The Golden Age… and Camelot

There’s always been this human feeling that sometime, somewhere in the past, was a golden era, from which we as humans have fallen. For the ancient Greeks, it was the Golden Age, for devout Christians, the Garden of Eden. For those of English heritage, it was Camelot, and for at least some Americans, it was the American Camelot of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The problem, of course, is that none of them existed as envisioned by their believers. Early Greek history was blood-soaked, with life brutal and short, and that was if you were male and free. Even under the original terms of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had to be unperceptive and not-too-bright, because they weren’t allowed a full range of knowledge, and if the archeologists are correct, the original garden was located in an area near the Persian Gulf that was conflict-ridden. The time of the Arthurian Camelot was the warlord-torn period following the retreat of the Romans from Britain, when no one was safe and nothing secure, and during the Presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, literally nothing was accomplished except a failed Bay of Pigs invasion, the near-Armageddon of an atomic conflict over Cuba, and the most philandering in the White House in history [facts papered over and/or conveniently ignored by revisionists of all stripes].

Today, politically, Barrack Obama is appealing to that yearning for change, and those who long for Camelot and the Golden Ages that never were are flocking to him, his incredibly well-spoken words, and his visions. While that yearning for a golden and simpler time is certainly understandable, and an eternal human wish, wishing for and following such a spellbinding orator is nothing more than another manifestation of the human desire for a better life paid for by someone else. This isn’t to say that such desires aren’t powerful and that they can’t change things. They do… and seldom for the better.

Hitler promised dreams of a better life, and so did Mussolini, and so did Huey Long in Louisiana. Lenin roused the proletariat, and Mao marched the Long March toward peace, prosperity, and improvement… and one thing that they all had in common was the desire to take from one group to give to another in the name of a more perfect society.

Me… I’m much more impressed by an imperfect Winston Churchill’s promise of only “blood, sweat, and tears,” because that’s how the world is improved, not by harkening to times that never were and suggesting that they can be achieved just by “wishing” for change or voting for or supporting a particular man or woman on a white horse.

All too often those dreams of a Golden Age have only presaged a lifetime of nightmares.