Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The Best And The Worst

Perhaps the most-quoted poem in the English language is “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats. For nearly a century different writers have cited one or more of its 22 lines written ninety-nine years ago which begins with:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

The second and third lines resonate most for me:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

Maybe it was world-wide demonstrations last week on Mayday, which has for more than a century been a day for the left to rally against capitalism. Masked, black-clad, anarchist ANTIFA demonstrators rioted once again in Europe, Canada, and America. In Paris where they burned cars and businesses and clashed with police and over 200 masked thugs were arrested. The left and the right in America are increasingly polarized since the 2016 election prompting renewed fears that maybe “the centre cannot hold” here.

Begun by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) sometime in the 1880s, Mayday demonstrations often turned into riots and became a worldwide phenomenon after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. That event, among others, shook Yeats and catalyzed his famous poem. Others included the “Great War,” or what we now call World War I, and Ireland’s “Easter Rebellion” which, after many unsuccessful attempts to gain Irish independence from Great Britain, did eventually result in liberating most of the island, but only after a long, brutal struggle.

Despite the religious tone implied by the poem’s title, Yeats was for the most part agnostic. Though born into what Irish historians call the wealthy “Protestant Ascendancy” in 1865, Christianity meant little to Yeats. He dabbled in mysticism and the occult and worked against the influence of Catholic Church in his native Ireland. 

Despite the overwhelming prevalence of Catholic Irish peasantry in the independence movement, Yeats became a leader of sorts and a senator in the new Irish government around the time he won the Nobel Prize for literature. He wrote The Second Coming in 1919 when it seemed, as he described in the next four lines:

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. 

Yeats grew up comfortably and could dabble in poetry without worrying about supporting himself, but he could see that, were anarchists to topple everything in their passionate intensity and things really did fall apart, his family money and his leisurely life could disappear also. But it didn’t; the centre held until his death in January, 1939, just before the blood-dimmed tide was loosed again across Europe and the world.

Literary analysts claim Yeats was referring to clergy when he claimed: “The best lack all conviction,” as if they didn’t really believe what they preached, “while the worst” — anarchists, socialists, and Bolsheviks — looked as if they might well take over western civilization.

Western pundits today call Europe “post Christian” as churches are abandoned across the continent — or converted into mosques for another religion “full of passionate intensity.” To end the poem, Yeats seems to describe the Sphinx:

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 

Finally, he asks:

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, 
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
What rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

Judge Robert Bork edited the last line as title for his 1998 book Slouching Toward Gomorrah which I’ve been reading for the past three months. At the same time I was reading Jordan Peterson’s 2018 book 12 Rules For Life; An Antidote for Chaos which has been a bestseller across the English-speaking world. Both authors analyze Yeats’ poem at some length.

The subtitle for Bork’s book is: Modern liberalism and American Decline. It’s more direct and hard-hitting than Peterson’s. Writing twenty years apart, both men perceived that: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Bork’s nomination to the US Supreme Court was famously sabotaged with passionate intensity by leftist Democrats including Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy.

Today Peterson is pursued wherever he speaks by passionate (some would say crazy) leftists and anarchists who literally pound on the windows and doors outside venues to which he’s invited — and shout him down before being removed from the halls.

Some claim President Trump caused the increased polarization in today’s America. Others claim his victory was a result of pre-existing polarization. Trump’s blunt talk and scrappy style endear him to his base and enrage his opposition, but which side is the best and which is the worst depends on your perspective.


Michael Corthell said...

Just as a good human being has no choice but to be good and act for 'good' against 'evil' - so does something which is pure evil (in relative terms to what we see as the effects of its acts) have no choice but to do what it does. God says to us in Isaiah 45:7: ''I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.'' You may remember what I said to you after your second interview on AT LARGE when I was speaking about our country's poetic nickname 'Columbia' with Columbia meaning 'the dove', (which itself symbolizes the Holy Spirit.) The United States is the key to peace and stability in the world, more so that any other country. What am I saying? God's got this, it's his show. Trump (and all of us) are just 'actors'. However, having said that, buck up and buckle up, its going to be a rough ride...

