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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 2/16/17

Without Poetry We are Dead: With It We Die Living

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Carefully and carelessly robed in imported tweeds,

Lecturing on the Age of Abundance;

The jackal in double-breasted gabardine,

Barking by remote control,

In the United Nations;

The vampire bat seated at the couch head,

Notebook in hand, toying with his decerebrator;

The autonomous, ambulatory cancer,

The Superego in a thousand uniforms;

You, the finger man of behemoth,

The murderer of the young men.

The work of our best poets confronts us with our deepest anxieties and the questions that hover over our lives like a held breath. Since the late 19th century, our finest poets and thinkers have devoted themselves to the Herculean task of undercutting the false distinction between thought and emotion (passions being a more inclusive word) that has been a mainstay, not only of rationalism and romanticism, but of the way we live. This invalid distinction goes back to Plato, who wanted poetry banned because he said it was imitative and did not possess ideas, as philosophy did. He said poetry was irrationally emotional and dealt in illusions.

This critique of poetry is paralleled at the individual level by the saying, "I know that intellectually, but emotionally"" -- as if emotions were irrational and seize one like a worry dog seizes a duck shot by a hunter. This belief results in people becoming victims of their emotions, and victims of poetry and the arts that are assumed to be devoid of ideas. This schizoid attitude lies at the heart of issues of faith and responsibility that plague our times, and it is against this ongoing myth that the most astute poets aim their art.

This effort is linked to the increasingly widespread disbelief in the reality of the objective world and the growing acceptance of the idea of the "social construction of reality" (even if one never heard of the term), an idea co-terminus with the movement from modern to "postmodern society" and the development of sophisticated technologies of mind control. It has led to the devaluation of our senses, our divorce from the reality of the natural world, and the diminution of direct personal experience. While understanding how powerful elites manipulate "reality" perception can lead to liberating truth, it has primarily led to widespread skepticism and confusion as technology has grown exponentially more sophisticated and the modern corporate state's propaganda machines have utilized it with lies and deceptions in the service of empire. When people believe that "everything is relative" and socially constructed, the assumption that there are no facts or truths seeps into public consciousness and corrupts people's sense of reality at the deepest level. It is soul murder. Of course, that "everything is relative" is an absolute statement that contradicts itself is usually lost on true believers. Or is it true doubters?

Modern propaganda is reality construction. People like Dick Cheney and his innumerable ilk throughout the U.S. government bluntly crow that while others may report the facts, they create them -- they create reality and what people think is reality. Then their stenographers in the mainstream corporate media report this created reality that most distracted, hypnotized, and ignorant Americans take for reality.

Harold Pinter succinctly said the following about all the countless war crimes committed by the United States while the American people were deluded into thinking otherwise: "It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest."

So what at first glance may seem a small issue of concern only to poets and assorted eggheads, should be of momentous importance to everyone. The poet's dilemma is actually everyone's. Against a steady devaluation of the created world -- the real content of poetry -- the poet's fight is against the heightened emphasis on pure form over content, as if the world existed as a palette for one's inward paintings, a recording of precious images, stylistic performances, or fake news.

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Educated in the classics, philosophy, literature, theology, and sociology, I am a former professor of sociology. My writing on varied topics has appeared widely over many years. I write as a public intellectual for the general public, not (more...)
 
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