Mourn the Living

Short piece written following the bomb and gun attacks in Beirut and Paris on the 12th and 13th of November 2015

If a minute or a day of silence feels enough to mourn the dead, we need at least a lifetime of silence to mourn the living. The calamity of the living. The tragedy of knowing that these past 48 hours can and will happen again sometime somewhere very soon and that there is absolutely no way to prevent it. The knowledge that more innocents are going to die from acts of terror (whatever that means) and that even more civilians are going to die from retaliation against terror (whatever that means.) The certainty that we are losing ourselves into darker and darker ages. The acceptance of the fact that fear has won.

So, beyond any political analysis, beyond any criticism of international media partisanship, beyond any competition of numbers, beyond any historical and geopolitical contexts, beyond any blame of western politics, religious models, economic greed, political hypocrisy. Beyond any shitty little thing anyone can say or write including what I’m writing here, we need to remember that it doesn’t matter that there’s water on Mars and Pluto. It doesn’t matter that there’s wifi on the Beirut-Kuala Lumpur flight. It doesn’t matter that there’s Force Touch on the new iPhone 6S. It doesn’t matter that we can cure Aids. It doesn’t matter that space trips are about to become a thing. It doesn’t matter that all your book collection can hold in a single tablet. It doesn’t matter that Apple Music gives you access to all the music in the world. It doesn’t matter that there are public iMacs all around the Doha airport. It doesnt matter that hover boards don’t actually hover because real hover boards are about to become available. It doesn’t matter that Google Maps can help you retrieve a long lost childhood friend in Chinese Taipei. It doesn’t matter that we’ll soon be able to 3D print every imaginable thing in a matter of minutes including full houses and cities. It doesn’t matter that we are all connected via a single mouse click. It doesn’t matter that stem cell research is slowly making us immortal. Really, none of this shit really matters until we realize that the obsolete 19th century idea of Progress is a myth. That despite all our technological and medical development, we as a species are, if anything, regressing. That philosophers throughout the centuries have warned us about the dangers of technology when it’s deprived of morality. And that we never listened.

Because in the end, the only thing that matters today is the dark realization that we humans are responsible for the highest number of human deaths in history. That we humans are responsible for the extinction of more and more animal and vegetal species everyday. That we humans are responsible for the irreversible destruction of our planet – the very body we live on – everyday. That we are literally killing ourselves and everything and everyone around us. That if we are to take a little step back into space and take a look at planet Earth, a sad reality gives itself to us. A mirror of what we really are.

The cancer of the planet.

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Perversity of the LIKE Culture // Freedom // Self-Love // Everything Is Pink

The overuse of words void of definite meaning by the general population is often cringeworthy, and as the whole edifice of pop culture is predominantly based on such overuses, it is not surprising that today’s pop culture often makes us cringe.

In pop culture today – just as on battlefields all around the world (well, mostly in the Middle East), the flag of FREEDOM is waved high as the ultimate canon of the millennial generation. Freedom. And self-love. Adages such as “Love yourself,” “Love your own body,” and “You are free to do what you want to do with your body” are immanent to every music video, every song lyric, every Facebook status, tweet, and Instagram post by our biggest pop stars. Criticism is frowned upon, and if anyone dares to post a negative review about anything or anyone, they are systematically accused of snobbism, jealousy, racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia/transphobia, and find themselves ultimately relegated to the category of #haters.

Bret Easton Ellis recently tweeted: “There was a time when people were fans and had opinions and could like things and dislike things and it was all OK. But those days are over.” In other words, in today’s LIKE culture, you have to choose your side. You’re either a happy and open and inclusive and positive and supportive Miley-Cyrus-Molly-Popping unicorn-riding individual, springing around rainbow fields in a Katy-Perry-cotton-candy filled land, or you’re a #hater. A disgrace and a setback to everything that this generation of awesome people has fought so hard for: the complete liberation of our minds and bodies, the acceptance and love of who we are, and of our freedom. In other words, you’re not #awesome.

What we need to understand is that such a rejection of criticism is directly linked to the firm belief in personal freedom: Don’t be a hater and stop criticizing: people are free to do what they want. Let them be.

What the general opinion doesn’t realize is that our concept of freedom is a fictional construct that doesn’t really exist – in the way it is believed to exist. Meaning, no one ever does what they really feel like doing. People – and especially young people – do what they think they should be doing because of social pressure, peer pressure, advertising, lifestyle magazines, reality TV, and most importantly, celebrity behavioral models. And this is exactly why there is a real perversion with the mindless belief in freedom.

Are 13 year old girls really acting out of freedom when their overly sexualized teen idols make them feel that you’re only cool if you blow every boy in your class? Are teenage boys really acting out of freedom when they mistreat their girlfriends because their idea of a relationship is based on a Hip Hop video? Are older women really acting out of freedom when they alter their appearances to no ends just to feel slightly more comfortable in an era that rejects aging and death while constantly glorifying youth as an inspirational perfection? Are morbidly obese people really acting out of freedom when they’re told they can eat all the fuck they want because they should learn to accept and love their own body just the way it is? Are young men really acting out of freedom when their whole perception of sex stems from endless hours of watching male-dominant porn?

Before going back home and weeping in the bathtub. Before looking in the mirror and remembering that death is unescapable. Before realizing your heart is weaker and diabetes is killing you. Before crying yourself to sleep, images of gross unwanted hands defiling every inch of your free body.

Before all of this, we must be aware that freedom is a mere social construct that’s not even real. It’s an illusion. And that A-list celebrities are not the free individuals roaming in a free loving world that people think they are: they are constructed personas and branded images and strong signifiers that ultimately mean things to people. We don’t have to be sexist or ageist to criticize Madonna’s caricatural refusal to age by acting like the 20 year old woman she once was, four decades later. We don’t have to be sexist to criticize Lana Del Rey flaunting how she fucked her way up to the top, romanticizing the idea of being gang raped by bikers in the “Ride” music video, or culturally appropriating a Native American headpiece. We don’t have to be sexist to criticize teen idols for spreading a premature and inaccurate portrayal of sex. Just like it is okay to criticize the porn industry. Just like it is okay to criticize Robin Thick’s “Blurred Lines”. Just like it is okay to make fun of Ozzy Osbourne, who in his mid 60s and in 2015 still thinks that anti-religious symbols and stage shows are provocative. Just like it is okay to smirk at an older and chubbier Robert Smith, looking pathetic in his gothic makeup and attire that once made him look interesting, three decades ago.

Am I advocating for censorship? No. Am I calling for a general toning down? No. I am simply saying that we need to go back to accepting criticism without constantly feeling offended by any comment that is remotely negative. I am simply saying that this fake happy-lovey-accepting-free-inclusive moral of the Like culture is perverse, and that criticism today is as needed as it ever was. I am simply saying that we don’t have to settle for being thumbs-up-robots because everyone’s answer to criticism is: “people are free to do what they want.” I am simply saying that opinions matter and should be voiced. And that if you’re not a Liker because you have all the reasons in the world not to be, it doesn’t make you a #hater. I am simply saying that this everything is pink and everyone is happy and love is everywhere culture is art-numbing. I am simply saying that not everyone has to feel beautiful, and that insecurity can produce great art. I am simply saying that some self-hate isn’t always a bad thing; – self-hate made me write and release two albums. It also, on a slightly higher and more important scale (read: sarcasm), gave us bands like Nirvana. Ultimately, I am simply saying that authenticity is more beautiful than beauty itself.

Because at the end of the day, maybe the world is beautiful because not everything is beautiful.

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Occidentalist Stories I

Occidentalist Stories I // Tea is a million miles away when the British begin to party

This article is a spoof on a terribly poor piece of journalism published by the Daily Telegraph here

London notebook: Vomit, bare feet and cosmetic dentistry – there’s a side to England you don’t often hear about.

It wasn’t even 9pm and already the crowd had given itself to wild abandon. Slaloming through the patches of vomit all over the pavement, pasty chubby girls in mini skirts clutched their high heels as they walked barefoot, struggling not to get groped by an endless stream of drunken men offering to take them home.

