How Lebanon’s Politicians Are Threatened By The #‏طلعت_ريحتكم‬ Movement

Over the past month, the most energetic and momentum-ful youth movement this country has seen over the past of the past few years was born and they called themselves طلعت ريحتكم or YouStink.

That movement was born because a portion of the Lebanese society, one that has a functioning head above its shoulders and one that can see through the whole spectrum of our politicians’ bullshit, was sick of the status quo that’s forcing every single Lebanese today, except a select few, to live in utter misery, in a state of non-existent rights and… in their own garbage. You’ve all seen those pictures.

That non-political movement has its only purpose to challenge a system that has gone for so long unchallenged and to expose the corruption that is so well-rooted in all our politicians that they’d rather let the country sink in garbage than threaten their bottom line. And that is scaring our politicians shitless.

The Future Movement:

When the protests started, the FM accused them, via its TV station Future TV, of being nothing more than “workers of the resistance,” which is to say that this movement against the trash crisis of which the FM and its corruption were central players for years is nothing more than a product of the imagination of Hezbollah.

The FM thought that such rhetoric would suffice to resonate with its crowds. Perhaps it did with some. But when it didn’t, the FM’s minister tried to divert attention from the protest by arresting a protestor who was “threatening the Sunni legacy” in the country by fighting for his right by suing the Sunni orphanage for sexual abuse and painting it as a threat to that minister’s well being. Oh well.

Michel Aoun:

In between his quest to reclaim Christian rights and to get himself to presidency and his son in law as army commander, Michel Aoun was also very upset that his very, very failed protests were, well, an utter failure and had security personnel oppose them.

To make a point, or lack thereof, he asked in a press conference the armed forces to go and cut roads and whatnot to the YouStink protesters.

The Kataeb:

Some Kataeb MPs, plenty as they are, considered the protesters in the YouStink movement to be “ridiculous,” or to use the arabic word for it “سافهين.” I guess so says the party that voted for the grandson of their founder to be their head after having his father be the head for so many years?

Hezbollah:

Hezbollah’s minister Hussein El Hajj Hassan asked Lebanese media to decrease and stop covering the YouStink protests. I guess Hezbollah’s reps think that protests against the government and establishment of which they are part, highlighting their grave shortcomings are a big no-no. Tell that to the FM please.

March 14’s General Directorate:

In their meeting, they accused the movement of being part of Hezbollah’s brigade, which is why I suppose anyone would want to oppose this government or the Lebanese establishment as it stands. The meeting also asked the government to hold its own in the face of such protesters.

And On 19/8/2015:

The following are a few pictures of what’s happening right now in Riad el Solh square, against the protesters of the YouStink movement:

When they went down to Riad el Solh today, the protesters of the YouStink movement found themselves faced with a full on onslaught by the Lebanese armed forces who hosed them with water, prevented them from protesting as the cabinet convened to discuss the garbage crisis.

The government failed, yet again, to find a solution today and postponed the problem, again, to a subsequent date. It must be so hard for our politicians to find a solution where they all get money from the handling of Beirut’s garbage. Hashtag: the tough life of a Lebanese politician who’s never satisfied financially.

So naturally, our government failing was met with wide arrests in the ranks of the protesters. Director Lucien Bou Rjeili, who recently did more work than the entirety of our political establishment in the Bab el Tebbeneh-Jabal Mosehn issue by coming up with a play bringing people from both regions together for the first time (link), was arrested.

Activist Assaad Thebian was also arrested; Imad Bazzi, known for his blog Trella.org, was injured and transferred to a nearby hospital. Activists Waref Sleiman and Hassan Shamas were also arrested.

The protesters were then threatened by our those armed forces to be arrested and referred to military court for further management, because this is how we function in Lebanon: people protesting for their fundamental civil liberties get a military trial. And we pretend we’re a democracy.

Not only have our politicians failed in the simplest form of governance and that is sorting our garbage, but they’ve also failed in maintaining a country with the minimum amount of liberties of being able to speak, of not feeling threatened to oppose, of not being beaten up and hosed down when we speak up.

How different is this government from those of the Syrian occupation period when protesters were arrested and threatened for simply protesting? It’s not.

