Dialectics

Let’s face it, nuance went out with the rise of cable news.  Not only do politicians not reach across the aisle to seek compromises, but they essentially don’t associate with members of the other parties.  Gone are the days when polar politicians like Orrin Hatch and Teddy Kennedy could become bosom friends, when Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil could “after six o’clock” be friends.

 

No, nowadays, middle ground is no man’s land.

Yesterday, as I was showing my tenth graders a clip from Apocalypse Now in conjunction with teaching Heart of Darkness, it occurred to me that the photojournalist’s speech to Willard as Kurtz reads from TS Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” is a superb commentary on contemporary American politics.  I offer it without comment except for the tidbit that one of the epigraphs for “The Hollow Men” is “Mistuh Kurtz – he dead,” so essentially Kurtz is reading a poem in which he appears.

 

The Hollow Men

Mistah Kurtz-he dead
A penny for the Old Guy

I

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us-if at all-not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

II

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer-

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

III

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

IV

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

V

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

art by Claire Lambe

art by Claire Lambe

 

My-My-My Generation

Poobah Savoring by Toni-Lee Sangastiano

Poobah Savoring by Toni-Lee Sangastiano

In this piece from 15 March 2013, I mock my generation for its greed and the younger generation for its political passivity.  Perhaps I was wrong.

I’ve never really been a fan of my generation, not even back in the so-called day. The turbulence of those times makes us seem somewhat interesting in retrospect because people tend to remember Abby Hoffman instead of Debby Boone. And sure, some of us were cool and contentious, took unpopular stands, let our freak flags fly, etc., but then, again, lots of hippies were assholes, self-righteously slinging blood on Viet Nam vets while ripping one another off in petty drug deals while mooching off parents.

Sing it, Mr. Lennon:

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free
But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see

John Lennon, “Working Class Hero”

Also, the so-called Silent Majority tended not to be all that silent, chanting “Nixon’s the One” or singing along to “Joy to World” while vociferously supporting bombing Cambodian villages. Not to mention South Carolina’s Early Seventies bumper crop of rednecks, never a taciturn group. Oh yeah, and the angry vibe of surly brothers on sidewalks sharing with you and your beloved what they’d love to do with her.

Hey, but back then, I, too, was an angry young man, a walking middle finger, a narcissistic nincomshit, not the serene old fellow you know and love, the human equivalent of an extended teacup pinky, the selfless sage, the kindly gentle man who shares his wisdom here free of charge.

then

then

now

now

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To wit, with no legacy of saving the world for democracy to our credit, we baby boomers will increasingly seem like an encumbrance to younger workers slaving away to pay off college loans while we direct deposit our Social Security checks and enjoy the peace of mind of Medicare. There are many more of us than there are of them, so we can out-vote them; however, who wants to spend his final years as a detested vampire sucking the life blood of the economy at the expense of his grandchildren?

The word entitlement comes to mind.

Any rational person should realize that Democrats and Republicans need to compromise, that revenues have to rise, probably in a more robust manner than merely closing tax loopholes for the super rich, but even that commonsensical, relatively painless option is in the current Congress a no-go.

Furthermore, Social Security and Medicare must be reformed, and that means need-testing and curbing benefits, raising the retirement age – you know, slaughtering a sacred Democratic cow or two.

Obama has signaled he’s willing to do so, but he’s so detested and mistrusted by the Right that the two parties coming together to enact meaningful legislation seems about as likely as Menachem Begin’s and Yasser Arafat’s great grandchildren falling in love, marrying, and serving pork barbecue at their wedding reception.

World temperatures plummet as hell freezes over

World temperatures plummet as hell freezes over

So what you gonna do, younger generation, sit back, tabulate your likes on Facebook while your standard of living erodes like the sands of Folly Beach? Maybe you could take a page out of Jonathan Swift and cook up some plan to cannibalize grandma. Or how about starting your own revolution?

Naw, that’ll never happen. Click away, O my brothers and sisters, click away.

chicks