[ I received the news late last night from Counterpunch- one of my favorite columnists- activist, visionary, poet, philosopher, friend of the downtrodden, Andre Vltchek, had slumped into the seat of a taxicab, his wife next to him, while traveling somewhere in Turkey, and never woke up.  I truly did not want to believe it- in a worldwide desert terrain of corrupted and degraded “journalism,” he, like John Pilger, was a refreshing exception, and relentlessly traveled far and wide, to many of the world’s troubled spots, to give voice to the downtrodden, exploited, murdered and butchered.  But it turned out to be true (much as we read about the much younger Michael Brooks’ passage only a few weeks earlier).  His last quote from the article I read (https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/09/25/andre-vltcheks-sudden-death/)  seemed to sum up the overarching truth he always wanted to reveal- that he witnessed human suffering in nation after nation, and, most significantly, his belief that this world and civilization itself would never heal “until Western imperialism ceased to exist.”  There is some speculation that this may well be a political murder.  I wrote this tribute poem remembering the one-of-a-kind Andre Vltchek.  © Monish R Chatterjee 2020]

           

I had admired your visions, your gentle rebukes

Your poet’s touch even in strident reprimands of avarice and plunder

Your scouring the earth’s most desperate places to find human stories

Your unbounded compassion towards the neglected and tyrannized.

 

I had admired these at a distance.  During these times of human

Degeneration carried to extremes, worldwide, with often their origins

In the imperial headquarters of the West.  To say you were courageous

Brave, outspoken, visionary- these all would be quite inadequate.

 

Among a handful of noble, humane spokespeople in times of aimless

Gluttony, you took on a special place in my hierarchy of social

Responsibility.  I once wrote about such illustrious predecessors-

Vidal, Zinn, Vonnegut, Terkel- sentinels, I called them.  And in that

 

Listing I did not include any from my own corner of the earth, India.

I mentioned one or more big-hearted, lesser known ones such as

John Ross, spending his last days among those fighting drug wars

Imposed from Mexico’s imperial Northern neighbor.  You, Andre

 

Made a place somewhere in that hierarchy.  You did not pick up

The gun as a revolutionary, as Che did.  You did not stand and deliver

Powerful and persuasive speeches, as did Malcolm or Frederick.

You did not go on exile to build up an army of expatriates to fight

 

The greatest empire of history, upon which the sun supposedly never

Set, as did India’s Subhas.  But in an age of technological breakthroughs

And instant gratification, you were a warrior on the ancient, evolved

Ground, your heart resonated with creatures without possessions

 

Your idyllic campaigns were much like those of an Assange and a Medea

For someone from a slightly older generation, you stood out as a symbol

Of hope- that ideals of humanity and indeed a different world

Are very much alive and well.  And I always trusted I would read more.

 

So it hit me like a ton of bricks, scrolling down the Counterpunch

Headlines- Andre Vltchek and “death” on the same line.  I would not

Believe it; like the news of Michael Brooks only a few weeks earlier-

Incredulous!  Not this poet, this philosopher, this itinerant traveler

 

Speaking for the voiceless.  But bad news does often prove correct

And indeed the good are often gone too soon, while Kissinger

With the blood of innumerable innocents on his hands, lives on.

Back in the 1980s, they made the memorable film titled

 

My Dinner with Andre.  Ever a lover of great conversation, I have

Savored great moments of conversation on film, including many

On the Satyajit Ray masterpieces.  Without you to guide the planet

To safety, it will forever remain my wish- my own elusive

Unrealized My Dinner with Andre, the dreamer and idealist.

Dr. Monish R. Chatterjee, a professor at the University of Dayton who specializes in applied optics, has contributed more than 130 papers to technical conferences, and has published more than 75 papers in archival journals and conference proceedings, in addition to numerous reference articles on science.  He has also authored several literary essays and four books of literary translations from his native Bengali into English (Kamalakanta, Profiles in Faith, Balika Badhu, and Seasons of Life).  Dr. Chatterjee believes strongly in humanitarian activism for social justice.

  Monish R Chatterjee © 2020


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2 Comments

  1. Avatar Monish Chatterjee says:

    I wrote this tribute poem remembering Andre Vltchek, remarkable journalist, author, poet, philosopher, traveler, somewhere in Turkey on September 22, 2020. His sudden passing is at the moment shrouded in mystery. After all, a staunch anti-imperialist always treads a risky line.

  2. I share the shock, and GRIEF, over the loss of yet another fearless
    truthteller. In many ways he’s irreplaceable for his honest and
    intrepid reporting at the grassroots level and thus reflecting on
    what was happening at higher levels, up to national and
    international. This was unusual. There are only a few reporters of
    his ilk.
    He resembled Julian Assange in his bravery at exposing the truth.
    Julian’s suffering is not yet over.
    But what for me made André unique in his commentary was his defence of
    communism and the Soviet Union, having originally been of a different
    mindset. In these days when language is undergoing rapid change of
    meaning, André was not afraid to use the terms communism and
    communist in their true, original meaning pertaining to belief in
    common ownership, shared and managed for the common good, rather than
    for private profit.
    The Soviet Union was an experiment in communism. I saw and experienced
    it first-hand.
    Following the Second World War, Western Europe experimented in a somewhat
    different form of communism that was given the name ‘socialism’. In
    those days, public ownership of the means of production, sharing, and
    distribution of essential goods and services such as food, water,
    health, housing, energy, transport, and communications became
    commonplace. This too, I saw and experienced first-hand.
    But human greed once again prevailed and the term communism became
    synonymous with evil, such was the success of largely Western
    propaganda.
    Now, an insipid form of private exploitation is termed ‘left’, while the
    more virulent and extreme form is termed ‘right’.
    André fought against this and for this he will be remembered and honoured.