"Come and See the blood in the streets" - pablo neruda
Many who are affected by the events engineered by the audacity of the hard right fascist government in India have been accused of unnecessary hyperbole and melodrama, in the effort to gaslight a whole country. It is quite apparent, that these assertions are coming from the privileged and the comfortable; from those who have not only bought into the empty bombast of those in power, but have to justify their choice. This is the "moderate". But then there are the bloodthirsty vanguards of the Hindu Rashtra who justify a police state with echoes of retribution. of putting people in their place.
I attribute this kind of rhetoric to a laziness of thought. In the vacuum created by luxury and an identity forged with blind faith, it is easy for violence, xenophobia and the misplaced anxiety of victimhood to flourish. Arjun Appadurai talks of the mind of the mob, of the nature of the riot and of "predatory communities" in his popular analysis of the "Fear of small numbers".
It is this very fear that drove the Nazis to bomb Guernica. Poetly has featured Picasso's famous response to the events happening at the time - the "blood on the streets". Today's poem is Neruda's response - "look at broken Spain". The last three lines of the poem are catastrophic. The repetition, with subtly shifting emphasis, drives the horror home with alarming persistence. The poem sets up a startling contrast using the tone of one who assures the reader - "I'll tell you all the news". The poem rises and falls as if the persona is telling it to a crowd of onlookers at a chai shop. The poem registers shock at the effects of urban warfare, at the ideology of ethnic cleansing and fascism. It gets its hands dirty and talks of ther real effects - the contrast between the harmony of domestic life and the chaos of the bombings.
"the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes, wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down to the sea."
Neruda uses imagery and metaphor to talk of the suddenness that broke the sangfroid of civil life - "And one morning all that was burning".
But the chaos that reigns through the country is not sudden. We have watched the flames, and slipped back into our comfortable cocoons. We have allowed it to happen. We are complicit.