It is really beginning to feel as if we are, in the words of P.F. Sloan, ‘on the eve of destruction’. His seminal 1964 song resonated with a generation and when you read back through the lyrics it could almost have been written yesterday.
The eastern world, it is explodin’,
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’
There may be peace in Vietnam but America’s war in Afghanistan rumbles on, a limp withdrawal and Taliban resurgence looking increasingly inevitable despite so-called ‘peace talks’ and ‘ceasefires’. Iraq cannot recover from the invasion of 2003, the hellish rule of Saddam Hussein replaced by a cyclical nightmare of Shia and Sunni violence, exacerbated by foreign interference.
And even the Jordan river has bodies floatin’
Middle East peace has arguably never seemed further away. The bloodshed of the 1960s has continued unabated, spreading beyond the borders of the Holy Land to engulf almost every regional state. Iraq we have mentioned, Syria and Yemen sit in ruins, Lebanon is forever on the cusp of civil war, Jordan itself is overstretched by Syrian refugees, the Arab world internally divided by Qatar and religious dissent.
If the button is pushed, there’s no running away,
There’ll be no one to save with the world in a grave
Nuclear catastrophe is not as tangible a fear as it was in the 1960s but nuclear proliferation has increased nonetheless. North Korea is a nuclear state, there’s no denying it. Iran will follow, regardless of what deal the P4+1 – now the USA has withdrawn – try and conjure up, the revolutionary regime of the Islamic Republic hellbent on securing a nuclear deterrent. Meanwhile, the two powers that started all the trouble remain at odds. America and Russia are withdrawing from important treaties designed to avert nuclear war, to reduce stockpiles, to stop needless tests, to ensure peace. Putin and Trump posture and the world loses.
And marches alone can’t bring integration,
When human respect is disintegratin’
If human respect was disintegrating in the 1960s it is well and truly eviscerated now. An era of such consistent bile and hatred amongst mankind there has never been. People spew their nastiness from computer keyboards, whilst others take to the streets in defiance of their governments who have proven wholly incompetent at unifying their nations in a time of crisis.
Think of all the hate there is in Red China!
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama!
China may not be as red as in the days of Mao but the communist party is unerring in its ruthless suppression of internal dissent. Think of the Uighurs imprisoned in Xinjiang, or the brave democracy activists brutalised on the streets of Hong Kong. All carried out under the watch of the West, unwilling or unable to prevent it occurring.
And what of Selma, Alabama? How far has America really come since those bloody marches of 1965? Minneapolis is simply the latest flashpoint in an unending spiral of racial degradation, where the black minority remain second-class citizens despite one of their own having won the presidency twice in the last dozen years.
Ah, you may leave here, for four days in space,
But when your return, it’s the same old place
Yes despite all the problems facing us here on earth we are lusting after outer space once more, only this time our faith is pinned on the private sector after the shocking expense of the government-led space programmes of decades ago, carried out as the ultimate game of one-upsmanship against the Soviets. Perhaps it is wise to seek distant planets on which to rebuild our species with the continuing implosion of mother Earth.
It’s undoubtedly sad that despite half-a-century of fevered progression we remain trapped by the same problems we faced in the 1960s. If any part of the world is exploding now it is the West, shown up by our inadequate response to the coronavirus pandemic and our colossal failure to provide inclusive societies for our citizens. Governments alone are not to blame; individuals at all walks of life must carry the can for our woes, the lack of respect for their fellow man a tragedy almost unique in its completeness.
Perhaps the most pertinent and poignant line of Sloan’s song is:
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’
An amazingly simple truth and what feels like somewhat of an understatement at this troubling time. For those who don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction, you need to wake up and you need to think about what you can do to change the world.