02 February 2017

Some Notes for Modern Hamlets

You know you're living in an intensely political age, when folks you've known for years are prepared to end a hitherto warm, hearty, even thriving friendship, because (they have reason to suspect) you didn't vote the way they did. Or tweet the way they did. Or were being insufficiently supportive of their various tweeting campaigns.

By now, of course (unless you've been asleep for twenty years), you will have noticed that ours is one of those intensely political ages. (Not to mention an obsessively economic, money-driven age; talk about morbid obsessions.) But the reason?

No doubt it reflects the vastly greater political wisdom and discernment of our time, as compared with previous eras even of the Twentieth Century. Nowadays we have so perfectly managed to align our political divisions with the perfect will of God or Progress or History or Freedom, we're not only excused for hating - or at least anathematizing? - a friend who voted for the wrong candidate, but we're practically obliged to do so. Apparently the road to Heaven is now paved with politically severed friendships. Not that that prevents even one's closest political soul-mate from being an absolute backstabber in the more ladder-climbing departments of life. Seriously, who can you trust? And how do you love (anyone)?

"Those friends thou hast, . . . their adoption tried, grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel."
                                                                                                                                           Hamlet I: iii: 65

Poor old Polonius. Natural enough in those days, I suppose, to warn your son of Machiavellian-style rottenness-and-treachery-in-Denmark, etc, as the most reliable agent for the dissolving of beautiful friendships. Ambition, jealousy, political expedience - these have always worked wonders at making new enemies out of old friends. But what would Polonius, or Hamlet - or Shakespeare - have made of ideological purity, as the most corrosive solvent of all?

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