Monday, April 26, 2010

Are We Humans? On Lebanese Youth and War Memory

This is not about The Killers' song 'Are we Human? Or are we dancer?'. This is about a crucial question I have been asking myself since I organized last week a debate on War memory and Civilians' suffering in Lebanon and I noticed that most of the students - University level - were not interested in the subject - in fact, they were not interested in others' suffering: Are 'We' Humans? Meaning: do we care about others? Are we living as Lebanese an era of human decadence? Is caring for oneself and for individual interests so emphasized in our daily life that the sense of 'common good' and 'common interests' disappeared from our minds and praxis? What about empathy? Love? Fraternity/Sorority? Charity? Help? etc.
Fortunately, there are individual and collective initiatives that prove the existence of 'spaces of dialogue', conviviality, peace building, etc. Unfortunately, this 'culture' is fighting an other 'culture' : the many faces of extremism, including extreme individualism.
Are we experiencing or witnessing or living a posthuman age? Is this posthumanism about sticking with basic instincts - surviving whatever the cost - or surpassing our own capabilities and reaching new levels? Is it an 'evolution' of humanking to be 'self-centered' and to deny pain, disease, stupidity, aging and death? According to posthumanists working in genetics, the human species is in a comparatively early phase of human evolution because humans are still enslaved to their genetic programming that destines them to experience the latter. But how can I feel someone else's pain if I don't experience pain anymore - or specific pain? Unless all humans will be 'cured' from these "défauts de fabrication"... And if all humans are 'cured', what will happen to humans' relations? If humans will conquer the ultimate enemy—death—by attaining “cognitive immortality,” that is, the downloading of the human software (i.e., the mind) into artificially intelligent machines that will continue to exist long after the individual human has perished, what will happen to 'life'? Will it have a meaning? How can a meaning emerge when nothing in nature is considered to be sacred or especially worthy of preservation or conservation?
But then again, must we experience suffering while living/surviving war in order to understand others and relate to them, and to find a meaning to our existence? I did find students wanting to know more about the 1975-1990 war and its effects on the population. These students never experienced a physical war, but they constitute a minority. Should I wish for a new physical war in order to install/spread empathy/sympathy and collective caring? Or should I wish for a posthuman society - ie absence of suffering? What about an equilibrium between individual and collective values-interests? Is it too late to wish and work for this equilibrium?


Sami Kharrat said...

Thank you Dr. Pamela for this thoughtful post.
I truly believe there is an urgent need for transmitting a constructive memory of wars to the new generations. I fear we will soon witness new wars in the Middle Eastern region. But there is also the responsibility of foreign powers.

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh Badine said...

Thank you Sami for your comment. There are multiple actors - internal and external - who have to be 'actors of peace' instead of actors of wars.