This is why I am highly suspicious of politicians, social and political "activists," and their media mouthpieces. They believe (honestly or disingenuously -- I leave it to you to decide) that they know what is best for the rest of us. Perhaps I am being unfair, but I have always had the feeling that an incipient totalitarian lurks within the soul of every soi-disant "activist."
Watch him when he opens
his bulging words -- justice,
fraternity, freedom, internationalism, peace,
peace, peace. Make it your custom
to pay no heed
to his frank look, his visas, his stamps
and signatures. Make it
your duty to spread out their contents
in a clear light.
Nobody with such luggage
has nothing to declare.
Norman MacCaig, in Ewen McCaig (editor), The Poems of Norman MacCaig (Polygon 2009).
"Peace, peace, peace." Exactly. It is worth noting that MacCaig wrote this poem in June of 1964. Think of how "bulging words" have proliferated over the past half-century.
Josephine Haswell Miller (1890-1975), "The Shepherd"
People are free to believe what they wish to believe, and I respect their right to do so. (As long as belief does not turn into the coercion of, or the commission of violence upon, non-believers.) But I do object to the infiltration of political beliefs (for that is what they are: beliefs, not truths) into the words that we use to describe human life, and into the language that we use to describe the way in which the individual soul makes its way in the World.
To use an old-fashioned -- but wonderful -- word: when it comes to how we live our life, and the state of our soul, political discourse and political judgments are "humbug."
Only a placid sea, and
A pier where no boat comes,
But people stand at the end
And spit into the water,
Dimpling it, and watch a dog
That chins and churns back to land.
I had come here to see
Humbug embark, deported,
Protected from the crowd.
But he has not come today.
And anyway there is no boat
To take him. And no one cares.
So Humbug still walks our land
On stilts, is still looked up to.
W. R. Rodgers, Awake! and Other Poems (Secker & Warburg 1941).
Josephine Haswell Miller, "Memories of the Sea" (1936)
The "activists" think they have a hook: none of us wishes to appear apathetic about the many ills of the world. Shouldn't we all be "compassionate," "concerned," and "engaged" in the way that they would like us to be? In a word: "No."
Because I see the world poisoned
by cant and brutal self-seeking,
must I be silent about
the useless waterlily, the dunnock's nest
in the hedgeback?
Because I am fifty-six years old
must I love, if I love at all,
only ideas -- not people, but only
the idea of people?
Because there is work to do, to steady
a world jarred off balance,
must a man meet only a fellow-worker
and never a man?
There are more meanings than those
in text books of economics
and a part of the worst slum
is the moon rising over it
and eyes weeping and
Norman MacCaig, in Ewen MacCaig (editor), The Poems of Norman MacCaig (Polygon 2009).
Josephine Haswell Miller, "Studio Window" (1934)