a desire for national stability.
According to historian Paul Johnson in Napoleon: A Life, a populace sinks down into such feelings after a time of revolutionary upheaval.
From the people there then arises “an overwhelming demand for a Man on Horseback to restore order, regularity, and prosperity”.
Thus, when The Man on Horseback rides up, they’ll overlook his “eccentricities”. We look with only one eye; we listen with only one ear. We’re willing to sacrifice certain values, in order to regain a sense of stability, a sense of balance. As with any living creature, we instinctively sense: balance is health is survival…
So, we’ll accept a Napoleon. We’ll accept a Hitler.
But in the U.S., our current situation isn’t that dire, is it?
Yes, we are experiencing much social upheaval. We’re fighting on several fronts. I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say: our many battles swirl together to create one wild rising storm.
But since we’re nowhere near the end of it, we wouldn’t be open to anyone who aspires to be The Man.
Or would we?
As I see it, one major change has indeed reached an end—what I call our “De-Industrial Revolution”…
At the beginning of the 1970s, we were still a manufacturing-based economy. Now, four decades later, we’re a service-based economy. This slow but steadily transformation has shaken us to the root. Much of our current social upheaval relates directly or indirectly to this revolutionary change.
At its end, I hear many of our folk voicing disgust and disillusion. Their communities don’t feel so stable to them—nor does their nation.
So yes, we may indeed be vulnerable to the will and wiles of The Man on Horseback…
However, I also believe we can knock him off his mount before he gains too much power…
But to win, we must do more than fight him—we must also fight ourselves. We must control our strong desire for stability.
A tough order—we’ve defeated our better selves so often in the past. Nonetheless, I think I have good reason to hope. I think we may actually be stronger now. Consider:
Yes, we have a general feeling of instability. But we’re no strangers to that feeling. Who among us has known a stable nation, a stable world?—no one from nine-years old to ninety.
Though human beings have always known an uncertain existence, now our worries go far beyond our own tiny corner…
What occurs in some other tiny corner of the world can jolt me in my tiny corner. We have so many corners of concern!—they keep multiplying.
Where can we go to find refuge from our anxiety?
Like so many of my generation, I’ve never found a place for myself in any religious institution…or, for that matter, any social organization.
But as I see it, this sense of homelessness actually works in our favor…
Lacking outside help, we’ve learned to draw upon our own resources. Born into a world of change, we’ve learned to deal with upheaval.
In the sixties, we saw our trusted leaders fail us—or else be taken from the scene. As a result, we learned to look to our own selves for strength and guidance…
We’ve learned that peace must come from within. I’ve learned that I’m the only one who can control my feelings—my reactions to this life, to this world.
We’ve learned to be aware of what’s happening in here, as well as what’s happening out there.
We’ve learned how to balance ourselves while working in this rocking boat. We know the struggle to maintain balance never ends. We know the boat still rocks, even when it seems to settle. We know instability is an avoidable part of life. Thus, we won’t be willing to trade our values for a false sense of security—a false stability.
So I say: we’re better prepared today to deal with any who would be The Man on Horseback.
Yes, many may swoon to his cowboy song…
But plenty will see the danger of him and fight. We’ll fight for our freedom, we’ll fight for all lives.
Awareness is never flawless. Awareness is always a work-in-progress. Nonetheless, I think we’re now aware enough to defeat The Man on the Horseback before he defeats us.
© 2017, Michael R. Patton
My War for Peace: a poetry book