What world is this, sir?
This is Dystopia, lady!
World of hallucogenic sights
And waking nightmares;
Realm of Dire Remembrances
And of things seen in our Bleak Imaginings.
Strange ancient worlds still are threaded in
This ending-time of mankind’s long pre-history:
See it through the lenses of its parts,
Its smaller, true and fancied,
Past and present, parts,
And of its pasts,
If you would see it plain,
And know what centuries this is:
Here old and new combine;
Progress and regress intertwine.
This is the Great Dalek Civilisation,
Run by little shrivelled, dishrag things, strutting
Inside a big, relentless blind machine.
This is the Western Town
In the cowboy picture: robbers rule here,
The sheriff and the hangman work for them;
Crooks make and break the Law.
This is the village in the “Seven Samurai”:
Bandits force tribute
From starved and half-starved people,
Indifferent to the hunger cries.
Here, the educated, knowing, clever
Thinkers, teachers, writers, philosophers,
Pundits, seers, prophets,
Humanity’s recusant effete elite,
Gang with the bandits
To rob the hungry villagers:
To the bandits’ primal theft and force
They add their own anointing weasel cries.
Here, Freedom and Equality thrive:
The poor as well as the rich are free
To sleep out in winter city streets.
All alike are barred by law
From robbing banks,
Save only those with wealth enough
To pay the licence fee
For stark impunity,
To loot and rob within the Law.
Those who rob banks with guns are jailed;
Those who use banks like guns
To rob and ride the people, rule
The jails, the Cortes, Senates, Commons,
Assemblies, Reichstags, Dumas, Knessets, Dails.
New little thieves are jailed
Or have their hands cut off
By the Thieves Who Rule
Heir to the greater thieves of old,
This is a place that Thomas More,
Lord Chancellor of England knew:
Government is a “perpetual conspiracy
Of the rich against the poor”.
This is Imperial Rome:
Here, the Presidency of the World
Is sought and sold and bought, auctioned,
And, four years on, is sold again,
(Democratically) by the very rich,
To the very rich, for the very rich.
This is a Henry Ford Democracy:
You can choose the colour of your rulers,
Provided it is a shade of the colour bourgeois.
This is a world ruled by Public Opinion,
Where Public Opinion is ruled by venal
Journo servitors of the ruling rich.
Lady, this is the place of Swift’s imagining,
Babies, millions from every crop,
Are staked out on the unhealing,
Unsustaining, stark, barren rock, die
To feed the Lords of Money, Law and Life.
Ours, is a world rich
In its Doctors Mengele,
Generation upon generation,
To find how much
In food and medics’ care
Children can lack, and live.
Here, Citizens Procrustes and Moreau
Run the schools: children are maimed,
Have hopes, propensities, aspirings
As once they broke the limbs of beggar kids
And re-set them, all awry;
Are shaped and schooled
To make them fit to live
In their allotted place,
To fill and till their social slot
And let their lives be filched
By the ruling lout elite
Lady, this is Bram Stoker Territory:
Here, if they can, they drink your blood.
Here, God serves Satan:
The priests of the high Morality go in lockstep
With the brigands, hangmen, bagmen, murderers and Thieves.
Commerce and its Conveniences,
Are fountain alike
Of Law, Morality, Art;
The Stockholder, his priest,
And his hacking journalist,
Are Moses, Marx, Mohammed, Christ.
The Money-Changers own the Temples:
Usurer-scourging Christ is jailed
As a hooligan, and crucified
For lèse Majesty, and lèse God.
Not “Do to others as you
Would have them do to you”,
But “do to them as they
Might do to you, and do it first”.
Thievery, robbery, chicanery,
Grown old and blindingly familiar,
Nest deep within the social seed:
Few now will call the Great Thieves, “thieves”
Or name Big Thievery, “theft”.
Falling fine acidic rain,
The moral culture eats
At the ties and fabrics of the society
That makes, remakes, sustains and poisons it.
Lady, this is a world ruled-over,
Entrenched, still looting predatory victors,
And their victims, vanquished
In savage old class wars,
That change in form, but do not cease:
A war of social worlds rips and rages.
This is the world of Spartacus:
Freedom and slavery entwine, symbiotic still;
The pitiless chains,
Less visible, and longer now,
Are forged and reforged, relentlessly.
