When I decided to broaden my blogging, so to speak, I admit I agonized over what to call it. I wanted something that would give people an idea of what to expect, something that would reflect how I felt, and something reasonably catchy and memorable.
This is what I settled on.
In case you weren’t aware, the name of this blog is lifted, more or less, from the William Butler Yeats poem “The Second Coming”. Interpretations vary, but it’s commonly held that Yeats was writing about way the world was shifting after the end of the first World War, possibly relating to the rise of communism, or fascism, or whatever -ism you prefer to imagine the poem referring to.
Poetry is fun that way.
(The “less”, incidentally, comes in when you take into account that “Slouching towards Bethlehem” was already taken, and I didn’t want it to be too confusing. So I borrowed a word from James Morrow and his novel Shambling towards Hiroshima and thus completed the circle of plagiarism.)
Regardless, Yeats was commenting on the end of an era. And not in a good way; Yeats obviously feared what was to come.
Yeats, in my opinion, was something of an innocent.
Because the world is always changing. The current era is always ending, and the next era is always coming. If Yeats’ rough beast was communism, then our rough beast is China, or India, or the general shift in power away from the United States, if you care to look at it in broad enough terms. We shouldn’t complain too much, of course. No doubt there was a time in Great Britain when the United States was the rough beast, coming to end the era of British dominance.
And, to be honest, we have as much to fear as Yeats did, in his apprehension at the shifting world around him. The temptation to believe that the status quo will remain unchanged forever is nigh-overwhelming for some, and a comfort for many. The Pax Americana might not have been perfect, but it was the devil we knew.
China, as the rough beast du juor in this example, doesn’t help much with that trepidation either. Secretive, insular, prone to bombastic threats and blatant hypocrisy, it’s no wonder that many view the ascension of the East with something approaching terror.
Sheer mathematics should also inspire a frisson of dread in most people; the West consumes a ridiculous percentage of the world’s resources in order to sustain our comparatively lavish standard of living. With billions of people on the planet who aspire to that same standard, it’s questionable whether there will be enough resources to go around.
It’s part of the reason I support the shift to a more “green” economy; regardless of the actual influence humans are having on the environment, or whether a slightly warmer world would, in fact, be all that awful, there remains the simple truth that the fewer resources we use, the better off we are when it comes time to divvy up what’s available.
Where was I?
Oh right, the future.
Yes, we arguably have reason to fear what is coming. But what we don’t have is permission to let that fear drive us into bad decisions. To panic and either declare the future lost, or to struggle against the inevitable tide of change.
Think Kelly Slater, not Emperor Nero. Ride the wave, don’t fight it.