Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome

Speaking as a snake-handling agnostic, I'm having some trouble with this inauguration thing. This is mainly because I can't think of the word 'inauguration' without thinking of a certain Kenneth Anger film which, for reasons now long forgotten, once played some part in my imaginative life. I'm also having trouble making sense of what people are saying. Polly Toynbee says it's a good thing and, er, that's it and David Brooks talks of a return to the cool pragmatism implicit in Daniel Bell's The End of Ideology. Boomer idealism, he says, disrupted our progress towards cool pragmatism, but not, apparently, the at least as corrosive ideologies of neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism. Weird. I suppose it's a case of everybody trying to say something without knowing exactly what. Personally I'm all for Obama, if only because the alternative seemed to be a continuation of a corrupt and incompetent administration too much in thrall to the Israeli model of perpetual war but also because I am inclined to go along with Andrew Sullivan's view that he's basically a Tory. That said, I've handled too many snakes to expect much of new, young politicians - nor of old old ones come to that. But, doubtless, my eyes will moisten this afternoon. Human hope - especially when you don't have much of it yourself - is a very moving thing, perhaps the most moving thing. 
Coincidentally, last night I happened upon a very great Edward Thomas poem. In the midst of the First World War, a ploughman considers the slaughter and says, '...if we could see all all might seem good'. Every prayer ever spoken is embodied in that line. So what the hell - go, Barack.


  1. Yes, he's a hope candidate and is thus both necessary and consoling.

    He will of course ultimately fail, but since non-hope candidates fail as well, we may as well enjoy the hope.

    America, the world, we poor beleaguered pro-Americans... we deserve it. It's been a tough decade.

  2. If we could see all we wouldn't be human, so it's rather like saying 'if we did not exist, but some other, super-conscious entity existed in our place, everything would seem okay to that other entity, but not to us because we would no longer exist'.

    Nice line of poetry, though, it's just the theology behind it i find hard to swallow.

  3. With you on Obama. It's a relief to be rid of a "corrupt and incompetent administration". Besides, our present ways of thinking have brought Western countries to the edge of bankruptcy and sowed horrendous discord in the Middle East, so trying some different thinking seems a very good idea.

    I must have a look for that poem in a bookshop later. The quote reads like a gloss on "All shall be well ...".

  4. Polly Toynbee reminds me of a (malevolent) Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. She's malevolent because she'd dump the Scarecrow or Tin Man if they gave her the slightest hint of being Tories. The rest of the media seems to be dancing along the yellow brick road quite happily today too.

  5. Lets hope he is lucky as well as handsome?

    Good luck to the empire of liberty with your coronation of your new elected King from a fellow constitutional moderate.

    The final battle of the American Civil War is nearly over and American soon will truly be able to be called itself "United States"

  6. As inauguration time comes due, like many others I'd like to say a word about George Bush. Two words in fact.

    Courage. Once he made his mind up on an issue he didn't care about its effect on his ratings. The outstanding example is Kyoto. The whole world owes him a great debt for that. Though there is still work to do.

    (I'm aware not everyone agrees with me. That's exactly why I say it.)

    Grace. The first lady can join him for this one. Laura Bush's defence of Michelle Obama when she got into trouble over that "first time I've felt proud of this country" was a key turning-point for America. The constructive handover and personal welcome for the Obamas has been in line with that and is a major blessing for the free world.

    So the hope may have some basis.

    On a more partisan note, I hope Rick Warren says something pretty sensible.

    For those that don't know me, there's a slight note of irony in the last sentence. Other than that, I'm dead serious.

    Why say it here? Because I got to like Bryan and friends.

  7. Well said richard. The left conveniently overlook Rice and Powell's contribution to his presidency. And Bush did a lot more than many others for AIDs and Africa too. Obama's speech today was commendably serious and tough minded. I hope he now begins to piss off many of the Bush haters. The signs are promising.

  8. 'To hold in a single thought reality and justice'. WBY.
    Oh I really really hope so.

  9. He will be a "neo con in sheeps clothing by the end of the year"
    As St.Margret said "the facts of life are conservative"

    I think if Bam checks his history Abe Lincoln used his civil war powers to proclaim a blockade, suspended the writ of habeas corpus, spent money without congressional authorization, and imprisoned 18,000 suspected Confederate sympathizers without trial, as well as waging war for the freedom from slavery (ring any bells ladies?)...........but then again he was a Republican :0)