The Evasive OTHER
LABA Journal’s Editor Hanan Elstein: Should We Discuss OTHER?
OTHER is a highly explosive theme, especially beyond its limited political scope and current obvious relevance. The notion of the Other, be it phenomenological, existential or psychological, is inherently elusive and resists a single coherent definition. Thinkers as well as artists, in fact human beings by in large, have been explicitly and implicitly coping with the existence of the Other for thousands of years, suggesting and adhering to numerous attitudes, opinions and practices relating to it, over and again futilely attempting to reach a common ground about its meaning and significance.
This relentless endeavor seems to exemplify the said fundamental aspect of the concept: there are as many views on and experiences of the Other “as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is on the sea shore”. On that line, many would argue this undertake is not only tedious but also pointless. Others could be justified, at least to some extent, to claim the notion has been exhausted through extensive careless usage by too zealous politicians, journalists, bloggers, academics and, indeed, artists too.
Why then should we bother with a topic so abstract and evasive, so ungratifying and potentially frustrating? Why should we volunteer to be hard on ourselves and embark on a journey probably doomed to fail on each and every step?
Well, the answer is rather simple; one might even say it is self explanatory: as human beings, we are thrown into the world and instantly become simultaneously a Self and an Other, potential arch rivals and possible closest friends, alone and secluded in the universe and weaved intrinsically into social interrelations. Being human means we can not but define others and be defined by them. We can not at all grasp ourselves without their presence, as we all mutually reflect each other and mutually disrupt each other’s lives. No matter what we do to avoid the question, it keeps begging our attention and showing up in our daily routine.
No doubt, talking about the Other is risky. It could even be painful. It could impact our confidence in ourselves, the world and our fellow human beings. It might shake our feeling of safety, our deepest beliefs, our most precious ideas and values, even our friendships. It might shatter our long established cliches and stereotypes. It could change us. For better or for worse? This is up to each and every one of us.
That’s exactly what LABA Journal is all about: doubting ourselves and taking risks. The Journal, your Journal, is aimed to offer a free space, though not necessarily a safe one, for vital, passionate and hopefully heated discussions and work presentations evolving around our annual dangerous theme.
I therefore encourage all of you to actively engage on this platform and contribute to the Journal – through texts, links, images, videos, music, etc. – any idea, thought and work, any tension, conflict and contradiction that you associate with OTHER.