Bilal Khbeiz, Globalization and the Manufacture of Transient Events


A Palestinian cannot imagine the future without a fair political agreement, as a Lebanese cannot imagine his future without an end to unjust taxes, the arbitrary diplomacies of confessional politics, and a sovereignty wrested out of the contiguity with surrounding neighbors. Let us also say, for the sake of clarification, that a Tanzanian woman who walks for more than thirty kilometers every day in search for wood to cook her family’s meal, dreams of a future with gas stoves and a constant supply of electricity. The dreams of the Third World are visible, tangible, felt and lived. So what about the dreams of the Americans? Most probably, and if the following historical comparison is allowed, there is a classist segregation of dreams. Science fiction is a specialty of developed societies, while we in the Third World are left to dream of bread, wine, cars, security and peace.

Globalization is an entity as armed as the (sovereign) nation states that came before it. Unable to change its course, we all – nations, people and terrorists alike – try to gain the honor of joining it. Since its inception, globalization has brandished two weapons: an ability for contempt and a power for temptation. The immigration laws in Western nations are similar to academic entrance exams. If passed, one can spend a life living as humans do – with rights like those given to Westerners. With globalization, such an entrance can at times be gained while still in one’s own place. We can apply as individuals to this open university and spend our time earning one degree after another. By learning to savor coffee at Starbucks, and by hiding bad habits such as smoking, skillfulness in using the Internet will take us all the way to financial speculation in a virtual economy.

In all that, we are not citizens, humans, or even domesticated animals. We will only manage to become intelligent creatures. And that, we are told, should be more than enough. We have no choice but to strain and struggle at being intelligent in the practice of this exorbitant and anxious living that may, above all, allow us “to see and not be seen.”

From Bilal Khbeiz, Globalization and the Manufacture of Transient Events, Beirut: Ashkal Alwan, 2003.