What are you doing while the world burns?

Boris Johnson is reputed to compare himself to Britain’s World War II leader, Winston Churchill, a showman with genuine political foresight whose rhetoric thrilled a nation into active resistance: “we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”.

A narcissist who thrives on attention, Johnson probably won’t be upset by some of the hilarious parodies now in circulation:

Johnson and Trump are both corruptly democratically elected dictators and share personal characteristics. There are two differences, balancing each other out. The first is personal. Trump is stupid and instinctive, Johnson is intelligent and calculating. The second is circumstantial. Trump rules a super power, Johnson is the figurehead of a declining power that has done the “stupidest thing any nation has ever done” (Bloomberg) in choosing Brexit, making its own people poorer and its global influence impotent.

Johnson did not believe in Brexit in 2016, and we may safely assume he doesn’t believe in it now. He doesn’t care. He believes in himself. It is not a coincidence that humans are being led by megalomaniac lying narcissists at the beginning of the end of the world. Even if we didn’t vote for them ourselves, we didn’t fight hard enough to stop them.

So we are all accountable.

We have got to fight harder. Or have we? What do you want to do? People have always adapted, haven’t they? Survival of the fittest and all that? Is that what you want? Is that the sensible thing to do?

Johnson’s absence lotus-eating while Trump plays WWIII games with world peace and the Australian burns has been called cowardice. That jibe would cut most of us to the quick. Not Johnson. Not Trump. Their narcissism gives them armour for self-preservation that the average person doesn’t have.

They don’t care. That’s why they are successful, that is why they were elected by people in flight from the horrors of reality, overfed on lies and false promises, bored by facts, obsessed by structured reality shows, who wanted leaders in their own image to reassure themselves that they are good. They don’t care that it’s a lie. That’s where we are in evolution. The age of denial before extinction.

It’s not going to happen in your lifetime? So you don’t care? I hold you to account. I hold myself to account, too, but I would rather scream alone in the dark than break bread with any collaborator.

We are witnessing the slow agonizing death of our world, and most people don’t care. So they follow leaders who make not caring look aspirational.

Look! Be a PM or President with a subjugated trophy women at your side! Look! Tax havens! Free use of millionaires’ villas on sleazy sex islands! Look!

Look!

baby kangaroo

Look!

Australia

Look!

sof_aacute__by_ekhi_guinea-d756999Sofa by Ekhi-Guinea

We still have a choice. We either continue to self-medicate or we get off the sofa and fight.
If we are financially able, we must give money to those who need it more.
If we are physically able, we must resist and protest.

Goodbye, bloggers

“Darling! The set was wonderful.”

via “Darling! The set was wonderful.”

It’s one of those site-specific shows in which the lead actress, in the title role of “Sweet Melancholy”, is upstaged by a live, cooing, flying prop; the play is in blank verse, and the director, after blaming everyone else at the Tech Rehearsal, has lost the plot; but the set design is wonderful….

Joseph-Marie_Vien_Sweet_Melancholy_(1756)
Joseph-Marie Vien Sweet Melancholy 1756.
Cleveland Museum of Art. Image: Wikipedia

Melancholy, as you know it, was never this sweet. This looks more like Wistful Posing, though maybe you have missed the point about contemporary self-consciousness. Mid-drama, she, Melancholy, looking as pretty as possible, rearranges her drapery and takes a selfie.

You would be at a loss for words when you congratulate your friend afterwards, if it wasn’t for Vien’s sophisticated colour scheme, daring to put Melancholy’s acid yellow dress against a dark grey background, and his dedication to historical detail in the props and furniture, pioneering a fashion in neoclassical home interiors.

The smoke from the antique brazier is scented, sending the front rows, especially the critics, into drowsy raptures. That might explain the liminal moment when you thought you heard the dove speak.

You travelled far to get here, to a disused temple in an inaccessible part of the old City, where no buses dare to stop. You took three wrong turns on your way from the station. You are dismayed by the thought of missing connections on the long journey home, and arriving tired and dispirited in the lonely night.

You imagine yourself slumped unprettily on a chair, holding your head in your hands, mourning your losses, knowing that bad as the day has been, there is always hope tomorrow will be worse.

You promise yourself that if you can ever afford it – ach, if only you’d got that film job the other day – you will buy a neoclassical upholstered chair and incense-burner, and recline elegantly in a full-length, yellow silk gown, to sweeten your own melancholy.

You are not lying when you reassure Sweet Melancholy that, “You looked like a goddess on that set, and deserve awards just for acting with that pigeon.”

Fortitude in high heels

SerpottaFortitude
Fortitude Sculpture by Serpotta in white stucco and gilding, height 200 cm, 1710-17.
Oratorio del Rosario di San Domenico, Palermo. Image: WGA

Elegantly dressed for the life she wants,
in her favourite high-heeled shoes, breastplate bodice and plumed headdress,
Fortitude leans her elbow on the pillar of patience,
never keeping her eyes off the longest battle.

She doesn’t like what she sees, but she will never give in, she will never be part of it, even when other people make snarky remarks about her posing in her Rococo niche.

She exemplifies the moral courage of sticking to her post “because it is noble to do so, or because it is disgraceful not to do so.”

Keeping true to herself, and her fashion sense,
without bragging or lecturing, she puts the fun back into virtue.

