Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Wages of Thermidor

I did not have to wait
For the distance of history
In order to pronounce judgement.

For theirs is a legacy of bloodstains and unnecessary suffering.
And it was scarred on our stunted bodies in real time.
The jagged marks of their chains endure.

Venality without compromise,
Wrath without provocation,
And vitriol as compensatory cover.

Neither do they deserve
The nuance they denied others
In their unseemly haste to spill blood on the earth.

We noted at the time
Their pecuniary motives
Those strutting peacocks
In khaki uniforms
Extorting bribes as they went,
In exchange for curfew passes,
Score settling amidst an orgy
Of all too common thievery

The rhetoric of grievance
Couched in class resentment
But masked as the moral midgetry
Of thin-skinned men.

I had a dream
Of tyrants destroyed
With all available indignities.
But when the voiceless sphinx awoke
It was to an unvarnished vision
And an unbidden gift:
The welcome irrelevance
Of that baleful cohort
Their evanescent stature
A fugitive reality

Yet revolutionary justice
Had soaked the ground,
Leaving those reflective pools.
Their essence was curdled crimson.
They caught the early morning light,
Flickering in the eye of a seeker
And so he stopped,
And made a mark next to the path,
Fixing a signpost there
For future travelers

Then he stepped aside
And continued on his journey
He stumbled at first,
Recalling his early crawl
Out of infancy
But soon he righted himself,
Serene about the memory.
The next steps were more resolute,
Tradition demanded surety
He would never forget the encounter
And always remember the wounded
With no amount of wist or nostalgia
And so on he proceeded,
Forever the modern traveler

And all this happened
Almost imperceptibly
Their dreadnought weight lifted
For such are the wages of Thermidor

talking drums 1985-03-11 rawlings brutalities at Gondar Barracks the pioneer experience

I suspect that one should read this updated fragment in its original context to fully savor the outrage I continue to feel about military strongmen and their rhetoric. As I've written previously, it's a visceral reaction, I'm blinded by the accompanying blood.

In any case, a little J'accuse never hurt anybody. There is truth, and there is reconciliation. Most consciences can surely handle the occasional volley of scribbled words softly lobbed towards their person. That is, of course, if said consciences could be located. The search parties haven't returned for the souls of many African despots, even as their shells are now dressed in Savile Row suits...

I'll close by invoking my favourite poet who wrote about the same crew far more concisely than I can ever hope.

When bad men
Pass through a place
The way is closed
Behind them by the injured,
Even to innocent men.

- The Force of Evil by Kwesi Brew


I nominate this revised note for The Things Fall Apart Series under the banner of The Rough Beast which poses the question: who is writing the script?

See also: Structural Adjustments

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