My first girlfriend, Meredith, came with a hilarious
Malapropism, borrowed in turn from her ex-husband,
Pierce, who once in some fit of exasperation triggered
By educating idiots, had described that task as like
“Teaching a blind man to see electricity.” We need not
Reflect on all we have learned about the disabilities—
This was the eighties. Later in the nineties I myself
Would describe some deeply futile engineering work
As “putting lipstick on a dead horse”—if you prefer.
(Cue the animal-rights people.) In any case, the futility
That contains my mind this morning is the inability
Of the modern mind to see power. —And, true, many
Other lost topographies of social reality; the ones
Our fathers called duty and honor, loyalty and piety,
Chastity and even charity; new gods replaced these.
Well, a change of power has always called for new gods.
We are all blind men; could we learn to see electricity,
We might see every god born on the point of a sword.
A case in point: one thinker asks why, if science is real
And tradition lies, and no two babies were ever born
Equal (save monozygotic twins)—it would not follow
That the lucky in this ugly lottery, seemingly ordained
By no god at all, but some half-evil demiurge, would be
Honorbound to take up the gold and laurels with which
That demiurge has flattered them, and freely thus tithe
To the unlucky? Such is the question of the thinker who
Is a blind man, who sees not electricity. Almost certainly
He has never been punched, the optimal way to see volts.
Actually only the honorable will freely give; and who now
Doth see honor? The rest, of course, will have to be forced.
A small thing! A small thing! We all know how to do it.
The blind man is not a fool. He knows electricity exists.
But to capture the net economic surplus of a populace
Is simply to conquer them—a principle fully understood
From emperors of Akkad to earls of Northumberland,
Yet has the new man blinded himself. This electricity,
The electricity of power, is as invisible as love. Explaining
That there is no conquest without conqueror—no taking
Of surplus, without an infrastructure of dominance,
And a class of self-excusing professional dominators—
Would be reading poetry to a rock, would be painting
The Mona Lisa on the side of a dog. And then to turn
The eye to the target of this taking! Vast ragged armies
Of clients—feudal dependents—for, to carve it blunt,
Feed a man and he is your serf. The English “lord”
Means “giver of bread”—patron, protector, godfather.
And the lord too was held to bond for the brawl
And mayhem of his man-in-livery… electricity
Has not been lost; power is conserved; it has only
Traveled into the ground, where the uncircumcised,
Cursed by Allah, even believe it no longer exists.
So our new jahilliyah, whose every baby is born blind
And helpless as a kitten, then learns everything but
Vision and strength, trembles calm as a kitten under
The flabby whip of a vain, cruel, weak nobility.
We will never see the door in front of our noses.