“Patience is the pillar which nothing can soften.”
St Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

Music composed by Hildegard of Bingen

“She sat like Patience on a monument, Smiling at grief”
Viola in Twelfth Night, Shakespeare (1601)

Smile sung by Judy Garland (1963)

Fortitude is one of the four Cardinal Virtues of Christianity, recommended in a life skills course dating back to the 4th century, based on Aristotelian and Platonic ethics.

Aristotle defined fortitude as courage governed by reason (or temperance) in circumstances of fear or over-confidence: “Courage….chooses its course and sticks to its post because it is noble to do so, or because it is disgraceful not to do so.”

St Augustine of Hippo defined fortitude as “love readily bearing all things for the sake of the loved object”.

Kant: “Virtue is the moral strength of the will in obeying the dictates of duty, never developing into a custom but always springing freshly and directly from the mind.”

Fortitude has become rarer in the modern world where license has chained us to new tyrannies, and freedom is as elusive as ever.

The advantages of self-control in adverse circumstances have been forgotten in the revolt against the misunderstood stiff upper lip. It’s adorable. The straighter the face, the better the joke.

The primary importance of sincerity in human intercourse – “speak what you feel, not what you ought to say” – has been effaced by knee-jerk opinion polls and social media group anxiety – Like to be Liked, Follow and Ye Will Be Followed – which have compromised Freedom of Speech and promulgated the nonsense that passes for wisdom nowadays.

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a modest disclaimer: yes, I’m as foolish as you.

The most self-expressive of Romantic poets would not have predicted humanity blogging itself to death.

The people who died for Democracy did not expect the Voice of the People would come from Babel.

Fortitude rests on her broken pillar, not on popularity.
Fortitude does not betray her soul, which to her is virtue, which to us is self-identity.
She fights on.
She wears the shoes she wants.

She?

All four of the Cardinal Virtues, Prudence (or Wisdom), Fortitude (or Courage), Temperance (or Self-control) and Justice (or Fairness) were allegorized as female.

Figure_des_quatre_Vertus_from_Ballet_comique_de_la_reine

Figures of the Four Virtues from Ballet Comique de la Reine, 1582, one of the court entertainments commissioned by Catherine de Medici from which classical ballet, and political satire, developed. Image: Wikipedia

Fortitude lives up to her reputation for cheerfulness in adversity by playing the lute and holding a pillar at the same time.

“Ginger Rogers did everything [Fred Astaire] did,
backwards and in high heels.” Bob Thaves, Fred and Ernest comic strip, 1982

Step By Step
Poster for Top Hat, 1935

“Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.” Bette Midler
(often misattributed to Marilyn Monroe)

SerpottaFortitudeHigh Heels

USE DEMOCRACY AS IT WAS MEANT TO BE. SIGN AND SHARE THE PETITION FOR A PEOPLE’S VOTE TO STOP BREXIT DESTROYING OUR COUNTRY.

Rose tiara

Rose Tiara, Me Too Era © PJR

This ghostly exuberance, this rose-pink nostalgia, pink, the colour of ironic femininity and about-to-be-lost illusions, knowing and sweet; this decaying crown of experience in the benighted, bee-endangered, Brexit semi-coma is the last shout of beauty on the edge of dying.

On the edge of good taste, too, some would say. Such overt flirtation and florid excess, such abandonment to the moment, such tender voluptuousness, too fragile to touch; their éclat is not for all seasons.

Performance at this level is exhausting. Tomorrow, or the day after, their lovely faces will shrivel, shrink from their reflections, and shed fragrant tears, little pink silk sheets littering the floor, until they are bald.  I owe them the courtesy of hiding them before anyone else sees them like that.

On my last English mantelpiece, the flush of full-blown roses looks dimmed, as if an interfering prig has veiled a group of over-dressed, over-scented, over-the-top fifty-something women at a party long ago, their magnificent defiance muted into memory – 

nah, old pink roses will be back screaming and shouting at you from somewhere next year.

Flaming June

Flaming June by Frederic Leighton, 1895.

“Ah, what a dusty answer gets the soul
When hot for certainties in this our life!”
George Meredith, Modern Love, 1891

Here is art for art’s sake, feminine beauty celebrated for aesthetics, not individual rights; sensual delight enjoyed at the expense of reason; a revelling in red and yellow, the apotheosis of orange; amoral, superficial, cheesy and good enough to eat; the taste of strawberries and cream or the touch of hot sun on your neck while you drowse on a hot summer’s day. All that, and a picture that will immortalize her, but not enough to make her happy. When she wakes up, the world will disappoint her.

Is this really the Will of the British People?

DON’T BE AFRAID TO WAKE UP.
STOP  BREXIT MADNESS


His name is Will, he belongs to the people, because he is dependent on kind, rational people to look after him,
and if you care about him, and other dogs, and other animals,
and people less fortunate than you, even people you don’t like, if you care about the next generations,
if you care about their future,
and their environment, and their education,
and their access to social justice and culture, regardless of income, race and creed,
if you care about your country, the rolling green and the salty tides, the shopping and the chilling,
the ancient castle reflected in the water-lily filled moat and the modern National Health Service,
if you care about advancing technology to cure diseases and mend our broken planet,
if you care about human rights and taxation only with representation,
and your affordable glass of wine under the summer sun,
if you care about standards of excellence, equality of opportunity, and self-fulfillment in a hostile world,
if you care about the precious stone set in a silver sea –

STOP BREXIT.