This poem, written in the voice of a hypothetical London observer, is meant, in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. to understand the cry of the oppressed and respond with care and not with demonisation and punitive measures.
Proper understanding must also be cultivated by authorities and representatives of the right to protest as such in a democracy, student protests, worker protests, climate protests. These are voices which have been disenfranchised from the official political procedures just as those in the streets with the Arab Spring. Police officers should perhaps include On the Duty of Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau in the midst of their training and education. Peaceful protest is possible and necessary in a healthy democracy.
The poem is also available here in Chinese, having been translated by Dr Wang Shunning.
Strangely enough, though,
rioting is a thoroughly political act –
and is symptomatic of deep crisis
in the political economic regime
(and not just in Brixton, but all
over London and Great Britain –
not to mention throughout the rest
of Europe, Asia, Africa, etc. etc.)
A riot is a political act, just as
with the long history of riots
in Britain which originally led
to our revolution
(if cutting the King’s head off
is not a riot, then
I do not know what is…)
A riot is a political and
cultural act of defiance –
– despite the efforts
to portray looting as economic
greed and vandalism –
opportunism…. (like Libya?)
It is a revolt which seeks
to shift the context of
‘business as usual’ – not merely
to pace around in the cage
of the hypocritical limitations
of the present – not to mention
the uncertainty and fraudulent
mask of the current ‘system’ –
all that is solid melts into air –
the feral children dance upon
the streets affirming a differing
future through their emphatic ‘No!’
A riot is a political act –
Economics is not politically neutral
in the world of radical inequality –
in economics, war, medicine, etc.
How many young people in Britain
could ever hope to own their own homes?
And – with the oppressive vandalism
of the public sector by the Austerity
government of cuts,
what future can any of the young
people see? A grim, bleak house?
A new inquisition, poor houses and poor laws?
food given to only those who attend mass –
Will the future be the darkness of the past,
prior even to the English Revolution —
The current disorder is political, cultural –
It is symptomatic of deep desparities of wealth and power –
A riot is a political act –
The disenfranchised in their Dionysian rage,
will seek some outlet, like a volcano –
This is the way things are with human beings.
The great task is to be honest about
the root causes of things – and to
seriously and sincerely deal with
these root causes —-
“Get out of the way if you can’t lend a hand,
the times they are a-changin’” (Dylan)
August 7-9, 2011
（人文学院 汪顺宁 译）
Translated by Dr Wang Shunning, Department of Philosophy, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.