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Life Arts    H4'ed 3/22/09

pro invidia

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Message Vi Ransel

pro invidia


The invisibility/hyper-visibility
of staggering wealth
and the same paradoxical duopoly
of naked poverty
is made possible by the indoctrination of youth,
the arbitrage of morality
and the power of a venal aristocracy


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The immense, impressive monuments
erected by enriched Romans were engraved
pro invidia, "to be envied",
though in theory they were constructed
for the benefit of the Roman polity,
much like the legacy of Carnegie's libraries
and the Rockefeller Foundation "charities"
meant not only to impress humanity,
but to create tax write-offs for their posterity.

Sumptuary laws to assuage wealthy vanity
were enacted in the Middle Ages,
declaring who might and might not wear
the luxurious trappings of the peerage,
including the color royal purple,
and the latest in Paris fashion
in order to distinguish the "better" people
not only from the poor, but the merchant classes.

In Victorian England, those driven off land they'd worked
by right for centuries by means of Enclosure Acts,
were suddenly pauperized, became wandering vagrants
and were subject to arbitrary arrest,

deposited in stark work houses and marked
by the cut of coarse, ugly uniform clothing,
labeling them instantly "pariah",
enabling them to be easily scapegoated.

Most human beings "look alike", unless you can mark them
for discrimination via something like accent or color,
so it's necessary to have a means of delineating
the worthy wealthy from their undeserving brothers,

making both groups stand out from The Middle,
which is the tension-reducing buffer that envies
the sumptuous consumption on one side
and fears to fall across the divide into poverty

and join those wearing poverty's shoddy badges
marking them for shunning and degradation
like the yellow stars of David
Nazis used for dehumanizing and demonization.

Because it's simply not enough
to possess wealth gotten by immiseration,
those so impoverished must be further denigrated
by rubbing their unworthy faces in it,

whereby those at the top
are able to feel big
by placing a hierarchical ladder
on the backs of their victims.

Today's markers of "contagious",
wealth-created poverty
are ill-made, ill-fitting clothing,
missing teeth, glasses taped with adhesive,
illiterate speech and that kiss of death,
both literally and figuratively,
repellent gross, morbid obesity.

And the paucity of this bankrupt morality,
the sheer schadenfreude
that goes with the wearing, figuratively,
of royal purple is the invisible badge
proclaiming pro invidia, the exceptional privilege

of the wealthiest point-oh-one percent
carrying the Western White Man's burden,
and is the head of a boil on humanity's butt,
ready to rupture in a feculent explosion.

 

 

 

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Vi's works appear widely both in print and online. She conducts Poetry Workshops and gives readings in Central New York. Her latest chapbook is "Sine Qua Non Antiques (an Arcanum of History, Geography and Treachery).
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