Unannounced, I took a break. Silently, I slipped away from the scene. I did it because I felt, and still feel, overwhelmed amidst chaos.
As for those who know me, they know I am into politics, more precisely into geopolitics. How could I not? I was born in the boiling region of the world.
Watching world news, I can’t help asking myself why I was born in the most tormented place. Everywhere I see people striking for freedom and dignity. Simultaneously, I see bloody oppressive responses from authorities. Am I in an impossible region?
I showed up today on here simply because I missed writing “out loud” my screaming thoughts. One of them is the following: the world is ungovernable anymore!
Internet and social media have become a collective virtual consciousness; a concept I picked to Karl Marx. Whereas people are aware of imminent dangers, politics are still in 19th century systems.
The revolution in Lebanon is still on for the 24th day, with protests in front of institutional buildings accused of being corrupted places. Economically, the situation is very bad: not a lot of cash, due again to corruption. If I want to talk about stress, I wouldn’t know where to start from. Therefore, relying on my very long experience in protests and revolutions (some 20 years long), I want to answer this question that’s been around since the beginning of this revolution: How to keep yourself sane in times of political and financial turmoil?
Here are to me the best ways to keep you balanced while fighting:
Focus: in chaotic times where life is threatened, we tend to lose concentration by thinking too much and being anxious. So, recenter your priorities: money, jobs, necessities, protesting etc. and why not organizing yourself around them.
Take care of your finances: maybe the most important issue in terms of surviving where economy is crashing by the day. Spend on necessities only; it is a time of restriction.
Healthy eating and resting: it is the 3rd on my list because people tend to forget about this one but it is as crucial as the first 2. Less sugar, less caffeine, no processed food, less meat, otherwise you would be more irritated. Some intermittent fasting would do good for the body and the mind.
Switching off news sometimes during the day and focus on yourself, maybe for a good read. It will help you refuel physically and mentally.
Staying fit as much as possible for endurance of both the body and the mind. Yoga and meditation are great at keeping you healthy and in peace.
When life is threatened, survival instinct is on alert, but it can be exhausted quickly. Here are the tips I found useful for difficult times. What’s your emergency kit to cope up under stress?
(I took the picture of this street graffiti couple of years ago in the streets of Athens)
If peace is defined by quietness, tranquility, harmony, then reconciliation (restoring a friendly relation) is to be seen as a new conciliation, an action of mediating between disputing people or groups, which is the current state of the world. Whereas the Social Contract was conceived like the reference of conciliating differences and reconciliation, Hegel’s State, on the other hand, is an ethical totality, a product of conjunction of the subjective will and the rational will. Ideally the State is supposed to eliminate all conflicts between the subjective desires and the rational law of the government. Mainly, these two theories, among others, are the frame of any peace and reconciliation; unfortunately it seems that they have missed out on the reasons of today’s world problems that lie beneath the surface.
Therefore it is interesting to seek an explanation in the philosophy of immanence, more precisely in Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy that demonstrates the problem of war by displaying a plethora of dualisms: nomos/polis, smooth/striated, deterritorialisation/reterritorialisation, minor/major etc. Deleuze’s ontological politics follows a cartography of desires which points out the various issues of identity on a molecular level (or individual) and on a molar level (religious, ethnical, social etc.). In Deleuze’s perspective, to understand the world today in all its identity crisis, violence and emergence of minorities, taking note of the cartography of desires and analyzing capitalism will show us that the current conflicts are a logical response to the way desires shape lives and societies as a reaction to transcendence in religion, philosophy and politics. It shows us ultimately how war is inherent to the State’s nature.
This being said, States want to achieve a worldwide peace by declaring a global war (which is happening today in a way or another). Needless to say that peace and reconciliation as perceived on people’s minds would never happen through the State which times of calmness and security are more likely to be a cold war on a deleuzian perspective. Peace and reconciliation are to be searched in desire and lines of flight.
Same question goes for shirts, jeans, sweaters, make up products, cars, houses, food, drinks, partying and the list is very long. In other words, when too much is too much?
Whoever had to move out knows exactly what I am talking about. The sudden awareness of why and how and when did we buy all this, hits us in the face. The endless dialectic of desire versus need is still here.
I am convinced we have been misled by the idea “the more, the better”. And we have been misled by the definition of happiness as comfort, therefore belongings, therefore eating more than we need, therefore having more than we can chew.
Hundreds of sites and videos talk about decluttering. However most of them fail to mention the importance of shifting the mind where the real decluttering begins. So it’s not about organizing the closet in a beautiful and coherent way. It is more about changing the approach to life. Less is more and it is not minimalistic but reasonable.
How can the body heal itself if we keep on fueling it every 2-3 hours? Isn’t snacking one of the most stupid and harmful ideas? Spending more, eating more, being sick, spending again more on treatment.
Same goes for shoes. How many pairs of shoes does a person need? Not too many. But how many pairs of shoes does a person want? We can never have too many. Both are political statements.
