A poem

I first came across this poem in Hardt and Negri’s Multitude, but in these dark days, it seems relevant — differently, but perhaps even more.

On the Suicide of the Refugee W.B.
(for Walter Benjamin)

I’m told you raised your hand against yourself
Anticipating the butcher.
After eight years in exile, observing the rise of the enemy
Then at least, brought up against an impassable frontier
You passed, they say, a passable one.

Empires collapse. Gang leaders
Are strutting about like statesmen. The peoples
Can no longer be seen under all those armaments.

So the fugure lies in darkness and the forces of right
Are weak. All this was plain to you
When you destroyed a torturable body.

One might substitute “debts” for “armaments,” but it amounts to the same thing.

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5 Responses to “A poem”

  1. Burk Says:

    With all due respect, armaments are a little more serious than debt. Certain the US doesn’t have a debt problem. The Greeks? They do have one- one that is going to be forgiven, one way or another.

  2. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I was a bit opaque. I was using “debt” as a shorthand for neoliberal policy in general, which in the last analysis is always enforced through violence.

  3. Adam Kotsko Says:

    And by the time Greece is “forgiven,” they will have sold off half the country to private interests.

  4. Martin Walker Says:

    I don’t see how one can substitute “debts” for “armaments”: the German “Rüstungen” is quite clear.
    The German text says “Then at last” not “at least”, by the way.
    Since when doesn’t the US have a debt problem?

  5. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I mean you could substitute it conceptually, not as a literal translation.

    I don’t want to discuss the U.S.’s supposed “debt problem,” because the conversation is bound to be incredibly frustrating.


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