Database - Website
A Project by UMAM Documentation and Research
2010 onwards

MEMORY AT WORK is a database centered primarily on the history and recollections of the Lebanese wars. The original (but not the exclusive) intent of the website was to explore, monitor and follow up on those civil wars quantitatively and qualitatively by assembling personal and collective memories and reminiscences that have either emerged recently or been ignored assiduously due to the nature of that horrific experience.

MEMORY AT WORK also addresses the war’s presence, the myriad ways it affected—and continues to influence—the public and private lives of the Lebanese and the impact it had on those who either participated actively in the conflict or suffered its wrath in silence.

The issue of the war’s presence is not a metaphor for something with less meaning or impact. In reality, that war is still present among the Lebanese, as is evident in the ridiculous statements made by politicians and others who never seem to tire of warning the public about the dangers being posed to Lebanon’s tenuous civil peace. Its presence is also apparent in the random incidents that occur daily or in the unhealthy debates that erupt periodically in tandem with inter-confessional real estate deals. Sadly, the war continues to impact our daily life through a variety of expressions, countless jokes and tasteless cell phone ringtones, and that list is just a start.

It may be that the conditions noted above and others too numerous to mention will perpetuate endlessly as alternating rounds of subtle and overt violence, and thus remain omens of an evil that seems reluctant to materialize. After all, such has been the case during the two-plus decades since the Taif Agreement put an inconclusive end to the war. Yet, even when these conditions are being controlled, it is not the same as saying that war, in all its combinations, permutations and horrors, has ceased being the backdrop—and often the essence—of our daily Lebanese life. As a result, the time has certainly come for the Lebanese, assuming they are indeed fed up with the status quo, to embrace the war’s painful nightmares and reassess the ways we deal with that period as a shared legacy.

Only by displaying that kind of unconditional resolve will we be able to reach a societal plateau capable of finally ending this enduring state of denial. Likewise, that plateau could serve as a platform, from which strategies for the prevention of war could be engineered, approaches able to deal with the many expressions of war, whether trivial and largely benign, or those that are far more abstract and sophisticated. We must commit to achieving that shift now, regardless of the incessant and exasperating debate over the appropriateness of the timing or the admonitions issued by people who pretend the war was caused by others.

Whether we like it or not, our war is indeed a shared legacy. By extension, therefore, dealing with it must become a shared responsibility. In fact, in the more than 20 years since the war was officially concluded, it is clear socially and politically that for whatever reason, we Lebanese have not distanced ourselves from that specter equally or with common determination. Further, our aspirations for peace and security differ relative to our social and political existence. But regardless of how deeply unfortunate that reality may be, we cannot afford to focus on regret. Rather, we must engage in a genuine critique of the war using a process that must center first and foremost on determining why—at least since the Taif Agreement was concluded—we have refrained from doing so.