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The Unknown Citizen
© - Tom Hyland - 2/18/12
After reading Ed Matlack’s Poem -
“For those of us who don’t play with the band…”
It rustled up an old memory, from 1962.
I was a Freshman at the University of Maryland
At College Park, when I read the above-titled poem.
I just ‘GOOGLED’ it, and here’s the background info:
The Unknown Citizen
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Unknown Citizen is a poem by W. H. Auden. Auden wrote it in 1939, shortly after moving from England to the United States. It was first published in 1939 in The New Yorker, and first appeared in book form in Auden's collection Another Time (1940). The poem is the epitaph of a man, identified only by a combination of letters and numbers somewhat like an American Social Security number ("JS/07/M/378"), who is described entirely in external terms: from the point of view of government organizations such as the fictional "Bureau of Statistics."
The speaker of the poem concludes that the man had lived an entirely average, therefore exemplary, life. The poem is a satire of standardization at the expense of individualism. The poem is implicitly the work of a government agency at some point in the future, when modern bureaucratizing trends have reached the point where citizens are known by arbitrary numbers and letters, not personal names.
By describing the "average citizen" through the eyes of various government organizations, the poem criticizes standardization and the modern state's relationship with its citizens.
The last lines of the poem dismiss the questions of whether he was "free" or "happy", implicitly because the statistical methods used by the state to describe his life have no means of understanding such questions.
The epigraph to "Unknown Citizen" is a parody of the symbolic Tomb of the Unknown Soldier commemorating unidentified soldiers; tombs of unknown soldiers were first created following the first World War.
The Unknown Citizen
by W. H. Auden
(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)
He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.
For more Critiques, go to:
Remind you of Orwelle’s ‘1984’ ?
Go read the above URL.
© - TKH.
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|Reviewed by John Coppolella
|I also went to U of M during the year of 1980. It was reported that I was not an exemplary student. My grades were reflected in transcript which was used by future employers to gain in not hiring me. Gladly I moved on to become statistically irrelevant to government and therefore not fit become moral enough to considered for the Mason's or the U.S. Navy. So I am glad that AD has deemed fit to allow me to publish here in my latter years, for sharing and scaring any and all that would be brave enough to read my random thoughts and quantum probabilities extra-extraordinaire, which as you know follows the Bell curve. So statistically I am really by being unacceptable to the powers that be, proving that I am quite average and therefore invisible after all. Thanks, Tom...starman|
|Reviewed by Ed Matlack
|Yes, 1984 does come to mind as does my poem...though mine kinda came out of no-where...It just kind of flowed like most of mine do...thanks for the plug, Cuz, you are a Cur amongst sirs...;-) Jurseeeeeeeey|