Today, the heroes of Lebanon are those protestors in Riyad el Solh. To the country’s politicians, the most fitting thing to say is this:

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When a Lebanese MP Thinks His Political Leader Is God

The above title is not made up by The Onion and is not, as it sounds, satire.

I had just got back home from hospital to find that the news all over is about another Aounist protest.

Ironically, the first thing I saw was a doctor shouting into the microphone: “this is the people *points at himself and other protesters* who are being impoverished!” (Imagine this in high voice for bravado). He was wearing a Ralph Laurent polo and flashing a Rolex to the camera.

Poor doctor. *giggles.*

The camera then flashed tointerview a girl who, unlike her friends, was not fully-clad orange. Hey, she’s still better than Gebran Bassil’s orange Ray-Bans. I guess millions don’t buy good taste. That girl, when asked why she was protesting today said the following: “I’m not Aounist but I’m protesting for my country today!”

She’s not Aounist. *giggles.*

So where was the little demoiselle last Saturday when there was an actual protest to reclaim her country’s rights, a protest beyond the confines of familial politics, narrow-mindendess and sectarian bigotry?

*crickets.*

I figured listening to such rubbish at the end of a long day was not how I intended to end the day so I turned off my TV and reverted to my best friend, also known as my laptop, for company. I wrote a little post about some hilarious new Instagram account taking the Lebanese internet by storm (link) and then I browsed Facebook.

It was funny at first. Have you seen Gebran Bassil, our minister of foreign affairs, making his big fashion statement?

Bassil FPM protest

I kept on going hoping for better material. Big mistake.

Nabil Nicolas, currently a member of Lebanon’s parliament with the Change and Reform bloc, decided to contribute as well to the megalomania taking over the country, so he shared a picture and hence our title.

Behold a screenshot of his post:

Nabil Nicolas Michel Aoun

This confuses me on so many levels that I have to ask: is Michel Aoun Jesus? Is his actual father God and the universe doesn’t want us to know? What is he doing inside Mary?

It’s sad that any person sinks to this level of ridiculousness. What’s even sadder is that the person in question is a Lebanese MP, in charge of running the country, and who’s apparently more pre-occupied with how best to kiss up to his political leader.

Nabil Nicolas is an example of those we’ve entrusted to run the country and who’ve failed miserably. And in case you need more examples, in times like these, as to how bad they’re failing, worry not for they will deliver, and here he is.

I’m not religious. I’m not offended by this picture and I don’t care about its content. But I love how such a “Christianity-offending” picture is coming from the personal Facebook account of an MP of the Lebanese party that, today, claims to be spear-heading the fight for Christian rights by fighting to elect a president with only one viable option and to get a commander of the army with one viable option, both of which happen to be either that party’s leader or his son in law.

This is not about Christian rights for those are besides the point at this point. This is about absurd politicians who think their leader is God, about their followers who think their politicians are the disciples of God and who believe in every word that they say without critical thought.

Such people are those with whom we are sharing the country. Such people are governing us and making sure we remain in the ditch hole we’ve been living in for years, and who will remain here for years to come.

Then, because Facebook pissed me off, I reverted to Twitter where I saw the following:

Lebanon FPM protest ISIS FM

Isn’t this hilariously sad? Doesn’t it put Nabil Nicolas’ Facebook post into perspective?

These are times when people think a politician fighting tooth and nail to get his son in law to power is a politician fighting for their rights as they drown in garbage.

These are times when politicians upload pictures proclaiming their leaders to be God and 172 blindly click “like” because monkey see, monkey do.

These are times when people in the country think a moderate Sunni is ISIS just because they were told to think as such.

These are times when people think their rights are aptly defended by someone who wants nothing other than power and swallow it like sugar pills.

In such a context, Nabil Nicolas is not an abnormality but is the norm. And the brain-washing machine goes woosh.

Update: they also believe in creationism.  

 

Kawalees Beirut: Lebanon’s Funniest Instagram Account

In such times, a laugh is needed every now and then and I hope the content of this post entertains you as much as it entertained me when I saw it.

Kawalees Beirut

New to the Lebanese internet scene is an Instagram account (link) and Facebook page (link) called Kawalees Beirut. Caline Kajouni, a friend of mine, and with the help of two of her friends: Taline and Patrick, decided to re-create many of the scenes we’re exposed to as Lebanese and put a twist to them.

