Thursday, September 22, 2005

DISSENTER'S NOTEBOOK: A Politics of Silence

A POLITICS OF SILENCE

The first task of government
Confucius said --years ago --
is to call things
by their right name.

There is one silence
when men fear to speak.

There is another
when words have been so
abused they cannot crawl,
do not know who they are
or what their lives mean.

This is the moment
after lightning
and before thunder,
light gone,
world without voice
or natural tongue,
our words twisted into old
men, bent, misshapen
after years of service.

Power, always eager
for more, shucks old
meanings, trades them in
for words still handsome,
slicker, more easily spun.

Language, dispirited,
dribbles away in our
deceits, is lost to us.
Memory is baffled
by jingles and lies;
our sight is dimmed
by words opaque as oil-
slicks without rainbows.

In this moment
while we read the paper
flick the TV
hear another press conference,
the right names slip away,
fall back to some lightless
corner and slump down.
They are hoping we will call.

Our Government and its press
hand us oxymorons for news
releases; their announcements
are obituaries for the truth,
a language they no longer
use or understand.

There are no words to fill
this absence of meaning
in the great proclamations.

For freedom's sake:
buy nothing but from friends.
Barter. In this culture
only the silence of cash
registers registers.

After all the sly, insidious
everywherepresence
ofpublicrelations, afterall
the cacophonicbattering
ofdeceit:
Imagine! Stillness...
A PRless quiet! Silence
will be comforting.

When government speaks
do not listen.
If you listen,
do not believe.
When government asks
say nothing.