Autumn Cries In Two Parts
Interviewer: Back in 2008 when you were watching banks collapse in the autumn of that year, what were your thoughts?
David Harvey: My first thought was, what took them so long? Actually, I had been thinking that there was gonna be a crash around 2003 onwards. Given my views on how capitalism works, and I know it’s always crisis prone, I was just very surprised it hadn’t happened earlier.
(from BBC Hardtalk interview, 2011)
Dear David, when you were watching banks collapse in the autumn of that year, I was floating endlessly in the swings of the garden that was a walking distance away from what was then my home. They were yelling finance, and I was looking for lost butterflies that may have crept into the honeytraps so carefully arranged in the garden. My father had left us in that house and flown abroad that year. He later told us of his business trip, and a certain river he passed by when he landed at the airport. It was called River Sorrow, if I recall correctly. The flowers bloomed in hundreds all across the garden. I was too young to notice.
They spoke about credit card bubbles bursting. What kind of sound did they make as they burst? I remember a certain classmate stopped coming to school that autumn. He would tell me stories of his father. I don’t remember the stories, but they were sorrowful. I saw his profile on Facebook just last week. He has grown a strange beard. Quite similar to yours, David. I didn’t send a request. I remember my father teaching me about money. He thought I would need it be-cause as a little child I thought money just came out of the banks and the ATMs where one could easily get it whenever one wanted to. That one only needed a card. What was it that was bursting?
What else were you doing that Autumn, besides watching the banks collapse? I said that I was floating endlessly in the swings in the gardens of my innocence, except that I don’t think there were any swings at all, or even gardens. I remember a wise old woman who was our neighbor. She had come over to our home and spoke to my father all through the night, explaining to him something about a job interview he had the next day. He didn’t get the job, but brought home a secondhand book. He didn’t look too upset, as he dusted the cover. He pointed outside the window, to a colorful butterfly and told me to observe how it flew. Besides watching the banks collapse, do you watch butterflies too?
Interviewer: Did you feel some sort of glee, some sort of ‘I told you so’ as you watched?
David Harvey: No, I didn’t because I know who gets hurt by these things. It’s not as if the rich folk really get hurt. In fact, they’ve been making a lot of money out of this crisis. The people who get hurt are ordinary people, and I saw immediately that we were likely to see all of these people losing their homes, and almost certainly there was going to be unemployment following. So, I was not happy about it at all, even though I reckoned it was gonna come.
We are standing at the far end of a long long long depression. No signs of recovery. You have published your third book on Capital. A lot has happened since then. What I told you about the swings and gardens and butterflies, were not lies. But if you asked me where to find them now, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Those were the last remnants of my innocence. There’s been another crisis, this one triggered by a pandemic that the barons of the world found no better way to handle, than by compelling millions of people to destroy their lives. I found my lost friend from school. It wasn’t too hard to approach him, and it is true that his home was broken in the last recession. His father had killed himself. He believes that to survive the next recession, he will need to support a tyrant who suggests that the nation needs to be cleansed of immigrants and terrorists and the Muslims and the Christians and the poor and the Marxists and so on.
Autumn is here again. It seems as though everything in the world moves in cycles, and it can be eerie when you sense the world repeat and haunt you like the ghosts of dead butterflies. These days we pay each other through our mobile phones and I don’t remember when was the last time I went to an ATM. I wonder what kind of sound the bubbles will make when they burst again. I still don’t recognise the flowers in the garden, except that they are pale. My father speaks of doing his work without any care and that he will continue that way until he is forced to do otherwise. I need to find work soon, and yet I am floating endlessly in the swings of a garden that was dead years ago and buried in another garden, but you seem to be speaking of a newer and better world, and that flare in your eyes remains intact.
Perhaps, some years (many years) later, you will feel some sort of glee, and exclaim “I told you so.” In a certain autumn, you will sit down with me and watch the colorful butterflies roaming around a garden that has grown right there. There, where the banks had collapsed.
Economy & Other Things the War Taught Me
My alarm clock rings at 6 am IST whether there
Is a war or not. 6 missed notifications, 2 missed
Calls, and instagram frozen. I swipe across stories
And Darwish waves at me, followed by a turnip
Colored infographic that reads: “What is happening
In Palestine, and how you can help!” Darwish appears
A few more times, and takes my leave. The college
Cafeteria is loud and one can hear a couple of murmurs about
Palestine. They all come and go, and speak of Gaza,
BDS, Zionism and the various words that they know. I
Rush into the library. I get my arms around all that
Can be found. Kanafani demands freedom, and so must we.
He doesn’t stop talking about the trees. And in such a
Way, I have learned about the world. To comprehend
Crisis, occupation and war. It is a bitter feeling. On
Second thought, it occurs to me that we all do the same,
In one way or another. We understand the world, having
Sworn to change it. Everything we learn about is crisis,
Or the aftermath of a crisis, or a precursor to a crisis.
Our alarm clocks ring at 6 am IST whether there
Is a war or not. We need to get out of bed
Whether there is a war or not.
Someone You Don’t Like Plays the Piano in Your Room
It’s six in the morning. No work. No need to get out of bed. You
Push the curtains to cover the entirety of your window pane and avoid
The scathing rays of the sun. No crowds of faces crowd your vision.
Nothing to be done.
A melody rings. No need to get out of bed. The tune is familiar.
No need to get out of bed. The melody goes on and on and on,
And blends with the clankings and the clinkings of your room.
A familiar step. The touch of a familiar finger touches your hand.
No need to get out of bed.
Faces gather like clouds on a rainy day. You open your eyes.
The curtains are drawn and the room is light. Someone you don’t
Like plays the piano in your room. You refuse to be impolite. The night
Stands at the door. You don’t recognise your visitor. Every moment of
Your life dances, every figment of your thought wavers with the song in
Your visitor rises and begins to walk away. The melody goes on.
The night has arrived. No need to get out of bed. You have been left
Alone in your room. Your face is old. Your curtains are old. The
Melody is now old. You walk to the balcony and look out at the
Empty road. No visitors. You must play the piano on your own.
Suryashekhar Biswas is a journalist from Bangalore. His works have appeared in NewsClick, CounterCurrents, Orinoco Tribune, Bevaru, and elsewhere.