Adonis lecture - Beirut today: A veritable city or a mere historical name?
Duration: 00:52:46; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 338.959; Saturation: 0.025; Lightness: 0.154; Volume: 0.212; Cuts per Minute: 2.729; Words per Minute: 96.481
Summary: "Beirut today: a veritable city or a mere historical name?", The opening event/lecture for The Home Works II: A forum on cultural practices, by Adonis.
A Syrian poet and literary critic, Adonis Ali Ahmad Esber was born in Qassabin and studied philosophy at Damascus University and Saint Joseph University in Beirut. He established two groundbreaking literary journals, Shi’r and Mawaqif. Through his views on modernism and his radical vision of Arab culture,Adonis has strongly influenced both his contemporaries and subsequent generations of theorists and thinkers.
Bluntly speaking, both Beirut’s despairing history and current conditions dominated by the discourse of a reductive history have obstructed the development of critical public sphere, leaving no milieu for cross social communication or cooperation. With the post-war reconstruction steered by private interests andstate interests maintained by tenacious censorship controls, contemporary Beirut is mostly managed byrigid private, social domains, with no shared culture that could stimulate interactions between its citizens. As one locally based writer argued, a city is not a real city, unless human creativity, the material or immaterial signs of culture, dialogues with the overall space of the city6 — otherwise the city remains a bundle of nondialogical accumulations.
FROM "Constructing a Cultural Grammar in a Fragmented City"
by Wietske Maas
Home Works 2
A forum on cultural practices
an event by The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, Ashkal Alwan presents:
Beirut Today: A Veritable City or a Mere Historical Name?
A lecture by Adonis
Christine Tohme (curator of the Home Works and director of Ashkal Alwan): Hello, you are all welcomed to watch The Home Works 2: A forum on cultural practices, and i especially welcome the participants this year coming from Palestine, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Canada and Lebanon of course.
Our encounter coincides with the 10th anniversary of Ashkal Alwan and this forum had to face many obstacles due to the events in last april and we had to postpone the forum, and we had troubles until today - i think it's a part of the daily life of every single person living in this region.
The first time the Home Works happened was last april and we published a book gathering the contributions presented in the forum, because the compilation is one of our main goals.
I ask the permission to thank all the persons who worked on this project and they are, Rasha Salti, Lina Saneh, Maya Chami, Rawiya Chab, Moustafa Yammout, Roy Samaha and Dina Charara. And i have a special thanks to Basma El-Husseini and Talal Salman, without their help many things would have not fulfilled.
I'm glad to welcome with us tonight a poet and intellectual man who needs no introduction; it is enough to say that he had his influence on every person working in the field of art, culture and thought. And this guest who will open our forum tonight is ADONIS. Please.
Odd as it is, let us first dally with language. As you all probably know, one meaning of the word medina (city) in lisan al-arab (the lexicon
of the Arabic language) is al-ama, or the kept woman. And of a man is said: He is a son of a medina, meaning that he is the son of an ama.
Odd as it is, let us first dally with language. As you all probably know, one meaning of the word medina (city) in lisan al-arab (the lexicon
of the Arabic language) is al-ama, or the kept woman. And of a man is said: He is a son of a medina, meaning that he is the son of an ama.
Thus a male slave is a medine as a female slave is a medina. Also, one uses medani to refer only to the illumined city, al-Medina, the prophet's city. As for all other cities the term medini is used instead and so to differentiate them from the illumined city
Thus a male slave is a medine as a female slave is a medina. Also, one uses medani to refer only to the illumined city, al-Medina, the prophet's city. As for all other cities the term medini is used instead and so to differentiate them from the illumined city.
