Wednesday, 17 November 2010

A Democratic Tragedy: Charest, Yeats and "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

Here is the link to the petition calling on Quebec Premier Jean Charest to resign. It was begun only about 48 hours ago and as I write has more than 146,000 signatures. That so many people are disgusted with the nastiness going on on his watch is both telling and a tragedy. Obviously there needs to be a thorough house-cleaning. But convincing principled people to go into politics these days is becoming more and more difficult: who wants to get involved in such a mess?

One is reminded of William Butler Yeats' poem written in another time of trouble, right after the First World War:

The Second Coming

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

The poem goes on, with a prophecy that did not come through then, and I expect will not now. Nevertheless the words give me a chill...

"Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? "

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