Having spent up to three hours working on their makeup – in addition to hours of tanning salon for the elite and a dozen showers of spray tan for the working class – the ladies strived to maintain a noble figure, as the humidity in the overcrowded pubs inevitably lead to excessive sweating.

But when they’re not able to beat the heat, the girls of London make up for it by showing off their legs and cleavage. In the upper echelons of British society, the most important thing is to see and be seen. Which reminded me of home because that’s also the way it is in the upper echelons of Lebanese society. And then it hit me that it’s actually the case in the upper echelons of pretty much every country in the world, which made me realize how dumb the point I was trying to make was.

Beauty is paramount: newly designed and whitened teeth gleam on British Instagram accounts. Having grown tired of the Brits’ bad dental reputation around the world, the elite of London have taken it upon itself to never save a penny until their smiles were California-perfect. And together, they throw parties worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is also what pretty much all super rich people around the world do.

It is a lifestyle that few can realistically afford. So they rely on credit. It is said that most of the country’s big spenders sustain their lifestyles using bank loans they cannot obviously repay. But don’t ask me who told me that because I don’t really know, although I know it sounds stupid. But hey, that’s what I heard somewhere and well, I guess it could make sense if we explained that phenomenon by linking it to a major need to overcompensate the harsh times the Brits had to go through during World War I and World War II. By taking bank loans and buying cars and houses, they show the world that they have finally moved on.

(My room mate Betsy just told me that pretty much half of the world’s population lives on bank loans they cannot repay, but I don’t care. It’s MY article and fuck Betsy.)

Scratch below the surface, and it is clear that the gaping social wounds caused by centuries of colonisation and imperialism are far from resolved. In English classrooms, I don’t really know what happens because I’ve never been to one. However, I’m pretty sure that teachers manage to find ways to justify the Empire’s ruthless dominance, subordination and slavery over African and Eastern countries, and English kids grow up thinking everything happened for a good cause.

Society remains divided. Most Brits put origin before country. London is a patchwork of separate cantons (in white Chelsea, the men wear polos, while 15 minutes tube ride west, in the mostly Pakistani district of Newham, the prevailing fashion is the long beard and the turban.)

The communities rarely interact. Rushing through the city’s Irish quarter one night, on my way to the chic Kensington, I was stopped by an elderly redhead who warned me not to go on. “There are too many foockin Brits there,” he cautioned.

With the government thriving to impose a one dimensional version of past events, most children who are too smart to buy it (and who have internet access) turn to their relatives for information about the momentous and ruthless history of this country. But in so doing, they mostly hear a one-sided version.

The “us” and “them” of colonisation and immigration transfers to the next generation, and empathy, so critical for the fostering of true and lasting peace, falls by the wayside. (I’m very proud of that previous poetic sentence. Take that Betsy!)

A British businessman told me recently how he struggled to persuade a Lebanese colleague to come to London. For years she refused to visit, until it became a necessity for her work.

Convinced she was flying into a land of raves, techno and date rape drugs, her hands shook with fear as she checked in at the Rafic Hariri International Airport. On the plane she broke into floods of tears. And I’m hoping my Lebanese readers will start crying here too.

England’s vital signs – fish and chips, royal weddings and football – often yield news headlines that predict a country where everything is seemingly great. But the country has proven supremely more fucked up, and it remains, for the most part, a pretty racist place to be.

Sure, there’s 24/7 electricity and the summers are practically inexistant because of the shitty weather. But rather than hiding from daily unexpected showers and bumping into streetlights because of the fog, the biggest risk to non-white foreigners in England is to be a victim of prejudice, exoticism and xenophobia.

For now, sadly, even the royal family is moving out of Buckingham Palace for tax reasons. A royal guard, dressed in a red military suit and a funny black hat, gazes into the distance and cries a little at the idea of potential unemployment.

The businessman’s friend may well have been the last customer at Burger King Soho this afternoon.

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Contributor Magazine // Issue 10

1 JOHN 2:25

Originally published in CONTRIBUTOR MAGAZINE

I’d been trying to kill myself for the past twelve years. Nothing. Rien. Nada. I first heard about the Nurse less than a year ago. It was difficult to believe everything you could hear because very few people dared to speak. And those who did were always the weirdest motherfuckers out there. I’d joined this online forum where people shared stories they’d heard. Hidden behind avatars and usernames. It was impossible to tell who was serious, who was crazy, or if some of them were pranksters or undercover agents. I’d grown so desperate, though, that I ended up building a relationship with a user whom I decided I could trust. Call it instinct. Intuition. Whatever. Don’t ask. It was too risky to exchange any information online so we agreed to meet on the lawn of a park not too far from my atelier. We would pretend to be old friends and stroll around the neighborhood. Grab lunch in a not too crowded restaurant. Kick a ball next to the kids area. He would disseminate the information here and there in between conversations. I would take mental notes of everything. As we hugged goodbye, I would drop the cash in his coat pocket. We would split. He would disappear. I would then walk back to work. And I would hope it wasn’t all a fraud.

Point is: I’d grown sick of being thirty for the past century or so and I really just wanted out. The thing that frustrated me the most was that I couldn’t talk about it to anyone. I tried, in the beginning, though even the people who were closest to me would always snub me. Stare at me with accusatory eyes like I’d just betrayed the whole species. Betrayed everything that so many generations of our ancestors had dedicated their lives to. Betrayed humanity’s biggest accomplishment. Our grandiose victory over nature. A miracle.

And maybe I had.

There wasn’t anything I could do about it. The injections we were given at birth were so efficient that not even crashing your skull against concrete after having jumped off a cliff would have done it. I’d even heard about a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy whom apparently knew where I could maybe find a gun, but the rare cases I’d read about all told the same sad story – the pain would be unbearable for a few minutes, and I would stay alive. In a time where female sterility was induced in potable water, our species could not afford a single death. Point is: our cells regenerated way too quickly and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

On the day of my schedule I went downtown. I was given an address and a time though I had no idea who I was supposed to meet. It was on a tiny street not too far from the space where I had shown my latest collection, and I’d actually spotted the coffee shop numerous times before without ever walking in. I stood in front of it and examined the information on my palm. I stared back up at my reflection in the coffee shop’s window. I looked good and it made me smile.

The terrace looked vintage and reminded me of a photo of my grandparents in Paris, when they were teenagers in the early 2000s. It was almost empty except for a couple of people. A guy caught in a lively online conversation, interrupting his speech with cackles. A woman on the right scribbling on a notebook. Shit. When was the last time I saw a notebook? Passersby slowed their pace and glared but she didn’t seem to care. I walked in and slumped on a bench behind the third table on the left, just as planned, and sat there doing nothing for I don’t know how long. After a while, I turned my head and stared at a clock hanging on the wall behind the bar. My latest show gleaming on a screen caught my attention. I glanced at the figures striding down the runway, clothed in pieces I’d imagined and created, and wondered what my legacy would look like when it’s all over. Which photo of me would they show on the news? There’s a photo of me I really like and I was hoping someone would choose it. It was taken at an award ceremony around twenty years ago and I look really sharp in it. The only problem is that you can see this asshole Kareem in the background but I’m sure they can crop him out or something… Also, which adjectives would they use to describe me? I wonder…

‘Daniel?’ A voice startled me and I rolled back in my seat. A woman was on the chair facing me.
‘How… how did you?’
‘I’m quick like that,’ she smiled. ‘I’m sorry I scared you.’
‘Don’t worry about it, are you the…’
‘Shhhh! Don’t say it, are you out of your mind?’
‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…’ I whispered, bringing my hands up to my forehead.
‘What if it wasn’t me? Huh?’ She snapped. ‘Please, we can’t be too careful.’

I caught my breath for a minute as she sat there and stared without saying a word. The Nurse wasn’t exactly pretty, though she wasn’t too bad either. Her bulging black eyes reminded me of an old popular dog breed – the Pekingese. Her light brown hair was silky, tied up in a bun; freckles were scattered across her fair skin, surrounding a useless nose, and red, wide lips followed her chin up to her dimples. Her ears were small and her neck was delicious, a quasi perfect line.

