War For Whom

The government’s declared a war -
A propaganda coup!
And what is this offensive for?
To coerce me and you!
Surveillance must increase in might
(Officials firm their grip):
IDs, and curfews every night -
A new dictatorship!
This Party no-one may dispute,
Nor independence seek
From it: ‘Such calls we must refute:
Division would be weak.’
A female Colonel’s given charge
To pacify one region;
Aboard a white tank, roams at large -
No pity from her legion!
This plan was well-prepared for years:
Recruitment-drives in schools;
A snooper’s charter based on fears -
‘That’s how to snare the fools!’
Those foreigners: talked down, cast out
By arbitrary laws;
(‘Uneconomic migrants!’ shout
Chief bigots, for the Cause);
And atom-bombs: renewed (at cost
Of much that could be done
Constructive; but that chance was lost) -
‘The battle must be won!’
And so the atom-plants they’d build
(Though nuclear costs more
Than tide or solar), till they’d filled
Warheads N-thousand-score
For launching a pre-emptive strike
Across all lands and seas
To wipe out all whom they don’t like
(At once… or by degrees).
‘Then the whole Earth will fall to us -
Our Empire now reborn!’ -
Without enduring undue fuss
Or any hostile scorn.
‘Our glory days shall shine again!
Patriotism’s won!’
(A boot-heel, ever crashing down
On faces, blots the sun.)

War For Whom


Dunfermline, United Kingdom

  • Artist

Artist's Description

- An imagined scenario; one I hope fervently will not proceed.

I wrote this poem beginning the night of Friday 19th May 2017, finishing it 1:00 AM Saturday morning.

Much of the underlying concept here, and the imagery in the closing couplet, I owe to George Orwell, author of 1984.

It has not been unknown in history for a government to consider war expedient; they may even wish to manufacture a war to serve certain selfish purposes.

In wartime, the communal drive for mere survival can distract the populace from discontent with circumstances at home. Skilful propagandists can portray ‘the enemy’ as responsible for their sufferings overall, while also urging loyalty and compliance in the war-effort.

Many able citizens (who might otherwise revolt and pose problems to those in power) can be disposed of in battle, many never to return.

Any who refuse enlistment or who publicly object can be suppressed – perhaps imprisoned – all supposedly in the interests of national security and civil order.

Ordinary peace-time laws and democratic procedures (such as the right to a fair trial, alternative political parties and voting in elections) may plausibly be suspended for the duration of hostilities.

Power in wartime is consolidated in the hands of the rulers; and why would that class ever wish, later, to let absolute control slip from their grasp?

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