What if, for instance, you could take a jab at all those Lebanese series where people are in makeup and cocktail dresses all the time even when they go to bed?

What if you could do to that friend who’s stealing your fries exactly what you had in mind as you saw their fingers slither on the table towards your plate?

What if you could do to that doctor who doesn’t listen and wants to compensate for all his years of not making money exactly what you thought of as they wrote you a panadol perscription?

The trio try to answer such questions of our lives and more in extremely funny and short videos that they’re posting on their pages.

My favorite is by far the one about normal Lebanese versus Lebanese in series waking up from sleep:

Normal people waking up VS Waking up in Lebanese TV series.

A video posted by Kawalees Beirut (@kawaleesbeirut) on

 

Another hilarious one is what happens when you step on a Birkenstock, which is admittedly much more painful than stepping on anything else:

 

Whoever said stepping on Lego is painful never stepped on a Birkenstock. Featuring @vkurumilian and @hrag10

A video posted by Kawalees Beirut (@kawaleesbeirut) on

 

Or how to handle the latest heat-wave we got:

When there's a heat wave in Lebanon.

A video posted by Kawalees Beirut (@kawaleesbeirut) on

 

Or when you have a friend who never shuts up (guilty as charged):

That annoying friend that just keeps talking and talking.

A video posted by Kawalees Beirut (@kawaleesbeirut) on

 

Or when you don’t wanna give your car to the valet parking service:

That friend who always refuses to give the car to the valet.

A video posted by Kawalees Beirut (@kawaleesbeirut) on

 

Or when pesky Arabic tirashrash music wakes you up from your Sunday nap:

When you're trying to nap on a Sunday afternoon and this happens.

A video posted by Kawalees Beirut (@kawaleesbeirut) on

 

Or when your friends are trying to converse at a bar:

Your reaction when someone's talking to you in a pub and you can't hear a thing.

A video posted by Kawalees Beirut (@kawaleesbeirut) on

 

There are many more videos where those came from. You can check out their Instagram page here and their Facebook page here. They’re already up to over 3500 followers between both pages so you know they’re up to something really good.

This is the kind of comedy that I think we need more of in this country: something not cliche, full of humor and with a sarcastic take on our daily lives. Lebanese comedians, take note: three people who have nothing to do with your field are giving you a few lessons.

Fabian Maamari, Enough With Your Silliness

Behold Fabian Maamari, the Swedish-Lebanese whose Facebook pictures are causing a Lebanese frenzy.

4 days ago, Fabian posted a picture of him between two IDF soldiers with the very – err – sentimental? caption that you can check here.

To sum-up, Fabian met Avi – an Israeli – and the love of his life as he calls him, when he visited Israel last year during Tel Aviv’s yearly Pride parade. He then decided to move to Israel and stay there.

Recently, Fabian went on a vacation to the Israeli side of the Dead Sea where he saw two IDF soldiers roaming around. So because he was “experimental” he came up to them and waited until they made contact. He then made sure they knew he was Lebanese because he wanted to shock them.

 

Those IDF soldiers turned out to have served in Lebanon during the period of Israeli occupation of the South, and maybe even during the July 2006 war. Therefore, Fabian’s knee-jerk reaction was to have all his fears dissolve because the IDF soldiers thought Lebanon was “a beautiful country.”

They were then invited to dinner where Fabian told them the story of how he met his husband, and things quickly turned into sunshine and butterflies and how we should never judge people before we meet them and that Israelis can be nice people too.

Israelis can be good people, sure. I mean, they are just people, and people can be good or bad. Fair enough, a soldier killing a Lebanese does not make all people of that country bad. But it does put a huge question mark on the country that ordered the killing, especially when the death tally on our side is of lives shattered and ruined. Meeting adorable Israelis does not mean foregoing the struggles of Lebanese people with them. It doesn’t mean brushing aside their horrors just because it’s “cool.”

By the same token, there are a lot of bad Lebanese people that make me ashamed of holding the same nationality. A recent example that comes to mind is those employees who beat up two African women just because they were, well, African (link), or how many of us are treating the Syrian refugees.

