Last year, Todd Swift, put the call out after the first shocking images of the Syrian refugee crisis hit the media. These heartbreaking images where at first demonized by the British press and politicians alike, who referred to the refugees as ‘swarms’. This sad state of affairs spurred Eyewear Publishing into asking a number of poets to respond to the crisis in their 20/20 Special Editions, you can find the results here. In moments like these, when I have been asked to respond to an event or get involved with politics, I am reminded of the quote:
When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.– John F. Kennedy
The premise still rings true. Poetry is needed now more than ever, we are on a verge of what I can only begin to tip toe around as another slide into the abyss; world war, famine, government corruption and power struggles between EU states. We are already part of what can only be seen as a Northern block of EU states – see the evidence in what happened to Greece and what is happening to Spain. If you don’t believe another world war will happen, that technology will save our sons and daughters, our mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, that we are too civilized in the West to stoop so low again then look at our partners, our trade agreements, our weapon sales around the globe. Look at the present problems demoted by Western media from wars to conflicts, some real, some possible, some virtual but all largely unreported by the BBC: Turkey, Libya, Lake Chad Basin, South Sudan, Burundi, Afghanistan, Colombia and rumbles in the South China Sea between the USA and China. History is repeating. It’s all the same old players, just new countries, old ignorance. We are the blind leading the blind through minefields. Whatever form the next war will take I do not know, part of me hopes that it will be virtual, confined to corporations but in the end we will all suffer, capitalism leaves us wide open because it feeds on the misery of others and eventually, report by report, TV documentary by TV news reel, will will be forced to look at that misery. We saw it with the Syrian ‘swarms’ and how the death of one little boy brought home the fact that these were human beings, not bugs, not an infestation but as we slide once more into the mistakes of history and hunker down behind barb wired states, banging our drums we must remember the worst enemy we have, is ourselves, and we can never escape that. For if we sit in silence, or wail with the mob, we dishonour those that fell in battles so we could consider what freedom is, we dishonour refugees who brought our DNA to our homelands, we dishonour our families in our ignorance, greed and fear. We would be the worst possible beast, fit for nothing, a true swarm upon the face of the Earth. Our time is limited, as individuals, as a species, all things pass but they can pass in wonder and beauty or in the flash of cordite and misery. Thanks to Eyewear Publishing, Todd Swift and Oliver Jones who reminded us all that poetry is the best of us at the worst of times.