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Friday, April 14, 2017

Democracy Is Coming








A few days go, I looked at Leonard Cohen’s prediction of civilizational disaster, “The Future.”

I should say that I don’t share his pessimism.

Perhaps he doesn’t either. He includes as second, more hopeful vision, “Democracy,” on that album. But he says he considers this happy future less likely.

It's coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It's coming from the feel
that this ain't exactly real,
or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of decay:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.


It's coming through a crack in the wall;
on a visionary flood of alcohol;
from the staggering account
of the Sermon on the Mount
which I don't pretend to understand at all.
It's coming from the silence
on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered
heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

It's coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It's here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the women and the men.
O baby, we'll be making love again.
We'll be going down so deep
the river's going to weep,
and the mountain's going to shout Amen!
It's coming like the tidal flood
beneath the lunar sway,
imperial, mysterious,
in amorous array:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't take the scene.
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
that time cannot decay,
I'm junk but I'm still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

The most striking claim here, of course, is that America is not a democracy; no country is, yet. This may be a prediction of Trump, an uprising by the grassroots.

Again, when Cohen refers to the Sermon on the Mount, and to “the brave, the bold, the battered heart of Chevrolet,” he seems to be referring to the “deplorable” Trump crowd. “Heart of Chevrolet” seems to juxtapose the phrase “heartland” with an image of the common man. The Sermon on the Mount spoke of the “little people,” the salt of the earth, and predicted that they would inherit: the poor, those who mourn, the despised. These Cohen would seem to identify with the traditional Chevrolet owner, the American common man, the working class guys who voted for Trump.

The left, of course, would disagree. While they too speak of the poor, they usually mean the folks on welfare, not the working poor. But this is a category that did not exist in Jesus’s time. Kathy Shaidle likes to say that the modern poor in this sense “are the rich Jesus warned you about.” In a sense, they are privileged. They get stuff free and do not have to work. And they have bought into the system, or been bought into it.

Where does Cohen say democracy is coming from?

Here, from the Sermon on the Mount. That is apparently his vision of true democracy. The poor shall inherit the Earth.

But this also implies, from the spiritual realm, and from religion.

It's coming through a hole in the air

It's coming from the feel
that this ain't exactly real,
or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.

It's coming through a crack in the wall;
on a visionary flood of alcohol;
It's coming from the silence
on the dock of the bay,

Does that pinpoint it?

What might it mean to come from a hole in the air? Surely, this means it comes from the immaterial realm. A place that we, as materialists, think “ain’t exactly real,” and which, having no location in space, “ain’t there.” The image of a “crack in the wall” also seems apt for the material world: a physical wall beyond which is eternity. It comes from vision, from the mental or spiritual realm.

More specifically: what is the silence on the dock of the bay? “Dock of the Bay” is a famous song by Otis Redding released after his death. To put that another way, it comes from heaven.

It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
What are the holy places where the races meet? Church is the obvious place. For most of us, it is, definitively, the holy place.

One might argue, “But Cohen is a Jew. Why would he be referring to churches as the holy place? And, most definitely, the races do not meet in a synagogue; Judaism, is a race-based religion.”

Just so—so he cannot be referring to a synagogue. But the traditional term for non-Jews among Jews is “the nations”—gentiles. The term could equally be translated into English as “the races.” So Cohen may, as a Jew, be referring to Christian churches—“the holy places where the non-Jews meet.” And remember, he did just say democracy was coming from Jesus’s teachings.

Many think that religion is a partisan thing. But it is not, to the religious. Cohen is Jewish. He feels obliged to be; he has a special covenant, as a Jew, with God, and as a Cohen, he bears an even greater responsibility. He is a hereditary priest.

But this is not incompatible with Christianity. Christianity too holds that the covenant with Moses is still in effect, for Jews. And the Jews are called upon to be a leaven to the nations.

That is what Christianity is, Judaism offered to the nations. As a priest of Yahweh, Cohen has responsibility to support and encourage it; it is his prime responsibility. The nations are not expected to convert to Judaism proper, because Judaism proper has to do with a specific ancestry. So a non-Jew becomes a good Jew by becoming a good Christian.

For my part, I believe in something like the pendulum theory: when something has gone too far, it begins to swing back in the other direction. The way I think it works here is this: once something is pursued to the point of absurdity, people gradually begin to see this. At first, they are afraid to say anything, thinking everyone else agrees with the dominant “narrative,” and it is just them. Until a critical moment is reached, when someone says the truth everyone is thinking. And then they all turn, and everything collapses suddenly.

We saw something like this dynamic, I think, in the fall of the Eastern Bloc. We see something of this dynamic in the rise of Trump, who refused to measure his words for political correctness.

In a similar way, when a person or a society is guilty of some definite evil, for a long time they will go to crazy lengths to deny it, but their conscience eats away at them until they do something almost suicidal to force their exposure. You often see this with serial killers, who tend to keep getting more and more reckless until they are caught, as if they ultimately want to be caught. Like Jack the Ripper or Son of Sam writing their taunting notes to the police.

I feel we are near this point with the political correctness crowd. The election of Trump may have been the turning point, and their reaction to the election of Trump underlines the fact that they are up there somewhere without a parachute.

Examples of terminal overreach by the left:

  • The insistence on allowing men to use women’s public bathrooms. Great way to alienate your largest body of supporters, feminist women.
  • The insistence that gender is a free choice—but sexual orientation is not.
  • The insistence that there are an indefinite number of possible genders; which all must be accommodated in common speech. That’s a good way to convince people that its all just too much trouble, and, what the heck, screw you.
  • The embrace of radical Islam, together with an embrace of feminism and gay rights, incompatible and mutually hostile interests. Somebody is going to wake up to this.
  • Open opposition to the police—Black Lives Matter. Idiotic move, if you take to the streets and expect that approach to succeed.
  • Refusal to accept or appear to try to be working with the newly-elected president—taking to the streets right after a democratic election. This almost forces anyone who cares about peace and good order, or the US, to fight them.
  • Insistence that gay marriage not only be legal, but recognized as a human right, and anyone who disagrees be charged with discrimination. This gratuitously takes on all religion and anyone who believes in traditional freedoms; for no apparent benefit to any interest group. It seems like a paranoid move, a suspicion that they are all against you, and you must hit them first. It implies a consciousness of guilt.
  • Trying to shut down any disagreement, with “hate laws,” speech codes, “microaggressions” and “safe spaces.” This is like an admission that you know you are in the wrong, and your position is rationally indefensible.
I am usually too optimistic about these things, but I expect it all to collapse soon, and suddenly.


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