Democracy · General

Unlock

Unlock

This deadlock

Of flailing democracy

Before we’re locked inside

A falling fortress time forgot

Half our number failing to perceive

We are becoming what we are not

A thing our future won’t believe

Warped by horrors of austerity

Fragmented by painful pride

Becoming dark histories

The public outcries

No alibis

For lies

Unmet

Needs

Breed

Crimes

Lines

                           At foodbanks to feed

Lives

                         Identities redefined

     Maligned

                                This is oppression’s seed

                               Partition and hypocrisy

                              Please heed and unlock

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

Culture · Democracy · General

Without Representation

Tax without representation equals tyranny;

This was a grievance in the seventeen-sixties

Across thirteen American Colonies

Whose governance came from across seas,

Remote, unresponsive to necessities

They could not heed, and so cried liberty,

For to pay yet be muzzled is to suffer cruelty,

 

This became a seed of the revolution;

For tax must be money taken from citizens

For the betterment of community and nation

Not a cyphering or selective elevation

Of one group requiring others’ humiliation,

 

To take taxes from persons with zero say

In how their money’s used is autocracy;

An absolutism keeping justice at bay

Until people cried, “We won’t pay

To have our voice or home taken away,

We won’t subsidise being silenced.”

 

Later, in another century, women cried this too;

Or at least the wealthy, unmarried or widowed

Women with means, numbering only a few,

Less than four decades since wedded women knew

The right to own any property or money; to accrue

Or keep inheritance or wages, never mind a view,

 

But although they had no say in how it was spent

They were legally bound to pay tax to a Parliament,

That might as well have been on another continent

For how much it heard, saw or represented them

Or any women, for it was a male ego Bastian

That sought to retain unilateral male dominance,

Where men owned wives’ bodies, owned children,

Where women’s sole fortune was a kind man,

Where the death of a cruel one was petty treason,

Where women were thought to have no sense or reason,

 

Those times are (mostly) gone,

In many but not all ways

We have moved on,

In others the patterns replay

On and on and on,

 

And yet always there is disenfranchisement;

Subjugation, marginalisation recurrent

For those who cannot vote for their government

But must pay taxes, amongst these are migrants

Who work and pay their way yet are censured

And scapegoated, all successes thrice earned

In economic downturn, less guarded by laws,

 

My thinking friends, take into consideration

Those with no vote still subject to taxation;

For those with no parliamentary representation

Are those who suffer the worst discrimination;

 

For policies are built for those who may elect

And those most represented get most respect,

 

So, when the powerful blame migrants again

Know it’s because politicians can cast blame

And shame on those with other national origins

Because at election time MPs only have to win

The approval of born or chosen British citizens,

 

It is the same with young people

Who may have sex, go into battle,

Be taxed, labour, work and toil

Years before their opinion counts at all

To those who’d label them criminal,

 

Tax but no vote from age sixteen

Then under-represented and side-lined

By those who chose to demean,

 

If you are white, male, heterosexual,

Born here, still fully abled,

Born well off, aligned to the sex assigned

At birth and forty or more

Then you are the ones they write policies for,

 

And, although this status quo is challenged

The more we are of this, the more we are privileged,

The more our likeness is, in Westminster, reflected,

The more our needs and interests are respected

And the more our right to thrive is protected,

 

But those who cannot elect or be elected

Still pay into the pot,

But when the going gets tough they’re neglected,

Their contribution denied, rights overlooked,

 

I look at anti-migrant rhetoric

Recalling slogans of regulators and suffragists,

All people just trying to live

Without being banished, alienated

Or slated for taking when they give,

The lies about them are practiced,

Expected, accepted, authoritative,

 

To those who believe them I ask them to think

About present and historic links

Between those who aren’t permitted a vote

And those in society who are scorned the most,

 

Because it is not democracy,

At times it smacks of tyranny,

It opens the gate to mockery,

Hate crimes, partiality, bigotry

 

And is a smoke screen shielding plutocracy;

A version of this played out in ancient Greece,

And to those who say it’s always been like this

I’d say we create more damage when we believe

Authorities when they accuse voteless minorities

And under-represented communities,

It is divide and rule policy based on demography,

Truth is more complex and harder to retrieve

When a nation enables its leaders to deceive

Then buys the bullshit on Brexit and votes ‘leave’.

Democracy · Festive Protest Songs · General · Remain

Better Watch Out

This one is written in the horror of knowing a homeless person was set on fire in their sleeping bag in our city. It is part of a wave of rising abuse. I wrote the song to the tune of ‘Santa Clause is Coming to Town’ – I’ve always found the original words a bit sinister. I’m aware the verse would scan better if I’d written ‘The Alt Right’ instead of Far-Righters but I don’t see them as ‘alternative’.  This poem comes with strong trigger warnings.

 

You better watch out, you better not cry
Don’t sit this one out, I’m telling you why, cause
Far-righters are coming to town
They bankrolled Brexit, spreading its worst lies
They’ve got no reason or alibis, cause
Far-righters are coming to town

They burn homeless men while sleeping
Then record it all on tape
They’re terrorising neighbourhoods
With their mates the KKK!