Adonis' reference to the "illumanted city" (as in the transcript), should be translated as Medina or as "al-Madīnah al-Munawwarah
", which is the city to which Prophet Mohamed migrated to from Mecca, which is -- this migration from one "city" to another "city" -- considered the most important "historic" event in Islam, hence the Islamic "Higra"
To this linguistic dally let me add two foundational visions for cities as discussed by Michel Serres in his book The Origins of Geometry (Paris, 1993), which shed much light on my talk today of Beirut:The pre- Christian Roman vision and that of Saint Augustine.
According to legend, the first vision tells that Rome was founded on the severed head of Romus killed by his twin brother Romulus (753 BC); a legend which posits blood, murder, and sacrifice as the foundation for Rome. It is no mystery then that Chateaubriand
named it the "City of Tombs".
The second vision, that of Saint Augustine, tells that the true city,
the one he named the "City of God", does not arise on murder and sacrifice but on the resurrec- tion of Christ. In other words, it is not on death that a city is built but on resurrection, on life.
Finally, it is perhaps useful if not illuminating to indicate that the Aztecs were known to sacri- fice their virgins on the pinnacle of pyramids for the sun to shine again.They believed that a new day would not dawn unless virgins sank in blood. It is then crime that insures an ever-renewed sun, as it is also crime which founds history.
Allow me now to raise a few questions inspired by these visions: Where does the ingenuity of the Lebanese and Arabs generally manifest itself? In enlivening or in deadening? In celebrating living or digging graves, funerary orations, and celebrating death? In the construc- tion of lives or in edifying death?
Is there in each one of us Arabs an Aztec vowing to wrench the heart of another for the sake of one's own dawn?
Does the Lebanese and Arab culture generally stand upon the following axiom: Life does not spring forth nor days pass except where blood runs?
If the city is on the one hand an architectural vision and on the other hand an actual construction that actualises this vision, is then today's architectural vision of Beirut responding to the dictates and demands of its natural place?
With all due respect to all con- cerned architects I am inclined to answer: No. For the architecture that dominates the city of Beirut lacks a minimum of ingenuity and regional peculiarity. Beirut is an architecture of imitation and mind- less replication. Notwithstanding a few exceptions, the general rule prevails and inevitably blots any rare exceptions.
This architecture translates a social reality or social content more so than it harbours an architectural artistry, a peculiar characteristic, or specific and unique architectural meaning.
It is merely a functional translation of a social, economic, and sectarian reality. And so it is made of prefabricated moulds rather than architectural plans. Moulds are but one form repeated.
And repetition inevitably empties the signified from its signification, thus instigating estrangement and a feeling of confinement.
Briefly said, Beirut is an architec- ture without planning, and in this sense it is a destruction of space.
Just as sectarianism destroys the space of culture and of human beings in Beirut, so does archi- tecture destroy the space of the place. It is another kind of place for consumption. Place is not outside
of a human being but rather inside and so every spoilage of the place is damaging to human beings.
A city becomes architecturally unique through what can be called a "pleasure of the place", an exten- sion of Roland Bar thes' "pleasure of the text". Beirut is practically devoid of such a pleasure. I am referring to the aesthetic use of spatial clearings coupled with their functional use.
Imparting poetic and aesthetic qualities, and consequent- ly adding value to the physicality of the place, generates such pleasure.
For instance, a closer relation is required between architecture and the other arts — sculpture especially. Courtyards, streets, gar- dens, bifurcations, crossroads, and corners — all these do not simply merge in a city's structure or rather do not accomplish their urban and architectural dimensions unless punctuated by artistic or natural objects.
Moreover, it is necessary to provide beautiful spaces within the city's structure using painting and all the other forms of image-making as well as theatre, cinema, and other expressive arts.
Architecture is organically complemented by the other arts. It is fundamentally in need of the other arts when constructing the city to compensate for what is inevitably functional. And it is those other arts that complete the aesthetic dimension of architecture and create what I have called the "pleasure of the place".
Thus it is easier for us to recognise that what fashions the space of Beirut does not stem from an urban architectural and aesthetic vision but rather from individual vagaries congruous only with certain mercantileand sectarian interests.