Anonymous said...

The political problems in this country almost all have economic roots. The agenda of the Establishment - unregulated capitalism, free trade, wars - has not benefited all the American people. Instead benefits tend to flow to the top, creating wider inequality. (Have you seen the low wages, inflation, cost of housing, cost of college, cost of healthcare?) Indeed, it seems if the American Dream is dead for many. This is why Trump and Sanders BOTH did so well in the last election season, expressions of popular outrage against the Middle - which is owned by the Wall St. bankers and the corporations.

If you have some free time Mr. McLaughlin, I think you might find this academic paper interesting.

Anonymous said...

Comments on the Bork book:

This is a piece of garbage from a whining right-winger that repeats the same old Republican platitudes about how America is falling into decay because of liberal values.

This is a sad book. It is a record of a man driven by bitterness, resentment, and defeat. This is unfortunate for the conservative movement, which should be looking for positive images and ideas that move the us forward as a nation.

Unfortunately, there's not much to read about here other than hateful polemics from a bitter, shallow man whose outspoken and out of touch views cost him an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Bork is best remembered as nothing more than a footnote in American jurisprudence and a shining example of the utter nonsense that the Reagan era stood for.
ork suffered from the closed mindset that everyone must believe as he does or is lost to reason. That attitude (currently shared by the likes of Thomas and Scalia) alone is sufficient for his rejection from consideration for the Supreme Court.

His anti-science absurdist views on Darwinism and so-called 'intelligent design' exposes the fundamental shakiness of all of his reasoning.

All too fitting that those on the far right would choose such an obstinate and angry man as their poster child.

Anonymous said...

Trump is a result of identity politics that found roots in leftist ideaologies. The rise of the "alt-right" is in response to the radical leftists. Sadly, both sides are ignorant to what happens when Facist and Marxist ideaologies become dominate.

A glimmer of hope comes from a rise in intellectuals in alternative media such as YouTube and Blogs. Jordan Peterson, as you mentioned, has a larger audience now then he ever did as a professor in Toronto.

Other people such as Ben Shapiro, Steven Crowder, Joe Rogan, Sam Harris, Bill Maher and other intellectuals on both sides of the isle are seeing explosive popularity.

Anonymous said...

On Peterson's book:

1. First of all, this book is painful to read. Each chapter is like a rambling run-on sentence that has very little to do with the title of the chapter or the conclusion at the end of the chapter (if you want to get a gist for this book, just read the last page of the chapter, don't bother with the 50 or so pages of rambling nonsense). Reading Peterson's prose feels like listening to your crazy uncle ramble on about random crap, like his memories from childhood, what he remembers from the bible, and that one thing he read once about lobsters.

2. Second, and most important of all, this book is filled with bigotry, sexism and very conservative notions disguised as innocuous life advice. And that, in my opinion, is the biggest issue with this book and the most dangerous part about it. It is easy for a young person who is untrained in picking out the numerous flaws that exist in Peterson's twisted and bigoted logic to read this book and think that these are legitimate views -- it is, after all, written by a psychologist from a great university (which is, by the way, why I picked it up).

To give you an example of this logic, in one of the chapters, Peterson denies the fact that the patriarchy has been anything but good for women and that women should be grateful to men for everything they have done for them, considering that women are weaker and generally inferior to men.

He's not a philosopher and he doesn't even understand the theories or the thinkers he's engaging with. Zizek, Chomsky or Judith Butler would wipe the floor with him if they actually could muster the effort to give him a second thought.

Anonymous said...

"The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution." -David Horowitz

" America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold: its patriotism, its morality and its spiritual life. If we can undermine these areas, America will collapse from within." -Joseph Stalin

"The goal of socialism is communism." -Joseph Stalin

The Left is unquestionably evil. This hour and a half video lays it all out:

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, Mr. "Anonymous" is one of the useful idiots pushing Fabian socialism and cultural Marxism. He pretends to know more than anyone else and claims Dr. Peterson is a light-weight. How laughable.

