Words of Ghassan Salhab, lebanese filmmaker and writer (from lundi matin #365 09/01/2023) …

What remains to be said or done once everything has been said, analysed, dissected of the humiliation that power and its mechanisms represent for everyone? From Beirut, Ghassan Salhab proposes to aim ever further, to clear a path towards the “improbable and last utopia”.

I want to compare a cloud
to a deer.
I can’t.
Over time the good lies
grow few.

Yannis Ritsos

What can still be said that hasn’t been said, repeated, written, rewritten? Where to draw from again? Every minute detail of our daily life, like every institutional or pseudo-institutional structure, or even traditional, customary one, whatever the scale, has been dissected, analysed and contextualized more than once. The different regimes of power that surround and enfold us, calibrate us, hold us, chain us, “here”, in our aberrant political-clannish-financial mess (we really do not know how to name it anymore), like everywhere else in this world, seem more than ever unshakable. Colossi with feet of clay, certainly; colossi nevertheless, always ready to crush, without the slightest hesitation. Are we to repeat this again and to look for a new angle, a new approach that can permanently shake (them) up? But when distress continues to gain ground, both individually and collectively, when it never stops screaming its name, when it makes of itself evermore an abyss, what is left if not the blows, whether they are heavy-handed, spectacular, or on the contrary, imperceptible, almost invisible, that is to say far from the media and social networks, far from any passing resonance? What remains if not acts without a future? What remains when the tomorrows are precisely no longer promises of anything, when the various powers play us realistically, pragmatically, fatalistically as far as they go, obviously exonerating themselves of all responsibility, continuing without shame to force the payment of all kinds of costs, even on those who are already paying the price? What remains when we see that this crisis is their godsend, that nothing stops the frantic trajectory of gains and profits (always finding new territories to draw from, pump, even hypothetically) , that the sums are more and more vertiginous, absurd?

Caught in this infernal trap, day and night, having to hold on against all odds, despite the shortage of more than one basic necessity, the inability to meet one’s own needs, to supply oneself normally with energy, more than galloping inflation; caught in the relentless trap of our consumerist way of life, even when it comes down to less than nothing. We know, the industries and their consorts that have been making our world for almost three centuries are not now content to create objects, goods, from the simplest garment to the most sophisticated of machines. They engender by these means our behaviours, our addictions, at almost all levels, regardless of our “social status”. Our bodies, our minds, our beings, are deeply affected. Even, yes, even when we have almost nothing left, when the so-called parallel economies prosper, these seemingly harsher versions (misery is not a matter of politeness), more violent, than the official economy, which is very happy with this perfect distribution of roles and tasks: that everyone stay in their place and that nothing spills over.  As long as we do not try to break frankly with this way of life, to modify it at least radically, profoundly, we cannot envisage permanently bringing an end to the repetition of these cycles, from one crisis to another. Long before the definitive triumph of the commodification of the world, more than one spirited resistance, more than one revolt, more than one labour, tried in vain to warn us of this deadly spiral. Our deserts are vast cemeteries.

It is quite simply impossible for us today to even vaguely lend an ear to those who think or still want us to believe that it is a question of “redressing” the balance, of cleaning up the political field, of applying already existent “more just”(as if they were “in themselves” just, as if it were still a question of “writing” them into existence, even if they were secular laws), that it is essentially a problem of corruption, of weeds or rebalancing of accounts, or the like. “The lesser evil” can no longer be; we have largely exceeded this stage. The crises of capitalism, including in our very lame local model, are totally inherent in this system. It feeds them and feeds on them; the same body, ingesting, chewing, crushing, rejecting. Whatever its variants, its colours, capitalism can only generate what it never ceases to generate, using all sorts of regulated and unregulated technical, technological, tools and mechanisms, rendering the picture more complex as desired. Whether it is more or less regulated, “under control” (what is said before every grave tempest), or freewheeling, our way of life never ceases to catch us in its nets. And it is just as impossible to continue to oppose to “it” the good old recipes for overthrow, as they have been applied many times, with the disastrous results that we know, however exciting and intoxicating the first days of a communion may be, however precious the dance is. It is just as impossible to mistake the exercise of authority, however revolutionary, momentary and reduced it may be. Our days and our mistakes are numbered now.

Let us be clear, this is not to advocate a return to who knows what damned golden age before the industrial revolution, to romanticise some era in the overburdened history of our species. But what then, what paths, what practices, whether new or old, to propose about how to live, how to build, how to be differently in this world, which never lets up in its irresistible headlong rush forward? Advocate a clear bifurcation, outside of any direct governance, outside the dominant organisations of our contemporary societies, the inescapable nation-state, economies defined by private property and all the consequences that we can no longer continue to ignore? To repeat again and again the ardent call for a real association between existing or future communities, everywhere, in all areas, to build and rebuild bridges and footbridges between them? Repeating to satiety that it is definitely not a question of choosing between the aspirations of the individual and those of the community, that one cannot be without the other, that one without the other is precisely our disastrous world, that every being is solitude and community, that every community is both elaboration and destruction? To repeat again and again that the alternative, the imaginary, are extremely vulnerable to the mockery and interests of rulers and cynics? To repeat that we must relentlessly counter the official narratives of our species, whatever they may be, to remember that before the invention of agriculture which supposedly led us to the building of modern nation-states, human beings have experimented with many different social and political possibilities for centuries, a little everywhere over the five continents? And if it is indeed too late, with the whole world racing straight ahead into the wall that it has for so long and skilfully erected, perhaps thinking that for a long while we could try to live differently along this last line, letting go of all vain strangleholds, beyond good and evil, yes, even beyond the work of the same name, without a guide; to propose to oneself this improbable last utopia.

An interview/testimonial with Ghassan Salhab …

Reality in the Real: Ghassan Salhab

The Foundation for Art and Psychoanalysis presents ‘Reality in the Real: Testimonials collected by Gilbert Hage’.

‘Reality in the Real’ proposes a living archive of individual human experience in the face of a large-scale tragic event. In the series of videos presented—the first moving image work executed by celebrated Lebanese photographer Gilbert Hage—Lebanese artists relate their private encounters with the explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020. In the event’s aftermath, the portrayed subjects reflect on the broader history of their country and on how this history has impacted their personal lives.


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