29 March 2010

The Wolf in White-Man's Burden

It's common knowledge that Bob Dylan never desired to write politically charged protest songs:

I never set out to write politics. I didn't want to be a political moralist. There were people who just did that. Phil Ochs focused on political things, but there are many sides to us, and I wanted to follow them all. We can feel very generous one day and very selfish the next hour.
I'm equally ambivalent about political folk songs. Even more so with respect to poetry. Poetry, it seems to me, can be didactic, but not heavy handed, or it ceases to be poetry, strictly speaking. The same could be said about a song, too. This is hard to avoid when writing about politics—as with any moralizing. But I'm not ambivalent at all about sermonizing politics from the pulpit. Just preach the gospel, okay? Good teaching will lead me to connect the dots for myself. But, then, how can two people who walk away from the same building on a Sunday morning differ so dramatically on political issues? I suppose the short answer is that biblical theology implies principles, not policies.

At any rate, here's a "poem" I wrote back in 2004 that was published in Poets Against the War the next year. The funny thing is, I'm not so sure the moniker "poet" is apt, nor is this piece really a poem, laden as it is with uppity progressive, self-loathing moralism. They were apparently publishing anything back then (just peruse the archives, if you can stomach it).
"The Wolf in White-man's Burden"

The wolf in white-man's burden
takes new guise, all to con
and colonialize the sudden
'terror', the Persian son.
What is it, wolf, that you have done?

Why is it, sheep, that we have followed?
For fear of hounding in the fold,
and for black riches—thus we've sowed
in deceit the burden of another's gold,
to seek the other's gain, to spread the Western mold.

* Update: For those interested, this was written in the form of an English quintet, yet I don't remember why.


Evan said...

Thanks for posting this, Chris. I have a question about the publication venue- don't know whether you have any insight on it. Their address is poetsagainstthewar.org, although at the site itself, the name is merely Poets Against War. Do you know whether the name was changed at some point? I thought the distinction was interesting. I'm assuming the change occurred with a shift of emphasis from the specific instance of the Bush invasion of Iraq to the wider pacifist struggle. In any case, I had never heard of PAW before, and I'm glad to know of its existence.

John Schaefer said...

Oh, I like this one. A bit daring, though, don't you think? Wolfowitz instantiating his whiteness by becoming an imperialist? I'll stop there but direct you here: http://www.merip.org/mero/interventions/bayoumi_interv.html

Chris Donato said...

@Evan, thanks, and good catch. I hadn't paused to think about that, and I'm not sure when it changed, but it did change.

Your assumption sounds good to me, and it does shift the dynamic a little bit—in a negative direction. I mean, who isn't "against war" (besides defense contractors and their bureaucratic cronies, of course)?

Chris Donato said...

@John, thanks (any further analysis is welcome!). But too audacious? Probably.

Also, very good article there. I've just skimmed it and will enjoy reading it closely.

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