But this isn’t about giving every single Israeli the benefit of the doubt for being Israeli, Fabian Maamari wants us to give their entire country the benefit of the doubt, and with that I have a problem.

This is not, unlike how some Lebanese media portrayed it, about Fabian Maamari being gay, and being a Lebanese man in love with an Israeli man. This is far from it. Maamari can love whoever he wants, and sleep with whoever he wants, Israeli or otherwise, and I couldn’t care less.

This is also not similar to when Miss Lebanon found herself in a selfie with Miss Israel (link) or when the recurrent debate about how to best handle Israeli presence at international events takes place.

 

I feel like a few reminders are in order for Mr. Maamari, who entered Israel with his Swedish passport, and who has absolutely no reason to be “afraid” when he’s there as a European Union nationalist, not as Lebanese.

These are a few pictures from the recent July War, where Israel killed over 1500 civilians of your country including more than 300 women and children:

And this is the love they gave us then:

 

And these are pictures of the 1996 Qana Massacre where Israel shelled a UN compound filled with children, killing 106.

Where was the love back then?

For every picture that you are posting, Mr. Maamari, of your Israeli adventure, there’s one to parallel it in horrors of what that country has caused us.

For every “awww” moment you’re experiencing when you meet an Israeli who happens to be nice, and you get the shock of his life that they can be nice when you’re dating one of them (I don’t get it?), there’s a Palestinian child drawing his last breath. Have you heard about the recent settler arson that took an infant’s life?

Either way, I see that you noticed how Palestine is separated from you by a wall, but you seem not to have an issue with it:

A picture taken by Fabian, off his blog.

A picture taken by Fabian, off his blog.

Fabian’s reply to those who reminded him of Israel’s atrocities in Lebanon is that he does not entertain blind hate. Yes, because the history of how your other country got killed, decimated, and targeted is blind.

Your people, that is if they are your people, are not filled with hate; they are filled with memories, most of which you lack. The wars you’ve “heard” about, some of us lived first hand (link). Those IDF soldiers you had dinner with probably killed a father or a mother or a child of someone that we may know. That country you’re falling in love with actively killed us and occupied our land for years.

Fabian Maamari, you are allowed to sleep with as many Israelis as you want. You are allowed to fall in love with as many Israelis as you want, and by all means have dinner with as many IDF soldiers as you want. You are allowed to be happy you went viral for your “boundaries-transcending” love affair as much as you want. But there’s a limit to how love-struck you can be.

How Lebanon Has Officially Hit Rock Bottom

Once upon a time, I used to be one of the people who gathered around and started to enumerate how proud they are to be Lebanese. Slowly but surely, I started to become disenchanted with the country; I started to see its flaws and how helpless and powerless I was to try and change anything. Soon enough, I saw no point in pride.

For a long time, I used to be called a pessimist for being such a person, a constantly negative reminder that people like me existed. After the past few days, Lebanon has not only hit an entirely new low for me, but many seem to have come to the realization, like I have a long time ago, that this country is hopeless and that pride has not set foot in this land.

Welcome to the club, and this is why you should join.

 

1) The Garbage Crisis:

It’s been more than 2 weeks that the garbage in Beirut has been piling up with no end in sight. The pictures and videos are aplenty. I’ve already seen patients in the ER whose chief complaint was how the odor of the garbage is affecting their health. The cabinet has met a total of 4 times so far, all of which were utterly in vain to try to fix the crisis, but they couldn’t.

The garbage problem is not that the Lebanese individual produces a lot of trash or that we don’t recycle, and the numbers don’t lie. It’s that this is a sector that, for years now, has been the money machine for Lebanese politicians to fill their pockets without any one noticing.

The garbage crisis has shown us that our politicians can’t even begin to handle our trash… and here they are tasked with handling more pressing issues facing the country. It has also shown that those same politicians who have been benefitting from our garbage’s tax money for years couldn’t, even as the trash piled up, to rise beyond the danger to their pockets and treat their citizens as people for once.

The average cost of a ton of garbage in Lebanon is $120. Contrast this with less than $20 in Egypt. Why? Because the remaining $100 has other uses.

