I wrote “We’re not all in the same boat” with reservations. It is a shadow-poem. In other words, I think I am writing about my shadow.
The critical situation, as depicted, isn’t true in the sense that it can’t be corroborated by any objective source. But is it true enough? Is it emotionally accurate? Does it resonate somewhere in us? Are most of us comfortable with identifying ourselves with the 95%, even though “we” are all walking different paths in a diverse society and our incomes range from 0 to a few hundred thousand dollars?
If this metaphor does speak to us, how strange a position to find ourselves in. We, the vast majority feel like a minority, but not a minority in number but a minority in potency. We have essentially been minimized. Our place, in terms of determining our own destiny, has been minimized by a world that maximizes and magnifies wealth, status and power. This is what it feels to like to live in an oligarchy. We are like ants. We are the peasants. We are many but we have no voice or vision or power to enlarge our presence or status.
I have just finished writing a book about initiation, and karma. I have concluded that we can’t effect any shift in the disastrous status quo without undergoing initiation. Something is playing out here. Being in a raft is an image of utter helplessness. So be it.
Do you know anyone who is in the 5%? I don’t. There is only one time in my life when I crossed paths with a millionaire. When I was young and living on the rural outskirts of the University of Connecticut (My father was a professor.) a wealthy family moved into the house next door that used to belong to a retired professor. They were the 1967 version of the 5%. He was the president of a cable manufacturing corporation whose business, thanks to the war in Vietnam, was booming. They owned three other homes in other states, including one on Cape Cod. They had moved to Storrs to take advantage of the local high school, which had a good reputation, and they wanted their son to be influenced by my brother and me. He was between our ages. The plan backfired. It’s true that my brother was one of the highest achievers in the school and we were both popular and involved in extracurricular activities, but we were about to become radicalized hippies, not exactly suitable mentors for this millionaire’s son. But that is another story. The point is, they were from another world and they were using us. That fits the yacht / lifeboat metaphor.
One might have a dream of being in a lifeboat on the sea and looking out and seeing some people in a sinking raft who are much worse off, and scanning in another direction and seeing a super-yacht with music blaring and people partying. And the dream would have to be taken seriously because dreams usually carry important information, not just for the individual, but for the wider world. Some metaphors come from the same place as dreams: they both serve an archetypal given. When I contemplated writing a poem around this metaphor of the yacht and the lifeboat and the raft I realized it wasn’t going to be written from my heart, but a place of negativity with a little fear in the mix, but poems aren’t supposed to be sermons and they rarely come from a centered place where everything has been worked out. I don’t pick and choose my dreams, though I prefer the ones that feel more creative. And I don’t pick and choose what I write poems about. They all have value for the self that is seeking transformation.
The only thing that matters to me, when I am deciding whether to write a poem (once I have found a metaphor to write about) is whether the metaphor can stand up to the conversion into language and retain its integrity. The jury is out on this one but I had to let it a try.
We aren’t all in the same boat
If the 5% disappeared
And the 95% became the 100%
There would be a tomorrow.
We could buy maybe another hundred years
To get our shit together.
There would be an ease of panic.
The doomsday clock would back off
A few minutes from midnight.
Everyone in the world would have enough.
It’s possible. See,
We aren’t all equal.
We’re not all the same.
We’re not all in the same boat.
Some are in a sinking raft
Trying to get to a safe landfall.
Some are in a sturdy lifeboat
With cover and adequate rations.
And some are in a yacht
Partying their brains out.
(I didn’t even know how to spell yacht.)
Guilt is a funny thing.
If you’re guilty
Guilt becomes your yoke
And people who are looking for workers
To service their estates,
Clean up after their mess,
Educate their children,
Groom their dogs,
Don’t have to look far for help.
If we want to make the crisis go away,
First we have to stop feeling guilty
And realize that we aren’t the problem.
The problem is that we,
In the lifeboat
Think that we are the problem,
And guilt is devouring
Our ability to act.
The problem is
That we are
Taking on the guilt
That belongs to those who are truly guilty.
No, we are not all in the same boat.
But the ones in the sinking raft
Can use some help.
And the ones in the yacht?
They have to know they are guilty.