Fiddling While We Burn

[The text of this sonnet is printed below.]

I wrote this sonnet years ago as many problems were increasing—poverty and economic inequity, racism and religious nationalism, militarism and environmental destruction—and too few people seemed aware of the threat to our society and world.

The poem asks, “How long before the people feel the heat?”

The good news is that millions of people are waking up to what is happening and are rising up to demand human civilization change.

We cannot let up.  The transformation needed is more than any government alone can solve, as Greta Thunberg and the Rev. William Barber and countless others are saying.  Greta says, “The climate and ecological crisis cannot be solved within today’s political and economic systems,” she said. “That isn’t an opinion. That’s a fact.”

Yes, it is absolutely crucial to elect new leaders this year at every level of government who will work for change, but the global arson that has been accumulating power and consuming the earth for decades requires a fire brigade that is hundreds of millions strong, dedicating their time, talents and resources to creating a sustainable and just civilization and restoring the earth.  We need to make up our minds that this will be our work beyond this election and as long as we live.  We need to make working together toward this new world a joyous, hopeful part of our daily lives.

It is not enough simply to feel the heat. We need to wage a revolution of values, we need to legislate public policies and regulations based on the principles of compassion, the Golden Rule, the love of neighbor and the recognition of our oneness—that everyone and every creature on earth is our neighbor.

So it is urgent that we stop “fiddling while we burn” and spread this revolution of values.  Thank you for doing your part!

Fiddling While We Burn

Mad Nero fiddled while his empire burned,
the story goes—a fire he organized.
What is it that our empire leaders learned?
His brilliant scheme, it seems, they recognized.
They doused the planet with their gasoline,
fireproofed their palaces and struck the matches,
and now they fiddle, make a little scene,
distract us while the world around us catches.
They argue over taxes.  Meanwhile, war
and poverty and climate change grow hot.
They act as if their fiddling matters more,
as if their global arson matters not.
How long before the people feel the heat?
Let’s hope before the burning is complete.

copyright 2020 Thomas Cary Kinder


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