This is Benjamin Zephaniah‘s ‘What if‘ 2009 take on Rudyard Kipling‘s inspirational poem classic ‘If‘, which is my favourite poem.
“If you can keep your money when governments about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust your neighbour when they trust not you
And they be very nosy too;
If you can await the warm delights of summer
Then summer comes and goes with sun not seen,
And pay so much for drinking water
Knowing that the water is unclean.
If you seek peace in times of war creation,
And you can see that oil merchants are to blame,
If you can meet a pimp or politician,
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you cannot bear dis-united nations
And you think this new world order is a trick,
If you’ve ever tried to build good race relations,
And watch bad policing mess your work up quick.
If you can make one heap of all your savings
And risk buying a small house and plot,
Then sit back and watch the economy inflating
Then have to deal with the negative equity you’ve got;
If you can force your mind and body to continue
When all the social services have gone,
If you struggle on when there is nothing in you,
Except the knowledge that justice can be wrong.
If you can speak the truth to common people
Or walk with Kings and Queens and live no lie,
If you can see how power can be evil
And know that every censor is a spy;
If you can fill an unforgiving lifetime
With years of working hard to make ends meet,
You may not be wealthy but I am sure you will find
That you can hold your head high as you walk the streets.”
Benjamin Zephaniah was born in Birmingham, England. Considered the most popular reggae poet in the world his poems are inspired by his love of Jamaican music and ‘street politics’.