The outcome is a haphazard polluting and polluted architectural space. And such a building construction cannot be but a spatial thieving, a violation of space, a sort of violence against earth, an assassination of earth and space.
The reality is that building construction in Beirut is no more than a practical technicality that claims to answer pressing needs.What is lacking is the intimate meeting of construction and space. It is as if buildings were a series of sharp reliefs digging deep into the reliefs of nature like claws digging into the spleen of the earth.
Beirut today is like an odd and motley collection of neighbour- hoods: boxes with darkened and closed tiers.The question is: Is Bourj Hammoud a veritable neigh- bour of Hamra or Ras Beirut? Is Achrafieh truly a neighbour of Ain al-Mreisseh or al-Chiyah?
Each neighbourhood thinks itself the navel in a city made of navels with no real body. Consequently we recognise that the inhabitants of these neighbourhoods, of these darkened boxes, are nothing but shreds and fragments crossing one another in a geographical place historically known as Beirut.
And as such Beirut is a scene or, at best, a stage-set but not a city. It is as
if nature in Beirut were unnatural. And where there is no nature, there are no human beings. In this fragmented Beirut, statues and pictures occupy streets and squares, and slogans plunder and impose symbols, further subdividing the
Whatever we come upon in some neighbourhoods in terms of development, services, or hygiene
is inevitably tied and annexed to the particular position of a certain confession, the clout of its leaders, and the wealth of its constituents more so than to planning or urban visions that ought to include the whole of the city within a general regulating framework.
Suffice it to look at what is supposed to stand as the leading institution of higher education, the Lebanese University, to blatantly see how it reflects a general dissolution of a national culture in non-nationalism, non-civil- ity, and non-urbanity.
The Lebanese University is an embodiment of internal collapse: educational, cultural, and political. Culture in Beirut is similar to its architecture: a multiplicity that quarrels rather than concords.
As for social living, it is tied to neighbourhoods, which in turn are made of isolated coalitions of inhabitants.
Religion is the primary basis for this culture. Beirut is a mosaic: an ensemble of neighbourhoods, of confessions, and of cultures. And from this per- spective it is a non-urban city or a non-civil city.
What exacerbates this non-urbanity and non-civility is the incongruous, tragic, and bla- tant persistence of a purportedly foundational and prevalent Beiruti discourse: democracy, human rights, emanation of knowledge, and other fallacious propaganda.
Just as Beirut is a non-urban and non-civil city, so is its domi- nant culture a sort of sycophancy for all its hypocrisy, boastfulness, embellishments, and avoidance of crucial issues in all domains.
What makes the impor tance of a culture in a country where intellectuals acquire their standing not from their capabilities and ingenuity but
rather from their sectarian loyalty and belonging?
The truth is that the political, administrative, and cultural institutions in Beirut do not evaluate a person according to his or her personal capacities but according to his or her confessional or sectarian credentials. And by extension he or she gains standing according to the extent of his or her closeness to the leader of a confession.
How scornful of humanity are such standards, standards which invariably reflect the culture. For in the Lebanese culture there is no real dialogue among its parts, just a vociferous verbosity made of praise and defamation.
In this perspective, one sees that it is the space of Beirut that is scorned and fragmented into a collection of enclaves each fenced by its own customs.Yet as contradictory as it may be, the invisible act of quarrelling and excluding the other carries a propensity toward convergence that seeks ultimately to remould the other into one's own semblance.
But when I insist on making the other similar to me, I am in fact insisting on cancelling him; for the propensity towards convergence in Beirut is about approximation more so than about cohabitation.
It is the will to cancel or exclude, dissolve and smelt. And the aim is invariably to conquer and to dominate under the guise of cohabitation.
The space of Beirut is a sacred place, not because it is a national unifier but rather a collection of confessional incorporations.That is why it is unfeasible, in principle, for it to be a place for equality, for there is no equality except in the worldly and secular.