Instead of searching for a radical fix, they tried to put a bandaid on a profusely bleeding wound by simply dumping Beirut’s garbage elsewhere, confirming what we all knew: non-Beiruti-Lebanese are lesser citizens who should be forced to live next to Beirut’s trash. The country of temporary solutions for critical crisis shines again.

Our politicians turned the country into nothing more than a garbage dump. We’ve become the laughing stock of the world in doing so, only this time it wasn’t Mia Khalife or Miss Lebanon’s fault, it was our own: we got beyond incompetent people in office, and we are reaping what we’ve sown.

Welcome to the republic of garbage.

2) Jumblat Turned The Garbage Sectarian:

 

Some headlines would have been “The Onion” material even back during the Civil War when Christians and Muslims were killing each other. This time around, one of the leading Lebanese politicians not only made our garbage sectarian, but he divided it according to confessional lines.

In a recent statement, PSP leader Walid Jumblat figured it would be a good idea to propose he handles the garbage of the Muslims while Christian leaders handle the garbage of the Christians affected by the crisis.

The sad part is his statement did not turn heads. The situation is that dire. I’m surprised the proposal didn’t include specific color codes for garbage bags that also worked according to sects. I mean, isn’t that the next logical step?

The country isn’t only run on sectarian ground; our politicians have also turned our trash sectarian. The sadder part? Someone who talks of garbage in sectarian terms is governing us.

Welcome to the land of segregation.

3) The Minister of Social Affairs Arrests A Protester… After Ignoring His Abuse Complaints For Years:

Tarek Mallah

Tarek el Mallah was an orphan who was abused for years at Lebanon’s Islamic orphanage. When he reached adulthood, Tarek filed for a lawsuit against the orphanage. Such serious abuse should not have happened if Lebanon had a decent Social Affairs ministry that actually cared for the well-being of the country children, or if that Social Affairs ministry fought for those children when they spoke up.

Following the lawsuit, the minister of Social Affairs Rachid Derbas tried to convince Tarek el Mallah to stop his pursuit for justice. Why? Because he was giving Sunnis a bad name, but Tarek wouldn’t have it.

So when Tarek was protesting in the “Tel3et Ri7etkon” movement, Rachid Derbas made sure he got arrested for “civil strife.”

Rachid Derbas abusing his title to try and tarnish the reputation of Lebanese citizens whose only fault was to speak up is not an unusual behavior for Lebanese politicians. It has been going on for years. The lesson from such a thing, one that we always need to remember is the following:

You, as a Lebanese citizen, don’t have rights. You are not allowed to fight for your rights, face politicians who think they own you because they happen to govern you, face the status quo and get away with it, because someone in power will always have power over you, even if they don’t. This is how things are.

Welcome to the land of injustice.

4) The Death of Georges El Rif & Rabih Kahil:

Rabih Kahil

A couple of weeks ago, Georges el Rif was stabbed in broad daylight, to the observation of many, in Gemmayzeh, by a Lebanese figure’s bodyguard… because that bodyguard cut him off in traffic (link). A few days ago, colonel Rabih Kahil, who fought last summer in Arsal, was killed because he was in an argument with someone over the phone and a passer-by was annoyed he was shouting, so he shot him three times.

No one is safe in this land of lawlessness. Everyone has a gun, or a knife, and a lot are willing to use their weapons, just because they can.

It’s sad to think that we live in a country where we all prone to have our names turned into a justice hashtag. But what can you do when you live here?

Welcome to the jungle.

5) No President and No Parliament:

POTLR

I’m sure you’ve forgotten by now, but amid the garbage, people getting shot and stabbed or arrested because ministers have a personal vendetta, the country has not had a president for exactly 432 days. That’s over one year and two months of the country’s head being vacant, ironically accurate given how the country actually is today.

Over the past 432 days, our parliament, which has been illegally working for over 775 days, failed to convene more than 25 times to vote for a president. I honestly lost count at 25.

Not only do those who represent us feel entitled to renew for themselves and rob us from our fundamental right to vote, but they also can’t manage to do their job, not that elections would have changed anything because we all know that our people would vote for the same lot all over again.

It says a lot when the country is this dysfunctional. It says even more when not having a president for over a year is… okay? Yet again, what can you expect from those who can’t handle garbage.

