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Gavrilo Princip

Gavrilo Princip
July 02
21:32 2014

ERIC CHAET

(originally posted at 100 Peculiarly Useful So-Called Poems)

Gavrilo Princip
the men & women who make money
gathering & repackaging & presenting information
as I do as best I can without payment, too
are using the 100th anniversary of your assassination
of the prince of the Austrian Empire, Ferdinand, & his wife
which, they are pleased to tell us again & again
triggered the first world war
as an excuse for featuring their cleverness
which they have conflated with informing us usefully
& which we have come to consume
like the murder & detective shows on television
& the country & western crooners with cowboy hats
& the well-paid, so-serious politicians
laying the blame for their countries’ miseries
at their foreign & domestic opponents’ doorsteps.

But I know that you were both like me & different, too
& that you finally overcame your disgust & despair
& acted, tho you killed, which I do all I can to refrain from doing.

You did your deed just 2 years after my mothers’ parents
wrapped her up & carried her out of the Ukrainian Pale
when the Ukraine was part of the tsarist Russian Empire
before Lenin, Trotsky, & Stalin ignored Kropotkin
& ruled as ruthlessly as any tsar
only in the name of the People—
of course, if they hadn’t, their competitors for power
would have killed them, & taken over—
how fearful my grandparents had to have been—
I don’t know what their first names were in any langauge—
Lipivitzky was how their Russian-version names
looked in English, which they changed to Lipton
to reduce the friction thru which they had to operate—
they spirited her out of the discrimination & pogroms
across the Atlantic, I suppose on a German steamship
their passage subsidized by a Chicago manufacturer
seeking cheaper, more compliant labor
than the Knights of Columbus or Haymarket anarchists—
to the opportunities, such as they were
to serve the economic lords of industrial America
among the stockyards, railroad yards, & tractor factories.

Her father had a horse & wagon
& bought fruit & vegetables at the big market at 3 a.m.
which he peddled all morning among other Yiddish speakers—
while she soaked up art & music at Hull House
Jane Addams’ self-commissioned social work project—
her equivalent to your assassinating Ferdinand, Gavrilo—
I don’t know how much for good, how much for ill—
I don’t know how powerful or feeble the effect, either.

You used a gun & I try not to use a gun
tho some nights I can’t sleep for fury, insecurity, or frustration.

It seems to me that both sides in every gun battle
are composed of righteous idealists & cynical opportunists
& that the cynical opportunists always prevail sooner or later
& that the only hope is to establish & maintain integrity—
which is no end in itself, but a bare minimum, DNA—
despite the necessity of earning a living
among the cynical opportunists who rule
& the cynical opportunists vying to replace them
& all the timid people attempting to adjust to the demands
of the prevailing cynical opportunists
at the expense of whoever is weaker than them
& whoever dares to risk behaving with integrity
which is such a disadvantage
in the competition for acceptance & resources
while running the gauntlet of the human race
to a position of decision-making authority
& pay not only appropriate but obscenely disproportionate
at the expense of whoever can’t prevent it
& whose life is suffering & summoning the will
to find some way to go on & to resist
striking out or speaking out, expressing anger
& earning immediate punishment
or the slow-motion crucifixion of ostracism
& withholding of opportunities to earn nutrients
& to see results from your efforts.

Anyway, you murdered the prince, Princip
& you murdered his wife—
she may have been like you or me or my mother or Jane Addams
or she may have been like no one else, I don’t know—
it’s quite true, they had no business being anyone’s rulers.

Since Europe & America were not ruled by integrity
but by the old politics of royalty & aristocracy
& the new politics of competitive popularity
& industrialized & commercially organized feudalism
in the guise of democracy & narrow-band freedom of speech
& enterprise anyone could practice who had enough money
or the ability to convince someone with money
it was to their advantage to invest in what they’d do—
& since the arms race that had been so lucrative
for the manufacturers & salesmen
of iron & steel battleships & artillery & armor
since Ivan the Terrible & Napoleon & Bismarck
& Muhammed, Julius Caesar, Alexander, & Joshua at Jericho—
our time burst thru the chamber music
presto!—the battle of Verdun, the flooded, infested trenches
& the amputations, & the great influenza epidemic—
the viruses had a jubilee, Gavrilo Princip—
unnatural selection favored them big time
unless you call humanity’s propensity to mass violence
as natural as bird’s singing at dawn
during the months of foliage & luxuriant canopies.

I think you probably had pure motives
but I don’t know how long they would have stayed pure
if you’d held your fire for another moment, day, or decade—
whether royal rule in Europe would soon have collapsed or not
whether even now it may return to Europe or not
whether the first world war would have broken out soon or not
whether the third world war will soon develop
out of what’s going on in the Middle East or Latin America
or Africa, East Asia, or Russia & the Ukraine & NATO, or not
out of the struggle for power among the generals
of Al Qaeda or the American officer corps, or not—
you would have had to resist the temptation
of making your life less approximately unbearably anxious
by compromising with complacent, unjust, stupid authority
& with all your neighbors who had compromised with authority
& exhibited unreflective cheer, consuming their consolation prizes
day after day, decade after decade.

Your struggle would have been like mine—
& I have to wrestle with myself again & again
wondering if I have been right to avoid violent action—
but who would I have killed, anyway
& what result could I have expected?

You would wonder again & again
if, maybe, you should have picked up a gun
& killed a prince, world war or no world war.

You’d have had to have been a great hero or fool
or both a great hero & fool, an alternating current
or maybe not so great, but oscillating just the same
& resisting the current when it ran this way
& resisting the current when it ran the other way
& only you aware of the struggle
& only you aware that you’re not retired
tho no one is paying you
or waiting for you to deliver your part
of some cooperative enterprise
according to standards set by convention or Mr. Market
or, by some neoplasm dominator’s scheme or whim.

The assassinations, the world wars
Nanking, Hiroshima, & the Holocaust
are not the greatest events of human history
however surprising, remarkable, terrible.

The greatest events of human history
are what some of us are wrestling to bring into the world
with others whose names we probably don’t know
who may not yet be born
who are operating in obscurity as suffocating
or will be operating so—
resisting the current when it oscillates this way
resisting the current when it oscillates that way—
attempting to reach a moment, then another moment
then longer & longer periods of composure
with greater amplitudes, too
not just nervous trivial tics
not just a puck or ball knocked back & forth by gamers—
harmonization & harnessing all the power
of everyone & everything & all time & our very own—
for our own & for everyone’s benefit
who is not once & for all determined to benefit
at the expense of whoever can’t prevent it, Gavrilo.

SEE ALSO

Satyagraha

Anthem for Humanity

Dragon

We get used to

 


Eric Chaet, born Chicago, 1945, South Side, beaten, denigrated, sinking, swimming—servant of a refractory nation and species, sweating laborer in factories and warehouses, wearing jacket and tie in offices and classrooms—”so-called poems” published and posted around the world, sporadically, for decades—author of People I Met Hitchhiking On USA Highways (read a review) and How To Change the World Forever For Better—perpetual polymath student, synthesizer of specialists’ insights and methods, solo consultant regarding space exploration and accidents involving obsolete industrial machinery—album of songs Solid and Sound—hitchhiked back and forth between the Pacific and Atlantic, sleeping out for years and subsisting on water and sunflower seeds, stapling a series of 1500 posters he made to utility poles, inciting whoever saw them to seize the responsibility for their own lives—governing without coalition or means of or inclination to coerce or confiscate, from below, approximately invisible.

[Gavrilo Princip graffiti photo by Goldfinger]

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