Saturday, March 28, 2015

American Fatalism

American Fatalism

The poor in India, suffering much, might say
that fate and fortune are the gods that rule
and when these make decisions and decrees,
the mortals then, who whimper, must accept.

But strangely, here, in these United States,
in New York City, I have found again,
among the teachers in the city schools,
the same acceptance, midst the murmuring.

“That’s how it is.” they say, and so accept
inequities and things so clearly wrong
for those they teach and also for themselves,
their foreheads should be tattooed with this phrase.

So each must earn the paycheck. This we know.
But so might soldiers say – and those, who brought
their prisoners to be gassed in Europe’s hells.
The same obedience – and the same excuse…

But soldiers suffer consequences worse
than teachers who, in open, disagree.
To tell their bosses, what is right and wrong,
they still decline.  The sad results, we see.

It’s more than that.  As wave on wave, sans sense,
are breaking down the fragments that remain
of reason and of decency, we hear
a mantra new. “That’s how it’s going to be.”

So snake-oils, by the priests of Mammon blessed,
by merchants marketed, are now purveyed.
And teachers make their students swallow it.
For we are workers, doing as we’re told...

Indeed, the factories that pass for schools,
that look like jails, in which we do our years,
as students do, were never built to be
the places where we learned to reason free.

But since they’re all that still is left of that
which humans had, when most had villages –
it’s time perhaps, to set the prisoners free –
so schools admit the light and hope again.

A simple thing – to say, to bosses, “No.
this isn't right.” – to say it softly, then
to say it loudly, once again – and yes,
not just alone – but in that chorus free…

There’s still a choice – to walk upon the path
on which we’re set, avoiding present pain –
or else to pause and choose the path that’s right,
before we enter more in hell again.

So do not say, “That’s how it is.” But say,
“That’s how it shouldn't be.” And do not say,
“That’s how it’s going to be.” But firmly say,
“That’s how we’re going to make it be.” instead.

We each can work until we’re worked to death
or find the many ways to seem to work,
while cutting corners. Or we each can say,
“We’ll do the work, but only what makes sense.”

No parent should be forced to do what’s wrong
for children that they've birthed and reared. So too,
no teacher should be forced to do what’s wrong
for students they've been trusted with to teach.

And if we lack the vision, ethics, guts,
to say this loud, to see, to judge for selves,
not things that others do, but we ourselves,
and then to act, what hope – and why complain?

When asked to dig the graves in which we’ll lie,
we either can comply or not.  To say
that’s there’s a middle way is nonsense, yet
we see the teachers shrug as they obey.

Our paychecks and our pensions – surely these
are things we work for.  Let’s admit that both
depend on what we all, in tandem, do
or not.  Marauders long have breached the gates.
2015 March 28th, Sat., 6 am
Brooklyn, New York

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