Ode to Humanity – From the World With Love

Edouard Chehade

I’m in Singapore for my last few weeks at INSEAD. I’m not over there, not on the ground. I can’t feel the emotion and local vibe. But it must be palpable. In this precise moment, I miss the outdoor patios or ‘terrasse’, French food and bistros, romantic atmosphere of a late night walk in Montmartre or the 19th century feeling of walking past the bookstores along the Seine River on a windy sunny day. I miss Paris.

There have been a few attacks in recent months and years. However, it’s the first time they strike straight to my heart. The first time I feel that my community, generation, values, way of life is jeopardised, taken for granted. In these times, remaining grounded is not a simple thing.

Liberty, equality,  fraternity. Three simple words.

Even though I am halfway around the world, on the Asia Campus, it becomes a topic of every moment’s discussion with colleagues. Each attack targets a precise population, a precise community, meant to divide people, create a gap amongst groups for each to isolate and hide back amongst their own.

In the midst of this chaos, I think about my friends. All over the world, many lived similar events in Bombay, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Algeria, Pakistan and countless other countries. Communities that have been living similar events many times a year, and continue doing so as these events have become a part of their lives.

Those who know me will confirm my usual optimism. I know life carries on.

I refuse to live in nothing else than a world filled with fairy tales and unicorns.

I refuse to let these fairy tales go and acknowledge that Santa Claus, when I was a child, was but an old bushy-eyebrowed grandpa. The events of Friday night, November 13th 2015 – these are the types of events that only reinforce my will to carry on walking with a spring in my step. I believe – I know that the world can be changed and that my generation will be a part of this change.

On the other hand, how do we reconcile with mounting criticism over the fact that barely any media covered Lebanon and Iraq, events that happened barely 24 hours before Paris? Some critics even state it sends the signal that “not all lives are equal” in the eyes of the West, and that we do not seem to care. Indeed, even for a well-articulated mind, it becomes difficult to argue otherwise. So where do we go from here?

A humanisation must happen across cultures, religions and geographies. Across ethnicities, we must recognise and embrace our fellow humans that live normal lives, and go through just as much suffering, pain, love and joy as us. And this should start well before any conflict or tragedy erupts.

Unmistakeably, when pictures of attacks and grieving people from foreign countries make the headlines, I can’t bare the pain and flip to the next article.

These images don’t register in my brain, because my brain doesn’t want them to.

15,000 km across the world, in a country I do not know, in a culture unknown to me where people speak a foreign language, hundreds of lives were lost. It just doesn’t register. Let’s just avoid the pain of internalising these images.

On the other hand, we had Paris on a Friday night, in restaurants, cafés and at a football match. All the 129 names of the deceased will be made public, and many of them will have articles narrating their lives and last days. I could have been there. Friends of mine were not too far away, enjoying a nice Friday night on the town. This event, did register with eerie clarity when I woke up reading about it Saturday morning. It registered and got cemented in my mind.

Paris Bistro

Indeed, if we, as “developed countries”, can’t even show we care about events happening in Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey…why should they do otherwise about us?

A humanisation needs to happen across cultures, religions, geographies.

We need to witness and learn how different people live all over the world. This would increase the “gray zone” of tolerance and reduce the absolute white and black. This must and this will happen as our lives in this global world are more connected than ever.

But for “them” to start caring about “our” sufferings, we should start caring about theirs as well. Pretending to do so is not going to cut it anymore. And we better start being aware of their reality not only in turbulent times, but also in times of peace. The planet must become a village where information flows both ways.

If, in the “Western World”, there were to be a greater attention, greater education to the way of life of foreign countries, perhaps Western countries would be more sensitised to lives lost there. Perhaps there would be a greater effort to save lives of civilians and avoid casualties. Perhaps then lives lost in the eyes of the West would be “just as equal”.

With the available mobile technology, internet, virtual reality, communities across geographies and within countries can be bridged, brought closer together. It has become increasingly easy to connect across the world. I have this vision where technology will be used for this purpose. It won’t be a question of us or them anymore. A vision where there won’t be many parts of the world, just one big planet, one united world where polarising factions can’t find their place anymore. It won’t be black or white, but just a gray zone of tolerance, amongst yellow, brown, black and white.