So begins the famous cantata of Bach from the Lutheran Advent hymn. Wake, arise, loud call the voices of Watchmen so high in the tower, Wake up, O Jerusalem! I remember this cantata being sung entirely as the anthem at Evensong at York Minster with a small orchestra and chamber organ between the choir stalls. It was electrifying.
In a general way, Advent is soon upon us in only a few short weeks. The theme of Advent is what theologians call eschatological, not only in terms the imminence of our deaths (a human life is as nothing compared with history) and the ever-present prophecies of the Parousia and the end of history, but also a revelation of God through the signs of the times.
I am watching the goings-on in America, upon which the rest of the world depends. I am not a Trump fan, but I am inclined to believe that the world and our future would be safer with him in the White House than Hillary Clinton. According to alternative news sites and increasingly the mainstream, we are facing blatant corruption in the Clinton family, not merely imprudence with the use of a private e-mail server for sending and receiving state secrets – but also collaboration with evil business interests and perhaps child abuse organisations. There is of course a crazy “tin foil hat” brigade swooping in onto the sensationalism, but there is never smoke without fire or smouldering of some kind. The FBI is onto this – this is the law in that country, not just a few freaked-out conspiracy theorists or “deplorables”.
We will see come election day. Perhaps it will be business as usual and Clinton will be elected, and events will degrade towards World War III as everything gets blamed on the Russians like in the 1950’s. Perhaps we have to go on down the slope towards the Orwellian dystopia. Perhaps we are at the brink of a revolution and something new and invigorating, something that will render to us our will to live and hope into the future – for ourselves, our children and a world for which we care.
This will be no ordinary election. Otherwise, it would be of interest only to Americans, those who will be doing the voting. I am English, living in continental Europe. Why should I care? Atomic bombs sent by the US or Russia will do the job just as well of killing us all, making sure that the dominant species on earth would be mutant cockroaches with nothing to eat! The countries we live in over here have been vassals to Washington since World War II, and I read that the anonymous unelected gargantuan monster in Brussels is under the same sottogoverno. We are all waiting for change.
I read opinions and I myself feel that something is happening. It seems to be like the moment when science gave better explanations of our planet and solar system than religious ideology and literalist readings of the Genesis narratives. Wordsworth was given great hope by the French Revolution – that is until he saw the guillotine and the baskets full of chopped-off heads. There had to be another way. So it will be now, even if Trump represents only some kind of transition between one things and another. I have jokingly compared Trump with Goldfinger and Mussolini – but perhaps Gorbatchev and Boris Yeltsin would be more accurate models. We are way beyond appearances and what goes “viral” on Facebook, but the pathway of real change.
Americans talk of a paradigm shift. The idea is a fundamental change in our way of thinking and something entirely new, not a revival of something from the past. I am no exception from many people these days who are abandoning television and mainstream news sources in favour of alternative news sites, blogs and Facebook. I only look at mainstream Google news to see how quickly they are getting up to speed. We also need to be sober and curb an over-active imagination. We have to be aware of the danger of getting too excited, and then being left high and dry when things don’t happen as we expect. As yet, there is no certitude.
I began to use the internet from about 1998 and set up a series of websites from about 2004. I turned to blogging from about the following year and slowly learned how to be inventive in my writing and to be resourceful enough to endure. Trolls cause more pain than most of us would care to admit, and we develop techniques to keep them away just like with toxic people in real life. Facebook can be very shallow and pointless, but it can also do a lot of good through the special interest groups which accept multimedia unlike the old Yahoo e-mail groups. It is the home of the modern equivalent of the discussion forum (board as the Americans call it). I have never used Twitter, though it can be very effective in skilled hands and a quick wit. Until the entire system gets shut down down by those against whose interests the internet is working, by an EMP from a special atomic bomb or a solar burst – it will remain a space for free speech and exchange of information. Like rummaging through a dustbin, there is valuable information and there is garbage – for us to discern the truth.
In a very short amount of time, we can get different points of view on anything via the blogs, Facebook, Twitter if you use it and bits and pieces on Google and Youtube. We just didn’t have all this in the 1980’s. When I was at university, I worked with the University and Cantonal Library in Fribourg and a Philips Videowriter word processor. The latter was a godsend, allowing me to edit and correct my written work without having to type it all out again with yet more typos and missing lines at worst. Sources of alternative news were scarce. Hence I thought the collapse of the Berlin Wall was a joke until I saw it for real on TV and in the newspapers. We can be grateful for the internet, but we have to be careful because of the bullshit content.
Which are the best alternative news sites? The ones I look at most days are:
- Signs of the Times – It generally rings true, but there are some unpleasant articles about religion from time to time.
- We are Change – This one is more extreme and needs careful comparison.
