A FEBRILE FANTASY – pilot whales beach themselves; while a rudderless ship runs down to a sunless sea… in the very panic that was pre-empted by our once far more rational rulers then! Now evidently gone to pot and reliant on superstition or pseudo-religion than technocratic governance?
I have a sad dream. In it, the warm sunlit epoch of science is over. And a reign or era of cold superstition where empty vessels make the most noise and hollow clay pots float down to a sunless sea has taken over. That blessed isle which was once a model for – and the envy of – its admiring neighbours has sickness at every hand and hardly wisdom to soothe its wounded spirit. There are champions of the people and other fatuous charlatans everywhere, especially in the high place beyond reason or criticism.
There IS criticism. However it is the cheap or ersatz stuff on social media that passes for socio-political commentary and can never replace viable parliamentary opposition or redoubtable judicial review. Therefore let me not delude myself or you, dear reader, that the dream-world we inhabit in our desire to escape the cold reality of an increasingly tyrannical milieu is any more or less democratic than the political parties that shout so loudly in the legislature. Yet live so safely, securely and often luxuriously – at the taxpayers’ expense and sometimes at the tyrants’ pleasure – amidst the toil and trivial oppression of the common people.
And one’s disillusionment knows no bounds when the few voices we trusted to raise the banner of justice – or at the very least justifiable agitation – fall silent. Or worse still, are full of (if not passionate intensity: like their political opponents now in power; but) crawling survivalism thinly veiled as mewling hypocrisy.
For instance: Who in their right mind or proper moral armour would defend the release of convicted criminals or the rehabilitation of murderers and drug lords put away under a long-forgotten dispensation? Even if the effete administration we got rid of is now found to be as frail at governance as the fading grass? Or who can countenance the fattened princes and huntresses – you might know her name – who change their side and seats in the legislature on a principle that comes at a price?
In my dream-world, all pretence of rational governance has been abandoned by those who swore to safeguard the realm. Where once they enjoined the people not to panic at the peril they faced or to empty supermarket shelves to stock their selfish larders against the national interest, they are grimly silent now. While their acolytes throw caution to the wind and prayerful polythene-wrapped clay containers into already polluted rivers! Either out of despair or the desperate need of relief from a botched containment operation…
The new and hopeful commonwealth, in which champions figured largely in our much needed salvation, has been replaced by a crumbling chaos in which we are a precarious step away from anarchy. This, but for the saving grace of warlike men bearing peacetime arms to discipline the virtuous polity; and still wearing surgical masks to protect themselves from a far more insidious enemy.
COVID-19 is not the great equaliser that philosophers hailed; but rather the aggressive re-arranger of societal norms and political hierarchies. Sadly in many dream-places around a nightmarish planet, the men behind the military have grown bloated on their sycophants’ praises and foolishly isolated from the people’s affections that once gave them the empowering franchise. Democracies such as the US are no less susceptible to this counter-intuitively populist divorce than commercial empires run by communist politburos.
And at home again: Worse than the melee in a disease-stricken marketplace is the hubbub of ambitious newcomers made of sterner stuff than now-ailing former grandees and the silence of erstwhile saviours – except to unerringly fault the populace (yet, never their fellow politicos among whose ranks even the most professional of technocrats must now count) for their folly in foisting this lamentable and little containable second wave upon a sleeping dreaming unsuspecting flock.
But all is not doom and gloom in this dark nebulous cosmos of part-fear and other-fantasy. And in the cold night sweats, I am very glad indeed that the amorphous dangers that lurk like phantoms of a frightened psyche are relieved by a few gods and heroes.
For the most part, they look like ordinary citizens of an abandoned kingdom to be. Going about their everyday business under extraordinary trial and tribulation on many fronts and harassed by a multitude of uniformed foes who could or should be their friends. In work towards a common goal, not a war on a conjured up enemy of the people that is – in some strange convoluted way – also the people themselves.
The dream is also shot through with a rare glimpse of golden hope. And I dare not speak its name here for worry that I might hold out false hope of a tomorrow that never wakens the land to a clearer brighter sunnier dawn…
Yet I might hint at it. Not that it is likely that those who are convinced that they still dream on in paradise will ever be persuaded that there is something rotten in the state. But that those who are slowly awakening to the sobering truth about their demigods and antiheroes would bolster the need for more critical engagement. And be a bulwark of good citizenship against a growing flood of bad governance and worse propaganda.
Then, as now, we the people – we angry, abandoned, abused folks – must cling together and stand firm amid a fast-moving tide. It takes the form of a new wave of economic revival, perhaps. Whereas the grosser reality is that it is likely to be the fattest birds of the bad lot seeking to feather their own nests against a bleak future or brief flutter at politics. And one cannot blame the masses for clamouring for their Fisher King of old. Maybe the Old Order passing and giving way to new is not so much a favour as the misfortune of the Kingdom?
Let me not say too much here for now lest the voice of hope as well as reason and rational citizenship in a creaking corroding chicane commonwealth under threat from virus and bacterial politics alike is silenced before the reality can sink in and at least some remedial vaccine leak out.
Then I awake and – it seems to be the very reality I wished to escape in my dream. But this is sadder because in my waking nightmare I cannot run away but have to face the sad truth about the world and the way it is today.
Maybe I will dream again tonight and yet I think I will never be able to go back to the place in which science trumps superstition, and politics was the art of the possible, not the plaything of ignorant poseurs and their sycophantic posturers.
(Journalist | Editor-at-Large of LMD | Writer of Moral Fables | Student of Serendipity Sci-Fi)