Politics & Society

HFT Newsletter #8

Welcome to the eight 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. Join over 4,000 subscribers by clicking here to subscribe.

If you’re getting this by email, please open this page on your browser as some of my design choices get lost in the e-mail format.

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Every month, you get the following:

  • Initial reflections, where I’ll share whatever’s been on my mind.
  • The James Baldwin Corner, because why not?
  • What I’ve written, unless I haven’t written anything, in which case the section mysteriously disappears
  • The book of the month, the album of the month, recommended podcasts and recommended readings: think of these as me satisfying my need to share stuff without the toxicity of Twitter
  • Updates from The Fire These Times podcast, because I need to advertise my stuff. Gotta pay rent on my yacht.

Initial Reflections

Oh hey, this is the last month of my 20s. Let the record state that I am not freaking out. Everything’s fine. I’m just blowing through this paper bag while singing Welcome To The Black Parade because it makes me look cool.

I used to think that I’d have most things figured out by now. I thought I’d be fluent in Japanese because why not. Now, understanding 20% of Naruto and being able to insult someone by calling them stupid doesn’t quite count as fluent, but I’ll take it for now (It’s ‘Anata wa baka dess’, go impress your Japanese friends). I certainly didn’t expect to end up in Switzerland, or even Europe for that matter.

There’s no way to list all of the things I thought would happen by now, but thankfully I’m a bit of a weirdo and I’m able to chat with my multiple selves and there’s this one guy – grandpa joey – who often comes back from the future with nuggets of wisdom. He told me: “life is about making peace with all the lives that you won’t get to live. Otherwise, you may never actually live the one life you do have. Also, smash the patriarchy, organize against capitalism, and mitigate the worst case scenarios of global warming. Smash that subscribe button.” He’s so wise.

Things are okay. That’s what I’m trying to get at. I forget this a lot, but my life’s quite nice these days. The flat we have is adorable. I get to do my research in peace and quiet at a public library that is close enough to that flat. I get to organize my own time (which has its downside, but that’s for another time) and we’re not in total financial ruin in the middle of a pandemic. So yay for that.

No but seriously, if there’s anything my biweekly therapy sessions have given me is an ability to recognize how things can be both good and bad at the same time. Here’s the gist of things as they stand now:

exile: bad (this will shock you)

nice flat and living with a loved one, a fluffy dog, books and vinyls: good

missing friends and not knowing when’s the next time we’ll meet: bad

learning to garden, cooking new stuff: good

anxiety over the overwhelming presence of global warming: bad

exploring real mitigation and even some recovery options, creating solarpunk imaginaries, advocating for degrowth and rewilding: good

It took me some time to realize that I’ve been preparing for exile for several years. This is why I ‘announced’ it so casually following Lokman Slim’s assassination 3 months ago, and then proceeded to prepare lunch or something.

Diary entry, January 9th 2017: “I think I’m going into exile at some point.” What can I say? Pure poetry wallah.

Thing is, the writing’s been on the wall for some time. I still can’t share everything as there are details no one else but my dog Flip knows about, and I don’t think he quite grasps the severity of things.

Speaking of Flip. He’s now my reminder of home. We brought him from Lebanon following the August explosion last year. (Remember the explosion? the Lebanese government doesn’t want you to). Our family home already has a lot of dogs – there were always between 7 and 9 at a time, and now they’re 4 – because our family works with BETA (Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and there were always dogs to adopt (link for adoptions, even if you live outside of Lebanon). A second dog will be on her way here at some point in the future too. I’m calling her Luffy.

My memories are inherently intertwined with these dogs. I know that Yamcha died when I was 29, and when I remember this last year of my 20s, Yamcha is who I’ll remember. The fact that she died a couple of months before I decided to go into exile, and that I never got to be there when she died, as I thought I might, is why I’ll remember her when I remember Year 29. It’s almost like the global pandemic isn’t a sufficient site of memory (google Pierre Nora), but that’s just how things are.

When we remember this past year of pandemic, our collective memories (going indoors, socially distancing, wearing the mask, being anxious all the time) will inevitably join themselves with personal events, so much so that the two will often be blurred. We will likely see this year as a pivotal one. Some may even romanticize it. And if you think you’d never do that, let me remind you that many ‘war generations’ often romanticize the days they had to stay indoors because that at least meant no surprises. If you have to stay indoors tomorrow, you won’t worry about it as much today, and in those in-between moments, entire lives could be lived.

Ps: if you want to listen to me rant about Lebanon, I had a conversation with Popular Front recently which you can listen below (or wherever you listen to podcasts).

To make it easier on everyone’s browsers, the newsletter is now multi-pages.

Next page: The James Baldwin Corner

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