I have many mottos in life: you reap what you sow, is one. Don’t wear a blue bra and white T-shirt if it looks like it’s going to rain, is another. But the one that defines me most is ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. It’s been a recurring theme that, of late, has consumed me completely. In short, it is the idea that words, though zephyrs of air, are more powerful than spilled blood. It’s the motto that keeps me writing poetry, articles and engaging in (reasoned) debate.
Since Israel started its third incursion into Gaza in 7 years – this one costing more lives, homes and sanity than either of the other two, I have been feeling indignant and powerless in equal measure. What can I do? The more focalised my anger became, the more impassioned I was to do something. When I spoke to my Palestinian father about the slaughter – a man who has endured two ethnic cleansings and a generation’s worth of pain – he just smiled wryly and said it was ‘aadi’ – normal, and that ‘Gaza will be ok’. I didn’t believe him and didn’t want to bargain on that flippant (if resilient) assumption. As an impotent observer, as a girl who neither elected my leaders, nor chose to be born into privileged security, I sought to change opinions with my words. I started reading, writing for Infita7 and recording poems (watch Palestine). I started talking openly to friends and strangers alike. My words were stronger than I gave them credit for and I’m gradually discovering more and more of my friends are seeing other side of the coin. This was my purpose: to use my tongue to articulate my anger, not allow frustration to fester into aggression.
And writing has given me the strength to demonstrate my outrage in other ways: before July, I had never been to a protest. But I went to the first Gaza demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in London andperformed my poem to 10,000 people. Using those words and hearing those cheers made me realise, I am the resistance. I am not powerless, nor weak as the media would have me believe. I am strong, resilient and on the right side of the truth. I am going to have to fight for my voice to heard because silence is gold-plated not golden, it’s just a cheap emblem of obedience. Even attending the protest, hearing my voice ring out with thousands of others for the same cause filled me with power. I was literally screaming out and that catharsis cannot be overemphasised.
With the actions of my voice, came the actions of my wallet. I’m going to boycott. I’m going to make sure sub-humans like Joan Rivers don’t come to my country for saying Palestinians ‘deserve to be dead’; and I’m not going to purchase any goods grown or created on my stolen land. I am going to boycott the living daylights out of a country that has kept millions suffering and millions more in exile.
I use my words, with a pen as my conduit.
I use my anger, with protest as my expression.
And I use my autonomy, with a boycott as my resistance.
Don’t feel powerless, because you are not. Khalas – Enough is enough now, let’s fight this battle on all sides for our brothers and sisters in Palestine and throughout the world. Whether the pen is actually mightier than the sword in real time is debatable. But as a human privileged enough to live a country where raspberries are available in December and where I won’t get easily silenced by a paternalistic authority, this is the best I can do. My words are my resistance and our sentences will set us free.
Like: Zena Agha