 

[Chorus]
You better watch out, you better not cry
Don’t sit this one out, I’m telling you why, cause
Far-righters are coming to town.


We’re gonna resist with all of our might
Cause we still believe in the worth of each life,

But far-righters are coming to town.

 

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

48% · Culture · Democracy · General · Remain

Windrush

This one’s for citizens who came on ‘Windrush’;

The generations that generated renewal

During and after the war, first dying in service,

Then more came to help rebuild, refuel,

Re-spark, here at the birth of the NHS,

Facing xenophobes, teddy boys, racists,

 

Yet ‘they’ are not ‘them’ but part of us,

Bought from across the Commonwealth,

And now, how can we expect their exodus?

It seems like ethnic cleansing by stealth,

Where history is bleached out; whitewashed

Until a nation perverts and destroys itself,

 

Every single Britain is a child of multiple migrations;

Our ancestors came in need, greed, fight or trade

Through millennia of voluntary or enforced relocations;

By discovery, captivity, by each road built, each stone laid,

Windrushers are the same, they came by invitation

Not by blade, treated as if the latest to invade,

Despite being part of our heartbeat, post devastation

In a shell-shocked, rationed kingdom, so we began again,

 

How soon civil rights, so hard won, seem stolen away;

As memories fade, bigotry plays on a loop, ingrained

But not innate, division is not fate but a kind of decay;

A deep rot that sets in when instability reigns,

We less aware of our internal struggles than the USA,

Of the grit it must have taken for Windrushers to stay,

Make this the land of their children’s, children’s, children,

When racism was not recognised as the crime it is today

And race riots began in Birmingham, Kensington, Brixton,

 

Many black citizens couldn’t vote or have their say

Until the British Nationality Act of 1981,

Yet black and ethnic minorities continued on, unfazed,

Discrimination was further written into institutions

Over decades bias lost battles, but was never erased,

Prejudice a virus, sometimes contained, rarely gone,

Now, in a separatist world, white-supremacist crusades

Are launched by government; an act of extremism,

A fictional homegrown enemy, House of Commons made;

Ministers like missiles misfiring, misdirected missions

Against longstanding citizens, a bill that spits on graves

Of war heroes, workers, scholars, in bloody amputations

Treating pioneers and entrepreneurs like discarded slaves,

 

These inhabitants who have enriched all known occupations,

These families, this part of our communally nourished culture;

Part of the whole, of ourselves, amid dire Brexit negotiations

These tax-payers now among those described as ‘the other’,

Look Britain, see how many are subject to alienation

Let’s ask ourselves this, do we want a fascist future;

A future of white-centric, little Island isolation?

Commonwealth nations once gathered to deter

A powerful regime of murderous oppression,

Beside world-wide allies, enduring together,

 

Then, with past foes, we birthed new protections

For peace and human dignities for many, forever,

Now, while many gains are squandered by negation

We open doors wide to every antique phobia;

To radical cultural and racial discriminations,

Alongside nationalistic anti-European patter,

And blinkered, blanket anti-immigration,

Irrational rhetoric, as fat cats get fatter,

Fed by rising injustices and violations,

Hidden by resulting clamour and chatter

Racists take advantage of mass confusion,

 

We forget yet again that black lives matter,

Backing people into traps of self-justification

As they are forced once more to strive

For all covered by the human rights declaration;

Home, country, community all potentially denied,

Policies of exclusion contrive new manifestations,

As if for some it is a crime to simply be alive,

We needed Windrush to swell a ravaged population,

Against the odds, they and their descendants thrived,

Yet they’re deprived of protections of patriation

As if being punished because they survived.

 

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

48% · Culture · General

I Love Britain

 

 

I love Britain,

I love British tradition,

The cuppa that heals everything,

From an Asian plantation,

Sweetened by sugar from African

Or South American origin,

 

I love Britain,

I love British tradition,

Curry, pizza or kebab

Welcomes our weekend in,

Making hearts glad

With beer from Belgium

Or wine from many lands

 

As we watch Strictly Come Dancing

With multi-national contestants

Pairing, befriending, competing

For the nation’s entertainment,

 

This is Britain,

This is British tradition,

Mutual international influence,

Yet idiosyncratic, different,

Built by eons of immigrants,

Like an ancient Scottish clan

With ancestry from France

Or Gaul, Scandinavia, and Ireland,

 

And yes, we must support

Local businesses when we can,

Like the British institution, Betty’s,

A Yorkshire tea room

Started by a man from Switzerland,

 

Yes, we need good local economies,

The world has limits to how we expand,

Supporting diverse, local communities

Doesn’t require any racist grandstand,

Just choosing small and medium enterprises,

When we can, makes a massive difference,

 

I often hear about the Battle of Britain,

One of our chronicles of World War Two,

In which our forebears defended freedom;

Fought off fascism, kept our cool,

 

