Augustus Young       light verse, poetry and prose
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The Prevail of Tears (2001 -)

Adapted from The Trivia Chronicle (unpublished)
In the last decade of the twentieth century the word ‘paramont’ was redeemed from ancient French Law (‘the status of an overlord or lady’, Shorter Oxford Dictionary). Mrs. Thatcher voiced it most stridently with an English ovular ‘u’ and so established herself in our minds as the decade’s leading lady. In the early years of the twenty-first century, ‘paramount’ has been replaced by the mana word ‘prevail’ (as in the biblical ‘gates of hell shall not prevail against them’, Mathew 16:18). Its top dog is George W Bush. He who prevails despite every disadvantage - looks, intellect, electoral votes, and drink. What the (un)free world needs is a real man like Marlon Brando’s mother, say the Neo-Cons. And so, he heralds his Presidency by getting Judge Rehnquist to shoot down the Safe School Act which made carrying a gun in school premises a crime.
George W has an honorary doctorate from Bob Jones University where Ian Paisley got his. A primary teacher in Louisiana tells her pupils that having a President in the White House who is ‘a believer brings her peace’. Though George W’s rebirth did not go as far as John Ashcroft, his Attorney General, who had himself anointed in cooking-oil like King David before being sworn in. And so, we too must prevail with George W, whose survival axiom is: chose enemies you can easily defeat and friends you cravenly follow. It does not quite work out because distinguishing friends and enemies requires discrimination. The peace he can be expected to bring will no doubt ‘passeth understanding’*.
The leap of faith from consensual to nonsensical politics happened when I went on holidays to Nice in the first week of April 1981. I stayed in Hotel Paradis, Rue de Paradis, where Truffaut located La Nuit Americaine (1973), and around the corner from where Grahame Greene still lived. I walked down the staircase where a French farce of famous actors (Jacqueline Blisset, J-P Aumont, J-P Leaud) fooled themselves that making films is more important than life. It is Jean Renoir’s Les Règles du Jeu (1939) for a new generation, one more interested in bedroom than field sports. War, history, religion and bad acting under the blankets are no substitute for the real thing. It gave poor Truffaut a heart-attack. Renoir was, of course, immortal.
A heavy metal band called ‘The Scorpions’ kept me awake at night but I did not mind because I had Stendhal’s autofiction The Life of Henry Brulard to read. And I returned to London with a new principle, ‘Never sneeze unless you have a hanky handy’, to find Michael Foot leaping around the House of Commons inciting a reluctant Mrs. Thatcher to cross the world to invade the Falkland Islands. He, the humanist and would-be Hazlitt of his time, remembered as the donkey-jacket at the front of CND marches, might have had second thoughts had he known there were nuclear weapons on board the Taskforce. There wasn’t time to decommission them (so says the Foreign Office now, in bizarre mitigation).
Michael Foot lost his head for a potage of patriotism, and I was to learn that English people, who considered themselves right-thinking, were not just joke-wearers of Union Jack underwear. Even my English friends were strangely silent. Thoughtful, I hoped, but they had stopped thinking, and ashamed to say they were all for it. I remember my father who did not trust the English (he had been the Northern Ireland adviser at the Treaty negotiations in 1921. Lloyd George and Churchill in cahoots to hoodwink the Paddies) saying that England tends to be liberal in its views and laws until it becomes inconvenient and then its absence of a constitution comes in handy.
I used to see Foot walk Hampstead Heath with his Byronic limp and white windswept mane. He was keen to encourage East Enders to enjoy the open-air pools on Bank Holidays. But when traveling tinkers parked their caravans on the Heath and the local crime rate was rumored to have increased, he was off to the Welsh hills (to no doubt another large house with stained-glass windows but also with a ha-ha). 
In 1981 the world changed and I retreated into my hole, not a black one, but one with collapsible walls to read Michel de Montaigne. I stopped socializing being likely to rant that stupidity rules the world for short-term profit and security, an industry designed to foster defensive paranoia so American Might could reign supreme. It was difficult to decide whether Groucho or Karl Marx had won the ideological battle. ‘These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have more’ (Groucho) or ‘Force is the midwife of an old society pregnant with a new one’ (Karl). Now when I peep out through my blinds, I realize that Karl and me misread the change. The ‘new society’ comprised the bits and the pieces of the old one. We are back in the 1930s. While Groucho was a prophet with the coming of the social media and the emergence of the reign of lies and money-mad Capitalism.  One thing is sure what was born was no beauty. It was merely terrible.
Today I learn that Global warming is likely to end the tourist trade in Italy, Greece, southern Spain etc. And carbon emissions decreased in Ireland by 1.8% (the first time this has happened). The planet is going down the plug, and the powers-that-be are making token sacrifices. Meanwhile democracy is disintegrating into the extreme right in major powers in good old Europe. There is of course another war on and Chine and India are nearing the brink. What Israel is up to with Gaza is small fry. Their real target is Iran. And America is saying nothing. The 1930s have been forgotten. I won’t go on…
Time to read Stefan Zweig’s Montaigne (circa 1943) in Will Stone’s translation, Pushkin Press, 2015.
*Written before September 11th