Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Paranoia strikes Deep, Into your Life it will Creep..."

In Ukraine’s Jews Ponder their Future by SAM SOKOL in the Jerusalem Post we read: 'Although there is "no information of Jews being targeted" as of yet, Jewish institutions are under self-imposed lock-down".  It is disturbing to encounter articles like this that reflect such a deep sense of insecurity within a long-standing minority cultural group in a European nation. While one can appreciate the unease created by the persistence of a nasty streak of antisemitism in many Eastern European societies in spite of their being where Nazi elimination squads operated with a vengeance during Hitler's push east into Russia, the 'lock-down' discussed in the article seems to reflect an ongoing level of fear and feelings of separateness which it is saddening to contemplate. 

For someone of my generation, what comes to mind is the apocryphal 1967 song  'For What Its Worth' from the now-legendary band Buffalo Springfield -

There's something happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there, telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop. Children, what's that sound

Everybody look what's going down, there's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong. Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind, I think it's time we stop

Hey, what's that sound, everybody look what's going down
What a field-day for the heat, a thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs, mostly say, hooray for our side
It's time we stop. Hey, what's that sound, everybody look what's going down
Paranoia strikes deep,
into your life it will creep. It starts when you're always afraid..................

Paranoia strikes deep might be a good epithet for the Ukraine's current troubles, but into your life it will creep. It starts when you're always afraid names a more universal mindset. It may even be the root sensibility from which the various 'colour' and 'season' revolutions of our post-communist world have attempted to move us beyond.

The cold-heartedness and paranoia that all too frequently surfaces today around the motives and actions of Big Government has created the Tea Party in the USA and other troubling far-right groups elsewhere.  As I get older what often comes into my mind are some lines from another song involving Neil Young: '....keep me searching for a heart of gold, and I'm getting old. Keep me searching for a heart of gold, and I'm getting old' from Heart of Gold 

We live in an age of great distrust of power structures.  Indeed cynicism has crept into so many aspects of our civilization's activities, we may be approaching the decline into irrelevance or extinction of the world order that we Europeans created. Typically hegemonies (empires, worldviews) in the past have lasted not much longer than 400 years at the outside. While not the only reason for a society's crash and burn (catastrophic climate change and environmental degradation are other culprits), loss of confidence in the fundamentals of a civilization's raison d'etre and in those managing its affairs has time-and-again been when the barbarians get through its gate and down it goes into the dust of history.

For our Western way of life, the time of our greatest self-esteem was likely when the Protestant Reformation and the follow-on Enlightenment freed our citizens from dark superstition and opened their minds to possibility. Can we find their sense of purpose once again?

Will the revolutions of the mind in our European past, those which focused our thinking around new strategies for living better lives, be matched by the results of the rebellions of present days against autocracy and thought-control taking place away from our borders in places like the Middle East and North Africa?  Sadly that seems increasingly to be unlikely in these times of unparalleled paranoia.

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