Many of our pilots came from Poland,

A fact too few British people knew,

Like Gurkhas who helped guard our islands

And Caribbean kin who came to the rescue

from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago …

To protect, help feed and rebuild too,

Joining a multitude of homegrown heroes,

All of whom I feel I owe my life to,

 

I love Britain,

I love British tradition,

English, a tongue to many nations

By friendship or by trade,

Imperialism and crusade;

The world map changed by past decisions,

Bright discoveries, grim slave trade

And controversial Christian missions,

A full mix in which Britain stole and gave,

 

We bade the world come in

Because we were built by empire,

Our culture of symbiotic derivation

Forged by families who’ve walked through fire,

 

Britain, my nation, who I love and question,

For there are histories that pain me

And facts glossed over, side-lined or forgotten,

Our stories are often written to deny diversity,

The lie that we were all white ‘til recent generations

Is typical to a certain kind of British duplicity,

The best of us is not reflected by Nelson’s Column,

 

Ask who built the streets and towers of our cities

For they came from everywhere and here,

Ask who harvested this spring’s British strawberries,

The same answer booms out loud and clear,

 

I love Britain,

I love British tradition

But too often we’ve no idea

Who we are.

 

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

48% · General · Personal · Remain

Yes, I’m British

 

 

To the fool who said I wasn’t British,

My father’s, father’s father was Cornish,

From a long line that worked the pits,

There’s a whisper of Welsh,

And a good dose of Essex –

64 sixth great- grandparents

For each human to exit –

Bring on DNA tests for xenophobes,

Extremists and racists,

 

To the fool who said I wasn’t British

Because I use the name Zenkevitch

Not Brown, Jones or Smith –

Though my ancestry has names like this

Along with Eastern European and Sephardic,

 

I am proud of my name and heritage,

I use my maiden name even after marriage

To my love of Northern parentage

Whose own ancestry goes wide and deep

Into this land and, at some point, overseas,

 

To the fool who said I wasn’t British,

Each one of us is multifaceted,

Every human has a wondrous mix

Of choice and cultural inheritance

And you and I are no different in this,

 

To the fool who said I wasn’t British –

Do you really know what British is?

A mix of Saxon, Norman, Viking, Pict

Was just the start of part of it,

 

To the fool who said I wasn’t British,

I was born it, others chose it

As they’ve done for countless centuries

In our interwoven histories,

 

To the fool who said I wasn’t British,

It is far from true, though they might wish it

For the Arian vision of their kind of Brexit,

I say to them; stop it, you’re being a twit.

 

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

48% · Democracy · General · Remain

A Very Quiet Civil War

 

No roses, red or white
To define who’s against
And who is for,

We cross divides of left and right
In this very quiet civil war,

Half the politicians make no sense
As they fight between themselves,
Outside their halls the air is tense
As the ranks of marchers swell,

The unrest in schools, parks,
Homes and parliaments,
A truth our leaders don’t tell;
This un-United Kingdom’s rent;
Ripped in two as the vote tore
Us all into halves of a land
Each one of us adore,

This is a very quiet civil war,

Fought at dinner tables
And work corridors,
It burns us to the core,

A conflict capable
Of seeing union fall
Either side of Hadrian’s wall,
Of breaking trust between
Parts of the UK across seas,

Of breaking truce in Northern Ireland,

This is a civil conflict never before seen,
Where none is in command,
But plenty are alarmed
And those hard up are harmed,

The numbers between leave or remain
Had a four percent margin,
And there was no “I don’t know yet,
Please explain.”

And now this simmering conflict
As our economy depletes,
Homeless people line the streets
As MPs debate a Brexit,
Saying the nation agrees
But this kingdom’s on its knees

And two percent over half
Does not mandate
Tearing us apart,
As you please,
Soon it will be too late
To prevent this mockery of democracy,

Scotland, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar
Voted to stay in Europe, not leave,
This will tear apart families,
Communities, identities,
Businesses, public services
And children’s opportunities,
Endanger our rights
And imperil peace,

For a difference of two percent
Each way off half and half,
Two years of argument
About how best to ruin our countries
As we yell, march, weep and laugh,

And nooses are tied on the mast,
But this could all have been avoided
If, when such a close vote was cast,
A second vote was called,
The first one voided,
Because with such a narrow margin passed
A clear way forward is eroded,

There is blood on the street -
Though it is mostly discrete -
And anger when different
Groups of people meet,

This is a very quiet civil war
But no less destructive,
Every single part of our lives
Will be or is being disrupted,
People are struggling to survive
On both sides,
And hopes built on opportunist lies
Will be denied,

The old law; to rule, first divide
Played out in this charade,
As violent acts and hate crime rise
When ‘hard times’ is redefined,

Some will call it ‘race war’-
A term I despise,
But that’s only the aim
Of one part of one side,

And as for the Remainers, we call to unite
Beyond the lines of born here or not,
Beyond definitions of left or right,
Black, Asian, Jewish, White,
The half of the UK some MPs forgot,
It’s up to us to hold the light -
Cheesy as it sounds,

It’s a cliché for a reason,
We are the underground union
That occupy our towns.

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch