Southern Views

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
.”
— From W. B. Yeats, The Second Coming (1919)

(Photo © 2010 Keith Ramsey)

11 pm on the night of Easter I sit at my desk and read the news on-line. It is a wide-ranging buffet of the tragic, the violent, the clownish words of preening wanna-be politicians, the latest “calamity” du jour to befall the famous (and desperately trying to be famous) and the farcical lunacy of mankind in general.

While poverty, pain, ignorance and war run amok, we have bizarrely-coiffed “birthers” bleating endlessly for their 15 minutes of fame, obsessive fascination with the upcoming nuptials of a young British couple and the unending drama of the post-pubescent celebratocracy as they lurch from mansion to re-hab and back again.

I wonder, at times, what an alien species would make of us as we stagger and leap about this small blue planet while it careens through space. For a thousand reasons Homo sapiens is to be admired: our ingenuity, dogged tenacity, moments of redeeming grace and complexity make us an endless source of fascination. But I cannot help but feel that we, perhaps, reached a pinnacle at some point and now the forces of entropy are unraveling us to the point of utter chaos.

Tonight’s headlines: Libya continues to go up in flames; Gabrielle Gifford struggles to recover from an attack by a would-be assassin; Karl Rove (does the man never stop?) weighs in rather scathingly on the media whore known as Donald Trump; researchers analyze humanity by cell phone use (Okay, now that’s just plain creepy!)…and that’s just a smattering of the “news.”

I consider myself an optimist (with cynical tendencies based upon 54 years of observation). The crusty, curmudgeonly tendency to revere the “good old days” hasn’t afflicted me yet for I was raised during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War and the October Crisis in Canada. My mother lived within the sound of the Bow Bells in London during Word War Two and my uncle survived the Bataan Death March.  My childhood was spent listening to the wrenching tales of “guts and glory”, agony and loss. My husband bears the physical scars of time spent crawling through the swamps of Vietnam. I get it. People can be staggeringly misguided as they wage war upon themselves.

But the insidious erosion of strength and decency that is the hallmark of Now confounds me. Gluttony, impotence-fueled rage and sheer stupidity appear to be the primary motivations of our society.  We Tweet and Facebook ourselves into mindless minutiae-soaked over-load.  We spread our blood across the nation’s highways because we just “have to take that cell phone call.” We text and blog and spew and feed our addiction to being plugged-in. (By the way, this weekend the St. Marys Earthkeepers held an E-Recycling event and in six hours gathered over 10,000 lbs of old computer equipment, cell phones — donated to Cell Phones for Soldiers) — wide-screen TVs and other assorted detritus. 100% of it will be recycled).

We are given myriad ways to inform ourselves and communicate – and yet our intolerance and ignorance escalates. Perhaps we are becoming mere superficial “surface-dwellers” and live through sound-bites without ever building or caring for the foundation of Us. I am reminded of an old Ziggy cartoon of the Earth swarming with billions of tiny creatures – and finally shrugging them off.

And those are my thoughts this Easter evening.

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Alex Kearns

Alex Kearns

Alex writes for a variety of national and international publications. A relative newcomer to the United States, she co-founded her town's first environmental organization (The St. Marys EarthKeepers, Inc.). In turns bemused, confused, entranced, frustrated and delighted, she enjoys unravelling the eternal enigma that is the Deep South.