Hares Youssef is a futurist thinker, digital economics ideologist, philanthropist, writer and artist.
I was born in the province of Latakia into a very low-income family. We lived in a clay house, and we had no electricity, water, telephone, or TV. Nevertheless, I managed to visit the world in which people lived thousands of years ago, knowing nothing about modern civilization and its so-called benefits. I grew up close to nature, and the land gave my family everything. Since childhood, I considered the earth as a living being, as a Mother and a giver. The history of my native Latakia is connected with Mother because it’s named after Laodicea, the mother of its founder Seleucus I Nicator.
As I grew older, I moved out of my childhood home. First, I moved to a small town, then to the capital of Syria before moving to the Soviet Union, where I entered a military school. A symbolic story is related to this event, as I never intended to be a cadet. I wrote poetry, was full of creative inspiration, and constantly criticized the Army, military equipment, and everything connected with it. I entered the Damascus Institute of Architecture, I won a place in the contest, and I was delighted to become an architect. One day, my uncle invited me over. He held a high position as a well-known politician. He convinced me that I had to leave and study in the military school (through the Ministry of Defence). I believed him because, at that time, we both thought this educational institution also trained architects. But that was not the case. I was discouraged when I realized that I was going to the Soviet Union, and studying architecture wasn’t an option. I didn’t know what would come next.
I remember how I entered the office, either of the general or colonel, where I had to choose my future speciality. He put the list before me and awaited my decision. Each option involved moving to a particular city. I focused on those professions that were foreign to me, and I didn’t know what to do. None of my classmates had that choice, and, it seems, I should be happy with my privilege, but all I felt at the time was disappointment, frustration and shock. In response to the interrogatory look of a person who noticed my indecision, I admitted that I wanted to become an architect. He answered: “I don’t have a ‘career fair’ for you, so you have to choose among the options.” Behind that general or colonel, there was a geographic map with the flags of the USSR. After getting over the excitement, I asked permission to choose not from the list but from the map. There were names of cities, but they meant nothing to me. Finally, I pointed the finger at Kyiv. There were only three options: a tank school, an aviation school, or an anti-aircraft missile school. And I chose aviation.
When I arrived in Kyiv, I was depressed, I stopped eating and drinking, I refused to attend classes. I didn’t want to be there. I bide my time and waited to leave. That summer, I left Kyiv and told my uncle that I would never go back. But he confronted me and advised me that I could not do architecture because obligations bound me to the Ministry of Defence. My uncle wanted me to graduate, so I had to return. They transferred me from an aviation school to a tank school, where the cadets had more freedom, but it was four years before I left. I deserted from the Army, and they caught me. Then I spent three more years trying to escape and free myself from my obligations to the Ministry. My uncle’s friends, who had already left the country due to disagreements with the president, helped me.
How did the idea of creating Gaiia come to you? Where did it all start?
-In the beginning, there was no name Gaiia. There was an idea. An idea of a natural planet with a natural person in the role of a just king; a planet with the best way of life, where peace and harmony reign. This idea drove me and forced me to ask questions: what is the problem? Why – with his mind, intelligence and reason – has man failed to become the ‘father of all living things?’ The name Gaiia appeared later. In the long process of searching for the answers to these questions, the name came to me quite suddenly. And it seemed to contain all the answers at once.
I understand the role of names and terms. A title contains everything that included in its name. If the name of the Universe is the Universe, then the Universe will remain limited by this name until we find another word for it – one that embraces everything that we have not yet put into this concept. We can limit, even remove part of the essence of what we mean with a name. And with a name, we can create an entirely new world or transform the old one. As far as the name Gaiia is concerned. I don’t remember exactly when it came to me, but, of course, I had often heard of the Greek goddess Γαῖα. Its name has become a symbol of my entire philosophy.
Why did you decide to write a book?
Writing a book is one way to share your impressions, knowledge and philosophy with the world. However, I don’t intend to limit myself to the book. I’m planning to create a Movement, a platform, film, magazine, etc. The book is just the beginning. For me, the book establishes the legitimacy of what I can introduce to the world.
What did you want to reveal to your readers?
I wanted to open my readers’ eyes to a new dimension that is above logic because I’ve discovered that, as children, we are all mentally abused. I’m talking about how teachers forced us to interact with counting and arithmetic. This violence destroys most of the human intellect. It is so harsh that it makes logic a hostage to the way we think. Even when we think, we think by counting. But reflection is not involved in this process at all. For this reason, a peaceful, harmonious, beautiful world turns into idiotic romanticism. Our entire civilisation, as it exists today, is a design project of the same counting logic.
I find it astonishing that the intellectual elite considers our civilisation an outstanding achievement of the human mind. Idiocy has reached the point where we prepare to justify the enormous expenses on energy, intellectual and financial resources thrown at exploring the neighbouring planet. And this happens at a time when we are on the verge of a nuclear war! For example, it would be more dignified of Elon Musk if he applied his intellect by amazing the inhabitants of the Earth and finding a way to protect our native planet from the barbarism of the logic that has become a measure of success.
Interviewed by Natella Speranskaya