Friday, January 05, 2007

The enduring relevance of T.S. Eliot

Since the Bush administration and its supporters have begun making historical analogies again, it is time to bring back T.S. Eliot to have a word with us. In East Coker, one of his "Four Quartets," he meditated on the dangers of leaning too heavily on the past in interpreting the present:

"There is, it seems to us,
At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been. We are only undeceived
Of that which, deceiving, could no longer harm.
In the middle, not only in the middle of the way
But all the way, in a dark wood, in a bramble,
On the edge of a grimpen, where is no secure foothold,
And menaced by monsters, fancy lights,
Risking enchantment."

Joe Lieberman told the American Enterprise Institute today that Iraq is to what he expects to be all-out war with "evil" and "terrorism" as the Spanish Civil War was to World War II. He is telling us that in Iraq, Good People are dueling Bad People, and that we, the Good People, must vanquish the Bad People, thus necessitating more US troops. It's Democracy vs. Dictatorship, 2007 version! This is the worst nonsense imaginable--we broke a fake multiethnic state, unleashed a civil war between the two biggest constituent groups, and this is Good vs. Evil, Democracy vs. Dictatorship? It's actually Eliot's dark wood, a bramble, where there is no secure foothold, menaced by monsters. So the only response to this pronouncement is the following:

Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God."

Sometimes you have to summon the poets. Only they are capable of explaining the inexplicable, like the reasoning of the supporters of this misbegotten war.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So we're going to dive nose-first into the trash heap as the Spanish Civil War to WWII concept suggests?

At least will we get a couple of good authors out of it? Surely that's worth the thousands of deaths at the hand of evil (aka Bush Administration).

7:58 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Free Web Counter
hit Counter