"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction,
while the worst Are full of passionate intensity"
-- William Butler Yeats
That Bill Yeats sure had a way with words. And above, where he describes what happens when "The center cannot hold," he is talking about what is happening right here, right now.
Of course don't try to tell that to those in the center. They still haven't quite figured up that, for them, the jig is up. That they pissed it all away, the last shreds of its already shredded credibility, and with it any remaining credibility or power they'd once been granted. That they are now irrelevant to a discussion that grows louder and bigger by the moment.
Last week the world watched as Europe's failed-center engaged in a passionate play of three acts, a Kabuki dance performed to convince themselves, if no one else, that they were still at the center, still could come up with a solution. The show was punctuated by the usual intra-European cultural slights and arguments and insults. The Italian Prime Minister played the clown, French President Sarkosy channeled Inspector Clouseau, German Chancellor Merkel was Sergeant Shultz in drag, the Greek prime minister was Charlie Chaplain's adorable but clueless little Tramp.
At the end of the show they emerged for their curtain call, waving and smiling and assuring their anxious audience that they had come up with a fix; Greece would go on a crash diet and pay some of its bills. Italy promised to finally balance its checkbook, while France and Germany promised not to turn them into collection, for now.
World stock markets soared on the news. Whew! Crisis averted. Happy ending. The center had held, so that was going to be that.
Then Greece, the cradle of democracy, announced that center there realized it had agreed to something before asking permission, so they were going to put it up for a vote of the people. The people, though had already made clear how they felt about all this. Average Greeks had already been raising hell about lack of jobs, pension cuts, layoffs and pushy French and German bankers. Now they were being asked to punch a few more holes in their already tight belts. Now they were going to formalize those feelings in a vote.
What the markets knew is what Yeats knew; the center could not hold, at least not if the center needs the assent of the majority to hold.
Europe is not the only place where the center isn't holding. The growing Occupy Wall Street movement in the US has already made it clear that, whatever the hell it is the center in Washington is up to it has nothing to do with them or their needs or their future.
Here, as in Europe, those at the failed center continue to go about business as though they can still affect matters, alter courses, produce results, justify their existence and power. But they, like their European counterparts, are just going through the motions, a charade now, or as Bill Shakespeare would put it, "A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Obama, the last hope, failed to boost the center. Instead of a jolt of adrenalin he injected exactly what was not needed, the politics of ambiguity, of weakness, of surrender.
We so now we find ourselves living Yeats' vision, a time when, not just here but worldwide, "the center" is no longer holding. Not just here, not in Europe, not in the Middle East. It is not holding because it is no longer serving the needs of those it was established to serve. Instead the center has become the feeding ground for the few, the wolves, coyotes and hyenas.
But what now? We are, "Stuck in the amber of the moment," as Vonnegut put it. The old center has been hollowed out, and a new center has yet to congeal. A dangerous time, to be sure. But a time filled with the opportunity of renewal.
Everyone - including me - are asking of the roiling masses, "What do you want?" For now the only answer is, "Not them, not that, not this, not the old center."At least for a while longer, those at the old center will continue pretending, hoping, praying that they are still in control of things. There will be primaries and elections. Before that debates will be held to debate things that no longer matter, between candidates who matter even less.