Spring has arrived in the north but the flowers poking their heads above the warming ground do not bring smiles to those who see them. The song of birds, so pleasant to the ear tired of the winter winds does not warm the heart. The rising sun that brightens each day more than the last brings no promise of a happy summer. Instead the world sinks into an abyss so dark that it seems no light can ever escape it, dragged down a black hole of despair by greed and ambition, barbarity and cruelty, criminality and ignorance.
We need reason and kindness applied to the problems that face us but instead violence and brutality are the norms of modern conduct. How low mankind has sunk since the Enlightenment promised to bring us the benefits of our intelligence and curiosity about life, nature, science, law, and government. Voltaire is dead. Marx slandered. Shelley, Zola, Hugo, Steinbeck, who carries their torch now?
The hopes that mankind expressed then have been smashed by the economic system that produces the misery of the many for the riches of the few. The golden tree of democracy that sprang from the seed of the sacrifice of the people who struggled to plant it has been hacked and cut down to its roots, and struggles to rise again.
The world over, the people, the common people, the people who have to work for their living call for peace, for the elimination of ignorance, of superstition, for a chance to have a say in how their lives unfold. In a few countries modest successes have been achieved and in a few, great ones. But in the countries that make up what is termed the west, Europe and North America, the successes of the social revolutions of the past have been overturned, reaction has replaced progress and brute force and gangsterism are applauded by the servile and their intellectual apologists alike.
The threat of nuclear annihilation is so immediate that we talk about it openly every day. The western leaders, drunk with their own hubris and arrogance, push the limits of tolerance and threaten the mass murder of millions, and yet their peoples sit by their computer screens, their television sets, their mobile phones and instead of going onto the streets to demand the overthrow of this system, yearn only for more popcorn to stuff their mouths or easier ways to send strangers “selfies”, sad photos of themselves, the only way they have of confirming their own bleak existence. Instead of being involved outside themselves to find meaning in life they descend into the sterility and the vacuity of their own vanity. Citizens, with a responsibility to those around them to ensure the justness of their societies have become bored consumers, each one expendable once the money runs out, as it always does.
Law, once seen as a means to ensure fairness and the smooth interaction of all the components of a complex society has become a tool for the oppressor instead of a guarantor of the right of the individual to express their full humanity. Instead of being used to liberate, it is used to dominate and suppress, to manipulate and exploit, to obfuscate and mislead. International Law, once the hope of mankind for a secure peace and rational and respectful relations among nations, is cynically twisted into a rope to hang those who resist the new barbarians who control the gates and levers of power.
Religion and philosophy are at an impasse. The wise words of their teachings seem to have little effect on the behaviour of most of mankind. Every religion shares the golden rule that no one should do to others what they are not willing to have done to themselves, but who lives it? Today we have no saints. Instead the masses are for whoever gives them a living.
During the 60’s and the years after, of the last century the liberation movements in the European colonial empires and the reaction of the people to the Second World War produced an energy and an optimism that is now a fond memory of youth. The world was different then. The poor of the world, the working people of the world, had the Soviet Union to look to as a example of what they could do, the remarkable rise of socialist China, the historic victory of Vietnam over America, the heroic resistance and example of what humanity was capable of in Cuba, that giant among nations. There was revolution in the air in London, in Paris, in America, in politics, in music, in film, in philosophy. But now everything in the west has become grey, banal and uniform. Where are The Clash now or The Beatles? Where are the Sartre’s and Camus’, the Ginsberg’s and the New Wave?
International Law had some application and effect then. But let’s admit it. The whole structure depended on force, and counter force. Remove the one and the other ran riot over the world, a gangster drunk on power, pawing and raping every country it could for whatever it could get. Now we are reduced to the law of the savage whose only rule is that there are none, preying on the small and vulnerable, recognizing nothing but the power to take. Their philosophy is “Law? We make our own laws and we take what we need.” Only the old Arab proverb describes our condition; “ The world is a carcass and those who seek it are dogs.” The western armies feed on the carrion of the dead on every continent, their cruelty so deep that it brings to mind the words of Ovid,
“Though men in shape, they scarce deserve the name;
Their savagery doth put the wolves to shame.”
And everywhere there is fear and anxiety.
The West is politically and morally bankrupt. The free market has reduced everything to the status of commodity, human beings to ciphers, the state to a universal spy. Yet, in the east, in China, in Russia, in Latin America, a new energy has shone its light on human possibilities, on sharing, cooperation, love of mankind instead of hatred, peaceful cooperation instead of conflict and death. We in the west need now to look to the east, to the south, to our own past, to find the strength and the will to regenerate ourselves, to save ourselves, and the planet we live on, from those in our midst who would reduce us to slavery and hopelessness,
The way forward is marked out. We just have to take it and soon for storm clouds and thunder threaten. The path is dangerous and long. The fascists are revealed and the knives are drawn. In May we celebrate the final victory of the Red Army over European fascism, the liberation of Europe from the black shirts and the brown. The armies of the west fought on the same side then. Now they are with the fascists. No doubt they always were. We need a new liberation, a liberation of the west that can come only from the peoples of the west who only have to look up at the sky instead of down at the mud. We have no Red Army to help us now. We have to help ourselves. And, so I end this Lament, for there is not much more I can say, but let me share with you the words of the great revolutionary poet, Shelley, for they speak as I wish I could,
“And these words shall then become
Like Oppression’s thundered doom
Ringing through each heart and brain,
Rise like Lions after slumber,
In unvanquishable number-
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Ye are many-they are few.”