Shahid Batalvi Speaks

with apology to Black Elk for he speaks first

“The First Story” is dedicated to Neda Agha Soltan

with 5 comments

I had written "The First Story" as my own perception of mankind’s evolutionary hope and subsequent disillusionment that humanity’s collective salvation is a farce. The poem was orignally dedicated to all who die as a result of so called ethnic based violence but today I dedicate "The First Story" to the story of the life and death of Neda Agha Soltan. To those who have never witnessed violent death of innocent people through deliberate acts of others, I hope you are never confronted with that situation. To those who have had to pick up the remains of dead children under such circumstances and have spent sleepless nights since, this world has failed you.
My President says, "we’ve experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the street. While this loss is raw and extraordinarily painful, we also know this: those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history."
And I say, "Neda, as the last warrior, you carried that burning ember of life in your heart and all you wanted was collective human freedom and the ability to express it, devoid of political bias, and you were silenced by a fiery, manmade, projectile of lead". You said, "It burned me". And then all embers became ashen ….
For those who read Urdu and are looking for a more specific context, read Faiz’s poem "Irani tLaba kae naAm" which was written during the first Iranian Revolution.
Yay koN skHy hAen
Jin kae lahU ke
aShrfian, cHn cHn, cHn cHn
dHrti kae paeHm pyAsay
kSHkol maen Dhlti jati Haen
kSHkol ko bHrti jati Haen ……
June 22, 2009
The First Story
Tell me again, holy mother
The first story
When humanity had carried
That burning ember
From the erupting volcano
In searing hands, towards the cave
That thunderous night
With rivers of fire
Weary men watched your fury
Till dawn swept anew
Holy mother, your ancient warriors
They touched your body, with silent passion
You gave birth to hope, that burning night
And made ravaged mortals, a kingdom of men
Now your last warrior
With seared hands
Lays by the abyss
Water drips, on ashen embers
August 25, 2008
Dedicated to all who have died and will continue die in ethnic based violence in Palestine, Israel, Kashmir,
Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, El Salvador,
Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Cambodia and many other
such lands where dispossessed humanity strives to find its salvation. 
Ethnic based violence has its roots in excessive socio-economic, socio-cultural and socio-political disparity
within and among nation states. This disparity, in turn, finds its basis in a delibrate and calculated
want, and not need, to maintain illiteracy, poverty and political disenfrancisement.
When a large swath of humanity is left marginalized and dispossessed for far too long in
far too many parts of the world, the affects will manifest themselves in ways that 
are now becoming visible. These affects are seemingly decoupled from their
actual causal chain but are associated with religious, ethnic and national
 contention and benefit the self-serving interests of the same.

Written by Shahid Batalvi

June 22, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Posted in poetry

5 Responses

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  1. I see you have again stated a correlation between disenfranchisement/poverty and terrorism, while at first blush it seems logical, when we look at examples, 9/11 in 2001 or the Transport for London bombings in 2005 the perpetrators are not poor, they are middle class. The NEBR (National Bureau of Economic Research) took a look at the issue and determined that the risk of terrorism is not significantly higher for poorer countries, instead the level of political freedom was a better indicator of a procilvity toward terrorism. Of course political freedom is not measureable in any significant degree until there are established institutions within a society such as corruption free police, bias free courts and the existence of rule of law sufficient that contracts can be enforced and commerce can sow the seeds of an educated middle class. So you\’re right of course, but I thought you\’d like to take a look at a brief abstract which you can find here: I also added a trackback to some blog entries I published in the past few days on Neda Agha Soltan. Thank you for not forgetting N. Ireland in your list.


