Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.
Thomas Gray, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College
Abiding in the midst of ignorance, thinking themselves wise and learned, fools go aimlessly hither and thither, like blind led by the blind. Katha Upanishad
Populism: a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups.
America has gone through many populist phases but none quite like the one we are going through today. We’ve posted on this topic on and off, most notably in The Trolley Problem and the Winter of Our Discontent. A bully dictator in the Presidency, a violent assault on the Capitol, and a people’s revolt against Wall Street in the form of a well manipulated rocket ride in the price of GameStop designed to attack the short positions of several prominent hedge funds—these and a newly elected member of Congress spouting QAnon conspiracy theories are rightly at the top of the news cycle.
So, what’s to be done? What can be done? What will be done? Most likely, nothing. We’re too far into it and those who haven’t noticed but are noticing now are caught like deer in the headlights, frozen in their tracks, mesmerized by social media that makes them, like pornography, excited and confused.
The simple fact is:
Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one. Charles Mackay, Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
The old-fashioned advice comes too late, no longer works, and is, anyway, ignored.
Buy when there’s blood in the streets.
Don’t step in front of a speeding truck.
Don’t try to catch a falling knife.
Be fearful when others are greedy.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you … Kipling, IF
We live in a world of “alternative facts” and are consigned to a game of musical chairs—a game where might makes right and it doesn’t pay to be too smart by half. Our first instinct when confronted with “the other” is to fight and that is exactly what we are doing. The way out, if there is one, is to recognize the interdependencies between human beings and our need to get along. Tough work. Poetry, music and art might get us there but in the midst of the storm “tis folly to be wise.”
The Blind Leading The Blind
By Lisel Mueller
Take my hand. There are two of us in this cave.
The sound you hear is water; you will hear it forever.
The ground you walk on is rock. I have been here before.
People come here to be born, to discover, to kiss,
to dream, and to dig and to kill. Watch for the mud.
Summer blows in with scent of horses and roses;
fall with the sound of sound breaking; winter shoves
its empty sleeve down the dark of your throat.
You will learn toads from diamonds, the fist from palm,
love from the sweat of love, falling from flying.
There are a thousand turnoffs. I have been here before.
Once I fell off a precipice. Once I found gold.
Once I stumbled on murder, the thin parts of a girl.
Walk on, keep walking, there are axes above us.
Watch for the occasional bits and bubbles of light —
Birthdays for you, recognitions: yourself, another.
Watch for the mud. Listen for bells, for beggars.
Something with wings went crazy against my chest once.
There are two of us here. Touch me.
[“The Blind Leading the Blind” by Lisel Mueller, from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems. © Louisiana State University Press.]
When the chips are down
And you’re blinded on your feet
You’re standing up and walking
But you know you are dead meat
The sky is busting
And it’s near the break of day
And you’re running out options
And running out of place
The leaves are cracking
Withered on the trees
I beg you darling
Won’t you say a prayer for me
I need your benediction
‘Cause I’m a soul in need
And I can’t sit down much lower
‘Cause I’m on my knees
Like the blind leading the blind
After the wine, the tears they are gushing
Oh, like the blind leading the blind
Time after time, you won’t let the love in, yeah
You are the sharpest knife
You are the finest blade
You are the shining sun
Everybody’s in your shade
So funny to you
Dripping honey from your tongue
But you never know what’s waiting for you
When the day is done
There is a sadness grinding in your bones
A twisted trap down, you’re forced to go
You need the hand of friendship to steady up your heart
So hang on to me closely and I’ll show you down the path
Like the blind leading the blind