An identity is a complex concept made of different layers: nationality, racial, ethnic, religious (of course!), cultural, subjective…
While most of the aforementioned have always been issues unfortunately, the subjective identity remains the core understanding of identity.
All national and supranational identities tend to reduce a person, including her being, feelings and experiences, to one aspect: race, religion, culture etc. How fair is that? And how or why do people accept it? Why do we agree on being reduced to a politicized inherited character? A human being is beyond a definition of words.
The subjective identity is given by consciousness and reflexivity. It is synonymous to the internal world of thoughts, memories, fears, anxieties, desires and so on. As these elements keep on changing throughout the years, an identity is neither set, nor rigid. It’s not given once and for all. It is constantly evolving. Therefore, reducing this complexity into one tangible aspect for political or social reasons is a paradox to its essence.
That being said, tell me why are we still fighting each others?
In the classical conception of desire as a lack to fill in order to get pleasure, ethics has the role to evaluate the desire, to controle it, to let it be or not, depending on the ethical values, on morality and of course, on desire itself, if it fits the required ethical and moral criteria or not. This classical dualism can be found in Plato’s definition of Éros (half human, half god, the desire seen as in double nature: lack and abundance ) and the importance of guiding the latter in a way to become the urge of Contemplating the Ideals, instead of just being a pure concupiscence, constantly searching for physical pleasures. Therefore, ethics can only be understood and conceived in philosophy, as the Contemplation of the Ideal Good.
In a different yet similar form, the psychoanalysis theory argues that the personality and its behaviour is the result of the interaction of three structures: the Id, the Superego and the Ego. In fact, Freud took over this dualistic conception of desire/ethics mentioned above and presented it as an unconscious dilemma between the Superego ( our socialised and civilised internal control, understood as morals ans ethics) and the id (the biological aggressive and pleasure seeking). Here again, ethics fights against desires and repress them in case of an eventual social disagreement on them.
In between all this, desires and needs are not to be thought of as solely natural. They are also linked to culture:
Society creates desires that become needs after a while. Take the example of the phone: before Graham Bell, the phone or any communication tool was a mere fantasy. Now it is almost a vital need. A smart phone is a vital need too, along with the tremendous effort of advertising it as the way to modernity, independance and success. Media’s role is to sell us a prefabricated dream, a prefabricated opinion with the twisted idea of us actually feeling modern and independent just by possessing the phone or any tool of an advertising propaganda. What was fundamentally a natural need (I.e communication that shaped up consciousness as Nietzsche pointed out) is now a cultural need, after being just a foolish desire of the ones who could afford it at its start. Mass communication is possible, an idea that scared Habermas!
The contemporary concept of ethics:
On a parallel ground, society, inventor of needs and desires, invents all along its ethics. Considering again the example of he phone, being ethical is to reply to a phone call or to a message, per se the phone is a prolongation of the hand. So being fast, being effective, being workoholic, being sociaholic, being connected, being exposed, marketing oneself etc… are all conform to nowadays ethics, which deleted the frontier between the public and the private; a phenomenon warned on by the Ancient Greeks. Therefore, an anarchist, a romantic, a real-book reader, an introvert, a money hater etc. are perceived as schizophrenics, anachronistic, dangerous.
Can we say that the 21st century brought Plato’s intelligible world down to the raw sensible world? Can we say to Freud that finally the Id and the Superego are in peace and our peronality’s development is an old theory? Can we say that freedom is to have it all and easily? Can we say that our imagination is at rest because we don’t fantasise anymore and we don’t need it? The intelligence of our contemporary world is in its capacity to overcome the desire/ethics dualism in general and replacing it by a monism of desire=ethics. This is totalitarism at its best!
One of the most famous wisdoms, Horatio’s famous quote means to live the moment without caring about tomorrow. This wisdom is found in many cultures, many philosophers and poets proclamed it in many different versions. Maybe the most practical of them is yoga…
The aim of yoga is not to become more flexible, nor to be able to do unconceivable postures, but to live a better life. The latter starts here and now, on the mat, since spirit and matter are the same. In more modern semiotics, all is psychosomatic. The flexibility of the body means the flexibility of the mind…
Without getting on details about the benefits of yoga which can be found easily on the net, the carpe diem attitude is quite disturbing, in a world full of conflicts. It can be seen as indifference, as irresponsibility, as burying the head in the sand, not wanting to take actions in the world… All things media tries hard to push us to do the opposite! But on the other hand, books and websites harass us about the importance of seeking happiness within us by the carpe diem. So it is normal to become confused to say the least.
A carpe diem attitude is a schizophrenic one, not by the means of the mental disorder. Or perhaps it is, because we can’t cope up anymore with what is happening around us, for it is way excessive: excessive violence, excessive corruption, excessive wars, excessive stress, excessive madness… Therefore, live the present, for tomorrow is never certain to come, for solutions and justice are less likely to be fast!