The cinema has not usually been a source of truly profound
utterances, but there is a line said by Eleanor of Aquitaine
(Katherine Hepburn) to her husband Henry II (Peter O’Toole)
in playwright James Goldman’s great film “The Lion In Winter”
in which she says, “We are jungle creatures, Henry, and the
dark is all around us.”
The first time I saw that film, and watched that scene, I knew
I had heard something very powerful and true. Years later, it
still echoes as I read the latest headlines about the enduring
barbarity in the world in which we all live.
I am talking about the “civilization” of the species known as
human beings. I know many of my readers will protest that
I should not include most of Western “civilization” which
includes Europe and North America, but why should I not
Yes, democratic capitalism has advanced human society
beyond the “naked” tribalism which has long existed in much
of the world, and still prevails over a great portion of the
human population. But more than two hundred years after
democratic capitalism emerged in the West, and prevailed
among some persons in some areas of the world, astonishing
levels of barbarity survive and reappear in its midst.
The 20th century was among the most barbaric in all of recorded
human history, and in spite of so many advances in technology,
millions were unspeakably murdered in some of the previously
most advanced societies. The 21st century, now in its early years,
continues with more of the same. This is the century of the
internet, astounding medical breakthroughs, and the rapid
transformation of science fiction into science fact. And what do
we also have? A worldwide religious war of savagery and
intolerance. and a “United Nations” which supports and
celebrates the denial of human rights, while it promotes
conflict and hatred. In less than a century after they occurred,
Europe has a case of amnesia about its Holocaust, and Russia
has a case of amnesia about the murder of millions of Ukrainians
The world seems determined to repeat its past depravities
again and again.
I know the reader would prefer a message of a more hopeful
and positive world ahead. I would much prefer to write it.
But we are jungle creatures, and the dark is all around us.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.