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the right to be frivolous - Mahmoud darwish

In solidarity. As I revisit Darwish's poem "Identity Card", I become aware of my own constructed identities about the poet, the poem, and the movements that these represent. I think of Darwish as an exile poet. I think of his work as deeply political - a reaction to the persecution of Palestinians by the Israeli state. I see his writing as being a harbinger of change, as questioning the very core of Israeli occupation. But Darwish himself seemed to have no such assumptions about his art and its "impact" - "....poetry can be an instrument of change. I took this very seriously until I arrived at my own conclusion that poetry changes nothing. It may have an effect on how people feel, but it has no effect on reality. The only person it changes is the poet himself." His words about Palestine and the need for self-determination, freedom and identity, as separate from Israel are eye opening, and wrenched out of his personal experiences of oppression in occupied Palestine. I find his words about the “right to be frivolous” especially interesting in the context of other conflict ridden peoples (not to reduce any of these movements). But the sentiment could be applied to a Kashmir. Like Darwish, however, I realise how far we are from according that right to the people, and how far the people themselves are from having that space in the current context. Frivolity, it seems is a privilege of the oppressor. "In other words, poetry could never reflect on itself in the absence of external events and political influences. In the particular Palestinian case, what our poetry needs is to be humanized. We cannot be defined by our relationship, positive or negative, to Israel. We have our own identity, a personality that is peculiar to us, just as we have our own questions that are particular to our condition, in addition to the others that we share with the rest of humanity. The Palestinian cannot just be defined as terrorist or freedom fighter. Any trite, routine image ends up reducing and usurping the humanity of the Palestinian and renders him unable to be seen as merely human. He becomes either the hero or the victim—not just a human being. Therefore I very seriously advocate our right to be frivolous. I strongly believe in our right to be frivolous. The sad truth is that in order to reach that stage of being frivolous we would have to achieve victory over the impediments that stand in the way of our enjoying such a right."

(Darwish in an interview with Bomb Magazine

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