Weapons of the Weak

A classic anthropology book which really spoke to me was James C. Scott’s ‘Weapons of the Weak’, about the everyday, often hidden resistance by people who are forced to be subordinate, meek, obedient.  They may – on the face of it – collude in their oppression, but they find ways to sabotage the powerful, to criticize and laugh at them.  Whether rage expressed as sullen temper and foot-shuffling can work long-term is another question…

It was never gonna be like this:

the buzzing round households,

the map of the buzzards with areas shaded off by gratitude:

a thanksgiving imposed, demanded, not felt.

How I rage in futility then shush to keep safe

that cart full of apple-cheeked treasures.

The bat in blindness aghast swerves clear of the blame-traps.

The toxic scurry of newt back to the slimy pond

of self-pity:

there was a time when

kindness

or droopy flowers across the hedge

would have smoothed the harsh ping of reality.

 

Now…

nothing else than full parity will do.

 

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6 thoughts on “Weapons of the Weak”

  1. This is where the guarded heavily disguised metaphor if the poet comes into its own. The attempts by poets and intellectuals to combat dictatorial oppression, to send messages to sympathisers, under circumstances that would cause most of us to fall. And, yes, there are many shades of resistance, differing degrees of rebellion: from folk songs, poems and rituals to outright armed uprising, but you speak of the subtle, spiritually uplifting, but effective in the way it is possible for oppressed peoples to maintain their morale. Well written, Marina.

  2. Marina Sofia – Resistance takes many forms and you’ve expressed it eloquently. Songs, poems and stories that keep people strong and remind them not to give in are so much a part of history.

  3. Hi Marina, my first time here and fell into this straight way… This is great, fluid and original writing:

    “…then shush to keep safe

    that cart full of apple-cheeked treasures.

    The bat in blindness aghast swerves clear of the blame-traps.

    The toxic scurry of newt back to the slimy pond

    of self-pity” is truly terrific stuff

    Don’t know how you feel about my strong instinct that this would be stronger still without the last two conclusive lines – to me “smoothed the harsh ping of reality” is perfect and also maintains the musicality to the end? Just re-read again and now not so sure!! Perhaps “nothing less” rather than “nothing else” nails it? Maybe that was what was troubling me…
    With Best Wishes Scott http://www.scotthastie.com

    1. Thanks for visiting and for your very helpful comments. Interestingly, the original version did not have the final two lines. Those came to me as I was transcribing the poem for posting online.

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