‘I made this,’ I said, pointing at her jacket.
‘I know, I’m a big fan,’ she smiled.
‘So… is this the part where you ask me why I want to do this?’
‘Not exactly.’
‘How come?’
‘Well, it’s not a job interview…’
‘I guess not… so is it really that simple? Anyone can just show up and get it done? I thought…’
‘How long did it take you to find me, exactly?’
’Twelve years.’
‘Then maybe it wasn’t that simple after all.’
I nodded.
‘When someone’s made it this far, Daniel, who am I to question their motives?’ I nodded again.
’I know why you’re here, I’ve felt the same too.’
‘And why didn’t you do it?’
‘Because I finally found a purpose.’
‘What is it?’
‘Saving people like you.’
I struggled to hold my tears. My lips started shaking and I was sure my eyes had turned red. ’So, that’s it? How are we doing this?’
‘I have to give you three months to think about it.’
‘Three months? Why? I mean, I’ve been waiting for twelve years, how are these three months going to change anything?’
‘Well, now you know it’s possible.’
I nodded.
‘And don’t worry. I’m going to save you either way.’
‘Either way? What do you mean?’
‘I’ll see you in three months. Maybe.’

I woke up the next day and decided that I wanted cherries for breakfast. Cherries were some of the very few things I wasn’t completely bored to (death) eternity with, though even on that special morning they tasted as bland as ever. I went for a long run to clear my head and people stared at me like I’d lost it: jogging was an obsolete activity for the nostalgic and the depressed, and you could almost never be one without the other. I ran for a couple of miles and the cold air of February kept my face dry as I couldn’t stop crying. I remembered my father on his deathbed. ‘I’m a happy father, Daniel. Your generation will never know what it’s like to be a parent, but who cares? You’ll find other ways to be happy. You have all the time in the world. I’m ready to leave in peace,’ then he started humming that old song Imagine. Seriously, who would have thought that John Lennon’s dream would turn out to be a fucking nightmare? I kept running and it suddenly hit me that I was afraid. Putting an end to it all was the thing I’d been wanting the most and I was going to go through with it. No doubt. ’Well, now you know it’s possible,’ the Nurse had said. And it was now scaring the shit out of me.

I reached downtown after a couple of miles and I couldn’t help passing by the coffee shop for a quick look. I was trotting by the terrace when I saw Nayla stepping out of the place. Nayla and I were married for ninety-eight years before we decided to call it quits. Marriage was a traditional practice back then, and we’d only done it to make our parents happy. But when you can’t age together, when you can’t have kids, and when there’s no death to do you part, who the fuck are we kidding? Nayla and I broke up around thirty years ago and though we were still on good terms, I hadn’t seen her in a very long time. She was heading the opposite way so I sprinted toward her and called her name.

‘Daniel! Oh my God!’ She said, flashing a smile.
‘Hey you! It’s been ages!’
‘How have you been?’
‘I’ve been great, how are you?’
‘I’m great too! Wait, are you seriously jogging?’ she laughed.
‘Yeah I don’t know why, I felt like it…’
‘You’re still as crazy!’
‘I guess!’ I laughed back. ‘So tell me, what are you doing here?’
‘Oh,’ she paused. ‘Nothing much, I was catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time…’
‘Here? In this coffee shop?’
‘Oh, cool.’
‘What are you doing here?’
‘Not much either, just wanted to grab a bottle of water.’
‘I see. Have you been here before?’
‘No, have you?’
‘Me neither.’
‘Are… are you doing anything tomorrow?’
’Not really, no. You?’
‘Not much… do you want to hang out?’
‘Sure, I’d love to.’

The next three months with Nayla were like magic. We would meet outside a museum that used to be the high school we both attended as the last generation of human children. We would stroll around for a while before stopping by a fast food place that used to be another fast food place. ‘Remember when eating animals was legal?’ She would giggle. ’Humans were so barbaric.’ We would order food and I would watch her eat. We would walk to a nearby mall that hadn’t changed much and we would chill there on the stairs with our backs leaned against the wall. People would topple over us and keep glaring like we were crazy. And maybe we were.

Nayla and I wouldn’t talk much. We’d mostly stare at one another. Her eyes were sad despite her constant smile, and I’m pretty sure my eyes looked sad too. Because we both knew. And we never talked about it. She would often spent the night over and it was unbelievable to think that this was the same woman I’d spent a lifetime having sex with. I knew every inch of her body, the sound of her moans, her rhythm, what she liked and what she didn’t, how she closed her eyes and smiled after coming, how her body dropped next to mine after we were done. I knew it all by heart but it was still unbelievable: it had never felt as new. Never felt as real. Never felt as good. Because we both knew. I knew why she was there at the coffee shop that day and I never confronted her about it. She knew why I was there too and we never talked about it.

And we didn’t need to. Nayla and I had grown distant from one another in the past few years so her newfound interest in me, and mine in her, couldn’t have been fortuitous. I knew for a fact that her mind was made up: she was going to go ahead with the procedure. Or none of this really made any sense. She left her job and I took a break from mine. We rented a house in the woods and spent our days hiking and talking. On the week-end we would drive to the city. Go clubbing. Drinking. Make out on the dance floor. Have ice cream. Stroll in parks. Go to the beach. Invite friends to a picnic by the river. Go skiing. Go shopping. We took a trip to the moon and back. Did all the stupid things we’d grown tired of doing. Remembered how meaningless, how stupid all of it really is. And fuck, we enjoyed it. Because time was relevant again. Because time was running out. And after she would fall asleep late at night, I would sit down and sketch my last collection. The final curtain. I would close my eyes and imagine it all. A posthumous show that would cement me as an all-time greatest. Bodies of all shapes and forms parading in black. And nothing else but black. Death will be much more than a theme. Death will be a reality. My ultimate success. My very own funeral.

I had dedicated my whole life to my art and I had to dedicate my death to it too. It was merely thanks to fashion that I’d made it this far. More than a passion, a creative outlet or a career. Fashion had given me the chance to lead a life that was beyond stimulating. I had mansions in every city you could think of. Threw parties that made old Hip Hop videos look like a meditation class. Dated celebrities and celebritants and nobodies. Had the whole world at my feet before, during, and after each one of my shows. In a godless world I was a god. I was loved and I enjoyed being loved. And I loved back. Family and friends and lovers and fans, beautiful and ageless people in a beautiful and ageless time, where hedonism had become harmless and affordable. And there we had made the ultimate mistake: we still believed that happiness was possible.

It was a warm Spring morning and I was terrified. My mind had been racing all night and I struggled to remain rational. Yes, the past few months had been great, and yes, I hadn’t felt this happy since I was a child. But only because it was timed. You fool. I kept repeating to myself. You were happy only because it was timed, you moron. Don’t you dare act like a pussy now. Look at her, lying there in rumpled white sheets like it’s a scene from a romantic movie. And look at you idiot falling for it. She’s beautiful, isn’t she? But what happens when you’ll have to look at that same fucking face for another hundred years. What hundred years? Two hundred. Make it three. Four. Fuck. Maybe she’s not that beautiful after all, is she? You’re pathetic to even think about it. You know what? Just name one thing you haven’t done yet. What is it? Name one thing you’re going to miss. What are you going to miss? Seriously. The trees? You fucking hippy. What’s to miss about a fucking tree? The sea? It’s just water with salt. Flowers? You fucking hate flowers. The sky? You hate it when it’s cold and you hate it when it’s warm and you hate it when it rains and you hate it when it doesn’t. So fuck you. What else is there? Other women? Other men? Is there anyone on this planet you haven’t fucked yet? Let’s not even go there. Fashion? Aren’t you sick of doing the same shit over and over again in the name of revival? Just for how long are you and all the other fucking designers going to keep on reviving things? Stop reviving things. Leave things alone. Let things die, for fuck’s sake. They deserve a fucking rest. You deserve a fucking rest.

