Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"Our Hearts Are Calling" by Imam Zaid Shakir (2010)

Our hearts are calling out to us,
into the dark and maddening night.
Our hearts are calling out to us,
to seize our hands and lead us right.

Too blinded are we by the glare,
of power, money, war and fame?
Yet with perverse and blinded eyes,
we ignore poverty and pain.

We put a price on everything,
the land, the trees, the wind, the seas,
And if our wretched claws could grasp,
we’d even steal the summer breeze.

The oil comes forth and soils the ground,
and stains our hearts with equal share,
The stench of what our hands have wrought
reveals a soul that’s dark and bare.

Yet, will we sit and fester here,
or shall we rise and fight the beast.
To storm the tyrant’s barricades,
to crash his filthy bloodlust feast.

Defending those who’ve lost all hope,
who live in darkness and despair.
To let them know another way,
a life defined by love and care.

A life defined by servitude,
to God, to neighbor, kith and kin.
A life defined by gratitude,
with dignity the prize to win.

Can we all make it to that place
and sacrifice so very much
of what the world has made us all;
and cast away the crippling crutch?

The crutch of there’s no other way
than what before our eyes we see.
The crutch of there’s no other choice
Devil’s checkmate, fait accompli !

Have we attained to history’s end,
Oppressor trampling on oppressed?
Have we become so sinister
that there’s no wrong we can redress?

So will we listen to our hearts,
and will we heed their desperate call,
to lead our brothers to the light,
or deeper into darkness crawl?

Imam Zaid Shakir

The 'uniformization' of modernization

Much of the postcolonial world then became a laboratory for Western-style social engineering, a fresh testing site for the Enlightenment ideals of secular progress. The philosophes had aimed at rationalization, or 'uniformization', of a range of institutions inherited from an intensely religious era. Likewise, postcolonial leaders planned to turn illiterate peasants into educated citizens, to industrialize the economy, move the rural population to cities, alchemize local communities into a singular national identity, replace the social hierarchies of the past with an egalitarian order, and promote the cults of science and technology among a pious and often superstitious population.
-Pankaj Mishra, Age of Anger: A History of the Present (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017), p. 133.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Rousseau's epistolary novel, Julie, ou La Nouvelle Héloïse (1761)

Saint-Preux's lover, Julie, reminds him that Paris also contains poor and voiceless people, remote from the exalted realms where opinions are made and spread, and that it is his responsibility to speak for them. In many ways Rousseau embraced this obligation, setting himself against the conventionally enlightened wisdom of his age, and inventing the category of disadvantaged and trampled-upon 'people', who have a claim on our compassionate understanding.
-Pankaj Mishra, Age of Anger: A History of the Present (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017), p. 91.