“We cry the same tears, we suffer the same pains”

Within the frame of our Column with personal voice, our colleague from Kitabat (Lebanon), Georgia Makhlouf brings into view a series of reflections over the wake of the recent Paris terrorist episodes by merging both a European and an Arabic perspective. This article has been previously published on the French daily L’Humanité on (November,17) and kindly translated for our EACWP website by the author

Georgia Makhlouf

In these days of affliction and distress, it so extremely difficult to trace one’s way through the chaos of emotions, the cacophony of discourses, and to find one’s own words. I mean to really find the words that are our own, those that express our voice and not some collage, put together with bits and pieces of the voices of others, words that allow us to really think and not to simply react, with anger or compassion, to the overwhelming flow of images, testimonies and opinions.  We would not only need a minute of silence. Yes indeed, we will observe that minute, but there are so many other minutes of silence we never observed, so many deaths we never cried, so many grieves we never shared. We would need hours of silence before we are able to reach a temporary peace of mind, before some sort of clear thought can emerge from the fog of our fears, our anxieties and our ignorance. And along with it we might, if not find an answer, at least envision some significance, and perhaps foresee a direction to follow.

In these tragic days, the direction taken by my thoughts brings me back to Beirut where, the very eve of this wretched Friday, the same murderous hands stroke, the same apocalyptic slogans spread terror, where tens of people were killed and hundreds wounded. Still, no monument in New York or Sydney was decorated with the colours of the Lebanese flag, no system of alert was made available on Facebook allowing individuals to signal their safety to friends and family, and no windows were lit with candles. Saying this, I am aware that I am engaging on a slippery road, for this very same argument is also used by the pro-jihadists who claim that the dead of the odious attacks in Paris may weigh as heavy as the numerous dead of the “imperialist” wars in the Muslim world, but not more. Obviously, I do not mean, even for a minute, to find any excuses to the barbarians who shed blood and death everywhere – and are very good at doing so in their own countries to start with, that is in Iraq, Syria or Lebanon – yet we must realize that western democracies have, for too long now, acted in ways that contradict their values; that in Afghanistan or Iraq, they have spread chaos; that they have as their allies the very same regimes that have given birth to the monsters called Salafists, Al Qaïda or Daech; and that their ambiguities and contradictions have considerably weakened them, and weakened their legitimacy at its base.

Let us go back to Lebanon; let us observe the Lebanese people, sadly accustomed for about 40 years to living under the threat of violence and terror. Let us watch the civil society who starts repainting as soon as the walls are burnt, buries the dead while still looking into the future, who lives without government nor public institutions and builds new museums. Let us observe the youth, its openness, creativity, resilience; they take to the streets to denounce a political personnel whose corruption is seen as its main characteristic, and in the evening fill the bars and cafés where the new musical trends are invented. This youth closely resembles the Parisian youth, targeted by the killers on November 13. And that should be interpreted as a sign. As signalling that France will not win the battle against extremism and hatred alone. That it is necessary that it join efforts with civil societies from the other shore of the Mediterranean, who are fighting the same evils, in Tunisia, Syria or Lebanon. And this is also a way by which its own youth originating from these countries, will be associated to the battle, because no victory is possible without them. Let us remember that we cry the same tears, and suffer the same pains.

Georgia Makhlouf

She has obtained a doctorate degree in Communication from EHESS/Paris and has worked for a number of years as a consultant in marketing research and communication strategies. She has also taught in various universities and conducted projects in the field of publishing.

Her life is now divided between two countries and three professions: she lives between France and Lebanon, and is a literary journalist, a university professor and a teacher in the field of creative writing. She is a member of the editorial board and Paris correspondent of L’Orient Littéraire. She is a founding member and president of Kitabat, Association Libanaise pour le Développement des Ateliers d’Ecriture.

Latest publications:  Les Absents (Rivages, 2014); Le goût de l’Orient (Mercure de France, 2014).