There’s a unique paranoia to 21st Century life. It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that when you’re in public, especially in a city, your actions are being filmed. Observed. Monitored by agents of both the government and the corporations that own it. After all, if you’ve got nothing to hide…
Imagine this: You have traveled back in time 100 years to a simpler time. The nineteen teens. The only way for people to monitor your movements is with their eyeballs and, if they’re lucky, binoculars. The concept of nuclear annihilation is decades away. Adolf Hitler is just another asshole in a beer hall. It sounds pretty nice, but…
There’s the flu. Everybody has it. It’s infecting people in the Arctic and in remote Pacific islands. It’s killed between 50,000,000 and 100,000,000 people, which is about 4% of the human population of the planet. And there’s another asshole (there’s always an asshole) and this one thinks pumping some bullets into Archduke Franz Ferdinand is a perfectly wonderful thing to do. That costs the human race another 15,000,000 to 65,000,000 lives.
But it’s not all bad. Because most people aren’t assholes. Some are poets (there’s always a poet). In Ireland, W.B. Yeats is thinking about his brutal era and turning those thoughts into words. In 1919, he writes this poem and calls it The Second Coming:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre 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.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?