A place divided confessionally is but a world of cleavages, frontiers, and obstacles; inevitably resulting in wars, latent or manifest, according to the logic of particular situations. It is as if the womb of Beirut is vowed to continually beget Cain.
In fact, confessional clans do not live in Beirut "the city". Rather, they merely scuttle across and prefer to live deeply in the church, the mosque, in addition to the pub of politics and mercantilism.That is why time in Beirut seems exclusively that of these three places and not the time of an urban culture — as if Beirut lived outside the creative time of humanity, the time of civilization.
It is a mere observatory for mere expectations. Because of this, the geniuses of these three places or these three spaces persist in making the future a form or image of the past, mean- ing that they persist, practically, in destroying the Beirut of the present and of the future.
And what of a human space struggling to turn the future into a past, or in which the past seems as if it were the future?
In Beirut we have nothing but its name and the lingering reputation it evokes. And if a name is all we have then how can it face prevalent and superficial modes of consumerism?
Are we then also in the right to say that Beirut does not constitute one social network but rather layers or human agglomerations raised on confessional and religious foundations?
We all know that the civil war was a savage explosion that rent the veil off the politico- religious volcano that is Beirut.
The civil war was resounding evidence that the human and cultural concept of a city is of no importance to its inhabitants.
Everyone in this war, except for a marginalised minority, rode the wave of his or her confessional loyalties and gave full reigns to his or her repressions, devouring and raping the land of Lebanon, in every way and means possible.
And there it is, for all to witness, the manifestations of those released repressions piling up in Beirut and along the Lebanese coastal mountains of despicable cement edifices blinding eyes and vision; horrible mountains that murder nature and suffocate the beaches that once witnessed the sails and masts of the alphabet.
A city, any city, is not accomplished, is not a veritable city, unless human creativity dialogues with its identity — in its being and its perpetuity.
And it is precisely in the arts that such creativity is present. For it is art, sculpted and painted, rhymed and put to music, that constitutes the only human endeavour that gives a quiddity that transcends humanity and time.
Through its perpetuity and perennial influence art is different from all other human works. It is as if art were a temporal order that founds a human and aesthetic cosmology. And it is in this sense that the city becomes art or else remains a bundle of blind accumulations:To become art a city should break through functionalism and be filled with art, statues, research centres, science, and gardens to establish an aesthetic balance between the architecture of dwelling and the architecture of daily public life.
The only part that constitutes a spot for what can become the urban and civil kernel for Beirut is Maarad Street and its vicinity that was destroyed by the civil war and then recently rebuilt.
This spot, aside from its lack of artworks, through its architecture, archaeological digs, space and elements of its ordered structure, can afford to both the inhabitant and the passerby, a specific felicity charged with aesthetic emotions that results in a sense that the city is built to serve humans and cater to their mental and physical comfort.
It is a spot that practically embodies the architectural theory that proposes a variety of aesthetic dimensions to continuously surround humans in the public and the private space.
That is why it is no coincidence to see this spot, more so than any other part of the city, filled every day with groups of people of all ages, all confessions, and from all neighbourhoods seeking leisure and comfort.
There lies in this specific show a generous shattering of the confessional and cultural web of Beirut and an implicit longing for another urban and civil space.
Of course that is tenable only in principle. For in practice, people stroll about in that spot in proximity but do not truly meet.
They cross each other but do not interact, collaborate, or engage in a cultural exchange, in the broadest sense of the term.
Perhaps we should remind ourselves that the reconstruction project for the Beirut city centre is primarily geared toward foreign exploitation. And although people may concoct in the future their own mode of exchange, the plan, as it is implemented, is unconcerned with profound and productive cultural exchange. It is
solely concerned with the exchange of goods of all kinds.
It is a plan for restoration and beautification for a post-civil war peace, and perhaps also for its potential.