I looked at Nayla one last time and my stomach turned. No goodbyes. No thinking. No more bullshit. I just wanted to get to the Nurse as fast as possible. I put on my shittiest sweatpants and an old t-shirt and dashed out. Wait, maybe I should have some cherries first. No. Stop thinking, motherfucker. Just run to the stupid coffee shop and let that bitch take you wherever she wants to take you and get it over with. Go. Do it. Nayla’s voice called from upstairs but I didn’t look back. Go. I squeezed my lips tight and struggled to keep my tears in. My love. My house. My building. My street. My neighborhood. No. Cut the crap. Stop thinking. Just go. I was so focused on the task ahead that the endless stream of people didn’t phase me. Fucking meaningless zombies. They don’t have the balls to do what I’m about to do. I’m the fucking hero here.

I finally reached the coffee shop and stopped on the other side of the street. My phone had been ringing for a few minutes but I didn’t want to look at it. Through the window I saw the Nurse. Placid. Slowly bringing a cup to her lips and staring at nothing in front of her. Waiting for me. My phone stopped ringing. And then it beeped. A message received. I was about to cross the street but I couldn’t help glancing at the screen. The message received was from Nayla. ‘Daniel, please answer,’ it said. ‘It’s a miracle.’ A miracle? What miracle? What the fuck was she talking about? There’s no room for a miracle, baby. Nothing. Nothing. I was crying hysterically. I dropped down to my knees. I lost my discipline and called her back. She answered immediately. ‘Daniel, it’s a miracle,’ she said. ‘I found the Nurse too,’ she said. ‘Daniel, I’m pregnant.’

I closed my eyes and everything disappeared. And there it was. The sound of the wind. And the sound of my heartbeat.

Contributor Magazine / 1 JOHN 2:25

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About The Fight of the Century // About Boxing in General

Floyd Mayweather VS Manny Pacquiao

What a week end.I can’t remember the last time everyone around me was this excited about a boxing event. And I mean: everyone. Men and women, close friends and acquaintances, complete strangers too. I was getting messages asking me about the airing of the fight, about my prediction. People were sending me images, memes, articles, YouTube videos. Strangers were cursing at me and my TMT (The Money Team) hat at random parties. And it was all amazing. It was all amazing because I was so happy to be able, for once, to witness so many people sharing my excitement for a boxing fight. The buildup almost felt like a football World Cup final. Almost. Because now that the fight is over, there’s a whole other aspect to all of this that is really getting on my nerves: the avalanche of pseudo-connoisseur commentaries about what happened in that ring.

The thing is: talking about boxing is extremely, extremely delicate if you’ve never tried boxing. In a way, anyone has kicked a football at school, and anyone has shot a ball through a basket. I mean, you can even go spend a few hours in Faraya and learn how to slide on a snowboard. But seriously, how many of you “boxing specialists” have actually been in a boxing ring? And more seriously, how can you be so confident talking about something you know absolutely nothing about? Because trust me, watching a fight and a documentary on YouTube and repeating stuff you’ve read in an article or a tweet really, really doesn’t count.

First of all, let’s start by stop calling it a game. Boxing is not a game. You can play tennis, you can play water polo, but you can’t play boxing. It’s a fight. And every single fighter deserve respect for even stepping inside a boxing ring. The overwhelming experience of being in a ring facing a guy whose sole mission is to destroy you is an emotional ride that is unmatched in any other sport, and truth be told: very few people can handle it. Most importantly, when you’re in the ring, boxing is nothing like what you see on television. It’s an intense experience that’s absolutely nothing like the whole circus we see on screen. So when you’re sitting there drinking beer and munching on a cheeseburger and giving expert opinions about what a fighter should be doing, you’re not fooling anyone but the clueless people like you, because there’s no other way to put it: you have absolutely no clue about what’s happening.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. After all, you don’t have to be a boxer to watch boxing. But what I’m saying is, at least have the decency and the humility to just watch, support your favorite fighter, and hopefully enjoy the fight. Out of the tens of people (who have never worn a boxing glove in their life) who have been posting their expert opinions about the fight, only two of them were real enough to be honest – with themselves and with others. The first one told me he knows absolutely nothing about boxing but that he’s very curious to know more. The other one came to me admitting that he’s watched a fight or two in anticipation of the event, but that he didn’t really “get it” or understand what was happening. We spent the evening together and went through fight footages, we went through slow motion footages, I demonstrated to him what each fighter was trying to do, techniques, we discussed strategy, and a myriad of other things that most people who don’t practice the sport simply can’t see. Have you ever tried watching Judo? Don’t. It’s the most boring shit ever. Unless you’re a Judoka yourself. And well, I’m sorry, but it’s kind of the same thing with boxing.

There’s a reason why boxing is called “the sweet science:” Boxing is not your average mashkal outside SkyBar. Ironically though, a SkyBar mashkal seems to be what most people look for when they watch a boxing fight. People look for big punches, blood and knockouts. People can’t see defense. They can’t see footwork, timing, accuracy, pace and rhythm, distance control, and so on. So it’s no surprise that the Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight was deemed boring by the average person. I don’t even disagree. If I was unable to see all of the things mentioned above in order to truly appreciate the genius and skills of both fighters in that ring, I would have thought it was terribly boring too. No blood, no standing counts, no knockdowns, no knockout.

Instead, Mayweather gave us a beautiful performance, a lesson in boxing excellence. Unfortunately for him, you had to be a fighter yourself to be able to see it and appreciate it. No, Floyd Mayweather was not running away from Manny Pacquiao, he was dancing and controlling the distance. Ali, the greatest, danced. Sugar Ray Leonard danced. Larry Holmes Danced. All the great fighters danced and circled the ring. And so did Mayweather. No, Floyd Mayweather was not hugging Manny Pacquiao. Clinching is one of the most common techniques in professional boxing. Ali clinched. Lennox Lewis clinched. Frank Bruno clinched. Trevor Berbick clinched. In every single fight, the taller fighter always clinches when the opponent gets inside. In fact, Mayweather clinched much less than usual last night, and there was fewer clinching than any average fight you may watch. The difference is that that was probably the only fight you’ve ever watched, and the few YouTube highlights and documentaries you clicked on obviously don’t show any clinching. You know what? Let me throw you in a closed ring with a less than average boxer and show me how you can run away and clinch and win the fight.

The problem with Floyd Mayweather’s style – especially in the last 8 years – is that it has become a very clinical one. It’s simply not entertaining enough to the average fan. There’s always disappointment by the average fan after each Mayweather fight, and I completely understand that: it’s a style that’s meant to be dominant and efficient, but not very entertaining.

So was the huge hype around the event actually bad for the fight then? I now realize that maybe it was. Because people didn’t get it. And unless people are going to be more familiar with boxing, they will never be able to get it. Is there any other way to completely “get it” other getting in the ring yourself and experiencing it for real? Unfortunately, I’m not sure there is. Is boxing then meant to be enjoyed by boxers only? Not necessarily, because every era also has entertaining fighters, knockout kings that the average fan loves to watch. I’m talking Mike Tyson, I’m talking Prince Nasseem, I’m talking Manny Pacquiao.

I grew up in a family of boxers. I was thrown in a ring when I was 9 and had my share of junior bouts, and my share of sparring sessions later as an adult. There is nothing like being in the ring. Nothing. And it’s been so frustrating to read commentaries, mockeries, memes about last night’s megafight when 99% of you guys really, really have no clue what you’re talking about. I’m sorry again, but there is no other way to put it. When I first saw my brother – the current Lebanese boxing champion – today, the grim look on his face said it all. He is Manny Pacquiao’s biggest fan and was disappointed by the loss. But because he too knows the sport so well, he gave me a bitter smile and said: “Mayweather is truly unbelievable. I never expected to see Manny so helpless against anyone. He couldn’t do anything, Mayweather made him look like an amateur at times.” We talked about confidence, about outboxing, about control. About an out-of-this world defense. About landing more punches than his opponent while the whole world saw the exact opposite. About standing in the pocket and leaning on the ropes and taking it all against one of the most devastating fighters of our generation, Manny Pacquiao.

