The Other World beneath the Waves
04 June 2020
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Opening new doors of knowledge during social isolation
Ithra hosts the first event of “COVID Culture Discussion”
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia:
King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) hosted the first episode of its new cultural program: COVID Culture Discussion.” This is part of the special social isolation outreach program made available through the “Ithra Connect” digital portal. It is part of the “#IthraConnect” initiative which includes diverse and interactive programs focused on intellectual and cultural enrichment. They feature the five main elements of Ithra’s programs: creativity, culture, knowledge, art and society. The first episode went live on Instagram on Tuesday evening, April 21, 2020 (Shaban 28, 1441 AH). “Taqarub: On the Sidelines of Corona” highlights literature, art, culture and philosophy at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic through a series of interviews and lectures with various experts.
The first event of the series, which was presented by Abdul-Latif Al-Mubarak, hosted the film director and researcher Abdul-Jalil Al-Naser, who explored the topic of “Scenarios of the End of the World” by first explaining the reasons behind the increased apocalyptic talk in media platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic. He highlighted the fact that this is the first time the world has faced such conditions since the invention of TV, that societies had been used to certain routines and pace in their lives but then suddenly had to abandon them and stay isolated at home. However, he stressed that the pandemic scenario is not new. The world has suffered from pandemics and other natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanos which were also considered signs of the end of the world. Moreover, the various media channels available at the moment create an emergency atmosphere in the world by focusing on this topic although it might not necessarily be the most important issue, especially given that the world has endured tougher hardships than COVID–19.
One of the biggest pandemics to strike the world was the Black Death which spread in the 13th century and lasted for four years, killing a third of the population of Europe. Furthermore, the plague entirely wiped out some villages which were only discovered 100 years later. This plague gave rise to the phrase: “The mice are coming, protect the people from plague”. When this disease abated, the European Renaissance started in the 14th century when countries collaborated, and essential resources were found and became widely available. This impacted the arts, which flourished during that era.
Al-Naser referred to the reasons that could cause the end of the world as we know it: pandemics, climate change and nuclear war. The pandemics and natural disasters which came to the world inspired creative writers, analysts and artists to imagine an apocalypse. One of these scenarios is the coming of aliens.
Films started to deal with the topic of the end of the world in the 1950s and there have been more of this genre since then. Mary Shelley’s “The Last Man” was the first apocalyptic novel. A science fiction novel published first in 1826, it was not publicly known until modern science fiction literature came to prominence in the 1960s. The story revolves around a group of people struggling to survive in a world ravaged by a pandemic and only one man stays alive after he toiled to keep his family safe.