So far, it does not exceed this set limit. And we all ought to hope that this spot, I mean the city centre, does not deteriorate under the weight of greed and be transformed into a mere collection of shops.
But what is the meaning of the word city in its modern usage?
Firstly, it means the upholding of shared public values, untouchable and impersonal.
Secondly, it means that it is founded on democracy that main- tains this public property and the freedom of each individual. For all that is in a city, whether material or ideas, is open for debate at any time.
Thirdly, it means a complete balance between the public and impersonal and the private and specific, namely a balance between sociality and individuality.
If we return, in accordance with the above mentioned, to the ancient philosophical tradition, which proffers that the most accomplished model for theoretical thinking lies in the contemplation of earth and universe, then what of our thinking when compared with this earth called Beirut and this space called the universe?
Since this question has been coupled with a remembrance of the earliest origins of Beirut, namely the development of the alphabet, the exploration of the unknown, embracing reason, the creative receptiveness of the other, then the answer will be tragic, no matter the amount of delusional claims for which the Lebanese have become infamous.
The creative obsession in Beirut began to wane or retreat ever since the advent of monotheistic religions.
This is historically evidenced in that Beirut was never able to equal what it created and produced during its premonotheistic epochs, not in law, philosophy, or in the arts.
Beirut was born one. But if we were to look at its parts we will find that it has succumbed and still lives a despairing history because of the fragmentation itself.
And if we were to look at it as a whole we see that it is probably the worst among all the cities of the Arab world.
To that, it must be added that since the 1950s, Beirut was gradually dragged by religious politics or politicised religions toward an abyss of delusions that led in the 1970s to a savagery of internecine destruction.
And so it became known as a place for non-social coalitions and for concerns founded solely on individualistic and monopolising tendencies. Beirut is internal and introverted while its arms seem to encircle the outside.
It is a fertile and varied field ever exploited by others. It is a meeting place for all sorts of politics with none of its own.
It is a factory of knowledge, but one that stutters, is wayward, and paradoxically ignorant. It is the tangible city and yet one that is most abstract.
It is a mere equation: one that gave birth to a body exploding with longing and craving.
On the level of thought, we find in Beirut two effective ideas: religion and the politics based upon it.
A religion that is oblivious to everything butits own institutions and its needs, and politics that continues to feed upon a past founded on nepotism.
Everything else, whether art, philosophy, thinking, or social and natural sciences, is marginal, ineffective, and negligible. It is also completely absent from the level of general consciousness.
The resources Beirut has for initiating an urban and civilisational shift are represented in three unexploited and unprotected aspects.
First, there are its specialised human resources, unfortunately drained by the emigration of skilled labour and accomplished minds.
Second, there are its natural resources, an ecology so far demolished and polluted in sea and on land by the defacement of mountains, the pollution of drinkable water, and the general overuse of chemical fertilisers and plastic greenhouses.
Its third resource is its culture, beginning with the culture of rural life, the architecture of space in neighbourhoods and the architecture of cities, and on to institutions and cultural programs.
It is good to remember that Lebanon remained even in the midst of the civil war a major centre for publishing.
It is also good to remember that cultural and educational programs initiated between the 50s and 70s were ripe with future promises.They were clearings for meeting and communicating outside the confessional kingdoms.
They were an open space with a promise for growth and development through exchange and profound partnerships.
Regulations and capital are incapable by themselves to effectuate what a free and profound cultural movement can do in breaking the evertightening confessional noose.
And today, after all the horrors of the civil war fed by sectarianism, although perhaps not its primary cause, the situation is clearly ruled by division, the logic of quotas, and sectarian pillaging.
It is unfortunate that the eyes of those responsible roam left and right in search of solutions and claim to find some in loans borrowed for developmental programs but remain blind to those answers easily found in cultural programs.
