Early on in life I understood freedom to mean unlimited opportunities and an absence of barriers to my personal rights. This was tempered by the classical-liberal consideration that my freedom shouldn’t encroach on the rights of others. Challenging the established world order through counter-culture music, politics, and life style seemed to be the ultimate goal, but actually only scratched the surface. Things changed drastically during my university years when I became active in the ecology, peace, civil rights, and gender equality movements. I shifted my perspective from personal gratification to the ‘triple bottom line’, combining social, environmental, and economic sustainability. I moved away from individualism, focusing more on collective responsibility.
I’ve spent approximately one third of my life in North America, in Central Europe, and in the Middle East. In Lebanon I’ve returned to an individualistic approach to freedom, but with an unexpected twist. Here, the institutions of the state, the business community, and unfortunately also civil society are unable or unwilling to deliver effectively when it comes to the triple bottom line. Thus personal initiative and individual responsibility for the common good are paramount. I’ve shifted my focus from institutional change to working with my students, university colleagues, and friends in various civil society movements on a one-to-one basis. Finger-pointing at the corrupt political and corporate elites has gotten us nowhere. Freedom and social responsibility must start in our own neighborhoods, homes, faith communities, and workplaces. And ultimately it must be fun. As one of my personal heroes, Emma Goldman, famously said: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”