And I couldn’t agree more. Mayweather just needs to accept that the average fan will never be able to witness his magic. And will never give him the credit he truly deserves. But we do, champ.

#TMT #TeamMayweather

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A Billion Dead Stars

A Billion Dead Stars

Originally published for SOW by Lara Khoury

Length: 4 pages

‘Are you going to take me to prom?’ she’d said.
‘But we don’t go to the same school,’ I’d answered.
‘I don’t care. Do you?’
‘No. I don’t care either.’

Cheesy love songs made us sick, so did my classmates who couldn’t handle a drink. Oversized kids made a big deal out of a cigarette and a glass of vodka. Obnoxiousness everywhere. Fools marveled at tacky fireworks gleaming on the surface of the swimming pool. A stench of whiskey, smoke and chlorine defiled our nostrils. And the drunken shrieks, our ears. We decided to escape it all and took a stroll on the beach. Strode down a long wooden deck leading toward the sea. Took off our shoes when we reached its edge and drowned our feet in the soft, cold sand. Moved further down and dabbled in the water. Then she grabbed my shirt and pulled me close and whispered: ‘let’s do it.’

I stared at her and couldn’t believe that six years had passed. Six years that we’d been inseparable. Not a single day without her, and each one of them had felt like the first time we met. The same fascination I later realized was love. I gazed at her standing there in her emerald green one-shoulder dress. Emerald green matching her eyes. Long lashes reaching out. Slick hair back à la runway model. A gorgeous pout. And the young girl gave way to the woman. And my best friend gave way to my lover. Of course, the sex was clumsy and we stopped halfway because the sand was nasty. And we laughed it off. We learned that first times and beach lovemaking are overrated. And I knew why she’d picked that moment: because it was forbidden. And we got away with it.We dashed back to the party and caused chaos. Pitched purses in the pool. Set the corny singer’s jacket on fire. Stole the principal’s wig and passed it around the dining tables. Dropped laxatives in a few drinks. Kissed endlessly and kissed again. Smeared cake on the dance floor and watched everyone slip. Tossed shrimp rolls at the teachers we hated. Keyed random cars on our way out. Got away with it all, like we always had. Drove to our favorite spot outside town and made love, for the first time properly, under the ghostly lights of a billion dead stars.

The phone rings once and I’m startled, still lying on the bed, my eyes closed. My fingers rove over my shirt, trace my waist, climb up my hipbone before grazing down and disappearing in my pocket. My hand feels something and I sigh, relieved. Something small, round, cocooned in fabric. I’m able to fumble with it but I can’t grasp it, and I soon remember that my pocket is empty, that the object is underneath my pants, stuck to my leg. I crumple my shirt, exposing my abs. A gust of wind slinks in and I shiver. I slide my hand inside my slacks and peel the tape off my skin, freeing the ring and bringing it up to my face level. I open my eyes and smile. The ring’s been living on my skin for a few days now. Body heat warm. Silver and beautiful. The sun beaming through the window, shimmering on the band’s edges.

The phone rings once again and stops. The ring drops on the hardwood floor and starts rolling away. Reality shifts to slow motion. Everything darkens and everything slow motions. The rolling sound grows louder and images flash in my head. Vividly. A woman in a bridal gown races through a meadow, giant pines arching on both sides of the frame. The wind bays at the sun to set. The soil trembles. The rolling sound deafens me. And as the trees sway wider and the wind bawls lustier, the bride reaches the edge of a cliff. On the other side of the room, the ring hits a large suitcase and collapses. And everything stops. The images vanish. And time resumes its natural course.

In the bathroom I notice a tiny hole in the wall. Flashback to the Bates Motel in a Hitchcock movie. And I blench at the shadiness of this place. I cover the hole with a wad of toilet paper and lose my clothes on the tiled white floor, keeping my flip-flops as I step on the disgusting shower tray. I twist the faucet knob and warm water pours down, stinging my shoulders and massaging my nape. The endless stream of water blends with my tears and I realize that I’m scared. That there’s no turning back. I’m scared for the first time in a very long time and there is no turning back. I leave the shower on and step out of the tray. Pull up the same black harem pants, the same white shirt and the same black jacket I’ve been wearing for days. It doesn’t matter if they’re filthy as long as my shoes are polished. And my shoes are always polished. I leave my hair unkempt because who gives a shit. Wipe the last tears off my face and find the ring on the floor. Put it in my pocket and grab the suitcase. Before dashing out, I expect the phone to ring again and it does. It keeps ringing until I pick up, and she starts speaking:

‘It’s me. Is everything alright?’
‘Hey, yes. It’s all set.’ I’m struggling to stay composed. ‘How are things on your end?’
‘I’m going to head there now. Don’t be late. It won’t be long before they notice my disappearance.’
‘Don’t worry,’ I lie.
‘Yes.’ A pause. ‘It’ll all be over soon. You do remember how to get there, don’t you?’
‘I do.’
‘Good. Once you enter the woods, keep moving forward until you see the sky.’
‘I know. I’ll see you at 7 sharp alright?’
‘I’ll be there.’
‘Cool,’ I say, but I can’t keep on lying. ’Hey…’
‘If anything bad happens…’
‘Don’t say that,’ she hampers.
‘Don’t worry, but just in case. If I’m not there at 7:15…’
‘Don’t say that. Nothing will happen. I’ll see you at 7,’ she says.
‘Just listen to me. If I’m not there at 7:15, it means they caught me. Don’t wait. Find a way to reach the port without me, and find the boat SOW 15. It leaves at 8 and will take you to a safe destination,’ I say. Long silence.
‘I’ll see you at 7,’ she says.
‘Yes.’ I sigh.
‘I love you.’
‘I love you.’

Go to Page 2

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L’Orient Le Jour / F(r)ictions / The Night Is Young (episode final)

The night is young and so are we. A trente-cinq ans, je ne sais pas trop. C’est le premier soir du week-end bourgeois, en tout cas. On est jeudi. Vendredi, c’est pour la classe ouvrière. Il est tard dans la nuit, en tout cas. Visiblement je suis bourré. Je ne devrais pas être derrière le volant. Visiblement, je le suis. Déterminé à poursuivre une connasse. Et sa copine. Yasmina et sa copine. La gamine qui me l’avait faite à l’envers. La môme qui m’avait vidé de mon sang. Qui s’était faite prendre devant mes yeux. Qui avait adoré cela. Et moi, certain que j’étais en train de mourir. Pâle comme la mort en personne. Languissant là sur une chaise longue, pétrifié, les yeux rivés sur elle, malgré tout. Des images remontent à la surface de ma mémoire et une nausée s’empare de moi. Me prend par la gorge et s’appuis sur mon torse. L’alcool se réveille. Mon déjeuner, mon dîner, même les cacahuètes du bar. Tout ressuscite. Tout virevolte derrière ma poitrine. Un volcan dégueulasse prêt â exploser. Prêt â secouer le calme sinistre de ma voiture. Dans cette nuit de jeudi, premier soir du week-end bourgeois. Je serre les dents. Je serre les lèvres. La tempête passe.

Cela fait un bon moment que nous ne sommes plus en ville. Un ciel clair mais sans étoiles. Etrange. Le chemin champêtre sur lequel nous avançons est de plus en plus étroit. Aucune lumière sur les bords de route. Des arbres menaçants à droite. Une falaise sans fin à gauche. Une pensée me traverse l’esprit : nous sommes les deux seules véhicule sur cette colline, les filles savent qu’elles sont poursuivies, et ça n’a pas l’air de les troubler. Une pensée glaciale. Sueurs froides. Je me sens fébrile. Pourquoi n’accélèrent-elles pas ? Pourquoi ne font-elles pas demi-tour pour me tester ? Pourquoi n’essaient-elles pas de me perdre ? Je serre les muscles de mon entrejambes pour ne pas me pisser dessus. La route est maintenant si étroite que je ne peux même plus rebrousser chemin. Impossible de s’arrêter non plus, de faire marche arrière : le chemin du retour est long, les phares arrières de ma voiture sont impuissants face à l’obscurité qui m’entoure. Je continue d’avancer alors. J’ai de plus en plus froid. Je me surprends en train de marmonner une prière, pour la première fois depuis plus de vingt ans. Un peu d’espace, mon Dieu je t’en supplie, un tout peu d’espace pour que je puisse faire demi-tour. Rien. Toujours rien. On dirait même que la route se resserre. Se resserre. Puis une lueur d’espoir : une prairie.

