Bathos is a literary term, coined by Alexander Pope in his 1727 essay "Peri Bathous", to describe amusingly failed attempts at sublimity. In particular, bathos is associated with anticlimax, an abrupt transition from a lofty style or grand topic to a common or vulgar one. Alexander Pope, 1927
He perhaps is all three and we are swept along, nerves jangled, mouthes agasp, speechless in our over enthusiastic attack on his words, wordless in our attack on his speech. As democracy slips by, freedoms die, glaciers calve, the oceans’ oxygen falls and darkness beckons.
Has it always been like this? The camera turns and apparently by chance settles on an older man, sparse white hair, skin wrinkled, ravaged by solar time. Wavering a little in voice, but clear in thought. Neatly dressed; the audience does not notice the professionally applied makeup. “In my youth democracy stood tall.”
In his youth? Say he is seventy, what had Hitler done to democracy that McCarthyism did not do later. Say he is 80, the Spanish civil war was hardly democracy new born. And if even older, Stalin … Democracy has long been felled by the axe along with the cherry tree, or perhaps it fell at eventide with the first stolen apple.
The right hand raised finders straight, or perhaps thumb and forefinger form a circle encasing sincerity, peace, a sense of calm betrayed by the random, or so it seems, spraying and repetition of words and phrases. The forefinger of the other hand marks his place on the one or at most two sheets covered sparsely with large type. Reading is an acquired skill that he is yet to master in all of its subtlety. Confusing lead with lead will surely go down as a lump of chemical element atomic number 82, even coming from him.
Acolytes, talking heads and others of little value frowning with false displays of concentration interpret these outburst snippets. They convert them to ideas of note. “He, was right you know even if we overlooked it at first”. Bohuslän, now the west coast of Sweden, was first inhabited by migrants, the ancestors of the ever victorious (for a while at least) Vikings. “He said their culture was torn apart, reframed by migrants, and he was right.”
And the wisdom. “Two or one? I’ll go with the one you both approve.” Nodding wisely the talking heads assert they too had said two was not viable for years. Fake news by the previous administration, they claim. As if they were not a daily part of that fabrication even now. As if there had ever been any intention of the two in the mind of the one powerful aggressor. As if it even mattered whether he chose one or two out loud, given that his son had already sided with the inevitable crushing asphyxiation of the dying ancient nation that long had occupied those shores
Many are bouyed by the hope that ICE will bring an end to the raveges of ice and worse. Violent gangs will be dispersed, drug lords sink into a stupor of their own inhalations. Jobs, repeated twice more, will emerge triumphantly striding forwards with one breast bared. One man kills himself meanwhile in an ultimate rejection of going backwards by falling forwards. One woman, perhaps with some small hope of treatment of her brain cancer is torn, bound at hand and wrist from the bosom of radiation and chemotherapy. Torn by the ice cold talons of the bald eagle from a peaceful passing of dignity therapy to a fitful mindless, painful end. Motherless children stare vacantly at the vacancy of empty pantry shelves; their lives frozen, their memory of her face fading in the hoar frost of ICE.
Less trumpeted in this enigma is the part of the dark, the deep, the true democratic antithesis, the banks, the industrial military complex that intertwines, invades, grows, strangles far more effectively than even that woman’s untreated brain cancer. The talking heads fall silent, the studio light dim, the written word evaporates before its letters can take form. There can be no peace with the bear, even though it would add to his personal financial fortune. Oceana, Eurasia, Eastasia have been reborn some thirty years later by the title though seventy by the author’s hand. No growth but that of the military, no security but that of the strength of arms, no peace but that of the victory of eternal potential war. He writhes a little against it, but is powerless. Sentences without verbs will not overcome this pandemic.
Here is the true enigma; peace is war, wealth is not for all, only the few will be great again, though they always were, the poor will suffer gladly. Here is the pathos of starvation, of denied health insurance, of enforced jobless idleness, of fear for the future of your children.
And the bathos. It’s simply a yarn, a grim fairy tale, a mere 800 or so words to be tossed aside. Let’s watch the latest TV news.