Welcome to the republic of non-republicanism.

6) ISIS Still Has Our Soldiers:

As we’ve all forgotten the president, or lack thereof, this is a friendly reminder that ISIS still has several of our soldiers detained somewhere we don’t know, and that the government has essentially given up on bringing them back.

ISIS killed our soldiers on several occasions, and we utterly failed every single time.

Welcome to the republic of disgrace.

7) The Status Quo Will Live On:

If you think the current state of the country has gotten people to open their eyes, you’re deeply mistaken. Apart from the minority taking it to the streets to call on our political class to resign, the vast majority still puts sect before country and before their basic human rights.

Lebanese Christians today are haunted by the need to fight for their “Christian” rights, foregoing the notion that their rights as people are synonymous with the rights of everyone else in the country and that fighting for rights should be across the board.

Lebanese Muslims today are too dependent on their two or three leaders to actually rise beyond being anything more than followers who do as they are told, who vote as they are instructed and who can’t complain for fear of breaking order.

In the land of apathy, of utter and sheer dependence, the vicious cycle will forever live on.

Conclusion:

If you’re still reading, good on you. Here’s a sticker.

 

 

 

Forget about the glories of Gebran, because I don’t care about his book.

Forget about Carlos Selim Helu being originally Lebanese, because I don’t care about his money.

Forget about this or that Lebanese doing something impressive abroad, because in the grand scheme of things, they are irrelevant to you.

Forget about hummus. Forget about tabbouleh. Forget about Beirut and our parties.

What matters is not that some Lebanese wrote a book that became a worldwide hit.

What matters is how this country of ours is treating us as people and how it sees our value as its citizens.

It’s easy to say that Lebanese politicians are ruining us, but they do not exist in void: they are of us, emanating from our values and from our votes.

It’s easy to say that the current state of the country is not “my” fault, but it sure is ours.

There’s nothing sadder than to feel so disenchanted by one’s country that your existence in it becomes nauseating, except this time the stench is real.

 

 

When Lebanon Drowns In Garbage… Again

Lebanon Garbage Problem

If there’s one quality that can apply to Lebanese society and our form of governance, it’s that we always reactive rather than proactive, which is to say we never face a crisis looming on the horizon by driving off the road leading to it; we just continue driving until we fall off the cliff… and then we start searching for ways to build a parachute in the free fall.

This applies to so many things in the country: from presidential elections, to parliamentary elections, to the current garbage status. I can’t even believe we are discussing garbage, but here we are.

At a time when Sweden ran out of garbage and is looking to import some to produce energy (link), Lebanon will soon start piling up its garbage on the streets of Beirut and its other cities, because we have no place to dispose of them.

 

As a reminder, this was how things were last year:

The problem back then had one aspect: the residents of the country’s main landfill, Naameh, cut off the roads leading to the dump to protest the toxic effect of having such a facility close to where they lived: the place was supposed to be a temporary landfill for 6 years and hold a maximum of two million tons of waste; it has been in use for more than 17 and currently has more than 15 million tons.

Negotiations with residents at the time culminated in them stopping their protests and allowing Sukleen’s trucks to deposit garbage for a limited period of time – one that has now expired – as the government searches for other ways to address Lebanon’s garbage problem, which the government clearly did not do.

The problem today, however, is two-fold: the agreement with the residents of Naameh has run its course, and as such the roads to the Naameh landfill are closed once again. However, this time around, there isn’t anyone to collect the garbage in the first place because, as of July 17th, the government’s agreement with Sukleen had also expired. Hurray for efficiency.

As of now, you will see Sukleen employees sweeping the sidewalks, and picking up your dog poop if you live in Achrafieh, but they won’t be picking up your garbage. Brace yourself for the stench.

In numbers, this is Lebanon’s garbage status:

  • We produce 1.57 million tons of solid waste a year, with a 1.65% annual growth rate.
  • Per capita, we produce 1.1 tons of solid waste, this follows the regional average, but is far below that of developed countries (obviously).
  • 53 % of Lebanon’s solid waste goes to landfills.
  • 30 % is disposed in dumps.
  • 17 % is recycled or composted.

