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[casi] Adios, thank you - and au revoir...

Dear List Members,

I like to share with you a poem by Erich Fried,
translated from German. (My apologies if it seems OT.)

Fried's life shows that the spirit of resistance
to injustice can survive in the most Kafkaesque of
times, even with only a few strugglers. And perhaps
the poem will convey a glimmer of hope to those
who feel the same way - especially to Tony.

It's also meant as an encouragement to people
who want to struggle on but feel 'what's the
point?', 'what can I possibly do?'.

It isn't easy.

I myself have felt disheartened. It's not so
much people's apathy, but the self-delusion
and the denials of the hopers-for-the-best:
any time now things will improve, they insist
ostrich fashion. 'Reconstruction' and democracy'
are the magic words. But when I ask how the
majority of Iraqis will benefit from these
miracles (impoverished, unemployed, and bereft
of social benefits as they are), these optimists
visibly squirm. 'We can only hope for the best',
they mumble uncomfortably - and change the subject.

The poem lists some of the reasons we use to
rationalize our passivity - our silence. And at
the end it suggests that by doing nothing we
condemn ourselves to spiritual death and oblivion.
At least that's my interpretation.
So here is 'Reasons' [for giving up] - as an
inspiration to struggling on:

by Erich Fried

"Because nothing will make a difference
they are going to go ahead, regardless

"Because I have no intention
of burning my fingers again

"Because people will only laugh:
so you think you have the answers?

"And why always me?
No one will thank me

"Because this is getting too complex
I would only make things worse

"Because even catastrophes
may bring about some good

"Because it all depends on one's view
and besides, whom can you believe?

"Because they are just like us,
if you really think about it

"Because I'd much rather
leave it to the experts

"Because you never know
what harm one might do to oneself

"Because it's a sheer waste of time
no one's worth all that trouble"

These are causes of death
to be inscribed on our gravestones

which won't be put up
if these are the causes.

[Original title: 'Gruende']

For Fried these were not mere words - it was
his life.

His loyalty was with humanity, above all else.
He spoke out against injustice wherever he found
it, and his solidarity was always with the victims.
Often this meant travelling the thorny road against
mainstream society - and opinion.

The Christian Democrats (CDU) in Germany once
tried to get Fried's poems banned in schools -
too controversial. One CDU man even said that he
would like to see stuff like that burnt!

So Fried must have done a lot of things right.

Erich Fried was born in Vienna in 1921. He died
of cancer in 1988 and is buried in London at the
Kensal Green (?) cemetery.

He was 17 when Hitler invaded Austria in 1938. The
invasion, he said, turned him from "an Austrian
high school student into a persecuted Jew." He
formed a resistance group. Then his parents are
arrested and his father dies while being
interrogated by the Gestapo. Fried flees with
his mother to London. From there he helps others
escape. 1943 his grandmother is killed in Auschwitz.

Some of the many things Fried spoke out against
publicly was the Vietnam war, human rights in
West Germany, Israel's policies during the
Six-Day war and its invasion of Lebanon.

In a book of poems he published in 1967 was
the hotly criticized poem "Listen, Israel!"
(Hoere, Israel!). The first stanza reads:

     "When you were persecuted
     I was one of you.
     How can I remain so
     when you become persecutors?"

Fried wrote the libretto to the opera 'Arden muss
sterben' (Arden must die), based on the Elizabethan
play Arden of Feversham. It premiered at the Hamburg
Staatsoper in 1967.

The opera centres on the abdication of moral
involvement. This was relevant in Germany in 1967,
as the audience recognized. At the end of the
first performance, there was apparently a
tremendous applause (30 curtains). There was
also some booing from people who felt that this
was hitting too close to home, politically.

The abdication of moral involvement is also relevant
today - more than ever. But how many people would
recognize that?

For 13 years the world watched impassively as
the people of Iraq were killed, slowly but
surely, by the sanctions regime. The world watched
and participated when Iraq was bombed to smithereens
in 1991. The world watched and profited as the Iraqi
economy was destroyed to zero, and people were
driven into despair and hopelessness.

Then in 2003 the world watched impassively the
invasion - dubbed 'liberation'. And now the world
is anxiously waiting for 'reconstruction' to start,
ostensibly to benefit the Iraqi people, but if
truth be told to fill western coffers.

And all that suffering inflicted on the Iraqi people
simply didn't happen, going by western accounts.
It was all "mismanagement" by the former government.
The most indecent lies are being dished up, and
are gobbled up like chocolate pudding by a grateful
public. And western shirt-fronts have never looked

If this isn't total abdication of moral involvement,
what is?

The term 'moral responsibility' has little meaning
left. 'Intellectual integrity' has become an
oxymoron. And if no one objects, western society
will sink steadily deeper into the soulless
complacency of a 'Brave New World'.

And Iraq, as most people realize, was only the
beginning - a test bed, so to speak. But the
suffering that may lie ahead may be hard to

Erich Fried's life was about involvement in the
struggle against injustice - and about moral

To match his personality, courage, and
commitment seems impossible. But if we have
the will, we can at least try to speak out,
stand up, and be counted.

Sorry, all I really wanted was to post that poem.
Now I have said much more than intended.

I like thank members of the CASI discussion list
for the moral support I found here. I will always
grateful for that.

Best wishes,
Elga Sutter

P.S. In charting your course, head for that other

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