By Fadi Abu Deeb
At the outset of his Philosophy of History, Hegel discusses the role of seas in civilizations and in the contacts that take place between them. Contrary to many of us who reckon seas as obstructive spaces, Hegel considers a sea as a geographical entity that facilitates communication between cultures and civilizations. Seas, unlike mountains, he elaborates, are not natural borders nor that sort of obstacles that prevents constant transportation or inhibits meaningful and easy communication.
Interestingly, This is absolutely true from the perspective of historical facts if one thinks of the strong relationships and rich cultural exchange between Greece and Italy and the Eastern coasts of the Mediterranean, or one remembers the Phoenician campaigns that were launched from the latter region to reach out to many places along the shores of the aforementioned sea and even beyond.
But could the modern world preserve this long heritage of communication, as an open space for humanity, and not just a hub or a medium for military and professional trading? If one is to ask the question with a more poetical sensibility, one can question the moral legacy and the fertile imagination that we will bequeath to the coming generations on this planet in respect to how they see this wonderful wavy space.
Seas today are mostly spaces for fleets with lethal and atomic weapons, piracy, oil tanks, merchants’ lusts, pollution, mass hunting and killing of life, battles and wars (like olden times anyway), fear, floating and drowning corpses, lost and hungry refugees and a vast cemetery of dreams of a better tomorrow.
Can a migrant today take a look from Greece, for example, over the distant shores eastward and decide to sail toward a desired land to kiss a parent or a friend? Can one, from a high Sicilian balcony that towers over the blue water, remember an ancestor’s graveyard in Syria or Palestine, and take a regularly-sailing ship just in the next morning? Can a modern Syrian or Egyptian embrace the waves one evening to satisfy his hunger for a Cretean morning breeze or a chase of an old wisdom that might still hang in the air?
It is us who made seas one of the most frightening and alien spaces when we could by modern technology make it a meadow of blue dreams and realized desires. It is not an exaggeration to say that the ancients were much more free in moving and chasing their destinies though with much less tools and capabilities. We’re not helping ourselves!