Right after the explosion at Beirut’s port, we saw images of people running in panic, as if it were the Day of Judgement. Their horrified faces hid behind masks.
Those people running perhaps soon realised, and so did we, that wearing masks in a dying city is merely surrealistic.
Maybe it is not so. Whoever survived an explosion minutes ago needs their dusty mask to survive, too. They need a dusty mask, like the dusty humans, objects and city, to endure another death. A death they know is better than the one that suddenly came out of the blue.
Maybe it is neither this nor that. The people running in the streets of wounded Beirut did not feel the masks on their faces in the first place. Something still undefined, which we call “normal,” is what made them wear the masks and run. They did not think about it, as if they had put on their shoes.
The scene of Beirut ripped apart sums up all that we think of horror. Beirut has always made us feel that it is the only Arab city for everyone; a capital for everybody. We naturally found in it all that we imagined freedom to be. Perhaps Beirut invited and allowed the chance for that to happen, unlike elsewhere. Therefore, everyone in the East feels that they have a share in it and they have an appointment with it. In the collective imagination, Beirut is close to what city and civilisation mean. All of this makes us, together and with one another, desperately and submissively say: Everything is over.
The scene of Beirut after the blast is apocalyptic. It is not the apocalypse of our dreams about freedom, cities, and life, nor of the Arab region that only promises its people disasters and catastrophe. However, it is the apocalypse of the world. It is true. The image of Beirut at the height of the pandemic, while there are still suppressed revolutions in Syria and Iraq, as well as in Lebanon, at the height of economic deterioration is an end-of-the-world one. I cannot think of a better metaphor than the apocalyptic cloud that intensifies the horrors that we have known in one second to make out the most terrible forms of endings that the mind can imagine. Not only horrors in terms of destruction, ugliness and cruelty, but in terms of feeling that humans are the contributor. The feeling of powerlessness, weakness and marginalisation that a human has felt all their life will give them a great deal of guilt. They remained silent, distanced and waiting, or tried not to be silent and wait, but failed before themselves and others.
It is an atrocious ending that whoever witnesses will consider a crime they committed themselves.
The coronavirus pandemic started in China and had a major impact in Italy, Brazil and other countries. However, it did not ring the death knell with such cruelty anywhere except in Beirut.
Since the beginning of Covid-19, everybody has said that we are entering an era of pandemics. They said that other viruses will choose dates and places to emerge. This means that, in general, people are talking about the beginning of the end, but not the end itself. Beirut, however, had something else to say, a final word. We, the children of the East, have mastered dealing with catastrophes. We can read it in the apocalyptic clouds, the fragments of houses, the scattered pieces of glass, smoke, dust, blood, screams and the astonished eyes of those who suddenly found themselves in hell. We can read and understand all the indications. The destruction will only lead to destruction and pain will only bubble up to burst into a huge blast.
Beirut said: Tyranny is a curse, sectarianism is a curse and corruption is a curse.
Beirut also said: Either kick out or burn those who are doing all these things.
Beirut knows, however, like we all do, that this is not at all easy. When these people sense that they are about to be expelled, or see the early signs, they will start the fire.
The fire at the end, the fire is the end.
Their stay is a fire and so is their departure. This is exactly what has been declared in Syria since 2011: “Assad or we burn the country.” It is also what is happening in and to Iraq since the waves of protests began in 2015. These protests turned into a revolution in late 2019 that soon got washed up.
So, it is fire. The fire, the end, nothing else. This is what they say in and across the land of the East. This is also what we hear day and night by those who claim to put the fires out. Everyone knows that fires have always been there, ready for the zero hour.
Hence, we are certain that we are facing an end-time scenario. To make room for a beginning of any kind and to suggest a different path, there is no solution except for destruction, nor any purification except for death.
It is an end, unlike religious endings that are open to new beginnings or final salvation. It is an end that involves absolute devastation and destruction.
However, it is an end that looks like our fears. It relates to the tales of the religious and the concerns of the secular. It matches scientists’ prophecies of what is yet to come and digs out of their deepest anxiety what they do not understand. It is the end that unites all these adversaries, whom each thought possessed a scenario of the perfect truth.
The Day of Judgement scenario is visible in this part of the world as tyranny is as rude as the inebriated. Tyranny speaks from the bottom of its heart without fear. The same also dwell in the parts of our unhappy world that are said to be democratic. They are, however, doing the same thing there as our tyrants here, their thieves, merchants, sheiks and trumpets without giving our foolish speech. Perhaps the most obvious example of their tyranny is the clean images of the planet shared during the lockdown. The planet seemed as pure and clear as the lung of a person who had quit smoking for years. It appeared beautiful that every one of us felt obliged to fight to defend it. The serenity and beauty are results of factories that stopped working. Those who start the end fires stopped working. However, that did not last long. They have risen again to put the major countries at a crossroads: life or the economy. life or the economy: It is perhaps the worst trade-off in the history of civilisations. What is worse than presenting these two choices is choosing the one that favours the interest of a group of people at the expense of a planet’s right to live, and at the expense of people who have the right to protect themselves from the pandemic until it goes away.