- Réseau Voltaire – Thierry Mayssan is a controversial figure in France, expressing a conspiracy theory narrative about 9/11, but he seems to research his work.
- Prison Planet – Here we have the flamboyant Alex Jones who sells various health products and promotes the “prepper” culture. A lot of it is pretty outrageous, but it is worth reading and comparing with other sources.
- There is of course David Icke, who is interesting, knowledgeable and outgoing. But I shudder when he starts going on about shape-shifting alien reptiles!
I always recommend keeping an eye on mainstream news for comparison, and to keep us from being swept up into someone else’s hysteria. There are dangers, and we have to be aware of them. Is this shift from mainstream to alternative sources something that is growing, or something elite and restricted to unusually thinking, informed and aware people? Is the wake-up really happening?
One thing we can begin to notice is that war is becoming increasingly difficult to justify both in human and financial terms. A war against present-day Russia would not be a just war, because we would be the enemy, the axis of evil, not them. They are not Communists, nor are they Fascists. If anything, they are encouraging a revival of the Orthodox Church and Christianity! Assad in Syria is no choirboy, but he has always promoted and tolerated Christian communities in his country. The alternative to Assad is the terror of Daesh, Al Qaida and other terrorist groups. We believed the American narrative at first, but now it has worn off and we are beginning to believe that the Establishment set up, trained and financed the terrorists who are forcing millions to flee and seek refuge in Europe. Actually, we were brought round to a more brutally realistic narrative some time ago. Nothing new… We don’t trust the official narrative any more.
I don’t know anything about economics, but I know that the US (Europe and the UK too) is mired in trillions of the unit of your choice in debts. Much of the weight of debt was caused by war and the colossal amounts spent on army tanks, aeroplanes, rockets and bombs, together with various “smart” defence systems. Sometime, it is all going to break.
We need to look to something new without the monsters of globalist industry and business. Perhaps some kind of guild socialism or “distributism” might become viable in some places, enabling people to live from their work.
The catastrophic effects of big business on the environment is increasingly apparent in the undisputed fact of rising sea levels and violent weather. I don’t have or understand scientific data sufficiently well to decide whether I “believe” in global warming caused by human activity or not. Pollution in places like Beijing is for real when you see those unfortunates breathe in all that smog and poison whilst they make products at ridiculously low prices for western bauble consumers. Our addiction to fossil fuels can’t last! We have to change our way of life to the way it was a long time ago in the past – or make a success of renewable energies. Gandhi once uttered his famous words: The world has enough for every man’s needs, but not for every man’s greed. The ideology of growth has to go. People starve because of bad distribution systems and corruption. The same minority is grabbing onto all the money.
One thing that really brings me joy and hope is standing at the threshold of a new Romantic era. As the dinosaurs crash to the ground and gnash their teeth, we begin to discover a sense of being connected to each other and the planet. We begin to take an interest in other countries and cultures. My own travelling has been limited: France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Holland – and four times to the US (Maryland, Tennessee and Florida). I detest mass tourism and air travel, and there are many places I will never see. Everything remains to be discovered closer to home in my little boat – at least where there is water…
The shift began with the Romantics after the Revolution and the defeat of Napoleon. It came in fits and starts. It took on cultural forms with which I do not identify like popular music, drugs and tattoos. Eventually, people will see beyond the ends of their own noses and will appreciate things other than what can be bought with money. Our consciousness fights against centralisation and elitism in politics and business. I end with some Wordsworth:
Oh! pleasant exercise of hope and joy!
For mighty were the auxiliars which then stood
Upon our side, we who were strong in love!
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!—Oh! times,
In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once
The attraction of a country in romance!
When Reason seemed the most to assert her rights,
When most intent on making of herself
A prime Enchantress—to assist the work
Which then was going forward in her name!
Not favoured spots alone, but the whole earth,
The beauty wore of promise, that which sets
(As at some moment might not be unfelt
Among the bowers of paradise itself )
The budding rose above the rose full blown.
What temper at the prospect did not wake
To happiness unthought of? The inert
Were roused, and lively natures rapt away!
They who had fed their childhood upon dreams,
The playfellows of fancy, who had made
All powers of swiftness, subtilty, and strength
Their ministers,—who in lordly wise had stirred
Among the grandest objects of the sense,
And dealt with whatsoever they found there
As if they had within some lurking right
To wield it;—they, too, who, of gentle mood,
Had watched all gentle motions, and to these
Had fitted their own thoughts, schemers more wild,
And in the region of their peaceful selves;—
Now was it that both found, the meek and lofty
Did both find, helpers to their heart’s desire,
And stuff at hand, plastic as they could wish;
Were called upon to exercise their skill,
Not in Utopia, subterranean fields,
Or some secreted island, Heaven knows where!
But in the very world, which is the world
Of all of us,—the place where in the end
We find our happiness, or not at all!