Thursday, May 15, 2014

Budgets and freedom for whom in Australia?

Nazim Hikmet's poem A Sad State of Freedom is a reminder of the illusions of freedom hoisted on us by the corporate and political elite. 

The illusion of these 'democratic' freedoms is very real today as Australians and West Australians come to grips with the horror and cruelty of 'austerity' budgets imposed on them by Federal and State Governments. 

These are budgets that dispossesses the less well off, to fund more largess and wealth for the already well off, the rich, the super-rich and the corporations.

A detailed assessment of the Federal budget by Bill Mitchell, one of Australia's leading economists is here.

There has been no time in this country's history when an elected Government has so brazenly dispossessed the less well off, in order that the already well off, the rich, the super rich and big business prosper even more.

A Sad State of Freedom
by Nazim Hikmet

You squander the gleam of your eyes, 
the sparkling toil of your hands, 
to knead  dough for countless loaves of bread
of which you'll taste not a morsel; 
you are free to slave for others-- 
you are free to make the rich richer. 
                                You are free.

The minute you are born, they swarm around you 
and build mills of lies which grind till the day you die.
All this great freedom is yours to bury your head in your hands
                         and rack your brains about freedom of conscience;
                                You are free.

Your head is bent as if they cut it at the nape, 
your arms weigh down at your sides, 
All this great freedom is yours to drift here and there.
                         out of work, jobless,
                                You are free.

You love your country with all your heart,
but some day they might sell it, maybe to America,
All this great freedom is yours so you may be sold
                         or become an air base:
                                 You are free.

Wall St grabs you by the neck with its cursed hands:
You might be shipped out to Korea some day.
All this great freedom is yours to fill a grave
                         or to take the name of the unknown soldier:
                                  You are free.

You say man must live not as a tool, or number or cog,
but like a human being.
All this great freedom is yours for them to handcuff you,
                        yours to be jostled, jailed or even hanged:
                                  You are free

No iron curtain, no bamboo curtain, no lace curtain in your life
No need for you to choose freedom:
                                  You are free.
This freedom is a sad thing under the stars.

Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963) is considered Turkey's greatest modern poet.

He was outspoken, revolutionary and a dedicated political activist and communist who was first jailed in 1924 at the age of 22 for working on a leftist magazine. He spent 18 years in prison in Turkey as a political prisoner.

Many of Hikmet's poems were written in Sultanahmet Jail in Istanbul where he was imprisoned for many years for his political beliefs. Sultanahmet was the first jail built in Istanbul in 1918. It is now a luxury hotel.

Hikmet was awarded the World Peace Prize in 1950, the same year he gained his release from prison after 12 years, following an international campaign for his release led by Picasso, Paul Robeson, Bertrand Russell, Pablo Neruda and Jean Paul Sartre.

Within a short time of being released he was again forced into exile from Turkey in 1951. He spent the last 13 years of his life in exile from Turkey. He died in Moscow in 1963, where he is still buried, although there are moves to return his remains to Turkey.

His poetry was suppressed in Turkey for over 50 years. It is only recently that Hikmet's citizenship was restored by the Turkish Government.

Hikmet's poetry is characterized by a wonderful generosity of spirit and a powerful sense of human solidarity.

My first encounter with the poetry of Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet was in John Berger's book of essays Hold Everything Dear. One of the essays in Berger's book is a dedication to Hikmet and his poetry.

My earlier blog posts on Nazim Hikmet are here


Ciaran Lynch said...

Colin, in reality what are we to do about this? How are actually going to tackle the corporations without eventually mounting some kind of attack? I know its vital to keep pointing out what's going on but at the end of the day what are everyday people going to have left to them other than some kind of militant action. it's a late night question, but I do mean it. Best wishes, Ciaran

Colin Penter said...

Thanks Ciaran, Yes very good questions. More and more people are asking the same questions and taking action against corporations and their allies in politics and Government. Some people are trying to understand the extent of the problem, whereas others like journalists and researchers are trying to expose the problem. The current ICAC Inquiry in NSW is reaking havoc exposing the shady connections between corporations and Liberal and ALP politicians in NSW and nationally. It has resulted in the Premier of NSW resigning and 6-7 Liberal Ministers and MP's having to resign and a whole series of other sate and Federal Liberal senators, MPs and stafffers facing serious corruption charges. Other people are actively involved trying to raise awareness and consciousnesses about the problem and are educating family friends and the wider community. And then there there are those talking direct action- developing and participating in campaigns and direct actions against corporate power and those who benefit form such power. in this country those campaigns are taking place all over the country. And they are having success- like the James Price Point blockade in Broome and just yesterday one of the larger campaigns- the 4 month long vigil and Bently blockade in Northern NSW against a corporation trying to drill for unconventional gas- has had remarkable succcess. The NSW Government rescinded their licence and asked the NSW Independent Commission against Corruption to investigate the corporation. there is a massive movement happening across Ausatralia against the inter meshing of corporate state power in Australia. and similar things are happening globally wherever you look. best wishes