Tag Archives: Poetry

Just Look

I wrote this poem back in Grade 11 for a slam poetry assignment. I remember writing it over the course of a few days, which is relatively fast for my standards. I wrote it long before I decided to study at the University of Cape Town, and before I seriously started looking into Western views on Africa. But I knew already that something was wrong. I knew that detaching our First World lives from poverty and struggle wouldn’t solve the problem, it would just ease our guilt enough to get through the day. And I knew that wasn’t okay.

So, even though this is a kind of simplified version of some of my views, I still think it has something going for it. Enjoy.


Hello, my name is John
I used to live where the sun shone
But if you look now, Just Look
My life, my wife, my hope, they’re all gone
Thanks to a battle of wills of the powerful not-so-strong
That had nothing to do with my wife or my life
But it took everything
A rich man’s happiness comes at too high a price

I’m a human being, nothing more, nothing less
But now that that’s all gone –
Where’s my dignity

What makes you think, when push comes to shove
That you have the right to stand above
And watch while societies crash and burn
You think your status is one you earned?
We’re all human beings, nothing more, nothing less
And while we’re on the subject, please let me address
That the wealth and good cheer that you supposedly gained
Was given to you to not waste in vain

Just Look at the millions of people on their knees
Just Look
Whatever you do, don’t absorb this disease
Of apathetic ignorance that’s spread through the top
You sit and do nothing while economies flop
You say you’re against famine, poverty, war
But you don’t sacrifice anything to give to the poor
You say that every human has the right to life
To be fed, to be loved, to be protected from strife
Yes, you believe all these things, I don’t doubt it
The question is:
What are you going to do about it?

Just Look
The next time you see me on the corner of your giant TV screen
You see the pictures, the stories, and say
“Gosh, that’s obscene!”
But who cares?
Click, it’s gone
Hello, my name is John,
And my whole freakin’ world is gone

I’m a human being crushed under a bigger man’s show
So go ahead, big man, tell me I’m worth less than you

I’m a human being, nothing more, nothing less
I deserve dignity, I deserve respect from you
So don’t Just Look
Get up and do