Je ne comprends plus rien. Une dizaine de voitures sont garées au milieu de ce nul part. Des voitures neuves, belles, chères. La voiture de Yasmina fait une pause. Je m’arrête derrière elle. Le bruit du moteur s’évanouit. Simultanément, les portes de tous les autres véhicules s’ouvrent. Des hommes et des femmes apparaissent. Jeunes, beaux, bien habillés. Yasmine et son amie aussi. Toutes les têtes se tournent vers moi. Je suis paralysé. Incapable de réagir. Incapable de redémarrer. De faire demi-tour et de disparaître. Les figures avancent vers moi. Leurs yeux brillent. Une sensation de chaleur sur mes jambes. Une odeur d’urine me saisit par les narines. Je ferme les yeux et pleure. J’entends le bruit de ma porte s’ouvrir. Je sens un souffle glacial sur mon cou. Des dents acérées disparaissent sous ma peau.

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L’Orient Le Jour / F(r)ictions / She Lost Control (episode 10)

Je suis assis au bar dans un pub louche de Mar Mikhael. A ma droite, Sami avale des Jameson on the rocks à la minute. Un jeune DJ danse maladroitement derrière une console électronique pendant que ses amis hipsters l’entourent, les bras levés vers le ciel, accueillant chaque nouvelle chanson avec des acclamations disproportionnées. Le DJ souris derrière ses grosses lunettes transparentes et une bouteille d’Almaza disparait, de temps en temps, derrière sa barbe raspoutinienne. Mes doigts caressent mon verre de Moscow Mule que je déguste lentement, plongé dans une réflexion existentielle de fin de soirée. Quand Sami me demande à quoi je pense je lui réponds que je ne pense à rien. Il hoche la tête et glousse. Replonge dans son whiskey. Un morceau des Killers me rappelle à l’ordre. Je me retourne pour faire un signe amical au DJ. Une jeune fille franchit la porte d’entrée et vole toute mon attention. Immédiatement. Je ne connais plus les Killers. Je ne vois plus le DJ. Je ne suis plus à Mar Mikhael. Je ne connais plus que son visage, je ne vois plus que ses yeux, je ne suis plus qu’entre ses reins. Oui, mon imagination est vaste, rapide. Mon meilleur ami l’aperçoit également. Est sur le point de me pousser du coude mais ma question l’interrompt : quelle est la première chose que tu remarques chez une fille ? Quelques secondes de silence. Ses lèvres, me dit-il. Et toi ? Je n’ai même pas besoin de réfléchir : sa chatte, bien évidemment. Et je suis très sérieux. A chaque fois que j’aperçois une femme, je scrute sa peau, la texture de sa peau, la couleur de sa peau. La forme de ses yeux. Sa silhouette. Sa structure osseuse. La générosité de sa bouche. Sa poitrine, l’espace entre ses seins. Son entrejambe. Surtout, ses chevilles. Et puis, tout se dévoile. Une image parfaite de sa chatte se dessine dans mon esprit. Je ne me trompe jamais. Il m’est déjà arrivé de convoiter des femmes qui, à priori, ne m’intéressaient pas particulièrement, et les trainer dans mon lit, rien que pour confirmer mon intuition première sur leurs chattes. Un défi personnel, un pari entre amis, peu importe. C’est un peu similaire à la pratique d’une langue : on commet inévitablement de moins en moins de fautes au fur et à mesure que l’on s’exerce. On appelle cela de l’expérience. Et Dieu sait que j’en ai.

La jeune fille commande à boire. Le barman la juge trop jeune et lui demande une pièce d’identité. Elle fait semblant de chercher dans son sac, mais nous savons tous qu’elle n’en sortira jamais rien. Encore une gamine, bordel. Le barman s’excuse et lui fait signe de sortir. Gamine. Pour cacher sa honte, elle fait semblant de prendre un appel téléphonique, se dirige vers la sortie. Je la suis. Sami n’intervient pas : il me connaît bien et a l’habitude. Des taxis s’arrêtent devant la petite qui leur fait signe de dégager. Plusieurs taxis. Et les mecs relous du samedi soir. Puis une Mercedes noire. Je reconnais la conductrice. La petite fille ouvre la porte, se glisse sur le siège à côté de Yasmina. Un élan incontrôlable me fait bondir vers ma voiture. Je ne les lâche pas du regard. Merci, embouteillage. Je démarre le moteur et m’incruste dans la file, à deux voitures d’elles. Je ne sais pas ce que je suis en train de faire, mais mon cœur bat très fort. Je les suivrai jusqu’au bout.

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L’Orient Le Jour / F(r)ictions / No Smoking (episode 9)

Je suis affalé sur ma chaise et Liliane est en face de moi. En jupe courte, assise sur mon bureau, les cuisses écartées. Mes yeux rivés sur son entrejambe. Ses paumes moites écrasent le bois de chêne, elle s’étire la nuque de droite à gauche et de gauche à droite, la tête tournée vers le plafond. Le ventilateur rôde au-dessus d’elle comme un vautour alléché sur sa proie. J’avoue avoir eu de la chance de l’avoir comme ange gardien, ma secret Santa, pendant cette période de fêtes. Car Liliane savait que j’aimais les pipes. Et Liliane a été très généreuse. Pendant toute une semaine elle m’a comblé de cadeaux. De pipes surprises à des moments imprévus de chaque journée. Cachées partout : sous mon bureau, dans l’ascenseur, dans le parking, dans ma voiture. Elle n’en avait que faire de la politique non-fumeur des locaux de la boite dans laquelle nous travaillons – elle savait esquiver les détecteurs d’incendie (lire : les caméras de surveillance.) Et j’étais ravi. Fou d’elle. Ce genre de gamines discrètes qui ne se font jamais remarquer au début. Timides. Qui se cachent derrière leurs copines plus aguicheuses, plus grosse gueule, parfois plus jolies, peut-être. Ce genre de gamines qui ne font jamais le premier pas, qui ne te lancent pas de regards séducteurs, qui ne défilent pas devant ta porte à longueur de journée, assoiffées d’attention. Liliane, c’est le genre de filles qui prennent leur temps, suscitent ta curiosité, te laissent doucement venir vers elles. Puis te dévorent. Et te rendent accros. Accro à elle. A ses étrennes divines qui me pompent vers le ciel. A ses petites lèvres pleines qui me collent à la peau. A son regard innocent qui s’enchâsse dans mes yeux. En contre-plongée. A son irrésistible manière de s’essuyer la bouche après chaque repas. A son clin d’œil envoûtant en guise d’à plus tard.

Je m’approche doucement pour déguster la petite. Le téléphone sonne et nous ramène à l’ordre. A l’autre côté du fil, Leila, ma patronne. Furieuse. A cause d’un client furieux. A cause d’une revue de presse un peu too much que j’ai rédigé il y a quelques jours, pendant que Zina grondait à ma fenêtre, que Liliane grondait aussi, à quatre pattes sous mon bureau. Leila m’engueule et me traite d’irresponsable. D’ivrogne. De pervers. De mauvais goût. Me sermonne sur l’autocensure. Sur les limites de la décence. Qu’il y a des lignes à ne pas franchir. Que les femmes ont droit à leur jardin secret. Que la sacralité de l’acte sexuel est réelle. Que nous devons la conserver. Que nous devons la défendre contre un monde qui ne connaît plus de morale. Un monde virevoltant dans un chaos éthique sans précédant. Que nos valeurs orientales sont saintes. Que la retenue méditerranéenne est noble. Et un tas d’autres réprimandes auxquelles je ne fais plus attention. Avant de m’annoncer qu’elle quitterait le bureau plus tôt aujourd’hui, afin de participer à la manifestation de #jesuisCharlie pour la défense de la liberté d’expression. Elle ne me laisse pas le temps de réagir. Et raccroche.

