COVID-19: The pandemic affected everyone, and for us in Lebanon it was really just icing on an already tough situation. Here I offer some thoughts on what the pandemic revealed while connecting it to our local situation.
The 2020 Beirut Explosions: After the explosions I was devastated like everyone else. I was largely unharmed, but as is the case with everyone here, this was purely an accident. And unfortunately not all those I know where unharmed. Some lost their lives, some were badly injured, and some suffered material losses. Most of us who were in Beirut when the explosions happened display symptoms of trauma. I wrote this post in the explosions’ immediate aftermath, recorded a video of the protest right after, and designed an animation and an interactive VR documentary experience using Media Molecule’s Dreams. The above uprising playlist contains these videos, and you can play the VR experience in Dreams yourself using the link here. Below is the short animation I prepared to help raise fundraising and awareness, it was made entirely in VR.
The 2019 Lebanese Uprising: The Lebanese uprising, commonly referred to as the ‘thawra’ or revolution, was long overdue. You can read about some of the reasons behind it on my facebook post here, or listen to a podcast interview with me here (or using your favorite podcast app). I also gave the below talk, titled ‘Life After the Civil War: Psychological & Existential Factors’ to the protesters in downtown by way of contributing to awareness-raising during the uprising.
I have also recorded many stereoscopic 180 and 360 videos documenting the protests. You can find the playlist on my personal youtube channel here. Unfortunately many of the videos remain private for the time being for fear of endangering those who appear in them. Hopefully the situation will resolve soon in the population’s favor and allow me to publicize the remaining videos.
Below you can see one video from the playlist, showing some of the wall art that appeared during the uprising (please note that viewing the video in VR can induce motion sickness in less experienced users).
Religion in Lebanon: Lebanon is largely divided along religious sectarian lines. In principle it is a democracy but one where political positions are constrained by religious denomination. Unfortunately the prevalence of religious discourses is far from reflecting any genuine religiosity. Religion largely operates as a front for a corrupt political elite. I think this has had a harmful impact on the culture as a whole and most of all the youths. The below panel is part of various efforts I have put into helping students to better distinguish religion from the corrupt discourses that masquerade as religion. The four speaker panel features myself, another philosopher, a sheikh, and a priest. It was hosted by the philosophy and the debate student clubs, and won the Lebanese American University’s award for the best club event of 2019. Below is a video of the event. It is largely in Arabic but I offer a brief introduction in English, starting at minute 11.
Philosophy for Lebanese and Contemporary Society: Philosophy is not particularly well-understood in culture as a whole. Lebanon is no exception and the state here is likely worse. The troubled history of the country, an outdated school educational system that conflates philosophy with the history of ideas, and confusions in the translation of the word ‘philosophy’ to Arabic in early Islam have all contributed to misunderstanding philosophy. In Lebanon I’ve given a lot of talks in the issue, and have held an informal discussion group called ‘Philosophy Cafe’ for the benefit of students and recent graduates. Below is one of the talks I’ve given, part of a TEDx event titled ‘Winds of Change’. In it I give one reason for why philosophy is valuable to contemporary society and our future.
Philosophy Beyond Beirut: In a recent visit to Scotland (my favorite place on earth so far!) I was invited to give two casual philosophy talks as part of an event called Stand-Up Philosophy taking place at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I was happy to offer Scotland something back. Below is one of these talks where I somehow manage to be serious despite being sandwiched between two comedians!