Anonymous said...


The left is "evil", and we must fear a communist takeover? Really???

Why would anyone believe this documentary? Because it's slick? It is based on a series of deceptions. Conservatives cannot believe that someone would deliberately deceive them. So, they believe this message.

But what if the deception was based on self-deception? What if the producer is simply misinformed? What if he is a self-taught man who picked up a few unconnected (and erroneous) bits of information and tried to connect them by means of a thesis that seems superficially plausible? What if his sincerity is not backed up by the facts? What if the average viewer of his documentary is ignorant about these supposed facts? Then the viewer becomes a victim.

Agenda was made by a Bible-affirming Christian. Most of the people he interviewed are Bible-believing Christians. Yet not one of them thanked God onscreen for the greatest political victory of all time. Worse: the ones he quoted said that the fight with Communism still goes on, and that America is likely to lose unless the entire nation turns around morally and religiously.

In short, the documentary claims that God did not provide the victory. It says, loud and clear, that there was no miracle, no victory. Yet they call for God to work a miracle. To which God might well reply: "What do you think I gave you? Are you blind? You show no gratitude."

Yes, some of them are blind. The ones onscreen who warned that the Communists are close to total victory are blind.

If America falls it will because of ignorance.

Anonymous said...


You didn't watch the video in its entirety, did you?

Anonymous said...

I skimmed it enough to see it was garbage and read the reviews. Kind of like with the Koran, or a KKK Manifesto. Do I really need to read the whole thing? Have you ever had harsh words about Islam? Have YOU read the whole Koran? I have seen many examples like this of totalitarianism manipulating information, events and people with this kind of message. This kind of fear mongering is unproductive and devisive. Stop being afraid and make the choice to participate in some sort of valuable and respectful way. Making us afraid of the red menace of communism and each other is a powerful means of control. State sponsored corporate fascism is not located on the left side of the political scale, it is on the extreme right.

Why has our society deteriorated? Most Americans (both Democrat and Republicans alike) lack critical thinking skills. If you ate this documentary up without verifying facts or having more questions, you are one of the people lacking that skill. Please do your due diligence as a citizen, don’t just accept information because you agree with the overall opinion. Both parties are guilty of this.

And so you know, I am in no way in favor of communism, nor are any of my leftist friends. Actually, I can't think of ANYBODY in America who wants communism. Maybe a few pockets of wackos, but there is no serious threat whatsoever.

Relax. My friends and I are not "evil".

Common said...

Propaganda is the art of fear. Propagandists play on the fear of the masses, building a seemingly fault proof structure of a giant Goliath in the form of their adversaries, giving themselves the moral right - or so they pretend - to vilify them and call for their destruction. What propagandists conceal from their audience is their own fear, however. The only reason they have resorted to this tactic is that they, deep down themselves, are sure that they cannot win the hearts and minds of people any other way.

When looking at this documentary given this context, we see a conservative propaganda spending a lot of time criticizing and vilifying a Goliath of their own fabrication constituting of liberals, progressives, socialists, communists, and pretty much every one but themselves. In doing so, they connect some real dots with plenty others imaginary to complete the picture, and in doing so, they are showing a mixture of paranoia and ignorance that is sometimes genuine but mostly fake. Ironically, the tactics this movie endorses are the same tactics it criticizes.

Anonymous said...


You didn't fact check the video in its entirety, did you?

Anonymous said...

Tom said: Western pundits today call Europe “post Christian”

From the last figures I could find, Europe still had a slightly higher percentage of christians than America did. Won't it be great though, when almost everybody figures out that they don't have to buy into some archaic gobbledygook in order to do the right thing and be decent human beings? When they don't have to be threatened by hellfire. When they they figure out that "heaven" is within. When they don't feel they have to be at odds with those that have different beliefs, but are still good. Evolution will get us there if we don't kill each other over such matters first. And if we realize that the health of the planet is more important than monetary gains and unregulated pollution spewing.