Les genoux de Liliane s’impatientent. Se resserrent autour de mes épaules. Me font signe d’avancer. Je tente de capter son regard, en vain. Sa tête est suspendue en arrière. Ses mains caressent mes cheveux. Je la saisis fermement par la taille. L’immobilise sur place. Et plonge, la tête en premier.

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L’Orient Le Jour / F(r)ictions / Zina et Mia (episode 8)

Un peu de vent et de pluie sème la panique. L’apocalypse. En bon mouton culturel, on lui donne même un nom, comme nos amis drama queens américains : Zina. Que notre ville redoute depuis quelques jours. Zina – décorations, en arabe, – dont les bourrasques détruisent les sapins synthétiques, guirlandes et autres boules brillantes pendues sur les réverbères. Zina, une ironie glaciale.

Je suis de retour au bureau après une semaine de congé, sous prétexte d’avoir souhaité passer du temps avec ma famille. En réalité, j’avais plutôt besoin de me ressaisir après l’enlèvement malsain dont j’ai été victime. Le lendemain de Noël, je suis monté rester pendant quelques jours chez Sami, beau gosse de confiance au double statut d’ami d’enfance et de meilleur ami. De seul ami véritable, en réalité. Je lui confiai absolument tout, jusqu’au moindre détail. Ensemble, nous avons réfléchi à un plan d’action qui garantirait ma vengeance sans faire beaucoup de bruit. Sans faire parler de moi, surtout. La jouissance de la victoire sera belle, mais la discrétion avant tout. Et j’ai hâte.

Je suis devant mon écran en train de naviguer sur mon profil Facebook lorsque je tombe sur la star de la semaine : Mia Khalifa. Je clique sur un lien pour visionner ses vidéos. Un éclair m’alerte. Le tonnerre gronde. Mon bureau tangue. Mon cœur s’arrête. Mon cœur se ressaisit. Zina est jalouse, me dis-je, et ça me fait sourire. Aucune pensée sexuelle, aucune érection depuis des jours. Un pétillement au niveau de mes pieds remonte doucement vers mes cuisses. Ma libido ressuscite après une semaine de mort – un record personnel. Mia possède un physique ingrat mais je comprends pourquoi le pays est en feu: Mia, c’est la fille du voisin qui habite encore chez ses parents, qui tous les matins grimpe dans sa Nissan Tida rouge, s’en va se poser derrière le comptoir chez Banque Byblos, compte des billets, encaisse des chèques, et tamponne des paperasses inutiles. Mia, c’est la paysanne originaire de Zahle, une prude dont le papa, chasseur de hyènes et de loups, ne veut offrir à personne. Mia, c’est la fille du village qui a été téléporté aux States sans même passer par Beyrouth d’abord. La fille à qui on n’a pas appris que toute bonne Libanaise se fait faire les sourcils et se fait raser les poils des bras, avant d’apparaître en public, avant de se prendre en photo ; surtout, avant de se faire prendre devant une caméra. Mia, c’est la fille qu’on s’imagine hurler akh au lieu de oh yes. Qu’on s’imagine en costume d’écolière du Metn au lieu d’une jupe de majorette à la Britney Spears. Mia, c’est tout le tabou de la sexualité de la femme libanaise et arabe incarné en une paire de seins disproportionnés et dégueulasses, de la cellulite qui n’a honte de rien, et qui, toute fière, nous dit tous d’aller se faire foutre. Mia, je l’aime bien, en fait.

Je suis sur le point de baisser mon froc lorsque Zina gronde de nouveau. Quelqu’un frappe à ma porte. Je referme l’écran de mon ordinateur violemment et fait semblant de chercher des papiers dans un de mes tiroirs. La jolie Liliane, junior art director, apparaît. Adam, tu es enfin de retour ! Je viens te donner ton cadeau de Noël. C’était moi, ton Secret Santa…

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What Is Freedom of Speech? / A brief history of a perverse form of question

Version française ici

It seems to me that despite the death of God and the dismemberment of the Truth, we human beings still have a long way before we totally get rid of our religious dogmatism and our spirit of sacrifice. There is absolutely no difference of nature between those who believe in God and the atheists who place their blind dogmatic faith in science, for instance. As there is no difference of nature between the oppressors of individual freedom and a nation that launches wars in the name of individual freedom. In fact, it all comes down to a problem of definition – as it has been since the very beginning of the history of thought; which is why philosophy is far from being a dead discipline that merely explores a chronological history of ideas: philosophy remains deeply current because its most essential questions are still as important, perhaps today more than ever.

What is freedom of speech? What is terrorism? What is the truth? What’s a civilised person?

I would like to examine an old habit that we almost never question: the relevance of the question “what is..?”  In fact, it’s Western metaphysics that have taught us to ask the question of essence in the form of “what is..?” And if we’ve been unconsciously taking this question for a given, we mostly owe it to Plato and Socrates. Because the question “what is..?” implies a very particular way of thinking that is omnipresent in Plato’s dialogues – in which the main protagonist Socrates vehemently rejects any other forms of question. For instance, in Plato’s dialogue Hippias Major, when Socrates asks the question “what is beauty?” and that the sophist Hippias answers by citing examples of things “which are beautiful,” and examples of people “who are beautiful,” we witness a major moment in the history of thought because the political repercussions of such a misunderstanding are substantial. First of all, because the assumed superiority of Socrates in these dialogues is more than suspicious. His method never seems successful: the question is never resolved and most of these platonic dialogues are destined to nowhere. It would be of course stupid to give examples of things which are beautiful and of people who are beautiful when asked what is beauty? because the question aims at finding a necessary essence, an unchangeable substance, the thing itself, and not an example of things or people that contain a sample of that substance as a participative quality. But let us make no amalgams here: the sophist Hippas is not an idiot or a child who’s incapable of getting the nuance between the two questions and who simply answers by which/who when asked what. No. It’s more likely that Hippias thought that the question which/who? was a far better question, one that was more capable of finding the essence. To ask which/who is beautiful instead of what is beauty is not a coincidence: it’s the result of an elaborate method that excludes the existence of a common essence and that leads us to the art of empiricism and pluralism. Meaning, to ask the question which/who is a dangerous thing because it directly leads to the political questions of the point of view: who decides? who sets the limit?

To become aware of this inevitability of empiricism and pluralism is to let go of our dogmatic belief in intangible and eternal essences. It’s to become aware that a single and unique definition of freedom is a lie. That a single and unique definition of terrorism is a lie. That a single and unique definition of truth is a lie. That there is no meaning, but a plurality of meanings that all fight for the right to be the (temporarily) most convincing one. That instead of asking the question: what is freedom of speech? – a question that no one has managed to answer once and for all, – we must ask a question that’s far more interesting, the question of the point of view, the question which/whowho is free to speak their mind? From France’s point of view, it seems, whoever wishes to mock Islam is free to speak their mind, however, those who wish to make fun of Zionism aren’t. From Saudi Arabi’s point of view, men are free to speak their mind, however, women aren’t. Who is a terrorist? From the United States’ point of view, it’s the muslim extremist of Al Qaeda. From Israel’s point of view, it’s the Hamas militant. From Palestine’s point of view, it’s the state of Israel. From the left-wing militants’ point of view, it’s the US politics. Who is civilised? From the Western civilisation’s point of view, it is of course the western model of civilisation that serves as a reference: anything else is barbaric. And so on.

