Peak of Discontent


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.

William Butler Yeats ‘The Second Coming’

Mankind has reached a peak of discontent.  The Islamic terrorism that has shaken a large part of the world is largely a product of the discontent with the Western civilisation.  Now the West seems to be discontented with its own civilisation as evidenced by the movement to “occupy the Wall Street.”  The last few decades witnessed a rapid rise in the number of religious cults and movements that drew followers in hoards, apparently people who were looking for a remedy for their fundamental discontent.  

W B Yeats, quoted above, was of the view that civilizations are replaced with their opposites after a period of two thousand years.  One cycle of two thousand years is over, according to the Yeatsian vision.  ‘After an age of necessity, truth, goodness, mechanism, science, democracy, abstraction, peace, comes an age of freedom, fiction, evil, kindred, art, aristocracy, particularity, war,’ wrote Yeats in A Vision.  Is his vision coming true?

The Arab Spring is an example of the freedom that people assert in this new age.  Dictators are being pulled down to the ground sodden with much blood as mercilessly as they had behaved with their people.  The mass media including the internet with its social websites has brought almost unbridled freedom to the common man. 

Fiction is fast replacing truth.  Anti-corruption heroes are accused of corrupt practises.  Heroes turn villains and vice versa overnight.  The border line between truth and fiction seems to have vanished.  The leader of a political party whose governments are all steeped in nefarious corruption charges is leading a crusade against corruption across the country.  The leader equivocates time and again when questioned about his real motive of promoting himself as the party’s prime-ministerial candidate.  As more and more heroes find themselves behind the bars of the prison, a loquacious hero of the ruling party at the centre wonders whether such acts won’t dissuade industrialists from investing in India. 

Fiction is mounting the high throne not only in India.  Barack Obama who ascended the highest throne with the slogan that “We’re the one ones we’ve been waiting for” has led his country in a direction that is diametrically opposed to the “audacity of hope” he had dared to teach his countrymen.  This hero who preached the noblest sentiments in his famous Cairo speech has proved in the last three years that words are mere symbols, just fiction.

The rise of evil is far too obvious to require any further elaboration.  When the people of America, the country that exported the current economic system to other countries, raise placards which bifurcate the wealthiest one percent from the remaining 99 percent, they are highlighting the fact that the ancient of kingship has been reinstated by the present system of capitalism.  The kings (aristocracy) now are the traders and the politicians who collude with them.  In their kingdom, the people are rendered as helpless as they were in the days of the crowned kings. 

The Washington-based Economic Policy Institute points out that while the average incomes in America grew by over $10,000 between 1979 and 2008 the incomes of 90 percent of Americans declined.  The benefits of the economic growth went to a meagre 10 percent.  This is the economic system that America touted as the best and exported all over the world, creating a huge economic disparity between the haves and the have-nots.  It is the same system that has engendered the current peak of discontent in spite of all the freedom that people apparently seem to enjoy: the freedom to live in a fool’s paradise of the virtual world of social networks, for example. 

Wars have only escalated in the last few decades in spite of America’s professed intentions to bring peace.  War is a commercial enterprise today; it brings much profit to the victors as well as the arms dealers. 


India is celebrating Diwali, the festival of lights.  Light is a symbol of goodness, truth, knowledge, etc.  Diwali celebrates the victory of the good over the evil.  In reality, however, it appears that such victory will only remain a myth, a symbol of a human longing. 


Wish you a Happy Diwali.


About matheikal

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8 Responses to Peak of Discontent

  1. dawnanddew says:

    “…victory of the good over the evil.”
    Sir, the above-mentioned slogan is always my strong belief. But now my faith seems to be mere superstition. It is really difficult for me to accept this practical truth.

  2. matheikal says:

    Dawn, truth is becoming “practical.” In the world of practical affairs today, truth is redefined again and again by people who wield power.

  3. Raghuram Ekambaram says:

    Matheikal, you truly lost me on this … and to say, “Good wins over evil” is the epitome of self-righteousness, in my opinion. I will prove that: if one loses, the comment is, “He [the winner] has it coming later, in his next life.” The self never loses. If it does not win in this life, it WILL win in the next. To me, this makes mockery of a valid process of thinking.

    Truly sorry for being so strongly contrarian.


  4. Aditi says:

    Received this poem in my inbox Matheikal, sharing on your page.:)

    One day
    the apolitical intellectuals
    of my country
    will be interrogated
    by the simplest of our people.

    They will be asked
    what they did
    when their nation died out slowly,
    like a sweet fire
    small and alone.

    No one will ask them
    about their dress,
    their long siestas
    after lunch,
    no one will want to know
    about their sterile combats
    with “the idea of the nothing”
    no one will care
    about their higher financial learning.

    They won’t be questioned
    on Greek mythology,
    or regarding their self-disgust
    when someone within them
    begins to die the coward’s death.

    They’ll be asked nothing
    about their absurd justifications,
    born in the shadow of the total lie.
    On that day
    the simple men will come.

    Those who had no place
    in the books and poems
    of the apolitical intellectuals,
    but daily delivered
    their bread and milk,
    their tortillas and eggs,
    those who drove their cars,
    who cared for their dogs and gardens
    and worked for them,

    and they’ll ask:
    “What did you do when the poor suffered,
    when tenderness
    and life burned out of them?”

    Apolitical intellectuals
    of my sweet country,
    you will not be able to answer.
    A vulture of silence
    will eat your gut.
    Your own misery
    will pick at your soul.
    And you will be mute in your shame.

    – Otto Castillo

    Happy Diwali, :))

    • matheikal says:

      Aditi, thanks so much for this wise poem.

      The book I chose to read this Diwali is: ‘An Attempt to assassinate my inner bourgeois’ by a French ‘intellectual’, Yann Kerninon. [ I’m half-way through it and you can expect my review of it in a day or two.]

      Kerninon says that the cancer which has been eating into the human civilisation in the last two centuries is the pretentiousness of people – both the political and the apolitical, both the intellectuals and the activists. Everyone has much to say, to claim, to profess… to pretend. Only when we learn to BE, be ourselves in spite of the limitations of that being, will we have a genuine civilisation… It’s quite an idealistic view, yet very simple and TRUE.

  5. i remember this piece by Yeats was part of our syllabus in MA (Eng Lit) and the words “mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” still resonates in my heart

    you took off very well from that. very thought provoking post

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