The lockdown ended. Factories went back to spewing their venom. The policies of neoliberalism resumed devouring the world’s resources, forcing its citizens into poverty. We shall never forget that they demanded compensation from the state on the pretext that their losses have exceeded the limits. Also, they pushed to return to their industries and policies that led the world to be an ideal place for epidemics and a space for oppression and injustice.
We are well aware that the world is confidently moving towards the end. Perhaps, since the beginning of human consciousness, the world has been on the verge of shutting down. Humanity found itself facing the idea of the end which it sometimes saw the night, and at other times the winter and the death of viridity and warmth. Just as there is a day after every night, and spring after every winter, so there is a life behind every death.
The first human myths about life and death were born in this context. These myths made considerable progress with the story of the death and resurrection of God. They sum up the history of human attempts to solve or understand impermanence in Eastern culture. However, as the general question about human fate persists, religions had to present their credentials through the idea of a redemptive resurrection that carries us from one place to another. They, consequently, had put an end to the fear of death by describing it as inevitable and turning it into a mere journey.
Science, too, is busy talking about the end. It includes scary scenarios that major countries refuse to face or take moral responsibility. Science coming through means that the religious fiction about the end of the world has not been fulfilled. It can, however, come back with a different end that is more explicit, identifiable and recognisable, and can be accurately understood through data and numbers.
Science says we only have 15 years to save the world. We can catch up if we change our behaviour and the way we live. It is the last opportunity as there is no turning back. The temperature of the planet will rise. This will eventually cause the ice at the poles to melt. Thus, ocean water will rise and drown islands and countries. The world will become two contrasting parts like night and day, snow and fire, a hot and dry desert in the south and a cold wetland in the north.
We have only 15 years in our hands now. We can use it to make our planet live longer and offer the next generations a place worthy of life or leave everything as it is and dig our own grave.
Fifteen years require us to make significant changes in our industries, economy and daily life. This includes food, drinks, transportation and work. The pollution caused by gas and oil especially in transportation and industry, cutting down rainforests to secure areas for raising animals and excessive use of agricultural fertilizers to secure animal food for the meat industry, burning forests on purpose to assume control over those areas and the emissions that emanate from various household appliances we use all increase the risk of global warming.
We can now see this clearly and explicitly. Sweeping endings are ready or almost ready. They need some time to play the role assigned to them. On a similar note, there are also small endings. These endings occur within our own lives under the influence of bigger ones. They are sometimes triggered by an internal motive that has nothing to do with the outside world. The difference between the two is that the major ones occur once, in a completely destructive, apocalyptic manner, while the minor ones strike over and over again. The minor endings repeat themselves tirelessly, taking on destructive aspects at times, and forms of despair, frustration or alienation at other times.
Shelter-in-place revealed the root of corruption in the contemporary human self. One’s home is the physical manifestation of their individual identity. It is also the first intangible space for it. Rejection of or complaining about staying at home it is a result of forcing people to sit with themselves, which they found to be imperfect. In this sense, rejecting or complaining about staying at home was only a search for an escape from the self confronting its imperfections.
It also seemed to be the end of modernist promises of a reasonable world and capable individuals who live on their own, for their own. It seemed as if we suddenly discovered that we live on one planet as groups, not as individuals, and that an incident in the Far East will determine the fate of hundreds of millions of people who have thought that they are far away. It seemed as if we just discovered that we are closer than ever to each other and that our fates cannot be separated, despite the slogans of dreamy individualism.
The home represents the space of self-identity. A human creates themself independently of others in the crucial stages of their life under various influences from others. They then join society to influence and be influenced, and to excite and get excited. However, if they do not make up their mind on whatever opinions, attitudes and concerns, the outside world will only offer masks or help patch up an erosion without offering an effective solution. This is because the inside—the soul—as well as the home, is a space in which a person answers all their questions. It is the space to experience intense confrontations with one’s concerns, fears and desires, and to start a conversation with the self who does not seek to discover or unravel its potential and values. Therefore, they seek in this place to recreate themself in an image of what they want to be.
The confrontation will not be satisfied with the superficial, but continues to haunt later, albeit intermittently. After enduring this difficulty, you will find your first well-defined features, your psychological and internal expressions. Just like you are identifiable by your external expressions, you will love to be identifiable by your internal expressions. You will also bring these experessions out with other people. It is quite natural to expect another person similar to you. This is because the confrontations you went through make you sense those who are similar. You will find yourself in circles you know suit you, and most importantly, you know why.
