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Jardim de Éden

by James Graham 

Posted: 16 June 2008
Word Count: 238
Summary: This is based on a recent Amnesty International case. It's very much a draft, no revision.

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Jardim de Éden

There was a shanty town, in Luanda, in Angola,
called Iraque. One day the soldiers came. Not
government soldiers. Construction company soldiers.

From corrugated house to corrugated house
they forced the people out, and sent them with their bundles
down the road to nowhere. These were the soldiers

of the Garden of Eden company. The company
needed the land to build luxury housing.
They are building their gated Magnolia Grove.

Run for your lives! The builders are coming!

The corporate army of the Garden of Eden
is a small militia. Just big enough to clear
a village or three. The big battalions are elsewhere.
Ten thousand of the soldiers in Iraq are corporate.

Support our brave boys in the company forces!

The reading is from the Book of Avarice.

1. And God saw that there were wretched people dwelling upon the land
where He had purposed to establish a Garden.
2. And the Lord God determined to cast out all that dwelt there.
3. And angels with mighty swords went among the people, and every
man, woman and child of that tribe was cast out.
4. And the Lord Jehovah established a Garden, with many trees and
flowers of many hues, and having mighty gates and strong fences.
5. And He saw that it was good, and called it real estate.

We are sad but proud. They gave their lives that others might be rich.

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Comments by other Members

Elsie at 21:21 on 16 June 2008  Report this post
Hi James, this sent me googling to check out the story. I wonder whether the mention of Iraq confuses the story a little - it' s a powerful story on its own. The ' reading is amusing (if you can can it that) - but is it the Lord Jehoval (here my biblical knowledge lets me down) that can be blamed rather than a human/group of humans?

V`yonne at 10:47 on 17 June 2008  Report this post
A wonderful rant nonetheless powerfully written for being a rant. I adored:
From corrugated house to corrugated house

followed closely by:
down the road to nowhere.

evokes desolate images.

I thought maybe this could be tightened into three lines as well...
The corporate army of the Garden of Eden
is a small militia. Just big enough to clear
a village or three. The big battalions are elsewhere.
Ten thousand of the soldiers in Iraq are corporate.

Run for your lives! The builders are coming!
is brutally funny - I laughed out loud then checked myself.

I agree with Joanie. I really enjoyed the biblical language, well done and immencely funny but is it really Jehovah you are talking about here?

I confess I' ll have to google too. Jehovah smacks of an Israeli company?? Maybe the God here is western capitalism and not Jehovah...

I thought that the last line would be better beginning at ' sad' .

Draft you say? Can' t wait to read the end version.

James Graham at 21:11 on 19 June 2008  Report this post
Thanks to all for the comments. I think the bit on Iraq is there because I didn’t want the Angola story to seem an isolated case. In fact it might be better to put a story from Iraq into the poem as well. Some (though not all) of the Abu Ghraib torturers weren’t US army personnel but mercenaries, security guards employed by companies called Titan and CACI (whatever that stands for). There was a shooting in September 2007 in Baghdad, in which mercenaries, hired by a company called Blackwater, killed 17 unarmed civilians. The War on Want website has a long list of other incidents. These companies get contracts from the US Government (and there’s at least one in the UK that I know about - the Armour Group, Chairman Sir Malcolm Rifkind) to recruit and train soldiers. Well, what’s the difference? you might say soldiers are soldiers it certainly doesn’t matter to the folks at the wrong end of a machine gun whether the guy firing it is a ‘proper’ soldier or not. But the difference is that these private armies don’t have proper military structures of discipline, such as courts martial. They’re not regulated. They’re loose cannon. I’m going on a bit about this because I’m appalled at the idea of an army run by a private military company, accountable only to itself.

The pseudo-Biblical verses were plain association of ideas. The Portuguese development company is called ‘Garden of Eden’ so without giving it a lot of thought I wrote the ‘Biblical’ bit. Maybe to justify it I could say the ‘Book of Avarice’, if it existed, would be a kind of counter-Biblical scripture, a Devil’s Bible - the Devil in this case being all the forces which are creating the vast chasm we now have between very rich and very poor in the world.

I wonder, has anyone read Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine? Having read it I really feel now that I understand the Iraq thing. (The book isn’t only about Iraq, it covers a lot more besides.) The whole Iraq adventure seems to have been a dismal, tragic failure. But there’s one way in which its success has been breathtaking. American and British companies have made astronomical profits. Private military companies, the companies that were handed Iraq’s major industries practically gratis, and the so-called ‘reconstruction’ companies hired to rebuild what the invaders themselves had destroyed (yet after five years there is still no clean water and sewage is running in the streets): all these have made billions upon billions.

The real problem here is, how to make a poem out of all this? It’s kind of Tony Harrison or James Fenton territory, but not quite the same as either. Why not just write an article? But journalistic work (with some notable exceptions) is ephemeral in a way that poetry isn’t meant to be. Whatever you write about in a poem, you’re trying to cast it in bronze. This poem, for what it’s worth, is a mixture of two styles - the lines about the Angola story etc are very flat, matter-of-fact, with no heightened language. The ‘Biblical’ bit is parody. I wonder to what extent either of these ‘styles’ can work as a way of treating this kind of subject?



Has anyone noticed that when you post a comment, some of the punctuation seems to disappear? Semi-colons especially. Very odd.

Well, what’s the difference? you might say; soldiers are soldiers; it certainly doesn’t matter...

V`yonne at 21:26 on 19 June 2008  Report this post
I think the two styles worked together rather well by dint of their very contrast...and certainly the point you were making came across strongly.

there’s one way in which its success has been breathtaking. American and British companies have made astronomical profits.

I think that was the whole point of the exercise in any case. Everything today seems to be about capitalism making ever more capital even at the expense of its own citizens. They lie to their own people in order to make it happen, after all... Makes my blood boil, but worse than that is where it will lead.

Ticonderoga at 15:43 on 04 July 2008  Report this post
CACI - Completely Arrogant Corporate Invasion................possibly!
Brutally funny poem, of which I could happily take more........I' d certainly like the Iraq aspect to be developed...............
Fine, angry piece............



James Graham at 19:43 on 04 July 2008  Report this post
Thanks, Mike...I guessed this might be your kind of poem.


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