War, Peace And The Quest For The Ordinary Good Life

This picture was taken with my cellular phone camera. It is not of a good quality but after having climbed more than 250 steps of an artificial mound under a dazzling sun we realized that our camera's battery was dead and were not eager to do it again.

The artificial mound was erected in Waterloo, Belgium, to commemorate the victory of European armies on Napoleon. The Lion's gaze and one of his paws are directed at France in a sign of defiance.

Napoleon's defeat was achieved in 24 hours in a fierce battle that is reenacted at the site in a Panorama of images and sounds.

Listening to the sounds of the battle I thought that it must have been very brave of these men to fight and die. Of course, most of them were forced to go to war but then some did it willingly, as in every battle. But as in every battle, all were expected to act heroically.

Heroism was the number one moral value in ancient societies but this moral value is replaced in our modern societies by 'The quest for the ordinary life', as argued by Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor in his book 'The sources of the Self: the making of the modern identity'. Taylor views 'ordinary life' as no less interesting than heroism on the battlefield when it is oriented toward the Good in us and others. However, it is characterised by the rejection of suffering.  It is within this quest for the better in ourselves and others that the ordinary life becomes the good life.

The question that occupied my mind for quite a while after this visit was: how are we to reconcile, in the West, our shifting moral values from heroism on the battlefield to the quest for the ordinary life ? I wasn't sure of the answer until my husband asked me the question differently: how come people are ready to suffer and die and sacrifice their life and renounce the 'ordinary life' and the pursuit of happiness?

I realised that we live today in a divided world where heroism and the quest for the ordinary life do not concern the same people. There are those who live the ordinary good life and those who die. Definitely, the West has chosen 'heroism' for others, whatever that 'others' mean, people from poor background enrolled in the army, terrorist proxies carving new frontiers, etc... And as the free world is more occupied by making wars in the name of Freedom and Democracy than helping development and spreading knowledge and good health in poor countries, I have come to think that the free global market and with it the 'Free world', as defined by the US and its allies, are becoming a killing ideology, no less than others we have witnessed in recent history.

As I am writing this post, I learn by Al-Jazeera that Israel had just invaded Lebanon. After hearing every day on Israel's killings, shelling, invading, menacing the people of Palestine, it seems that the attention has turned to Lebanon. The move is designed to destabilize the region in order to exhaust the resistance to Israel's hegemony or what is left of this resistance. I hear from the leader of Israel terrible statements about the use of 'full force' and that the desire to "turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years" if the soldiers were not returned''.

The western ideal, the quest for the ordinary good life, is making nations and people, in more than half of this inhabited world, suffer and die. I don't think that, as westerners, our ordinary life can still be called a life turned to the Good.


Emmanuel said...

So let me get this: Hizbollah commits an act of war by invading Israeli territory, attacking, killing and capturing Israeli soldiers, and then when Israel reacts it's our fault?

Israel hasn't turned its focus to Lebanon. Hizbollah turned Israel's focus towards Lebanon.

Anonymous said...

I have read your blog for some time now and, knowing that you are an intelligent, feeling, Lebanese person (whom I like),I feel so very sorry that your country has been drawn into this horrible conflict. It is unfortunate that events have taken such an unfortunate turn, and I know how desperate one can feel sitting thousands of miles away while one's country is being mercilessly attacked.

I hope that the Lebanese people remain strong and have faith in G-d whilst Israel sets about bombing them into oblivion. Noone knows what the future holds for Lebanon now, let us hope that the international community is ready with plenty of relief aid in the coming months when it becomes time to pick up the pieces. Knowing what I know about Lebanon's complete inability to defend itself, I truly hope that Israel does not completely destroy your country, and instead stops well short of complete and utter annihilation.

Best of luck!

Wolfie said...

Accounts from the inside here :


- Wolfie

Anonymous said...

It’s a real tragedy of Shakespearian proportions

And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue, [no doubt a prophetic criticism of Druze war criminal W.K. Djumbalad]
Nor any unproportion’d thought his act. [that one is for Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah]
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel; but being in,
Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice; [a precept the senile bishop of Bkerké and his many officious March 14 speakers should meditate]
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgement.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, [100+ Lebanese civilian deaths in exchange for the life of 2 miserable Druzo-Pharisaic soldiers…well that’s a steep price to pay for the latest Hezbollahi-sponsored summer festival]
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy; [that one is for Koreytem’s goateed faux sheikh]
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station [unlike say effeminate East-Beirut bourgeois types, the aspiring Ayatollahs of Lebanonistan have shunned the decadent outfits produced by decrepit Parisian couture houses for the pristine (“Al-Taqiyy l’Naqiyy” as Imam Ali used to say) pashmina headscarves of Persepolis]
Are most select and generous in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. [in reference to the hidden costs for Lebanon’s sovereignty of the loans contracted by Mrs. Gaga and the other March 14 fools with greedy Wahhabi lenders]
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man
Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!

(Hamlet, Act I, Scene III)

Sheikh Anon Seqitûrr Ibn Muscat Al Shiraz Al Wineri

Since March 29th 2006