On a train going nowhere by Trevor Plumbly
Recent events have caused me to ditch the ‘Pennies from heaven’ stuff and I’m beginning to think the world’s going to hell in a handcart.
‘Imagine all the people, living for today’ sounded good, but I reckon that’s what’s causing most of the problems: too many people talking at the same time. There’s little doubt that democracy was a pretty good way to run things until politicians realised its potential. It was OK in Ancient Greece when a tiny percentage ran things while the rest didn’t know or care what was going on. The popular conception is of blokes wrapped in sheets making deep philosophical pronouncements or writing allegories that would torture schoolkids for centuries. Sure, there were wars, but there were fewer folk around to cop the brunt or blame. However, like most ideals, it didn’t last and perhaps Dylan’s ‘Hard rain’s gonna fall’ might have been more prophetic than Lennon’s dreamy hopes.
And the lion shall lie down with the lamb
‘There will be peace in the valley one day’: sounds comforting doesn’t it? But as an international guideline it’s about as much use as a soup sandwich as my mother would say. We don’t need to look back too far to realise that appealing to the social conscience of half-mad tyrants doesn’t really achieve much; theirs is a centralised world and by today’s standards democracy needs a serious re-vamp if it’s going to affect the latest crop of power drunk crazies, ‘He ain’t heavy’ might work short term, but after a while your back hurts.
United we stand
Well we used to, these days we spend an unholy amount of time tearing ourselves to pieces, look at two of democracy’s poster kids. Britain seems hell bent on the banana republic theory of political stability, struggling to decide whether today’s inedible is more palatable than yesterday’s leftovers, while countries we once fought to defend now seem to view us as social intensive care material. Over the ocean, in the home of the brave, democracy’s feeling the pain and since the Mad Hatter hosted the tea party, the old lady’s practically terminal. Like or despise the man, he has performed a sort of backhanded service by showing that in the 21st Century manipulation can still put up a pretty good fight against inclusiveness. The man might have got it right when he said, ‘the Devil’s got the best tunes’.
You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Problem is, the game’s one-sided; we might hold the moral cards but they’ve got the kings and aces. We’ve got the UN but to paraphrase the prophet Dylan, ‘They sit there stranded, all doing their best to deny it’, paralysed by a dream of fair play that prevents them from intervention and a rule book that should have been re-written years ago. ‘They’ on the other hand, have the right of veto, a disregard for civilian life and of course, the threat of launching the ‘big one’ if things don’t go their way. It’s all pretty depressing and I’m starting to think that Jesus might want me for kindling instead of the sunbeam he promised me as a kid. In much the same manner as we’d plant elderly relatives in a rest home when they start to flag, perhaps the UN could consider a bit of bed-rest till she gets her breath back.
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing
Democracy must have looked pretty enticing early on but these days she’s having to cope with all sorts of stuff and the old tart’s starting to show her age. First there was ‘political awareness’ a term invented to convince Joe Blow he was part of what was going on, then came MMP a process that granted the inner circle the power to keep the chosen in the fold whether the majority wanted them there or not. Last up was social media, this allowed heaps of folk to become expert on the world’s ailments at the push of a button, at the same time as opening democracy’s door to every bollocking mad theorist and wannabe despot, small wonder she’s punch drunk!
When will they ever learn?
Despite years of travel, Mr Stevens’ ‘Peace train’ hasn’t arrived and apart from dead and broken bodies, wars fought in my lifetime don’t seem to have offered much in the way of certainty. Liberating others from oppression is more idealised these days and as such looks like a matter for diplomatic wrist-smacking, sanctions and conciliation. As long as we side-step reality through fear, the likes of Putin and co will continue to threaten. At 80 odd I don’t think I’ll be around too much longer to experience the crap humans inflict and tolerate in the name of civilisation. The Greeks did indeed have a word for it, and maybe like the old song goes, ‘Cheer up my brothers, we’ll understand it all by and by.’