Archive | January, 2016

The Ceremony of Innocence is Drowned.

28 Jan

I was reminded of W.B. Yeats’s apocalyptic poem The Second Coming yesterday. Written in 1919 after the carnage of world war, WB speculated on the cycle of human depravity that comes to a head periodically. The idea of the falcon spinning out of control, far away from the guidance and civilised control of the falconer, is just one powerful metaphor for the scrambling of values, the coruscating rush of greed and decline in compassion and understanding which characterises our world in 2016.

Back to yesterday. Prime Minister’s questions. Corbyn, for whom I have a healthy liking and mild distrust, asked a series of questions. Refugees/migrants; bedroom tax; Google. Cameron’s responses were baying criticisms of the last Labour administration and irrelevant grandstanding about what the Tories have done, not what they haven’t. Why can’t he – and all the sorry wankers who sit on front benches – just front up and explain, for example on Google – that this fat-arsed giant of a money-making machine can afford better tax lawyers than the HMRC. The paltry amount that Google have, in their magnanimity, agreed to pay in ‘back’ taxes is a cheque written with a snide smile. Their game is avoidance and, until a Second Coming, ‘twill always be. Mr Cameron why can’t you be honest? We, the public, wouldn’t mind so much. We wouldn’t think that you’re weak. Your performance yesterday was such a charade that the beige-jacketed Corbs won hands down. Your ‘people’ probably told you otherwise.

I caught the news about tennis match-fixing. In a microsecond I had thoughts about Lance Armstrong, FIFA, Seb Coe and his mates at the IAAF, Suarez biting, Tyson Fury fighting and so on. Putin hove into view, not sure why. So too Volkswagen. I saw pictures of a disabled grandfather with a severely disabled grandson lamenting the burden of the bedroom tax. On my Thameslink rail journey the Evening Standard told me that my service provider was the worst performing train operator in the country. The chief executive’s pay has advanced to £2.1 million. There was a piece about brokers being cleared of libor rate fixing and great news about Russians and Chinese and other overseas billionaires buying up the middle of London so the rest of us can all move out to two-bed terraced boxes in Hornchurch or Morden for upwards of 500k. Thankfully no beheadings or terrorist atrocities within a couple of hours’ travel from where I live but one can only guess at what’s on the agenda in further flung places that we all don’t want to think about. The boat people. And what about the white Oscar agenda?

Have a look at WB’s poem. Don’t worry about its oddities – get the drift. What world would the son of God find if he returned to earth today? Atheist I may be but I get where WB was coming from. Almost everywhere I look there is greed, falsehood, evasion, corruption, self-interest, protectionism, criticism, lack of empathy, lack of sympathy, lack of understanding, lack of compassion, self-righteousness, short-termism, lack of principle, screwed values. On the ground, as they say, things are hopeful. People are kind, respectful, friendly, generous, warm, funny, hard-working, moral, do their best…not all but the vast majority. What has happened to our public people, our public values? What responsibility is the media prepared to accept? What happens to the politicians and other important people when they move too far from innocence? What happens to all of us?

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.

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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2015 – a bumper reading year!

6 Jan

Thanks to many friends for reading suggestions which I followed with pleasure. Here’s my list from the last 12 months. Scores of 3 and above shouldn’t embarrass me.

Books 2015

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