Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Poetry is what happens when nothing else can

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Sometimes you come across something and you think that’s what the world desperately needs, if only it could listen.

Sometimes you hear a voice and words start to draw a different future, the opposite of what the evening news says is inevitable. A voice that silences the omnipresent noise of a world running after cash. A world dirtied by hatred, bloodied by fear. A world on January sale, ripped apart by greedy shoppers.

Tunisian poet and slammer Anis Chouchene is such a voice. Born out of turmoil, from the womb of an evolving Arab world, torn between hopes and hopelessness.

“Poetry is what happens when nothing else can”, said Charles Bukowski. The old bastard may be right after all.

For my non-Arabic readers, the following is the most accurate translation I could find.

"Peace on you, and peace on us
Peace to you, and peace to us,
Peace to those who respond to the offer of peace
And even to those who don’t
On the name of God, peace
The eternal refuge, the God of the faithful
Peace in which we grew up
Peace kneaded with the ground of this country
A peace we no longer dwell in
Peace that no longer dwells within us
The peace that we observe,
As it packs its luggage to leave our lands, slowly, and gradually
To be replaced by submission and surrender,
And Islamization devoid of Islam
As if the Islam of our ancestors doesn’t concern it.
Do you know why peace leaves us?
Do you know why we are engulfed by darkness?
Simply, because we are a fearful society
We are a society that fears diversity
My words, might not please some of you,
Or most of you
Or, all of you
I know!
But I will say it
Because I refuse to be like a sheep
We are a society, that refuses to admit
We nest in backwardness
We are a society that screams with all insolence
Claiming to carry a different thought
We are a society, that indulges in arrogance, in a vacuum
And claims to be a cultured

Woe to me, what disgust!
We embrace diversity only as a mask
The difference of colors harms us
The difference of forms harms us
The difference of thoughts harms us
The difference of religion harms us
Even the difference of gender harms us
Thus, we attempt to kill our diversity
And we became a lethal poison to each other
We are a society sillier than the fool
Yes, we are a society sillier than the fool
We dispute over trivialities, exaggerations, and superstitions
We consistently refuse to dive into the deep
And I don’t absolve anyone
Neither civilians nor politicians
Or anyone who is calm in the dull quietness
Neither the one who claims we are holy
Nor the one who blindly follows the West
Or those who want to recreate the glories of the caliphate, and slavery
And to the amputation of legs over differences
Let us today, try to dive inside ourselves,
inside our deepness
Let us try to embrace our souls
Let us try to embrace our diversity inside our souls
Here I am,
In front of you
With my color,
with my hair,
And my poems,
And with my whimsical thoughts
I am not afraid of you
I am not afraid of your differences over me
Because I am of you
And you are of me
Let’s create art
let’s dive into the dreams
To build a culture immune of ridicule
To instill sophistication in ourselves,
In its superior state
Let’s dissolve traditions, races, specters, thoughts, colors, and religions
So we do not see, except a human."