There is a spectre haunting the world, and Western governments do not know how to respond. From the Arab Spring and the UK riots of 2011 to civil wars in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and the Ukraine, our rulers pick and choose their favourites, colour-coding the ‘good’ revolutions and demonising those whom they cannot control as ‘terrorists’. Clare Saponia carefully explores these confused and violent struggles, as if peeling a blood orange – skin, pith, flesh, pips, juice – from cause to consequence, aspiration to betrayal, defeat to renewed hopes for social justice. The Oranges of Revolution is a book about democracy and power, despotism and resistance, imperialism and revolution.
You seem to be on a roll. So, (whilst you’re at it) why not take out Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, civilised Saudi Arabia, The Ukraine? Why not take out Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Venezuela, The Ivory Coast? Why not take on the whole damn planet (except, well, the obvious…) whilst you’re at it? Why not invite them to high tea at No.10, form a club for Democratic Despots and drizzle a little diesel oil in the beverage of their choosing; replace their scones with SCUDS and jam with the bloods of their own freedom-fighting millions? Hypocrisy is just so hip, darling! The killer-coalition runs full-moons around liberty.
We want rules without getting into semantics. We want black and white, shoot and ceasefire; we want to sabotage and dope up and then go cold turkey on the whole goddamn lot. No, don’t get into semantics, whatever you do: modern democracies are going to eat, shit and murder wherever they like. Anyway. Having freedom is about blocking everyone else’s. Yes, you keep the wars out of our memory: you bury them behind the British Broadcasting Craporation, you use heavy-duty bleach and delete what was there; you sandpaper the truth, leave the shell smooth and shiny – as chaste as a baby’s birthday suit. You coat the hood of the planet with glue and iron filings. You attach hundred-weight magnets and let history do the rest. But you don’t leave your marks. You walk without shadows and white-iced footprints tack the path from idiocy to greater, more obtuse acts of idiocy. Never to be naked. Alone. Never to be liberal. Again. Except when it comes down to babysitting foreign dollars: yes, sex in the city, and watch how the banks all coo at the adorable infant parading through Cheapside on the one and only black steed that could pass for pantomime; the powers-that-be who duck and cringe and stutter at yet another dagger of disrepute. You run amok, and far from the motherland with those long, fancy strides. You mothball lies, truly handsome, insincere, invisible to the human eye. But we’ve seen, you see. We’ve heard how you repackage terror and treason on dummy-bomb-runs, shield the offending article between baby transmitter and paedophilic papers the pope lost his grip on: there’s treason and reason you cannot distinguish. There’s a plug to pull on Whitehall wollies and an even bigger one in Washington, where the truth is left to bathe in a typhus-tub only the FBI may breathe. Hey ho, honeytraps abound it seems: a heady adhesive now jumps the gaps where honey used to muffle peace – Congress, in the meanwhile, so unaccountably accountable when we ask: do you have ambitions for freedom? You talk of human wrongs not rights. You talk of secrets stacked up to the ceiling in order of stolen consequence, the terrine of life and sentence you prefer not to eat in eight, even pieces? You prefer to reserve judgement on the matter and prioritise bedtime over war crime. You answer questions with more questions you’re likely to dribble over in sassy Picasso patterns. Blue Period. Red period. You get stumped by the traffic lights in three shades of electric green and accidentally dilute civil liberties. The CIA has promised to be selectively colour-blind. Forever.
They’d like you to believe this is just another simple lesson in altruism. But then again they’d like you to believe a lot of things. They tell you packs of stories of shrunken, poisoned dwarves fed on protein supplements; they dress painstakingly in dark-dust-grey top hats and baggy pin-striped suits, too short in the leg to take you where you want to go. They pass mildew-rimmed housing facilities. Beneath railway bridges unnoticed. They take pills and scream their tonsils out like Liza Minnelli in Cabaret, fungal hallucinations breeding gout off the high-life. Their predecessors no more original. No less brutal. Brutality is a subjective habit, don’t you know? They swig down malignance with the shady remnants of their morning Coco-Pops-milk. It deletes their memory. Miraculously. The scale of their ambition depends on how savagely they’re allowed to deal with unnamed, over-armed despots. They don’t like to let on that this can be achieved single-handedly; that they don’t need the paltry opinions of their bumbling war cabinets. They prefer to head for the forests, crouch down around the campfire chanting spells, telling bedtime tales of heroics and barbarics and how they saved democracy once upon a time. They horde stuffed camel heads and flog them as precious collector’s items at some later date. They keep a few back as a token of nostalgia. No hard feelings. The camel heads have fewer fleas since they were detached from their necks. ‘And anyway,’ comes the bottom line, ‘if you won’t stuff your own folk, we will.’ A whisper follows: ‘there’s no room for tribal politics here, dearest. Either you massacre your own people or we’ll do it. That’s the pro of democracy: we give you that choice. Cost not an issue – military bonuses cover anything from enemy earlobes to a whole set of fingernails, authentic copies bound for immediate sale on EBay – fingertips inclusive as part of a full complimentary manicure pack. Our boys in green take pretty pictures of their holiday highlights so those cheap, irreplaceable thrills don’t have to join the ranks of the ephemeral. Remember: the most important part about mass-killing is bragging about it. Insurgency rocks and rolls but always swings to one side; the side our boys like to take pot-shots at in the name of target practice, all art for art’s sake – don’t you know?’ How aesthetic can you get?
‘One can’t emphasise too much just how passionate and gutsy Saponia’s uncompromisingly polemical poetry actually is.’