“I have now gone through the immense scenes of revolutions that the world has experienced since the time of Charlemagne; and to what have they all tended? To desolation, and the loss of millions of lives! Every great event has been a capital misfortune. History has kept no account of times of peace and tranquility; it relates only ravages and disasters.”
(Essay on the Manners and Spirit of Nations) 1766
Here we are then. A new 'character' in the White House coming. All the rages and protests past and to come and football stars kneeling, fine poets passing into the hereafter or after here and an unusually sunny, late autumn. Where are we? I mean, I know we are at work or at the cafes sipping espresso, lattes and tea but where are we? In history? With the morning, a neighbour approaches as she gathers groceries, 'Are you a Leonard Cohen fan?' 'Well, somewhat. I like some of his early songs, but really I'm more a fan of British Rock writers like Pete Townshend of The Who and Ray Davies of The Kinks. 'Oh, I had you pegged as a Leonard Cohen fan?' 'And you? Let me guess? Chopin?' 'Excellent guess.' she says flattered. So where are we? Colin Kaepernick announced that he didn't vote for either Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton. Some friends and pundits have denounced him for steering people off voting. Ie: A vote for Hilary would have at least avoided what we got November 8th kind of thing. But if we talk about voting your conscious and not voting based on what you think might be better for you – it becomes complex. Certainly, all indicators suggested that Clinton would have been a better choice for African-Americans, Hispanics and the traditional voter base of the Democratic Party. Yet many didn't get out and vote as the pundits predicted and hoped. There might have not been as many 'angry white men' tilting the vote towards Trump as is speculated. This brings to mind the issue of 'hope and promise' that Obama represented for many African-Americans. The treatment of Obama by the powers that be in Washington may have had to do with the dissatisfaction and default of African-American and other groups. Also, how could Kaepernick vote his conscious given his support for the spirit of The Black Panthers and Black Lives Matter? It is almost as if he was and is saying – 'Enough is enough. Neither candidate can ensure that the lives of African-American youth finds less hostile treatment in the urban centres of the continent.'
Leonard Cohen and Irving Layton Rimbaud
In Canada, the culture and society at large mourns/mourned the passing of Leonard Cohen. A source of pride for many. A 'commentary artist' of and on the darker side of the human soul for others. Yet, just a good rhymer and projector of passion, lust and love for many more. Personally, I enjoy the shorter works and most distinctly the use of his 'The Future' album by film maker Oliver Stone in 'Natural Born Killers' from the '90s. On the lesser side of being a fan – there is a pretension of sorrow and the fates of darkness in his work, more or less imitative of the decadent and experiential practices of nineteenth century French Symbolist poets Rimbaud or Baudelaire, and more recently in American Literature, The Beats. There is a comfort in Cohen's presentation and lyric poems that may betray a smugness more than an altercation and exploration of and with the shadows and evils of the soul and society. That said, his work does go deeper than most songwriters as aesthetically predictable as it can often be. His mentor, Montreal's Irving Layton, said to me back in the 80s at The Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta – 'Do you know my work? Do you know I brought along Leonard Cohen?' - as if to say ' He's a real good pal of mine.', bragging of association to a more awarded and recognized compatriot - something Layton hungered for most of his career. Egos are always at stake with our aesthetic preferences. And the hunger to associate and commemorate long after the hardship an artist lives. We fear loss. And are often fairly petty and selfish about it. Few truly mourn or want to be a part of another's pain and death. Commemoration can be a strange bird.
Prez to Be
Back to South of the border and The Prez to be? Look at what is happening in the streets. The protests post-election before this orange-haired loud-speaker on two legs gets started. It's tense out there and it feels like the soul of the world is dangling a foot over a wall, trying to keep balance. As the rhyme says: 'All the kings horses and all the kings men/couldn't put Humpty together again.' Medieval though the suggestion of horses is - one has to laugh when recalling American singer-songwriter Steve Goodman's post-Watergate couplet referring to Richard Nixon. 'I got myself a presidential commemorative plate/ so I could eat the eggs off the president's face.' Still, medieval, in spite of many progresses, matters seem to have become. Maybe hope lies in the GOP challenging from within and Senate seats flipping in dissatisfaction two years along the line?
For now, I'm hoping the 49ers get some umph in their game, and Kaepernick's gesture towards social
integrity is sustained through increased awareness and less violence, regardless of the nay sayers who
like to equate success on the field with the worthiness of his cause. And that night time TV shows understand that laughing at, and satirizing those in power, does not guarantee regime change as much as increasing viewer ratings.
I'll leave you here with a quote from Don Henley, Eagles drummer and vocalist, 1989 in reference to the rise of Ronald Reagan. 'Oh beautiful for spacious skies,/now those skies are threatening./They're beating plowshares into swords for this tired old man that we elected king/'
Ronald Reagan Don Henley
This time around, the man elected is not tired nor as old. I turn your attention to the gathering storm of protest on the streets since the November 8th results and the words of William Butler Yeats. 'The best lack all conviction and the worst are filled with a passionate intensity./Surely some revelation is at hand.'
Surely, one hopes. A good season and winter to all!