Becoming aware that the Truth does not exist. That there is no unique and radical meaning given to us straight from heaven. That there is no chosen people. That there is no absolute truth that’s revealed to some and not to others. That absolutely nothing is a given. That there is no historical direction. That there is no progress. That there are no good guys and bad guys. That there is no right or wrong. That there is nothing else but interpretation. And that every interpretation is always conceived from a specific point of view. That our laws and definitions are always set from a specific point of view aimed at satisfying the interests of a specific category of people. It is only this type of awareness that allows for a real discussion to happen, and for solutions to be found: away from dogmatism, away from intellectual blindness, away from demagogy, away from populism, away from stupidity, away from exclusion, away from discrimination, away from hypocrisy. And most importantly, beyond any emotional blackmail and self-righteous slogans and campaigns that never do anything but perpetuate the problem.

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Qu’est-ce que la liberté de pensée et d’expression? / Une brève histoire d’une forme de question perverse

English version here

Il me semble que malgré la mort de Dieu et le démembrement de la Vérité, l’être humain demeure loin de s’être débarrassé du dogmatisme religieux, ainsi que de l’esprit de sacrifice. Il n’y a pas de différence de nature entre les croyants en Dieu et les athées qui ont une croyance dogmatique en la science, par exemple; pas de différence de nature non plus entre les oppresseurs de la liberté individuelle et une nation qui lance des guerres au nom de la liberté individuelle. Il n’est, et ce depuis toujours dans l’histoire de la pensée, qu’un problème de définition. Et il est fascinant de constater à quel point nos problèmes et nos questionnements n’ont pratiquement pas évolué depuis le tout début de l’histoire de la pensée. C’est pour cela que la philosophie est loin d’être une discipline morte qui se contente de faire une liste chronologie des idées: la philosophie reste actuelle car ses questions les plus essentielles sont, aujourd’hui plus que jamais, toujours aussi importantes.

Qu’est-ce que la liberté de pensée ou la liberté d’expression? Qu’est-ce que le terrorisme? Qu’est-ce que la vérité? Qu’est-ce qu’être civilisé?

Je propose d’examiner une vieille habitude qu’on ne remet presque jamais en cause: la pertinence de la question “qu’est-ce que..?” En réalité, c’est la métaphysique occidentale qui nous a appris à poser la question de l’essence sous forme de “qu’est-ce que..?” Et si nous avons pris l’habitude de considérer cette question comme allant de soi, nous le devons avant tout à Socrate et à Platon. Parce que la question “qu’est-ce que..?” suppose une manière particulière de penser omniprésente dans les dialogues de Platon, dans lesquels Socrate s’obstine à rejeter toute autre forme de question. Par exemple, dans l’oeuvre Hippas Majeur, lorsque Socrate pose la question “qu’est-ce que le Beau?” et que le sophiste Hippias lui répond en citant des exemples de “ce qui est beau“, on assiste à un grand moment de l’histoire de la pensée car les répercussions politiques d’une telle confusion sont considérables. Et d’abord, parce que la supériorité de Socrate lors de ces dialogues est plus que douteuse; il ne semble jamais que sa méthode soit fructueuse: la question ne se trouve jamais résolue et le nihilisme domine la majeure partie de ces dialogues platoniciens. Sans doute est-ce une bêtise de citer ce qui est beau lorsqu’on vous demande “qu’est-ce que le beau?”, parce que la question cherche à trouver l’essence nécessaire, la substance inaltérable, la chose en soi, et non un exemple d’une chose dont la substance en question n’en serait qu’une qualité participative. Mais ne faisons pas d’amalgames: le sophiste Hippias n’est pas un imbécile ou un enfant incapable de comprendre la nuance entre les deux questions et se qui contente de répondre “qui” lorsqu’on lui demande “ce que.” Non. Le sophiste Hippias pensait plutôt que la question Qui? était la meilleure en tant que question, et qu’elle était de loin plus apte à déterminer l’essence. Demander ce qui est beau au lieu de ce qu’est le beau n’est pas une coincidence: c’est le fruit d’une méthode élaborée excluant l’existence d’une essence commune et qui nous ouvre vers un art empiriste et pluraliste. Autrement dit, poser la question qui est une entreprise dangereuse car elle mène directement à la question politique: qui est-ce qui décide? qui est-ce qui place les limites?

Prendre conscience du caractère inévitable de l’empirisme et du pluralisme, c’est se débarrasser de la croyance dogmatique en des essences éternelles intangibles. Autrement dit, c’est la prise de conscience qu’une définition de la liberté unique et valable pour tous est un mensonge. Qu’une définition du terrorisme unique et valable pour tous est un mensonge. Qu’une définition de la vérité unique et valable pour tous est un mensonge. Qu’il n’y a pas de sens, mais une pluralité de sens qui se disputent un droit au trône éphémère. Qu’au lieu de poser la question: qu’est-ce que la liberté de penser et d’expression? – une question à laquelle il nous est toujours impossible de parvenir à une définition commune et définitive, il s’agit de poser la question de loin plus intéressante, la question du point de vue, la question quiqui est libre de penser et de s’exprimer? Du point de vue de la France, il semblerait, les individus qui désirent se moquer de l’Islam sont libres de penser et de s’exprimer, mais ceux qui désirent se moquer du Sionisme ne le sont pas. Du point de vue de l’Arabie Saoudite, l’homme est libre de penser et de s’exprimer, la femme ne l’est pas. Qui est terroriste? Du point de vue des Etats-Unis, c’est le musulman fanatique d’al Qaeda. Du point de vue d’Israel, c’est le militant du Hamas. Du point de vue de la Palestine, c’est l’état d’Israel. Du point de vue des militants de gauche, c’est la politique des Etats-Unis. Qui est civilisé? Du point de vue de l’Occident, c’est évidemment le modèle de civilisation occidental qui sert de référent: le reste n’est que barbarie. Et ainsi de suite.

La prise de conscience que la Vérité n’existe pas. Qu’il n’y a pas de sens unique et radical tombé du ciel. Qu’il n’y a pas de peuple élu. Qu’il n’y a pas de vérité absolue qui serait révélée à certains et non à d’autres. Qu’il n’y a absolument rien de donné. Qu’il n’y a pas de sens de l’histoire. Qu’il n’y a pas de progrès. Qu’il n’y a pas de gentils et de méchants. Qu’il n’y a pas de bon et de mauvais. Qu’il n’y a en fin de compte que de l’interprétation. Et que toute interprétation est toujours formulée à partir d’un point de vue particulier. Que nos lois et définitions sont toujours érigées à partir d’un point de vue particulier dans l’intérêt d’un d’une catégorie d’individus particulière. C’est uniquement cette prise de conscience là seule qui permettrait d’ouvrir le dialogue afin de chercher des solutions véritables à nos problèmes: loin du dogmatisme, loin de l’aveuglement intellectuel, loin de la démagogie, loin du populisme, loin de la bêtise de la pensée, loin de l’exclusion, loin de la discrimination, loin de l’hypocrisie. Et surtout, loin du chantage émotionnel et des slogans et campagnes moralisateurs qui ne font que perpétuer le problème.

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I moved back to Beirut in 2011 and on new year’s eve I said “fuck you 2011.” One year later I wrote “fuck you 2012.” And last year I confessed that 2013 had been one of the most horrible years of my life. There will be no such negative words this time. And no, I don’t owe it to the universe or to the year, I am not thankful to the universe or to the year. I owe it to the beautiful dogs and people around me who every single day have taught me to leave resentment behind – toward the universe, toward other people; to stop making excuses and blaming things on the outside world and on other people, and maybe on the past; to stop paralysing myself out of fear of the future; and to simply focus on the task ahead, one day, one hour, one moment at a time. To live and love the present moment, to really be able to do it, beyond any cliché or inspirational speeches, beyond any shitty Coelho quote on a sunset background lost on a dumb Facebook friend’s timeline. To stop looking at our life as being stuck between an unfortunate past and an uncertain future, to stop expecting people to be there to serve our own agenda. But to treat life and people as what they really are, a fleeting moment. And a precious one.

The calamity of our species is that we forgot how to be present, which is ultimately our only hope. A hope that isn’t totally lost. We learn it from animals around us, and the few wise carefully selected wonderful people we chose to surround ourselves with.

It’s futile to wish you luck and good things – I only wish you strength. To be able to take all the punches, love all the punches, and keep moving forward whatever happens.

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