Je est un autre/I is another

From Beirut and the open and permanent crisis that Lebanon is undergoing, Ghassan Salhab evokes in this text the tide of homophobia and transphobia which has come to cover over, to continue and to prolong the ongoing disaster.

Our very word ‘family’ shares a root with the Latin famulus, meaning ‘house slave’, via familia, which originally referred to everyone under the domestic authority of a single paterfamilias or male head of household. Domus, the Latin word for ‘household’, in turn gives us not only ‘domestic’ and ‘domesticated’ but dominium, which was the technical term for the emperor’s sovereignty as well as a citizen’s power over private property. Through that we arrive at (literally, ‘familiar’) notions of what it means to be ‘dominant’, to possess ‘dominion’ and to ‘dominate’.

David Graeber and David Wengrow, The Dawn of Everything

A single light does not necessarily come from God.
A wave of the hand. A simple allusion. Even if it were deceitful.
So I believe it: all of this is fatigue.

Just fatigue. Man gets tired, man has gotten tired. Only that. Like conjugating the verb, or like what wears out the bodies of porters, the miners and the eternal walkers, the condemned, the smugglers’ mules, the leaders, the desperate and all the disciples on the paths of trials.

Bassam Hajjar, Just Tired

Natural law, the laws of nature, the law of God, morale, morality, moralism, traditional values; family therefore, honour, decency, purity, roots; I necessarily pass over others; a whole arsenal which obviously does not suffer from any uncertainty, from any questioning, that our various local authorities, regardless of community and clan affiliations, emerge with as if nothing had happened in this endless summer, threatening, in every which way, every anomaly, every deviation, from supposed sexual, carnal, sensual normality. Does this whole good old arsenal show us anything other than a new poor attempt by powers of all kinds to divert accumulated anger and resentment, to camouflage the abysmal bankruptcy into which they continue to plunge this country? This so-called crisis of our deep values, of our morals, perverted by this West which also brandishes, in large part at least, these same values, this same fear of de-civilisation, to use this new, vague word, this West delighted with getting rid of (finally and definitively?) the Enlightenment and its heritage – our region (Mediterranean, Mesopotamian) has, after all, gotten rid of more than one golden age, throwing to the wayside more than one era of scientific and cultural flourishing – this identity crisis, might it therefore only be an attempt at diversion, a fear specific to all power of losing its footing, of losing control of the troops, of the flock?

It is obvious that currently more than one authority is overplaying its offended dignity. It is enough to hear the tone of the voices, the choice of words, the words emphasised, to pay attention to the looks, the facial expressions, the costumes, the turbans, the cassocks, to gauge the sudden excess of zeal on both sides, as if for a competition for who can cast the most opprobrium on everything that does not resemble them (us, they assert); sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, neighbours, included. It is just as obvious that hatred in all its variants is a timeless, infallible weapon for those who dominate, whether they are at the head of this or that institution, this or that organisation, this or that order, or even at the head of a family, of a group of any scale and, as we know, it takes so little to fuel this hatred, exploit it, exaggerate it, especially since it is accompanied by all kinds of hypocrisies and denials — our social and private lives are full of them. As far back as we can go in our organised, rule governed and regulated lives, the terrible consequences of these duplicities are innumerable, but all this is drowned out in the flood of information and counter-information which never ceases to follow, endlessly. Once released, this overplayed construction of hatred takes on disproportionate dimensions; it is a monster without a head. We are not far from a disaster.

So this sudden and urgent need to pillory everything that deviates sexually would only be a diversion, yet another human wrongdoing in these times of open, permanent crises. Or, more simply, this additional mediocrity, precisely in these times of open crises, might it not be the expression of a deep, but disguised, unease; unease at the impossibility of naming who we are? No one can say its name, because “human identity” defies any name. It cannot be fixed once and for all; it is like the ebbs and flows of our plural History, writing and rewriting itself according to conflicts, wars, victories, defeats, reversals of situations, without forgetting natural disasters, epidemics and other scourges. The advent of monotheism, or monotheisms (which bear no synonym), to be more precise, has certainly imposed a whole, new or recycled, panoply of rigidities, prohibitions and incriminations, but they have always been fought against, and continue to be so, including from within. Since the eighteenth century, nationalism has added its disastrous contribution to the question of so-called identity. This last will henceforth be national, communitarian, religious, civilisational; a list of so many possible separations, constrictions and enclosures.

Yes, how can we say that unlike the universe, which never stops expanding, overcoming any claim to know, literally creating new spaces (clearly our language does not have the tools to grasp what is), the progress of our species never stops compressing, contracting. How can we accept this nonsense? How can we accept that humankind is really not at the centre of the universe, how can we accept that, despite all of our considerable capacities, that we suffer from a vast ignorance of this whole? What could have been a formidable tool of freedom, this everything/this whole that escapes us, never stops torturing us and torturing the other, forcing us and forcing our species to comply with the norms and taboos decreed, tracing for us at all costs a destiny, a meaning, an identity above animals and others. Yes, at whatever the cost.

This deep turmoil, which is constantly concealed, inevitably affects our physical, bodily, carnal, sensual identity, our supposed belonging. These bodies which have also experienced an equally interminable journey to become what they are today, and who do not want to see that it does not stop there, that this physical movement continues, however small it may be. It is impossible for us today to step back and realise this; the journey has after all already taken hundreds and hundreds of centuries, and all kinds of detours. This cannot be evaluated by means of one of our famous modern curves on a graph. Human evolution is not goal-directed. Yet, can this be accepted?

Clearly, it is not; it is even fought against, fiercely. This is because during so-called human evolution, domination powerfully expressed itself, took shape, gradually becoming organised, hierarchical. And no longer content with physical force alone, it became more complex as desired, employing all manner of techniques, intrigues and deceit. Despite commonly non-vertical life experiences – and they were less rare than we were led to believe – over the long transition from nomadism to sedentism, and even afterwards, domination became more and more implacable, it became the definitive horizon. Gradually, the human race and all other living species were classified, reduced, enslaved, and some eradicated. And by anchoring human relationships in this dominant/dominated spiral, by dint of being or being obliged to belong to this or that clan, to this or that belief, to this or that form of life, the field of possibility, to put it bluntly, has become more and more limited. Each affirmation of what we are supposed to be is written in the blood of other affirmations — each affirmation, whatever it may be, swallows up even more of the unknowing of the self. The interior field, this terra incognita, finds itself more desolate than ever.

lundimatin #395, 18/09/2023

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