I don’t know how a government can be this clueless as to let this issue run its course twice in its lifetime, but they have. Not only is the country drowning in corruption, wastas and “you rub my back so I rub yours” mentalities, but you can now add literal garbage to the list… again.

This will not be fixed until some political hail Mary takes over and a band-aid is placed, once again. As I said, we don’t live in a country of a futuristic vision, but of temporary fixes. In a few days, when the sidewalks have garbage bags and not people, the outcry will prove deafening to our officials not to do anything. They will scramble to negotiate a new agreement with Sukleen. Then they will convince the residents of Naameh that the toxic fumes of 15 million tons of waste are not that bad, and we will pretend things are okay, until this repeats in a year or two or five.

Here are a few headlines on how to maybe address the issue from its core:

1 – Recycling:

In the short months that I lived in Lille and NYC, every single item of solid trash that I produced had to be sorted into different piles of trash, depending on whether that got recycled or whether it got composted. Papers went into one pile, cans went into another and the rest went into a dispenser.

Recycling will not only decrease the load that Lebanon’s landfills have to handle daily, but it will also make the country more environmentally conscious. The problem with this is that it needs a huge paradigm shift in how Lebanese look at their garbage. Will they do the effort to sort? I honestly doubt.

2 – Incinerators:

We have electricity issues. We also have garbage issues. Why not try to fix the former with the latter? Garbage incinerators that produce energy can help Lebanon’s ailing electricity sector.

The problem with the incinerators is that, when not properly maintained, they will produce immense levels of pollution and the maximum level at which they can handle waste is about 160 tons a day; for reference, the Naameh landfill, the country’s biggest, handles about 2800 tons a day.

The limited capacity of such incinerators means that many are required to have a dent in Lebanon’s garbage problem. The problem with them being as polluting as they are is that finding a location for them is probably harder than finding locations for new dumps or landfills. Moreover, we all know the government won’t bother making sure the incinerator plants are up to environmental qualifications.

3 – New Landfills:

I mean, really, why not? If recycling is too hard, and incinerators are too costly/polluting, then why not invest in new landfills in some remote, poorly-inhabited regions provided that such landfills be maintained and properly handled, which is to say that those landfills should not become lands filled with garbage, but rather lands where garbage is handled in environmental and scientifically decent ways, for a minute period of time, in a plan that spans several years in order not to fall into the same problem… again.

4 – Export It:

Instead of drowning in garbage, why not sell it? Sweden wants some. Norway wants some. I’m sure we can find an Arab country who’s willing to take it at a bargain. Why not just get rid of it? It’s not like we know what to do with it here.

5 – Tax It:

At a growth rate of 1.65% yearly, the garbage we produce will soon become too much for what we can handle anyway, even if temporary measures are placed. Why not have a tax on how much garbage a household can produce before they have to pay for the handling of whatever they’re producing? Such taxes can be made in such a way to fund environmentally friendly projects in the country.

Conclusion:

The country needs drastic measures to address the garbage issue. At a time when Sweden is importing trash because they’ve run out of it, it’s horrifying to think that a country such as Lebanon not only doesn’t have a place for its own trash, but literally has no idea how to handle it.

How many times should we drown in garbage before we learn that temporary fixes are not okay?

How many times should we drown in garbage before we learn that if those in power can’t handle our waste, then how can we entrust them with more pressing issues?

Welcome to the republic of garbage, taking it literally since 2014.

Foreign Journalists, Can You Stop The Cliche & Poorly Researched Articles About Lebanon?

Dear Foreign Journalists,

We, as Lebanese people, absolutely adore the pride booster injections that you give us whenever you write about Beirut or our country.

In other words, the country gets a massive hard-on whenever you take the time to write an article about Beirut, or about how much of an “exotic” destination for tourism Lebanon is. Many of us (not me, to be honest) rise above the cliche of the articles because we believe they serve the greater good: to show the country in a better light, to show Beirut as a cosmopolitan city, and what have you.

But – and to put this gently – there’s just so much that you can say about a city being a party capital and about a people being party-loving before it becomes not only redundant, but utterly nauseating to read à la “oh look, it’s another one of those articles.”

I know that writing those articles gets you a lot of clicks and attention – blame our clicking-loving-Lebanese-fingers for that, but what needs to be said is the following.

