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09 April 2004

Those to whom evil is done do evil in return

Dave at Orcinus had an excellent post on Monday (yes, I'm a bit behind), musing philosophically about the violent death and mutilation of Americans in Iraq. He was one of at least two bloggers to note a similarity between the photo not widely circulated (for obvious reasons) and photos of patriotic white Americans and their mutilation victims, in this case the lynched "Negroes" of the Jim Crow south. I thought of this exquisitely depressing poem, one of my favourites of all time, which, unfortunately, I find myself trotting out from time to time as it again begins to describe my bleak worldview to a "t". An excerpt or two:

"I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again."
. . .
"Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good."
. . .
"All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die."

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