Impossible Life

If This is a Man

You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
   Hot food and friendly faces:
   Consider if this is a man
   Who works in the mud
   Who does not know peace
   Who fights for a scrap of bread
   Who dies because of a yes or a no.
   Consider if this is a woman,
   Without hair and without name
   With no more strength to remember,
   Her eyes empty and her womb cold
   Like a frog in winter.
Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,
   Or may your house fall apart,
   May illness impede you,
   May your children turn their faces from you.

--from Primo Levi’s preface to his Holocaust memoir, translated from the Italian by Stuart Woolf

An archaic definition of "to strike" is to lower a sail, since disgruntled sailors formerly struck sails to disable a ship. Thus, to remove from production any tool, including one's own body, is to go on strike.

One retaliates, flails at the man by doing nothing, since this refusal is the most convenient weapon at one’s disposal, if not the only power one has. A striking worker is not dissimilar to a sulking child, if not an abbreviated saint. Withdrawing into myself and becoming immobile, I’ll not play, chatter, buy anything or fuck anybody any more.

No one wants to play with you anyway, asshole.

From every fresh or foul mouth, an invitation, every dusky door, lolling, expectant figures on a funky couch. Fingers beckon. I see bright teeth. In this come-on universe, it takes strength or satiety to just say no and turn away, but many have never been invited to the gorge now, pay-later-with-interest bash. Worldwide, a billion people live in slum conditions. In 2005, the wealthiest 20% accounted for 76.6% of private consumption. The poorest fifth, 1.5%. Ten million starve to death each year, thirty thousand a day. Enough already, stop getting so righteous. Who do like in the World Series? I say Phillies in six games. They’re hungrier.


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