Politics & Society

HFT Newsletter #6

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the sixth newsletter of Hummus For Thought, a monthly collection of thoughts and recommendations, curated by Joey Ayoub (hello) from Geneva, Switzerland. It comes out on every first Sunday morning of the month.

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This is the last month using this format. As of April 2021 I will be using a newer and nicer style!


Initial Reflections

In last month’s newsletter I announced that I’m not going back to Lebanon. Following the assassination of Lokman Slim by Hezbollah and the lack of accountability that we all knew would follow, I decided that this is the best course of action. I’m not exactly happy about it, but I’m comforted by what I have right now – loving support group, loving partner and a loving dog. For now, that’ll do.

I won’t hide for you though that I’m anxious. I’m anxious about where Lebanon is heading, the depth of the abyss created by fear and misery, and what my own role is in all of this. It’s easy to think that you can always do more to change things, especially as it is sometimes true, but other times you have to contend with the fact that you are too exhausted. This is the dilemma, and it is one that I know many people are going through. Just how much do you invest when you’re not just met with indifference, but active hostility? There is no easy answer here, but it remains a question on my mind.

To be clear, I am not ‘giving up’. That doesn’t mean much to me either. It is also not a matter of having or not having hope, being optimistic or not. I tend to be pessimistic about the short-term future but this doesn’t mean I don’t work for the long-term. Quite the contrary: it is what allows me to focus on what could be. But right now, I am more focused on the fact that I may never see my grandmother anymore, that I may never see our eldest dog Queen (the previously-eldest dog, Yamcha, passed away last November and I shared photos in the newsletter), and so on. Who knows what my neighborhood will look like when/if I do go back one day. I’m trying my best not to be too influenced by what happened to Iraqi, Palestinian and Syrian friends in the hope that Lebanon does not follow such a devastating path, but the signs are there.

Many friends are also trying to migrate to north America so I also don’t know when I’ll be seeing them next. It would be easier – for them and for me – if they migrated to Europe but hey, Fortress Europe can’t handle too many black and brown people or else it’ll have 12 more identity crises by the end of the decade so we’re left with figuring out how to maintain social bonds across a billion time zones. You can add that to the long list of things those of us ‘in between’ worlds tend not to have much say in.

It ain’t all grim folks, but there is no point pretending there isn’t a lot of darkness out there today. I say this with not just our region on my mind but also Myanmar and Hong Kong, Thailand and Ethiopia – Hell, even Texas.

This is part of why I am going to try and invest more of my time in solarpunk stuff. For those who don’t know wtf that is, here’s a good primer. I’ll be back with more of that in future newsletters.


The James Baldwin Corner

Well, this is kind of cheating but my monthly James Baldwin Corner recommendation is actually a conversation between myself and queer writer Saleem Haddad on the podcast. I mean, the podcast is named after a Baldwin book so that counts right? We spoke about Baldwin quite a bit.


What I’ve Written

My essay ‘Hezbollah’s Resistance™ against resistance’ is now available on my Medium blog. I re-post my articles there if you want to follow those and/or my personal blog too. I would still highly recommend buying the issue if you can! It’s genuinely good, and not just because I’m in it (this was my monthly quota of self-praise).

Following Lokman Slim’s assassination which led me to decide not to go back to Lebanon anymore – ie I am now in exile, which is great, everything’s fine in Lebanon, nothing to see here – I wrote a piece on L’Orient Today arguing against the de-politicization of Lokman’s murder, which has already happened. Aussi disponible en français sur L’Orient-Le Jour.

I’ve also made public two essays I wrote a while ago:


Spotlight of the Month

“Where to, Marie?” is an excellent website on the history of feminisms in Lebanon in Arabic and English. From what I can see, they’re intersectional and anti-authoritarian, and include the struggles elsewhere in the region too.

Here’s an interview with The Public Source, another site you should be checking out.

I loved the comic especially. It’s available for free as PDFs. Here’s a brief extract:

 

They also have a very useful bibliography here.


Documentary of the Month

Since I’ve Been Down a film by Gilda Sheppard

In America’s backyard, a community held captive by policies targeting gangs and drugs, sacrifices their youth for a false sense of justice, and safety. Nearly forty years later, a true path to justice and healing is led from inside their prison walls.

“The culture of punishment and its consequence is our shared reality in America today. Especially in these times of legislated violence and fear of difference, who better to show us the triumph of the human spirit than those caught behind bars for life?”

Gilda Sheppard

I haven’t managed to watch it myself yet, but it was recommended in a seminar by Angela Davis (more below) which I think you’ll agree is a good endorsement.

To newsletter readers, this may be a good introduction on prison abolitionism which I haven’t really addressed here so far.


Book of the Month

The book of the month is Cultural Dementia: How the West has Lost its History and Risks Losing Everything Else by David Andress. It will be the topic of my conversation with him on The Fire These Times which will come out later this month.

Dr Andress is a professor of modern history at the University of Portsmouth who specializes in French History. In fact, he is the President of the Society for the Study of French History.

This book however goes beyond France to include the US and the UK as well. Andress looks at how these three former great powers “have abandoned themselves to senile daydreams of recovered youth” which, he argues, is due to “an abandonment of political attention to history, understood as a clear empirical grounding in how we reached our present condition.”


Recommended Webinars

There is a very moving and thought-provoking conversation between adrienne maree brown and Angela Davis that is available to watch on the UCLA website. I highly recommend it.

 


The Fire These Times episodes of February 2021 + upcoming ones

+ the one with Saleem Haddad that I linked above.

Upcoming ones

Recommended Podcasts

Due to a problem with WordPress, I’ve archived this section of the newsletter. If you had gotten this by email, you can still view the original there. I’m making some changes so this shouldn’t be an issue with future newsletters.

Recommended Readings

Repeated Quick Pro-tip: I use Pocket to save and archive articles – no, I’m not being sponsored by them (if you work at Pocket and want to sponsor me I am, ahem, available) – and I had the amusing honor of reaching their top 1% of readers in 2018.
Repeated Disclaimer: me sharing an article does not mean I agree with everything that is written. It just means I find it interesting.


Voila!

So this the sixth newsletter folks. The next one will be on the first Sunday of April 2021. If you want to get in touch please send me an email to j [dot] ayoub26 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Last point and this is the bit that no one really likes doing, but:

If you find any of my work useful, whether it be Hummus For Thought, The Fire These Times, my articles or even my archiving and commentary work on Twitter, please consider making a one-off or a recurring donation on Patreon, PayPal or BuyMeACoffee.

If you can’t afford it, you can still help by leaving a review of The Fire These Times wherever you listen to podcasts and/or share with your friends and family.

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