Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Stay in Bedlam

It's unclear whether we're inmates or visitors, but I think we've reached the place.  Let us go then, you and I, into Bedlam.
It's said Bedlam is another name for Bethlehem Royal Hospital, an institution for the insane which was around for quite some time; the oldest such place by repute.  It's infamous for many reasons, but perhaps it's most notorious because it put the mentally ill or those who were thought to be mentally ill on display, to paying visitors.  It was a kind of human zoo, though those behind its bars were likely never treated as well as animals are in the better zoos we have now.  This post is graced by one of the prints of Hogarth's series of works called The Rake's Progress, showing the decline of a good-for-nothing son of a rich merchant, who ends up in Bedlam, eventually.  Served him right.
"Bedlam" the word as opposed to the institution has come to mean a scene of chaos or mad confusion.  Perhaps it's just me, but this is what I've come to think the politics of our Great Republic has become.  The spectacle is sometimes amusing in a grotesque fashion.  I like to think, and hope, that I'm an observer and not a resident.  I suspect I feel in those moments of amusement something along the lines of what visitors to Bedlam felt--a combination of embarrassment, amazement, distress and shameful enjoyment of the oddities who appear before me as I walk, if a viewer of TV or user of a computer can be said to walk, through the madhouse or rather the madhouses which are Congress and the White House.
How did it come to this?  Was it inevitable that our Glorious Union would come to be presided over by an ignorant, venal lout, and be represented by craven and equally venal lackeys of special interests?  Old Ben Franklin may have been right when he surmised that we would eventually become so corrupt as to require a despotic government.  We have as Chief Executive someone it seems would like to be a despot, is used to being one in his privately-owned business, but I think we're more a plutocracy than anything else.
Aldous Huxley and George Orwell not all that long ago created their very different dystopian visions of what they thought we and our masters might, or were likely, to become.  Neither of those visions, though, envisioned or encompassed a government by the obnoxious, for the obnoxious and of the obnoxious.  How else can we describe those who believe themselves to be our leaders?  Orwell, perhaps, came closer to the truth in his Animal Farm where pigs and humans become the same sad, selfish creatures.
My hopes for the government of our future are minimal.  I have no expectation of greatness or achievement by our leaders.  I merely hope to be left alone.  A solitary confinement, call it, in one of the cells, free for the most part from interference any more invasive than the yammering and posturing we can't escape from, really, in this world where the show is always going on and there is no respite.

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