a moment of silence

Illustration: Soofiya
As lockdowns stretch on, Nkenna Akunna reflects on how to find power in isolation.

Who will lament the fracturing limits of citizenship? Scream that borders only matter when they are permeable? Who will leave tenderness at the half-open gate, boxes of cooked rice and lemon ginger tea, biscuits, a promise for tomorrow? I am looking for a place to call home. In that place every life-giving water is free, nation means not ravenous, means no hoarding, humanity feels like community.

Governance looks like ferocity and I have grown too comfortable ignoring my own screams. What happens if I stop calculating the sum of myself, and decide power can look like communion? We are loud, and we have been screaming. What happens if I believe that we will save each other? For our sake, loudness can be a balm.

I was told that, economically speaking, markets function best when they are free and subject only to the whims of an invisible hand. Which is funny. I read recently that we are “submerged in a mass of impersonal human beings pushed around by automatic forces,” and I sighed. And then I thought about Marx.

Marx said the commodity has no intrinsic value because it cannot speak. Marx forgot the slave, upon whose back global capitalist systems were built. Moten follows up and reminds us that the commodity speaks, and always has, and power structures built on speaking commodities cannot birth anything else, cannot renew themselves. The forces are automatic.

Can you see the forces at work?

In this dial tone purgatory of being, public moment of silence: now is the time to run on and out of such slumber. There is an honest and quiet truth I want to reach toward with you. I want to realise our capacity for better. What might we hear when our ears are open to the silence?

This piece was co-commissioned with Free Word as part of their Step-Into-A-Zine project in the Finding Power in Isolation season. Find out more information about the season here: https://freeword.org/season/finding-power/

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