A Short Ficto-critical Piece, Using Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s Creative Process as an Example.
By Rani Singh
“Lest we forget Manus, Nauru, Syria Palestine.”
The public – yes, including you – would have swept over this. Its syllables, all strung together with barely separating spaces, would dissipate, adjacent to the reader’s passing thought.
Draft two will still start with:
“Lest we forget”
These three words must be incorporated. I’m sure you can figure out why.
It’s always been the assonance, hasn’t it? An assonance that rolls with the undulations of the flag itself, waving in the distance, boasting the Commonwealth Star – but not all soldiers were starry-eyed. Lest we forget this fact, and let us continue with the visualisation.
After the three words are spoken, your heart rate decreases, and we migrate to a slow (one minute) silence that subdues nature, whisper and wind. It is a wave too, alongside the flag and assonance, (for one minute) rolling over a crowd of schoolchildren or veterans gathered on this day. A sombre trifecta ensues.
This silence, I would like to convince you, is condensed into Ms Abdel-Magied’s:
These few crucial milliseconds of pause will transport your consciousness to the late-April chill and freeze it there like the stony cenotaph now in front of you.
But she deceived you – this is not a statement of remembrance, because what follows next is:
In a sea of those “united” in your remembered acts of remembrance (let’s ignore the tradition of clasped hands apexed at each person’s lower back), the curvature of this seemingly harmless bracket “(” is a destructive wave, and when it meets its lover – “)” – it will become a tsunami, carrying megatons of rhetorical force.
When analysing the status, “Lest we forget. (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine…)”, the parenthesis does exist to negate and mutate the meaning of the previous three words, and subsequently, the plight of the ANZAC. This is a commonly employed and effective stylistic device.
Articles of support surfaced immediately after Ms. Abdel-Magied’s post. They argued the value of critical provocation as the vehicle for social progress; and that freedom, such as freedom of speech, is what our soldiers fought for and represent. Finally, the ubiquitous phrase makes a cameo appearance at some point in these articles: “Anzac Day is a day for reflection”.
All of these notions are true, but are used to form the halo around Yassmin that unfortunately glosses over the rhetoric of her status itself. This rhetoric, in my opinion, is inherently disrespectful. Concurrently, it is subtle, as the power is in the symbols “( )”, rather than in the words – and words are something which an autobiographer and public speaker can be held accountable for. Thus, responsibility dissolves and is replaced with “naivety”. It is smart in this way, as all rhetoric is.
I feel a major part of the Anzac Day scandal is being ignored: the English behind it, the very language that constructs it.
I would like to consider my analysis as purely literary, but perhaps my cultural reading glasses are inevitably tinted (please forgive me for that). I am absolutely in favour of stimulating critical thought and a questioning of violence and war. However, this is achievable without exploiting a particular phrase that is (almost) sacred. Yet simultaneously, I understand that in our postmodern world, blasphemy is development. In fact, as proven, it is the only way to engender uproar. For, if Abdel-Magied had instead on April the 25th published a 1,000-word poem on the plight of a refugee, or shared a change.org petition against the government, those posts would simply be lost in a (news) feed of poppies.