One of the most moving stories to emerge out of the Egyptian uprising is the role of the Facebook page called, We are all Khaled Said, named in memory of a young Egyptian who was beaten to death by the police. Set up by Wael Ghonim, a Google executive working in the Middle East, the Facebook site has been filled with newspaper articles and video clips of Egyptian police violence. As the fight against repressive dictatorships spread to Libya, followers began posting video and news articles of the mass killings of civilian protesters carried out by Gaddafi and his mercenaries. On February 23, someone had posted a very graphic YouTube video showing several rows of dead Libyan soldiers who were shot after refusing to fire on their own people. Whoever posted the videos enabled the world to look directly at Libyans as they are burying their dead. The page’s 93,982 friends who watched these amateur videos gained an immediate sense of the brutality and loss of human life occurring in a country that is largely closed to international journalists.
Through Facebook, we are not only engaging with the faces of our family and friends; we can now connect to complete strangers whose faces simultaneously evoke empathy and anger at the unnecessary suffering they are experiencing. Social media are effectively humanizing conflicts that in the past would have largely remained hidden from international audiences. Rather than being dependent on international journalists or western aid workers, Facebook now allows ordinary people across the globe who have internet access to share their own narratives. It effectively enables the global community to look into the faces of the other, which according to the Jewish philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, is the grounding of any authentic commitment to universal human rights. For Levinas, our encounter with the other’s face is the point at which God breaks into the worldly situation. Seeing her face creates bonds of solidarity that become the foundation of a commitment to universal human rights. Levinas’ understanding of other is analogous to the biblical depiction of the other in the form of the “widow, orphan, and stranger.”
I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all, it stretches on forever, like an ocean of time…, For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars… And yellow leaves, from the maple trees, that lined our street… Or my grandmother’s hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper… And the first time I saw my cousin Tony’s brand new Firebird… And Janie… And Janie… And… Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.