The Intertwining of People and Ideas

Ideas emerge from our interactions with other people. These ideas are shared through conversation, friendship, and humor. They are glorified through discussions and perpetuated through rules and commitment. These ideas can build a connection between you and a group of people, a link so strong that it becomes hard to tell whether you’re attracted to these specific ideas you’re adhering to, or to the bond you have with the people you’re sharing them with. Does your sense of belonging to the group of people drive you to commit to these ideas or do the ideas themselves pull you in and force this bond between you and the group? In an attempt to illustrate the issue I am posing, I will present the cases of religion and marriage, which are both prevalent in our Lebanese society.

Religion is an institution that aims to educate people to have a spiritual set of beliefs, which is meant to drive them to follow a path that is claimed to be correct. I will not criticize the beliefs such institutions preach, at least not in this post. I will however point out that there is a big number of people that agrees to this set of beliefs without actually having a comprehensive understanding of the beliefs themselves. In fact, religion has become such an important part of people’s identities, it has come to form such tight bonds among people, that the belonging it provides has lead people to ignore the essence of religion and to claim their affiliation to it for the sole purpose of maintaining this sense of belonging. This need for belonging to a religious sect is especially accentuated in a context like ours given that individuals who reject the religions they were born into are often dismissed or disowned by their families or entourages.

On the other hand, marriage is supposed to be a strong bond between two individuals, a bond that two individuals who are very synchronized and functional choose to make in validation of their relationship. (In this case also, I will not go on about how the bond between two people does not need any validation in order to be real). Instead, because of the strong emphasis our society has on marriage, couples who barely have any connection to each other and who basically lead different lives are struggling to hold on to their relationships in order to sustain a marriage, or a plan for marriage. This is due to the pressure society applies on the importance of marriage and the strong link it makes between one’s future and one’s marriage.

In the first case, people are often adhering to a set of beliefs and principles in order to maintain certain social relationships. While in the second case, some people are holding on to human relationships in order to conform to social norms. These patterns can also be found in politically affiliated groups and even in friendships, among other social institutions.

This leaves us in a position of reevaluation of our ideas and relationships. Can we always tell whether we are in a certain social relationship because of ideas that we hold or because of the bond itself that we have with the people within it? Is it possible to know whether we are part of an institution for the principles it stands for or for the relationships it allows us to form? Being able to distinguish these situations could allow for a liberating change in our lives.

How Far We Haven’t Come: All of the Terrible Ways the Media Treated Women in 2013 in One Video

Originally posted on NewsFeed:

When it comes to the portrayal and treatment of women in the media, we’ve come a long way since the Mad Men era. And yet, in 2013, it’s still not unusual to hear messages like “I’m not saying she deserved to be raped, but…” or “Women just aren’t as good at math as men” crop up on the web or on TV.

The Representation Project, a 501c3 nonprofit that aims to challenge gender stereotypes in media, created the above supercut to show just how pervasive sexism still is in the media.

We’ve come pretty far, but not far enough.

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Never Say No Again – A Short Story

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After shopping for groceries, cooking moghrabieh with both chicken and beef —the way Kareem likes it, picking up my kids from school, doing the dishes, tidying up the living room, helping the kids with their homework, and putting them to bed, I collapsed on the couch to watch TV.

I was too tired to focus on any of the shows, so I lowered the volume and let myself relax. But as my eyes started closing, I remembered that I hadn’t checked how much money I had spent today.

I got up, took my wallet out of my purse, and counted. I had surpassed my daily limit of 40.000 L.L. by 2.000 L.L. I opened the box I hide among the onions in a kitchen cupboard, the only private space I have, and in which I save money on days I had spent less than 40.000 L.L. I moved 2.000 L.L from the box to the wallet and placed the wallet in Kareem’s bedside drawer, as I am requested to do. Sometimes I think that maybe Kareem is not so kareem*.

It was around 10 pm by then so I brushed my teeth and went to bed. But as soon as I closed my eyes, Kareem walked into the room and turned the lights on.

“Oh, did I wake you up?”

“No, I was about to sleep..”

“Oh, good. I was hoping I’d be able to spend some time with you.”

He sat on his side of the bed and got undressed.

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Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP Gets Censored for the Middle East

colorlessfeather:

I believe adults, in all regions, must have the right to choose the content and products they want to consume. It is their choice and their responsibility to accept or dismiss an idea or artifact they are exposed to, not the government’s.

Originally posted on A Separate State of Mind | A Lebanese Blog:

Like her or hate her, there’s basically no escaping her especially if you tune in for 10 minutes of local radio. Lady Gaga is gearing up to release her upcoming album which she has titled: ARTPOP. A few weeks ago, she revealed the album’s title to be the following:

ARTPOP

Pretty weird, right? It’s not like you’d expect anything less from her at this point though. However, Middle Eastern countries are getting a different and censored version of this same cover, which was just released and is the following:

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They’ve increased the dimension of that ball in front of her, whatever it might mean, to cover her breasts. They’ve also colored her legs black in order to give the impression that she’s covered up.

And yes, Lebanon is one of those countries as is evident by the Lebanese iTunes Store.

I really don’t get this. Did local authorities tell her…

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Fanaticism in Lebanon

So I met this guy and we got along very well up till the topic of evolution was brought up. He stated that evolution is completely untrue and that it is not even a science, and he inferred that I’m agnostic for believing in it. He started completely avoiding me ever since.

I am still surprised that such fanatics exist in Lebanon, a country supposedly uniting people with many different beliefs and diverse backgrounds. I am even more surprised that fanaticism exists among intelligent, well-educated students at one of the most prestigious universities in the country. You would expect that in a multicultural country, people would not necessarily adopt others’ points of view, but would at least accept all the different opinions they are exposed to.

I think the problem may lie here. Lebanese people are not exposed enough to agnosticism to accept it. The same applies to atheism and to all other forms of non-religious beliefs. They see these perspectives in media but not in person. They still perceive them as impossible and unreal; in their minds, it is only acceptable in movies.

But why aren’t we exposed to non-religious beliefs?

Is it because such perspectives are not adopted by local people? No. Proof being that among the people who are aware of the Atheist Census, 328 Lebanese have already voted being non-religious (and counting).

Is it because the number of Lebanese atheists is still limited? Yes, maybe.

But I think the main reason for this lack of exposure is due to the fact that most non-religious people are closeted in order to avoid getting disowned by their parents, or rejected by society, or frowned upon, or all of the above. Which, in turn, is partly due to fanaticism. This ends up forming a cycle:

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In addition, fanaticism is accentuated by the misinterpretation and miseducation of religion. Religion never asks you to avoid or fear different beliefs. On the contrary, acceptance and tolerance are encouraged in all religions.

I wonder when non-religious people will be numerous enough to come out and break the cycle and when the Lebanese society will become more open to the different non-religious beliefs and even to the exotic religions like the ones in the Far East.