Obviously I do not simply mean publishing magazines and editing books. Cultural programs include the whole range of research, invention, development, and new visions within cooperative frameworks in the fields of science, literature, fine and performing arts, music, architecture, agriculture, educational research, ecological research, industrial research, local industries, political and legal conferences.
And yet we see that these institutions responsible for promoting interactivity and exchange are reneging on their vocation, or at least are capitulating to the demands of sectarianism rather than endeavouring to secularise as schools or universities ought to.
Development cannot be without its primary capitals, which are the capabilities and potentials of the people and nature of Lebanon.
Neither loans nor borrowed programs can replace human cultural force and natural resources.
It is therefore necessary to say that Beirut as a place does not have an audience that can view it as one city. There is no correspondence between its history and the history of its inhabitants.
For each coalition of inhabitants promotes and protects its own history and as such maintains a rift with the place in which it lives. As if this place in which it lives were not the home of its being, not a locus for civilisation but rather an outpost for trade.
In other words: Does Beirut have a singular memory, and what is it? How can it have a singular history? The last civil war unlike all other civil wars has increased the rift among the population rather than instigate its fusion.
Between the oblivion of a singular memory and a singular history, Beirut has no present except that of copying and mimesis, namely the present of the modernised West.
Edit all that is Western from Beirut and you will find nothing but the church and the mosque.
And what is disastrous is that Beirut is approaching a time when the church and the mosque will also become useless.They will become impotent and immature, a mere market among souks.
Beirut is an agglomeration of religious groups: I say religious to avoid the term confessional, which has become vulgarised.
Each of these religious groups creates its own centre, its own city within the city. It creates it not only with ideas and opinions but also practices it in action and imagination.
Struggle in Beirut is not only between the oppressor and the oppressed or between the rich and the poor. It is also a struggle of ideals and utopias, or shall we say in terms contrary to common opinion that it is a struggle of prophecies and last judgments.
And that is why it is a struggle of passions and potentates. It is a struggle that follows the
deadly beats of the modern world, beats that alienate and send us all scurrying to gather the shreds of a lost and longed for motley identity.
It is then axiomatic to say that Beirut is neither one society nor one city. Its inhabitants do not coexist as equals, sharing responsibilities and rights, but as a quarrelling bunch where each tries to be master.
It is as if the energy of Beirut is preemptied. It spends half the time dissipating its energy outside its orbits while it spends the rest of the time trying to gather it.
There is in Beirut a variety of ethnicities and cultures unequalled in the Mediterranean basin, at least its Levantine side.
That is why we suppose that such a city, considering its location, its potential roles, and its unique human and cultural composition, should stand in a distinguished position poised for a unique civilisational meeting.
Yet the realities of living in Beirut ascertain that people consider it a shelter and not a city. Each holds on and defends his own fragment of a shelter. Each practices by will or by force tactics of exclusion, contrariness, fixity, and torpor.
And what we still call the state is no more than an external shell in which these exclusions and quarrels move about with a semblance of legitimacy.
In this place each walks haunted by a foreigner, be it a mediator, an ally, or a patron. In this city, this foreign other is an organic part of the mind and imagination.
Harmony with the foreign exterior comes as a compensation for quarrelling with the interior. And as such it is a fundamentally ambiguous compensation.
In Beirut, people manifestly live in contiguity.Yet they are separated by wide chasms.
The distance between the neighbourhoods of Achrafieh and Ras al-Nabaa and Ras Beirut and Bourj Hammoud, for instance, are much greater on the level of values and aspirations than between Paris and Rome or Cairo and Mecca.
The foundational characteristic of a city lies in its efficiency to transcend its geographical limits, namely the creativity which overflows across its limits toward the other.
In this perspective, if we were to look at Beirut we would see it as a body fighting and devouring itself. For Beirut the city is not faithful to its human map or to its geographical map.
And thus the dysfunctionality of Beirut is not due to foreign influence but to a lack of hegemony over itself. It is Beirut that works against it being a whole city. It acts as a multifarious city, with multifarious coalitions and cultures.
