The day the earth stood still


    We live – individually and collectively – with the world we leave behind us and the hindsight view of our civilization in the century since the end of the First World War, for all its innovation and excitements, often hasn’t been a pretty sight. 

    America’s mid-term election results could be known by the time this paper is on the street.

    In the balance has been the question of whether America marches to Trump’s drum for another two years or if the populace has staged a disruption. 

    If both Congress and Senate stay with the Republicans, the planet remains – for the foreseeable future – in an uneasy thralldom to shadowy global power and the robber barons who rose to mighty fortunes nearly a century before Yeats’s young Irish airman chose his fate with such clear eyes.

    Their names are still familiar to the globalized world two centuries later. 

    The muddle, folly and entrenched ‘old money’ that we know funnelled inexorably into two world wars has hardly abated. Hollywood continues to groom us with Sheriff of Nottingham type villains and hapless (or worse) heads of state, venal (or worse) bureaucrats and ever more diabolical armaments are brought to bear on citizens and dissent. 

    Watching the movies doesn’t reassure us that the American education system as it’s experienced outside of schools of the privileged is much better than Lord of the Flies bullying re-set in soul-less concrete, that public distrust of the media and politicians has become endemic or – as Keanu Reeves’ character so nearly concluded in the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still – that termination of the human race was a pragmatic solution.

    However, in terms of last-minute redemptions in the real-time US electoral drama, one could, this week, cast dynamic forty-something Democrat and one time punk rock base player Beto O’Rourke, running neck and neck against Ted Cruz in Texas, as a force to cut through celebrity worship and deep unease about traditional politicians and who has campaigned in every corner of that state on “a promise of compassion”.

    Or Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, who most famously piloted a US Airways flight to a safe landing on the Hudson River in New York in 2009, saving 154 lives. He told the Washington Post that the fabric of the US was under attack while shame, “a timeless beacon of right and wrong”, seems dead.

    By definition, an armistice is a formal agreement of warring parties to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, since it may constitute only a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace. 

    I wondered whether Yeats’ poem could have stood alone for this week’s Armistice centenary editorial and to a large extent, it does. 

    In a world experiencing a great deal of cruelty, chaos, injustice and violence, not to mention social breakdown and loss of human connectivity, we are challenged to find the same fine balance again; one where the past and the din of public acclaim and manufactured enemies only informs a new present moment in which we create the groundwork for what we might envisage for a new, just and democratic future. 

    Liz Waters

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