Anonymous said...

It is not surprising that Tom holds a sexist, racist like Jordan Peterson in high regard.

Peterson: "We should make more money based on our superior intellect. In fact, I don’t think women should even work at all. They should stay home and make babies”.

Creepy sick bastard.

And then there is the fact that he has taken to the Alt-Right meme of Pepe the Frog, which has come to symbolize racial hatred and a symbol of neo-nazi groups.

Your true colors are showing, Tom.

Tom McLaughlin said...

I see. Another anonymouse manifestation of left-wing Tourette's Syndrome. Can't refute arguments logically? Call him racist.

"Racist! Racist!"

Maybe you'll realize someday that doesn't work anymore.

Anonymouse said...

The argument was logically made. Pepe the Frog has been taken up by Neo-Nazis and hate groups as a logo. Peterson has shown himself to be a fan of this symbol. You have shown yourself to be a fan of Peterson. By simple logic you are at the very least a supporter of a racist, which makes whining about being called one yourself pretty pathetic. Kind of like Trump saying that there are "very fine people" that march with racist Nazis.

Maybe you'll realize someday that the left uses this term frequently to describe many on the alt-right because so many of the alt-right have proven themselves to be quite racist. And misogynist, which Peterson clearly and undeniably is. And supporting somebody with those views reflects on you. Just because you don't like where the logic leads does not make it wrong.

Anonymous said...

From a relevant column by Stacey Patton:

"All this denial has real harm. It prevents people who may only be unconsciously biased from incorporating unpleasant, unflattering information into their view of how they move through the world. Proud of the power and privilege they enjoy, they’re not usually ready or don’t want to transition into a productive conversation about how to create a more racially just and humane society.

Of course, most of Trump’s supporters are not burning crosses or publicly calling people the n-word. But they have still cozied up to a candidate whose policies and rhetoric are based in racism. The fact that they may deny or are unconscious of their biases is even more dangerous — because if they’re claiming not to be aware of their behaviors, they don’t have to acknowledge the consequences. They can plead innocence and claim to be powerless victims who are suffering just the same as people of color. It’s the ultimate diabolical ruse. And it protects white supremacy, and the individual privileges of whiteness, whether they realize it or not.

IT IS NEVER INAPPROPRIATE TO CALL OUT RACISM. (caps mine) We don’t do it enough in this country. It is especially important for white people to call it out, to bear witness to it, to identify it among and within themselves — and to do something about it. Stop playing the victim, and talk honestly about how to keep this country off the verge of a racial nervous breakdown."

Tom McLaughlin said...

So now we're all unconsciously racist and will never realize it unless Democrats point it out using CAPITAL LETTERS.

That seems to be their mission in life, but guess what? Hardly anybody outside the party believes it. You need a new act.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a pretty good mission in life to point out and try to eliminate racism in all it's forms. Anybody that is not racist would realize that. I don't know if the author was a Democrat. I'm not. There have been Republicans who have fought against racism, but even conservative Michael Steele has acknowledged the racism problem in the Republican party.
You say that Republicans do not believe it. Well, duh, that was pretty much the whole point of the article, that those with the problem are blind to it or won't admit it. Like alcoholics.

You being so sensitive to this issue is very telling. You want anti- racists to get a new act because you hate them calling out what deep down you know. It's people like you that probably told abolitionists to get a new act.

Common said...

Tom sounds as ridiculous as Trump would if he complained about being called a liar.

Anonymous said...

The best and the worse? You don't get much worse than being a racist. The best fight against such things.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Jordan Peterson called his mother today and said, "Happy Mother's Day, now get back in the kitchen you inferior being!" ?

Tom McLaughlin said...

I see that Peterson is a big threat to the lefty trolls.

Anonymous said...

Misogynists are a threat to civilized society, period. As are racists, homophobes, and xenophobes.

I see that attacking these type of people is a big threat to you. Now why could that be......?