Over the past couple of days, an article by The Telegraph by Ruth Sherlock – a foreign correspondent based in Beirut – has been making the rounds, aptly titled: “War is a million miles away when the Lebanese begin to party.” 

The article started off with a picture of a woman drinking champagne, with the caption indicating that the woman was doing so at a recent election, noting that the most recent election we’ve had was in 2009. But that’s not the “best” part about the picture.

Lebanon Telegraph Article

The author naturally assumed that the woman in question was Christian, because sectarian and religious designations by Western Journalists are perfectly fine when talking about Lebanon.

How is that woman Christian? I guess it’s because she’s unveiled? Because as we all know, there isn’t a single Muslim woman in the country who isn’t veiled. I should get the memo out to my friends. Or is it because she’s drinking alcohol? Because, as we all know there isn’t a single Muslim who happens to be female who likes to drink alcohol in this country? I should also get the memo to my party-loving friends; but please don’t get any ideas about writing articles about alcohol-loving Lebanese-Muslim women, I beseech you.

The article then goes on and on about Lebanon’s love for plastic surgery, because this is not new. What is new, however, is that we – as Lebanese – like to throw extravagant parties worth over $200,000 and weddings worth over $300,000.

I don’t know about you but I, as a Lebanese, currently have $30 in my bank account. Not only does my entire worth not equate $200,000, but I’ve never seen such money in my life before. This is to say that when you talk to an event organizer serving the Lebanese 0.3% in order to get an assessment of the other 99.7%, you are bound to – and forgive my French – fuck up. For reference on Lebanon’s distribution of wealth and why the notion of $200,000 events being the norm is completely erroneous, check the following article.

And because the Lebanese cliché is never really fulfilled without mentioning religion a few dozen times in a 500 word article, The Telegraph article made the very astute observation that Lebanese put sect before country, also known as something my not-yet-born cousin would gladly tell you on any of her sonograms.

The religious cliché also needs a good dose of how communities are segregated into East and West, Christian versus Muslim and how they rarely interact, with the occasional sectarian and probably senile man still living in 1965 who thinks those who pray differently are inherently bad people, although I have to admit the notion is not particularly erroneous among many people of the Lebanese populace, but it’s all very “been-there-done-that” topic wise, especially when name-dropping neighborhoods for their sectarian affiliation, and doing so erroneously; as far as I know, Basta is very Sunni.

Do not, however, and I beseech you again, go into how the Sunni-Shiite conflict of the region is having repercussions on Lebanon because that’s another overdone topic or how precious and vital Lebanon’s Christians are for the region because they, out of all denominations in the country, don’t need their self-worth inflamed any more.

Then, because it’s never an article about Lebanon without mentioning power cuts and how we don’t agree on our history post 1943, The Telegraph article aptly drops those, as if they’re coloring by number. Pastel color green goes into box number 3.

When you want to write an article about Lebanon, please don’t interview a party planner for the 1%, a businessman who is among the 1% and an old man who was probably taken aback by the presence of a foreigner, and was more than willing to blurt out anything, pile up the bunch together and call it an “article.”

I understand that Lebanon is not your target audience in such pieces; but we will be reading them anyway. Similarly, I assume you’d also be appalled if I wrote an article about the United Kingdom and mixed up Scotland with England, or if I wrote an article about New York City and I assumed the entire city is nothing more than Manhattan’s Financial District.

The Telegraph isn’t the only publication to do this. The examples are endless, from the Guardian to the Washington Times. It’s always the same topic over, and over again.

As a rule of thumb, the following headlines are so overdone they’re dead: Lebanon and parties, Lebanon and war, Lebanon and religious diversity, Lebanon and electricity &/or internet, Lebanon and the proximity of the beach to the mountain, Lebanon and skiing plus swimming in the same day, Lebanon and the active presence of Christians.

If you absolutely feel the need to write about any of the aforementioned topics, however, please, please do read the other twenty million articles written in the same vein, and try to give a new perspective, one that local media fails to produce because of the toes they’re afraid of stepping on, and one which both your Lebanese and local readers alike will find refreshing.

PS: The picture of the Church next to the Mosque in Downtown Beirut is a big no-no.

beirut-church-mosque

Best,

A disgruntled reader.