Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Chapter nine. LIGHT OVER NEWMARKET. A novel
If you look out at your world, Kevin Logan, you will observe that for the past ten years, mankind has been hotfooting it back to the dark ages.
Children of God, sorcerer's apprentices, encounter groupers, radical feminists, touchy-feelers, worshippers of the almighty IS in the Eberhard seminars--all of them are clamoring for your attention and all of them are on a sprint back to the dark ages.
We live in dangerous times. All of society's icons have flipped over and the scene is ripe for any demagogue with sound business training to slouch not only towards Bethlehem but also towards Santa Barbara and Inuvik and Toronto.
Snapped continuity. You can feel it as surely as you have felt the death of that blues music you were so attracted to, for the blues are an antidote for cultural oppression and the Irish aren't exactly the least repressed people in history.
Something oily and corporate has encrusted itself on men's souls. You know this as surely as you know that you are a part of a business civilization that has stopped being a civilization proper, and is therefore in trouble. Corporations are immortal while we are not, and that's a large part of the problem. We serve a clacking electronic god who is becoming suddenly very aware of his godhood. Man remains man.
We feel a lack. An important religious element has vanished and we are left to our own devices, rationalizations, social experiments, totems, while psychiatrists commit suicide and our children overdose in the plazas.
And in the wings, black hoods and candles, bells and books.
Join the gathering inquisition? Burn the infidels, books, state capitols? Certainly a temptation for the powerless people who sense that they are indeed powerless and have therefore nothing to lose through a cathartic release of emotion, of the loosing of the bonds that make a civilization one of work, one which gives us the feeling that we are important, self-sufficient, aristocratic and inevitable. Ah, but then there's this Devil. The Devil, it would seem, has a human face; he can be beaten with a stick and be driven out by fire. The burn-the-devil movement has appeal. It's the cosmically conscious, the spiritually beautiful against the narrow and Faustian professionals who are about to give up the reins anyway.
And yet how helpless the cosmic people seem unable, more often than not, to even feed themselves, unable to exist without a dimly understood technology, unable to resolve family anxieties or personal problems in a society that endlessly promises relief and never delivers.
We watch Third World high priests giving lesson to grown people on how to make love, how to experience emotion, how to be assertive, how to survive. Protestantism and technology has somehow erased the basic wisdom that any peasant outside the west possesses. We appear to be a culture of children, adolescents at best, dangerous toys in our heads, leading us down the garden path for the hundredth time.
Yet as the middle ages encroach upon us, the encroachment is hastened by an awakened Third World, which, curiously retains many of the values, folkways, icons so deeply hankered after by those in the west who have lost such things. Most of the world remains in the middle ages. It is only our island culture that can produce the hippie, the Jesus freak and the unmolested radical student. Basic survival is not a problem with us, while spiritual survival is a vary urgent necessity. The hope of a growing segment of North American civilization seems to lie in the Third World itself, which remains in the dark ages so narrowly averted by a lucky historical turn in western civilization.
And yet can a society of the electric toothbrush, digital toilet and television cope with a Third World where men are, after all, men, women women and the peripheral misfits left to their own devices? The Third World peasant is the ultimate free enterpriser, who has no support or technology whatsoever and makes scratch, more often than not in an economy that would baffle the architects of the New World Order.
The cat is really out of our bag. The Third World does see the manual helplessness, moral ambiguity and spiritual confusion of the North American and the local swamis are only too happy to lead the North American into the deepening night.
We have created a culture of storm and stress where whatever has been up is now being pulled down, where the truck driver feels completely equal to the brain surgeon, where woman wants to be over man, where the sexual acrobat has equal standing with the Pope, and the alcoholic, madman and homosexual is a high literary figure.
The Third World is upon us, and we are not resisting. We welcome the dark ages--we had the technology, the savvy, a can-do attitude, but not the wisdom. Wealth used to bring the gift of time, time to think, read, play musical instruments, reflect, develop.
The gift of time has only made alcoholics, drug addicts and mystical basket cases out of us; produced two generations of people who do not know what a conscience is, what shame is, what love is, what compassion is, what rejection, failure and pain are as the new unholy trinity, what the silent keen is to shout out loud, "Behold, I am a man!" or "Behold, I am a woman!"
And the children: only the babysitter is in there pitching. We relinquish to institutions, to governments. Men flee from women, women from men; the therapists are having a field day. Engineers from MIT are incapable of raising an erection. A Philippine shaman has to teach the inventor of plastic hearts how to play hanky-panky.
So we move from excesses to emptiness, personal and cultural. There are hardly any new songs; light shows are going out; the theatre is obsessed with young men who suck the sweat off horses and the music has returned to the Fifties in a dangerous retro that signals a dissatisfaction with the present, and a cultural vacuum that Europe cannot fill any more. We have no confidence in the present and this is a bad state of affairs for the key culture in the world.
And so the sensitive, the moody and the mystically inclined are leaving the established institutions opting for communal farming, transcendental meditation, cosmic awareness. Empty-handed soldiers are coming home, home to the middle ages. And while this happens, the unestablished and the unlettered are slowly filling in the spaces left by capable idealists, and we see the universities teeming with writers who can't write, mathematicians who can't add, systems analysts who can't do math, all of this leading us to the dark ages.
Perhaps it's for the best. Societies become stagnant; peasants scratch the ground around pyramids. Yet it may be sad to see mankind failing its final examination and never reaching the end of night. For many of the world's problems can now be solved and most of its inhabitants can now be fed...There's only this...devil.
And then the voice stopped. I moved from the table to lie beside sun-hot Valerie. I felt a deep shudder.
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