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Aftermath. The UK election and Lord Tennyson.

June 8, 2017
As I stare helplessly at yet another awful, awful election campaign in the UK, I think more and more of the Tennyson’s description of the passing of King Arthur…
And slowly answer’d Arthur from the barge:
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within Himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
But now farewell. I am going a long way
With these thou seëst—if indeed I go—
(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)
To the island-valley of Avilion;
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadow’d, happy, fair with orchard-lawns
And bowery hollows crown’d with summer sea,
Where I will heal me of my grievous wound.”
         So said he, and the barge with oar and sail
Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan
That, fluting a wild carol ere her death,
Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood
With swarthy webs. Long stood Sir Bedivere
Revolving many memories, till the hull
Look’d one black dot against the verge of dawn,
And on the mere the wailing died away.
As my friends and family confront the probability that the worst, the absolute worst government in my lifetime is likely to be re-elected, part of me thinks of the Vale of Avalon and a yearning for a transcendent time-frame wherein the ignominious and squalid deaths of nation states is merely an opportunity for the human story to evolve in new and unexpected ways.
I think of all the people I know who will stand like Sir Bedivere tomorrow morning, confronting the end of all they thought they knew, the end of certain broadly humane possibilities.   Meanwhile, as the most cruel, incompetent and destructive government of my lifetime reassumes the hem of British governance, the important thing for the Bediveres will be to try to save as many people as possible.
As Hard Brexit bites, the recession proofed millionaires in government will zap their money somewhere safe and blame the poor for their own sufferings.  Thousands will perish.   Britain, deservedly despised all over the world for its self-destructive xenophobia and its embrace of Donald Trump, will start to fall apart as a viable polity, but it will last longer than it deserves to.  It has lasted longer than it deserves to.
But the words of Tennyson make be go all dreamy and think of a longer trajectory whereby the collapse of one civilisation gestates the possibility of other modes of being.  This corner of North West Europe will find other ways of connecting its peoples, and its peoples, being infinitely resourceful and cherishable creatures will create structures that suit them that will evolve and survive longer than either Britain or even England.
So, it’s with a dreamy, teary, mystical but ultimately survivalist mood that I will empathise with all those British Bediveres on the Friday morning’s catastrophe.
I suppose alternatively, everybody in Britain could actually decide to vote for a hopeful and sane future and kick the Tories out today.

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One Comment
  1. NMac permalink

    So very depressing Conrad. It just baffles me as to why so many middle-aged/older voters, against all their own interests, still vote for the nasty Tory Party. Even the threat of having their pensions and houses taken from them should they need care homes doesn’t seem to deter them.

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