Humanity lives today in a fascinating time filled with increasing opportunities, complex challenges and threats that are harder to detect. The world is connected like never before. Thanks to the latest scientific discoveries in the fields of communications technology, sustainable energy, travel, health, internet of things, artificial intelligence and many more; the planet has almost achieved the status of a global village.
The well-being and growth of our entire species is to be affected by themes such as: climate change, block-chain, nanotech, access to drinkable water, automation of jobs, cybersecurity, stem cells, universal minimal wage, immigration, war, refugees and space exploration..
In that context, how can different cultures, people, religions, businesses, countries, leaders, public figures and individuals renew their commitment to their community to develop the most harmonious relationships possible while smoothly transitioning to an increasingly Digital Age?
As stakeholders are pushing for their different interests in times of scarcity, how is it possible then to reduce friction, promote innovation and help realize that what brings us all together is far greater than what separates us? Prestigious international companies are sought after by today’s leading business actors to best strategically advise on the most complex of challenges. Bridges between businesses, governments and civil societies help positively channel the flux of energy resulting from daily interactions all over the planet.
However, all of the above would be impossible without Freedom of Speech as it is one of the indispensable Human Rights that daily helps law-abiding citizens in democratic societies best express themselves in the fog of today’s increasingly instable environments. It is also the healthiest vector through which democratic governments can actually welcome the immediate concerns of their citizens in order to best address them together. It could be for such reasons that the ‘legitimate pursuit of happiness’ is also included in the U.S Constitution along with the principles of liberty and prosperity. Maybe is it again because ruling powers and governments have also the purpose of attempting to achieve the best quality of life possible for their citizens along with social safety-nets ?
Almost 300 years ago, the notion of ‘we can agree to disagree’ was popularized by Voltaire the french enlightenment philosopher as well as Beaumarchais the french writer ‘Sans la liberté de blâmer, il n’y’a point d’éloge flatteur’ / ‘Without the right to blame there is no sincere compliment’. They are both an essential condition of the modern social contract.
Hence the importance of developing and preserving platforms where healthy communication, debate and dialogue can be fostered to address the many challenges of our time. With the emergence of digital platforms and social media, many traditional print-only media faced serious challenges; some closing completely which is a loss to national debates and quality articles and journalism as a whole.
Provided goodwill and respect are guaranteed. In that context, the common initiative between the leading academic institution, the American University of Beirut and one of the famous leading Lebanese newspapers An-Nahar is a good example of a step forward to stimulate specialized intellectuals, politicians from all sides, youth and most importantly common citizens alike to think and debate together of their vision for tomorrow. Today, such platforms and others can help refocus the socio-political debate to channel energy and time invested into strategic themes rather than the energy-depleting daily routine (which is equally important to address but through other channels).
Another example could be the ‘Cenacle’ founded by Michel Asmar before the war that reunited thinkers from all political sides, business sectors, artists.. from Lebanon and the world for conferences that were published in An-Nahar Newspaper. Of course, every country has opportunities, achievements, challenges and threats. Open, transparent and accessible brainstorming circles could be an additional tool to help inspire elected officials from all political sides in their work in imagining/ building a better Lebanon. After all – despite all the challenges and darkest times – Lebanon is and has always been a beacon of light, culture and modernity in the region. Hence the importance to reunite in the social elevator dreamers and doers. Thinkers and leaders. Pragmatism with aspirations. Available-best with ideal-best.
Gandhi said ‘be the change you want to see in the world’. In a nutshell it could be understood as a call to be a catalyst for one’s personal growth and then leading by example. Despite the difficult times, it is always helpful to also look at positive achievements and success stories of Lebanese in our country and abroad as they all have something in common. They remind us to be proud to be Lebanese and that everything is still possible.
Sr. Emile E. Issa