    June 23, 2009 at 1:02 pm

  2. Disenfrancisement and proverty have a direct correlation to terrorism. Poverty need not just be economic poverty. There is a correlation between perpetual social, cultural and political poverty (which sometimes manifests itself as overt or covert racism, other times as sub-human treatment in a caste system in certain cultures) and the need for a social sub-group\’s salvation. Economic poverty at a large scale implies that there is limited to no economic freedom specially if the weath of a country is controlled by a very small percentage of the population. This is usually the case in countries which are covertly or overtly controlled by feudal economic structure, dictatorial military regimes, non-democratic coercise mandates or other variants thereof. This economic poverty has a symbiotic relationship with political poverty or absence of political freedom i.e. disenfracisement and marginalization.The marginalized have no voice. Someone else becomes their voice.Now read:!5B9A9A05C4CED775!271.entry


    June 23, 2009 at 5:24 pm

  3. Tell the NEBR people to come with me to Pakistan or Afghanistan and I will show them the "forced" correlation in action. I will buy their ticket 😉


    June 23, 2009 at 6:40 pm

  4. "The marginalized have no voice. Someone else becomes their voice." – we\’re saying the same thing. Diminished political freedom (a la Iran over the last few days) is the removal of voice. When powerless to express one\’s self – violence is the quickest route to power. If you\’re a wealthy engineer and I\’m a rural laboror who has power the second I hold a gun to your head? Who has the voice then? The driver for such desperation may be any number of things, economic poverty, cultural poverty, poverty of opportunity they may manifest themselves in any number ofways, however at the point at which they rise to the level at which political "voice" or political freedom is compromised – it is then that desperation drives people to grab power and voice in the surest and oldest way known – violence. Rgds D.


    June 24, 2009 at 1:01 am

  5. Two separate things; lets address both.1. The perpetually marginalized (perhaps over multiple generations) have no voice but they don\’t immediately or instinctively resort to violence at the first opportunity. Some interest group (this could for example be Al-Qaeda or evetually Taliban who want to instill their version of Islam on others) that has its own agenda comes into the picture, as they did in Swat, Pakistan and earlier in Afghanistan, killed all the leaders, killed all the police and other "establishment figures" to show that the "system" that marginalized "you the people" has been destroyed. But "remember who is going to provide your salvation". "Now take this Land, give me 1/3 of what you will earn from it and also give one of your able-bodied son to join my army". "Otherwise, the same fate is yours. Decapitated and hanging upside down". The resulting terrorism caused by such groups is what you see in this category of countries. Subjugation through fear in the name of religion.The primary interest of the Taliban is hatred of the West because of the long standing notion that the West has marginalized the East in recent history and UK (colonial) and US (neo-colonial) are at the forefront of it. Convincing the younger generation of specific ethnic backgrounds who feel socially marginalized in most eastern and western countries is rather easy. This is done not just by the Taliban but by ANY extreme conservative community in any society or country. The resulting output of such a process is people like Timothy McVeigh, London Transport suicide bombers and others. 17 of the 19 Saudis who were perpetrators of 9/11 were likely fully convinced that it is not the Saudi repressive regime that is responsible for their marginalization but actually the evil US. Someone was sucessfully able to convince them.2. What is hapening in Iran is that violence is being prepetrated on the people who are in disagreement with the position of the establishment. Here it is a case not of marginalization but repression. Those that actually have been economically marginalized in the rural areas have been subsidized for their votes through the state\’s petro dollars. (Read Friedman\’s NYT opinion article today). The real violence will start when an "interest group" takes advantage of this situation. The first sign of this was a possible suicide bombing on the shrine of Khomeini some days back. The Sunni insurgents (aka Taliban in Baluchistan and other areas) will use this period of unrest to create chaos by starting a wave of suicide bombings and getting the blame delivered on Irani opposition that has been completely passive in their demonstrations and have reacted only in the wake of brutal tactics by the RG or BM.Till agendas of the "interest groups" (aka Taliban, Hamas, ETA, IRA, Tamil Tigers and others) have been undercut by meeting the real needs of those masses that these groups say they represent and use as a prop to achieve their objectives, violence and terrorism cannot be eradicated. Otherwise violence begets violence.


    June 24, 2009 at 4:20 pm

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