The means of life,
The work of nature,
And of the generations,
Are held by a few,
Run by mercenaries,
Guarded by scribblers, lawyers, prattlers, cops:
The rest must pay eternal dues
To the Lords of Life, who make the Law.
You must work, wage slave,
Unpaid for part of each long day
For masters of land, bank, plant,
Or they won’t let you work at all.
Most hire out their labour power,
A few sell body parts outright,
Many sell their own starved red blood.
Here they treat most of the people
Most of the time
As farmers treat their beasts.
This is the Theatre of the Absurd:
Here the rich and their ticket-touts
Have pre-booked all the good surveying seats.
This is the land in the cowboy picture
Held by the half-mad cattle baron
Against diggers of the soil
And their need
To grow food and people.
This is the world of the lotus-eaters,
The Realm of Amnesia:
Here you are induced to forget
Who you are, and what,
And what you and yours might be.
Humankind is snared
In a world-enmeshing web
By the busy, spid’ring bourgeoisie:
Lives are drained, reduced, shrivelled,
Made senselessly arid, emptied, numbed.
This is the planet in Star Trek
Ruled by Doctor Frankenstein,
Here, they steal your kidneys,
Your hands, your eyes, your heart,
For spare part surgery on prospered citizens.
Here we pray to The Three Malignant Gods,
Hope-of-Wealth, Wealth, Profit,
And Their anointed Saints and Holy Souls,
In whom the quest for wealth
Ended with their birth.
Here footballers and singers
Athletes, musicians, models,
Disc-jockeys, psychics, gurus
Are adored, are amongst the richest of the Age,
Our spiritual out-reach; our epitome.
Here live olympian Hero-Drones
Of conspicuous consumption
And their attendant swarms
Of addled Cargo Cultists.*
Here, too, reign Pearly Kings and Queens;
Shimmering tinsel is worn,
Not with shame but pride:
The cherished wealth is glittering nothingness.
A Princess Di is Queen of Hearts,
A Paris Hilton Queen of Heaven
To mesmer’ed, would-be clones
Who browse, voyeur, gawp and gasp, eternally
Wishing, hoping, lusting, longing,
Imagining, miming: helpless
Before the Great Shop Window
And its mincing manikins.
This is the world and this the Age
Of humankind’s Great Fear:
Of immanent, close-crowding doom
And all-pervading guilt;
The dawning, gnawing sense,
That humankind has fouled its nest;
An Age of surging, burgeoning Fear
Before the looming shadow
Of the Tsunami Times coming;
Engulfing tidal nature waves,
And waves of man-made social devastation.
This is an Aztec world, Lady,
Moored and mired in blood-drenched Faith:
Here beating human hearts
Are ripped out of the living flesh,
And sacrificed to the ravening Market-God,
Without whose favour nothing moves.
Humanity’s heavy-dragging tail
Rises up, again, and again, to strike
At its all too-slow-advancing head.
This is the world of The Big Sleep:
Of murk, enshrouding fog,
And deep, self-multiplying mystery:
Even the authors lose the shape of this mad tale!
This, Lady, is Caveman Planet:
Here bones and toxic dung and dirt
Pile up over the years; except,
We have no other cave to move on to.
And this... Lady... This is…
Sir, it is all these things, you say,
Metaphorically — but what is it,
Beyond analogue and metaphor?
Why, Capitalism, Lady, Capitalism!
This is a state of society
In which the process of production
Has the mastery over humankind
Instead of being controlled by us.
Relentless mills of commerce grind:
In a world of finite things,
In-built, Incessant Waste
And pre-set built-in early obsolescence,
The ruin-price we pay
Our all-devouring, all-deciding,
Paramount God: Profit.
Lady, this is Animal Farm:
The pigs rule here!
But, sir, will things always, here, be so?
No, lady. No. Hell, no!
And, sir, what should I do in Dystopia?
* Cargo Cult: during World War Two, the setting up of a US south Sea island base kept in supplies by planes, produced amongst the stone-age level native people of the island a cult of the cargo. Supernatural, the planes disgorging their wonders seemed to them; and so they ceased economic activity and instead took to aping the behaviour of the in-comers and praying and sacrificing to the God of Airborne Supplies, looking for the magic that would bring cargoes to them too...
“The Treason of the Intellectuals, and other political verse” by Sean Matgamna
A collection including items previously published in Solidarity and forerunner publications over the last 25 years.