Yesterday I met up with Wahid. Wahid, originally from Beirut, has been in Holland for about 5 years, inhabits a luxurious squat (a former factory) in the old harbour of Rotterdam, and runs an audio rental company. A few days ago he put up a large banner against the war; the banner seems to fit the building and blends in with the façade of multi-coloured windows. I was wondering how many people would notice it; and if they would, would pause, get off their bikes (this is Holland after all), and contemplate the senseless violence going on a few thousand miles away. Would they shrug off the uneasy feeling that civilians are being killed and the whole infrastructure of a country is being flattened with the approval of big daddy USA? Would they become angry at the injustice, and voice critique, or would they just not care.
It is cruel, though all too human, how the unacceptable and the absurd becomes normalised. The media attention in this part of the world is starting to dwindle: to the casual observer it is just more of the same in the Middle East: the usual generic media image of carnage and destruction. Yes, the front-page headlines started to disappear along with the evacuation of the foreign nationals, and the instant gratification of foreign news crews.
Wahid and I discuss what can possibly be done to raise awareness, capture people’s attention, and make clear that what’s going on is absolutely appalling, knowing very well that every action from our side would amount to be a grain of sand in the desert. Nevertheless, something has to be done.
It seems that media is our curse and our saviour. Every war reported on TV takes on the qualities of a bad Hollywood flick; the war of images is what eventually remains as sticky residue on the spectator’s eye. That is, if we’re lucky. If we manage to convey images that touch, and are visceral and burn and scratch the retina with reality, than maybe…maybe people might wake up.
Every Wednesday the squat hosts a free cinema. We will show Lebanese films, documentaries and artist videos till the cessation of aggression. We want people to get a sense of Lebanon, of Beirut, so it becomes real, not some vague abstract concept. Donations will be transferred to humanitarian relief initiatives in Lebanon.
It is strange, only 10 days ago I reviewed a DVD called Resistances: Experimental films from the Middle East and North Africa. I had questioned the ambition scripted within the claim to call a DVD compilation a resistance, and had wondered whether the curators could actually deliver. Now I find myself using that same terminology, and also faced with the question whether I can deliver.
Nat Muller, Rotterdam.