To contemplate the obstacles that prevail against its growth and development into a whole city
— the inequalities and injustices, the rise of unemployment — is to contemplate a pile of houses disconnected from any natural and urban sensitivity, less a city than a litany of grandiose enunciations.
It is almost as if the geography of Beirut were a reduced map of the Arabic Levant, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Jordan. In this map we read that no value is given to the earth except as a temporal throne or as an otherworldly body.
In this map we read that relations amongst people are not based on citizenship but on the foundation of this worldly or otherworldly certitude.
Consequently, what we call a society is nothing but an agglomeration of disjointed atoms.
We also read that the struggle continues in the name of this temporal and worldly throne, which tends to integrate the world as a complement to integrating the other world.
It is a struggle accomplished only through violence and therefore through tyranny and oppression. We also read timid attempts at emancipation from the outside, but aiming to make the powerful more tyrannical and the tyrannical more powerful.
It is a distorted and fundamentally impossible emancipation: No people can become emancipated if not internally free.
We also read on this map that Beirut, or this Levant, is poverty in everything and poverty for everything.
Poverty unalleviated except purportedly by two things: money and power. For that is the prime desire that moves individuals — go, die out so that I can replace you — in politics, religion, money, art, poetry, and literature.
All want to incarnate the person of the tyrant, the person of the sovereign, the infallible one.
It is a nihilism reversed, one that reduces all the dimensions of human experience to the edicts of divine jurisprudence and interdictions, incrimination of the other and acquittal of the self.
We rebel against one tyranny with another tyranny, against one religion with another, against one copy with another. It is a naïve and ludicrous reduction.
It is a politics of death in a world that seems founded on one exterminating the other.
A dark image of Beirut?
Some might say. But even so, Beirut almost became the cultural city of the Arabs in the 60s and early 70s.
A city invented by publishers and creators, Lebanese and Arabs, flocking to reside.
But this Beirut was extinguished during the civil war. All that is left now is to dream in the midst of all this darkness, to sing its dreams having been demolished by its realities.
And now the dream is about to be snuffed out under the onslaught of censorship.
For censorship does not only suffocate reality, it strangles the dream itself. Living thought and living humans refuse to be surveilled.
Nothing and no one condones censorship unless he who is living as dead or is thought of as dead.
That is how censorship pictures Beirut: a pile of straws flammable by a simple spark of words.
And let us say, on the political level, that the censoring authority tells the people:You are incapable of distinguishing the good from the bad, incapable of judging and evaluating.
This authority, infallible as it would like to appear, evaluates and judges in your name. And all you can do is be silent and forget knowledge.
But such an authority rules a dead city, a dead people, and is itself nothing but one of the masks of death. For those who propound censorship forget that the ideas they impose on the silenced ones are automatically preemptied.
Any thought that is imposed is unthinking and inhuman. Each idea elevated as the sole and eternal
truth, eternal as a corpse stinking of putrefaction.
Those same ones forget the lessons of history: Rotten ideas are dead even if dominant.
What is worse in this field is that censorship looks upon ideas as criminal. For to claim that an idea is disruptive or destructive and then censor it is a denigration of those who express it and an insult to those it claims to protect.
The lack of freedom in a society is not only an indication of a lack of a minimum of humanity but also an indication of a senility of thinking, language, and man.
We are wrong if we are to think that an idea could be imposed by force, even if it is a religious idea.
We are also wrong to think that an idea can be limited through censorship. Neither imposition is worthy of man.
What is worthy is for us to create the conditions that allow freedom to do away with the bad and the ugly. For the bad is a reflection of a situation. Avoiding its causes only exacerbates the issue.
And so there is no other way but to strive in order to change the situation itself by eradicating the reasons that cause it. And to that end there is no other mean but freedom.
In the name of this freedom I have dared to ask the question:
Beirut today: A veritable city or a mere historical name?