Poem: The Trouble with Politics


The problem isn’t politicians, it’s us.
We don’t want to think about things:
We expect to be handed answers on a plate.
We want our whims to be catered for
Without cost. We resent taxes
Yet expect schools and hospitals
To spring up where we need them.

We moan at the state of the world,
Dismiss politicians as useless;
And expect things to get better
Without anyone rolling up their shirt sleeves
Or putting their shoulders to the wheel.

We look to politicians to give us a lead,
Yet we crush the poetry out their souls
And still expect them to sing in our key.
When something frivolous crosses our minds
We expect them to implement it without delay –
The big things we ignore, they’re too hard.
Migration? We’re against it.
Where should the desperate go?
– Answer came there none.
Is child poverty bad? Yes obviously ...
Unless tackling it involves higher taxes.
Is ‘small government’ good? Of course ...
Unless you want new motorways.
The arts? Can’t afford them. Yet casually
We wave through billions on nuclear arms –
which would destroy us if we used them.
Europe? Don’t even go there.

There is no solution to anything
Unless it involves We The People -
Not We The Businesses, not We 
The Tax-avoiding Trans-national,
Not We The Wealthy-who-don’t-use-public-services.
We The People demand that YOU
engage with US. Don’t expect us
To do anything.  It’s not our job.

It doesn’t make a great poetry does it –
Life so raw and lumpy?
        Where nowadays are noble thoughts,
    words that rhyme with climate change?
                       Or sentences that rearrange
              A world disordered, out of sorts?
 They’ve all been used and done no good.
              The simple truths we understood
     Now owned by cynics, whose one aim   
                        Is to make us all the same:
                  Mindless consumers, unaware
        That what we’ve lost is how to share
   The traits which confer on us humanity:
              Compassion, joy and equanimity. 

The abdication of responsibility

The problem is that we cannot abdicate the political sphere to the cynics who say that decency and fairness are no longer possible, for that is what the power-hungry monsters want. (Look at Hungary or Israel.) They seek to corrupt normal society in order to declare that traditional rules no longer apply and grab power while the bourgeois are disorientated. 

That’s the Trump/Bannon playbook, and like the Nazis they tap into a deep memory within the indigenous population of ‘good times’ before whatever current instability has threatened their social values - using im/explicit racism to “explain” hugely complex geo-financial issues (which no one can easily summarise) to create a narrative that ordinary people can lock onto in their uncertainties and parrot as fact. 

I haven’t been to Paris for 15 years maybe, but I was shocked then by the way that parts of it no longer appear to a European city. And I’m sure it’s far worse in Italy. When I visited a friend in Arezzo 6 y/a there were black prostitutes in caravans in lay-bys all along the mountain roads. The scale of the problems is beyond anyone’s capacity to resolve. 

We curse our politicians for failing to deal with what we the people cause by our conflicted priorities: EG demanding low taxes but also good civic services and effective social care. 

The EU and its member governments tried to create a fair framework for handling migrants, but it was wishful thinking; because the northern states simply refused to share the burden. And this all the pretext the demagogues for destroying the remaining social fabric of the European ideal. 

Suzi gave me a book on migration which shows that longterm solutions are impossible, because political instability around the Mediterranean and the range of satellite TV publicising western consumerism mean that Europe is an irresistible magnet, just as the USA is to SAmerica. 

If you look at the history of population movements from the Celtic era, there seem to have been these great migratory moves at many points in history. In Lyon for instance two distinct tribal settlements beside the Rhone stood alongside the Roman town on the hill, in a sort of functional apartheid; and of course the origin of the Jewish nation lies in migration mythology. But before today it didn’t matter because there was enough room for everyone. Now there isn't. 

I see this as the twilight of liberal democracy, and among the reasons is that we the people are largely ignorant of Christian principles. We have become a deracinated people, whose psyche no longer has roots in the transpersonal, with the result that we are blown by the winds of pleasure, and morally defenceless in the teeth of corporate forces. We were told that all the old ideas were irrelevant to the modern world, but nobody has come up with a better vision to replace them. It’s true that a new spirituality is growing, but much of it is consumerist in character, and being heterogeneous and individualistic it is incapable of putting down deep collective ethical roots. And thus its capacity to be a moral fulcrum is lacking. The Right seeks to exploit this moral vacuum by an appeal to the slogans of imperialistic Christian past, but ignores altogether the ethical heart of what it claims to promote. 

Yet we remain herd animals, and part of our psycho-somatic makeup is that we need to belong. How do we create those ethical magnets of elective affinity in the modern world that tap into and draw from the deep wellsprings of perennial wisdom that manifest in the best of all religious cultures, namely to honour the numinous within ourselves and to bring out the best in others? 

For all my difficult relations with the  Religious Society of Friends I still think it’s a great space for exploring the dilemmas of existence in a respectful silence, and that Quakers have historically got a great deal right about social organisation. 


What happens after the end?

I recently read a review, which I can’t give an exact reference for, in which the writer quoted an AngloSaxon archbishop writing in 1054 saying that the world is over, nothing more is to be expected before the return of Christ. (And we know what happened 12 years later!) I feel this an appropriate response to those today who feel the West is broken beyond repair. It probably is, but the reality is that something else will follow it – whether we like that something or not. So the choice is between embracing the uncertainty of changing times or allowing them to crush us. 

Perhaps our era is not so dissimilar to the era of Charles 1, which saw a late renaissance full of delicate spirituality (George Herbert and the metaphysical poets, Orlando Gibbons etc): yet it was also full of anger at the corruptions of privilege and the indifference of the monarchy to rising tide of proletarian literacy which was to explode as the puritan revolution. The same sensibility existed all over Europe among the intelligentsia (Rilke, Mallarm√©, Yeats) before WW1, only to disappear entirely ithereafter. 
I don’t know what’s coming next, but if we want what we value to be part of it we have to throw ourselves into the ‘ungodly’—as it seems—tide. Standing Canute-like on the bank is to be sidelined by the new—perhaps deplorable—history being made and from which gestation a new stasis will sooner or later emerge. 

We don’t know what happens if we try something, but we do know what happens if we don’t. There’s nothing the matter with K’s arguments, but sadly there are no prizes for being right in abstract – or I might’ve won one! The big prize is for weaving a strand of rightness (clear-sightedness) into all the wrongness (which isn’t wrongness so much as stupidity parading its blindness). 
If you can do this job right, like a commando action in enemy territory, and find the sweet spot where the strand will fit and so be absorbed into the main weave – then your only real reward is to return to know that you have been a small organic link in the great chain of those who have carried the silver torch of what I call Yahwism, the inner unmediated wordless encounter with I AM. Like any secret mission, there are only a few people you can tell – to most it wouldn't make sense. But to me that is where dharma and karma meet. 
So: the game is lost: the game is all to play for. In every moment both statements are true. 
Love / truth / joy are words with no meaning unless WE make them true in our own lives. We cannot allow ourselves to be buried by the statistical evidence that change is impossible – or entropy wins :: the forces of hopelessness. 
And perhaps ultimately that is the flaw in K's book,—he limits the capacity of g/God or 'divine otherness' to work within the sprawling mess we have made of (and I would argue were designed to make of) creation because his mind is limited to the imaginable.
But the Powers That Be /Tao aren't – the unimaginable is stock in trade to him/her/it/them. So renewal / rebirth / regrowth is always possible, even if we totally duff up the planet and extinguish our own and other life-forms. 
But on a slightly less apocalyptic note, all that is certain is that when the new thought-forms do emerge they are unlikely to resemble the old.