coming. It was written in 1919 but its opening stanza is almost a literal description of the events of May 2015 and its shudder-inducing final image may well represent a real future.

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.


Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.


The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


Rule Britannia, eh?

11 comments:

Mari Biella said...

One of my favourite poems, Bill, and one that has often seemed to me to be frighteningly representative of the times in which we live – in a general sense, not just a political one. Politically, I ‘lack all conviction’, apart from a niggling feeling that the democratic processes and institutions which are supposed to serve the people are increasingly not doing so. Whichever way things go, and whoever’s proved right in the long term, I have a feeling that we live in the interesting times of the Chinese curse...

Wendy Jones said...

A great blog and you have described the government well. You are right, the poem does sum it up perfectly

Sandra Horn said...

Thank you, Bill.

Susan Price said...

So true, Bill.

Last night a friend said to me, "Oh this terrible Tory party! They're giving us a thousand pounds tax-free interest! Oh what terrible people!"

He was being satiric about my frequent anti-Tory rants - and I'm having wisdom tooth trouble and didn't feel strong enough to argue.

Point out to my friend that the Tories are steadily chipping away at the NHS, so they can say 'it isn't working' and sell it off cheap to their friends, exactly as they did with other valuable state-owned services, which now don't work as well as they did before, and he blandly denies it. Says no, I'm wrong, it's all the Unions' fault - because over 20 years ago someone in a pub told him that the local union 'controlled' the local hospital's laundry and the nurses couldn't get clean sheets for the beds. So, yes, it's obviously those evil Union men who're to blame for all the ills, today, that beset the NHS.

Say to him that the recent financial melt-down can be traced directly back to the Right-wingers' adoption of Monetarist policies and the removal of bank regulations - and that, in the 80s, financial experts gave very clear warnings of the eventual result - and he says, no, it was Gordon Brown's fault, because he was a terrible chancellor.

The Daily Mail is his Bible. He looks at what's going on, but will not see it. He's like the woman I met a few years ago who was outraged that her daughter could not get a grant to cover the cost of going to University.

I asked her, Did you vote Tory? - Yes, she did. I said, well you voted for your daughter not to get a grant then, didn't you? That did not go down well. She didn't want her taxes - HER taxes - paying for Kevins and Tracys to go to university, but HER daughter was supposed to get one.

As you say, Bill, divide and rule. Not until every person like my friend finds that he is personally harmed by the Tories, policies, not until then will there be a united front against them. When they see other people harmed, they blame the victim or deny that it's happening or say it's the immigrants' fault.

You're right, the future looks scary.

Jan Needle said...

I prefer Bert Brecht's view of the times to the Chinese proverb's - 'truly, I live in dark times.' As I recall it, the poem was called 'About poor BB", with the inherent possibility that BB meant baby as well as Bertolt Brecht.

A fine post, Bill, if a thought depressing. As to you, Sue, surely the hope lies in the fact that this chap is still your friend! Well done. (And it could be worse. Dave Cameron has to share country suppers with the flame-haired temptress and other people most of us wouldn't piss on if they were on fire).

Bill Kirton said...

Thanks all. I knew that, for at least some of us, I was stating the obvious. And I do acknowledge that there are opposing views based on genuine beliefs which may be stated with convictions as strong as mine about how to run, and not to run, things. But what's happening is so demonstrably unfair - not to me. I'm alright, Jack. I've oozed my way into middle-class respectability and comfort (until I get ill) - but to tens of thousands who don't have the resources or, now, the representation to ensure they have access to some essentials.
I'll shut up now and just do the jokes.

Reb MacRath said...

That single poem contains more great lines than most poets write in a lifetime. But, till now, I've never felt its full collective force. Great post, Bill.

Lydia Bennet said...

It's hard not to get depressed about what the tories are doing to the country and our precious nhs, to say nothing of IDS's campaign to destroy as many disabled people's lives as possible. I"m afraid Susan's story is typical, the tories have managed to set people against each other so they are willing to blame 'scroungers' ie disabled people or old people or all sorts of sections of society for their troubles, until the tories get to them and they lose something and then they wonder why nobody will stand up for them. However I suppose it's related to writing in that writers bear witness to what happens in the world and that's always something worth doing.

Dennis Hamley said...

Bill, this is a truly great post and says everything I feel on my pulses and know to be true. 'We that have seen so much and lived so long.' After 1945 it was not meant to be like this. Yes, I, like you, am comfortable but not rich so I'm proof, at the moment, from their worst deprivations. But I am creased with rage and by what is being done to those who have no defence by these evil, yes, EVIL, people. I'm glad you quoted The Second Coming. It is a truly prophetic poem and, along with Dover Beach, the perfect expression of our plight. Sue, you are right. I can't understand how otherwise decent, nice people are so myopic. But yes, Jan, that Sue can still call him friend is indeed a small flicker of hope. Actually, I have a moral difficulty with a piece of legislation designed to keep people like me sweet - the easing of inheritance tax. I think that it is a regressive move deeply unfair in our present economic and social state. But my children will gain from it and they and the welfare of my grandchildren are my first concern. No, I shan't refuse to accept it. But it gives me a queasy conscience.



Bill Kirton said...

Reb, Lydia, Dennis, thanks. Sometimes, when these thoughts go through my mind, I wonder whether I'm getting it all out of proportion and failing to see the positive aspects of what's being proposed. The fact that people like yourselves and Mari, Wendy, Sandra, Susan, Jan and by extension others feel the same way confirms that the (yes, Dennis) evil is real, the corrosion continues. Decency and compassion are still relevant, legitimate bases for a practical morality, though. It's depressing that they aren't universally shared, but at least there are still voices advocating them.

Reb MacRath said...

Bill, the way the next election here seems to be going, I'll soon be in search of a poem to quote. Will hope to find something by Auden or MacNeice.