What is the greatest act of genocide man can enact? Is it the systematic eradication of a race? The slow torture and obliteration of the very scent, sign, or inclination of their existence? Is it the removal of a name? A language? A faith, a culture and eventually a history?
Can we be consigned to silence?
Or rather, within the silence that permeates our lives, is there a definitive version of the truth?
Because silence breathes. It lives, it eats, it moves. It encroaches, and if you listen hard enough it speaks. We often think its voice is timid, muted, creeping along the floorboards, tugging at our trouser leg like an intimidated child, trying but not really wanting, to get our attention. We think it is shy, it suffers from a speech impediment, and therefore lets its older sibling Noise steal the lime-light. Often we believe that Silence is in an intimate relationship with the very distant relative who is ‘accidentally’ excluded from family events, Death. Their love, we assume, is a deep love, sensuous, perverse, and all-encompassing. It is inescapable making them symbiotic beings, intertwined, intermingled, like the ecstatic eye-beams of Donne’s erotic Ecstasy. They begin to allude to one another, Silence becomes Death just as Death becomes Silence.
But Silence has her own story. At times it is contrapuntal to History. That’s right, her cousin History. He is the ‘nerdy’ one. You often find him in the library till the early hours of the morning, sometimes just waiting for waking sunbeams to strike the corners of his lenses, illuminating a missing fragment of a forgotten letter. Yet even the stories that History tells as they sit round the bonfire, eagerly awaiting the creation of new lands, new voices, new people and characters, Silence has heard and seen before. Look closely and she is there. Watching that dawn break, peeping quietly over his shoulder to also read, also interpret and also remember that forgotten piece of text.
Silence speaks loud and clear and often. In fact she speaks the most. She resides within the breaths that Noise hurriedly snatches from her permeating tranquility. Neither is she confined to the external, but gently caresses your mind,when you sleep, when you wake, she is speaking. She steals into the fragile pages that History greedily consumes, at every blink of his eye she eats her way further and further into the story until she is immersed, she has merged, she is the story. Even within History she is present, sometimes unseen, unacknowledged, simply ignored because she appears to be of no harm, but she is there waiting.
Waiting for one question.
When you ponder aloud, when you actively read and simply ask that question, even if it’s – but why was he called that? – she will answer. She will tell you another story, one that History missed, or didn’t think was good enough for his bonfire tales.
Silence will sing you a lullaby. Sometimes it is joyful, often mournful, it may be long, tedious, confusing and convoluting, but her voice is sweet. If you can stay awake long enough, if you are lured by the siren that hides deep within this stuttering-child, you may be enticed to ask more questions. To say that word again, that question, yes, why?
Silence speaks in the fiction that dares to ask another question. The fiction that dares to approach Mount Doom from the raging eyes of a vulnerable, insecure, inflamed eye, and not the golden hearted hobbits with cut feet and stomachs full of lembas bread. Fiction dares to give the archetypal nemesis who raped and ravaged the body of child of 5, the exposure of his humanity, fragile as it may be, as he tends the ailing body of his mother, eaten up by cancer, his depravity acknowledged alongside other parts of his fractured identity. Fiction dares to acknowledge the massacre of the Armenia people and their genocide of 1915, which, if acknowledged is consigned deep in the recesses of memory,
What is the greatest act of genocide a man can enact?
To remove the voice of Silence, by preventing fiction from capturing memory, and within that, perhaps not the but a truth that informs us of someone’s very real, very human, identity.