Poem by Bianca Heuser

The Tragedy of the Commons

In 68, a little bitch called Garrett Hardin
Coined a term each of us can imagine our part in
His ideas on how we share our stuff
Seem reasonable and not as tough
As our lives might just become
If free were all and everyone

His proposal’s ubiquitous 50 years later
A hunch turned theory, and one largely favored
By quote-unquote realists who just can’t imagine
Not everyone’s rotten like they know they have been

Communal resources, as Hardin suggested
Would just be exploited, let’s not bother test it
A greedy and thoughtless majority
Must be saved from itself with authority
And regulations we best delegate
To those of us who already ate
Lest a hungry couple hundred million
Launch an attempt to establish dominion

You may have regurgitated this BS
Lacking faith in self-governance
But here’s a chance to doubt the proclaimed
And dream up a structure that could be sustained

Keep in mind Hardin was a white Texan
And not one prone to self-reflection
This so-called “tragedy” mainly supported
His own racism, profound and sordid

Don’t take my word for it when you can examine
His widely published thoughts on Ethiopia’s famine
“Nah, let’s not send them money or food
The place’s too crowded already, dude”
He warned of the dangers of “overpopulation”
With a passion matched by his sexual frustration
One look reveals that he and his mob
Are really just, you know… not hot

On top of that they’re stupid, too
Like, why you think people loot, boo?
Are those trying to scrape by to blame
Or those with the power to rig the game?
By the pages of school books, the news, academia
We seem to suffer a collective amnesia
And listening to them narrativise,
I can’t help but feel they epitomise
The greed they warn will bring our decline
Which, if things stay as they are, might just be fine.

<p><em>Big Tex</em>, state fair 1956, photo: Bantosh, (c) CC BY-SA 3.0</p>

Big Tex, state fair 1956, photo: Bantosh, (c) CC BY-SA 3.0

But capitalism really isn’t that old
Though she sure looks it, truth be told
Championing ideas such as “property”
Would make you age horribly
Remember that this is foundational to “commons”
The notion that some things are for few among us
While the rest is made to fear scarcity
The greatest self-own in history

How do you argue for a system
Which calls itself insufficient?
It’s the gaslight to end all gaslighting
Fuelled by relentless backbiting
Demanding “everyone, lower your standards
Unless any of you have the answers…”
If capitalism were your friend
I’d say it’s time for that friendship to end
Don’t you listen to a word that bitch says
Block her number, change your address

Once you truly free your mind
And leave this fuckery behind
There’s room to dream creatively
And invent our future communally
Don’t be scared for what you might lose
Rather, think of what you’d choose
If any and everything could be yours
And hers and mine, and his and ours

Bianca Heuser, a German writer living in Berlin and Los Angeles, read this poem at an event during the Berlin Art Prize exhibition 2018