Interactions with others will become positive, whether it leads you to love and friendship or enmity. Each of these meanings needs a coherent, solid structure. However, at a time of consumption, falsehood and illusion, and at a time of relationships strongly shifting towards imitating things and machines, the necessary confrontations will be postponed in favour of spending time shopping or drowning oneself in video games. Accordingly, the encounter with the other will be precisely what makes the ending of the self and causes the person to fall into emptiness, time after time, endlessly. It is the worst of endings because it never ends.
During the lockdown, everyone feels the need for everyone. This need is somewhat strange. Everyone needs everyone to hide their lostness in the crowd. The crowd is a shell for self-disruption and a utilitarian postponement to face the anxiety of existence. It allows a person to return home to quickly meet themself to talk about their simple and comfortable conviction that they is not alone—a good enough response to all existential questions.
To be alone at home with all this time offers accurate answers, from you to you. Questions about who you are, your capabilities and the values on which you base your being. Home and aloneness are the first thresholds of identity formation. After that comes joining society with a complete self with well-defined features, capable of taking and giving.
As previously mentioned, the imperfections that staying at home reveal will not be repaired from the outside. If homes export all these imperfections outside, it will create a dysfunctional society full of holes.
The small community each of us built was not the mirror that defined ourselves. Society gives us an identity; however, it is false as it is based on an individualistic view. People perceive you as the party animal, funny and charming, or the unfortunate good guy. However, corona and lockdown indicate that this is not enough. You will not be yourself unless you create a special identity in your inner space. This can only happen with introspection. As long as you need others to give you a mirror that represents what you want from this existence, you will misinterpret the meaning of that mirror and call it an identity. Look at you now locked in the house without others. You neither explore your true self nor recognise what you want.
Thereby, the lockdown represented the end of small things. First, it revealed the crisis of individual identity and the unwillingness of people to explore themselves. Second, it excluded others as a partner in our life. Instead, it distorted their role into a mere mirror of the false consumer pleasures that have become the only thing we do since major companies convinced us that their products are the missing part of our identity. This has caused us to move away from the fact that humans are one. Therefore, human experiences were isolated and the world was divided into borders of a different kind that are difficult to penetrate. These are the borders that our illusions have fabricated about each other.
The lockdown acted as a probe to test the strength or friability of emotional and marital relations. As recreational activities stopped due to closures, the rates of violence against women and children have increased. This means that many men, as they are often the perpetrator in this case, see going out as an escape from the predicament of couplehood. Their leisure is some sort of escape. When the lockdown trap caught them, they were exposed; therefore, they confronted all their life choices with violence.
Complex crises: Lockdown for people who do not want each other and a lockdown between people who want each other.
The disease has opened our eyes to pain everywhere. Besides women and children, refugees live in the worst conditions and are subjected to the most heinous types of treatment. Homeless people sleep on the streets and survive on humble offerings. Workers are at risk of losing their jobs with no guarantees.
The disease magnified certain problems and made them visible. Although death is still the best measure of quality of life, our eyes have opened wide to the pain of injustice, even in death. It has long been said that all are equal in death. We, however, found that we are not. Death is less common among those who have money. They have access to healthcare and medicine. Besides, it is less common in countries that have equipped hospitals and health insurance for all their citizens than in countries that have failed to even build a hospital.
In Coronaian terms: modern times have made death hypocritical and biased.
The Internet helped us a lot during the lockdown. We can no longer deny that. It has played a crucial role. It also reduced the number of people in our lives.
Urgent questions that haunt us: What would have happened if the pandemic took place 20 years ago, for example? Would adhering to safety measures increase the chances of our survival? Will life continue while businesses and institutions are shut down? Isn’t the Internet a blessing that deserves appreciation and honour? How are we going to spend this long, boring time?
There is no doubt that our way of life made it easier to deal with the pandemic due to the lack of physical contact. But perhaps this virus would not have come in the first place if our life was not like that!
The old and young came up with scenarios of the end and the Day of Judgement. We live at a time in which the logic of science matches the religious prophecies to the point that we sometimes forget the boundaries between the two. We think the scriptures came from laboratories, or we consider scholars to be priests in the temples!
Passing the narrative from the old to the young makes it more relevant. The Islamic texts describe several events happening before the major signs of the Day of Judgement. This is correct and logical, but my simple hypothesis is that the great end is a complete end, a final one without return. The small end, however, is one explosion after another. It does and does not end. It is like the human self-conditioned to seek more and strive for better. Since the dawn of time, humans were cursed with the pursuit of perfection. They made weapons, houses, cities and civilisations. Then, they created the death of everything.
All human actions are motivated at the deepest level by the desire to be the best and perfect. A person knows in their heart of hearts that they are controlled by relativism. They know that their perception of perfection is relative because of that and will remain so. However, a person without this incentive that stems from the scarceness of relativism is not human. This is the greatest tragedy. They are the creator and destroyer of everything. Or, they implant the annihilation of things into the basis of their structure. Can I say that the minor ending started there? Right at the beginning? I do not know!