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.

 

 

Lebanon: A State of Identityphobia

Over the course of this past weekend, I thought I was living – at least for a fleeting moment – in Ireland. The weather was sunny, albeit chilly. It was very green outside, ironically fitting for the occasion to be celebrated, and everyone was excited about St. Patrick’s Day. But then I realized that, contrary to the input I was getting from my senses, I was in fact thousands of kilometers away from Ireland, in a Middle Eastern country called Lebanon.

But this drift in my sensory perception had happened once before. Back in November, many of the Lebanese I knew were excited about Thanksgiving. What do they know about Thanksgiving? Not much, obviously. It was featured in some Hollywood movie and that was sufficient to make it important enough to be imported into their celebratory calendar. “Come join us for our Thanksgiving dinner! We sure got a lot to be thankful for.” The pilgrims and the natives of Lebanon would be very proud, I bet.

If God forbid you asked someone about their plans for Drunk Thursday, you get ridiculed. “You still celebrate that day! Man, it’s so passé!” Or if you ask someone about their plans for “A7ad el Marfa3″ [Mardi Gras applies], the same answer follows. The Lebanese “version” of Thanksgiving and St. Patrick’s day has become beneath us, apparently.

Of the many things I do not understand about Lebanese society perhaps the following is the most puzzling. Why is it that we disregard the customs and traditions of our own culture and are so vehemently adopting the traditions of others?

I heard there’s a tomato festival in Spain that happens every year. Why does Madrid get to have all the fun? Beirut could use some non-clubbing entertainment as well!

There’s also this awesome Samba festival in Rio. Why not bring it here? Lebanese women can definitely shake their hips.

It seems that our fascination with Lebanon being the crossroads of many cultures has reached the next level. Instead of embracing the fact that years of our country being a fusion of cultures has led to one that is inherently our own, we’ve started to go on a collection frenzy of anything “hip” that we may find in other cultures and importing it. We’ve got a reputation to keep, after all. What good is a Lebanese “identity” without many non-Lebanese toppings added to it?

We, as a country, suffer from a case of identityphobia. We are so afraid of who we are that we search for anything that could fleetingly satisfy our need for firmness. And then our feet lose ground again before we find something else to cling to. We’re so afraid of our identity that we can rationalize the destruction of ancient monuments that have created who we are as Lebanese.

We are so afraid of our own identity that we also feel the need to become part of a grander scheme: are you Arab or non-Arab? No I’m Phoenician. No I’m Roman. No I’m Canaanite. No, I’m everything but simply Lebanese.

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. Who knows what celebration from which country will become in soon.

There’s nothing wrong with going out for drinks on a Saturday. There’s nothing wrong with having dinner with your family on a Thursday.

What’s wrong is going for drinks on a Saturday because it is St. Patrick’s day. What’s wrong is having dinner with your family on a Thursday because it’s Thanksgiving day.

What’s wrong is us being Ireland one day, the US another, then France, followed by Italy, maybe even Egypt sometimes. Perhaps the sign welcoming tourists to Lebanon outside Beirut’s airport shouldn’t read: Welcome to Lebanon. Maybe the appropriate description should have been: Welcome to the Fragmented Colors of Lebanon – we can offer you anything you want because we have no clue who we are.

Or this can be simply considered a melodramatic rant and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations took place because the clover was mistaken for a cedar. It happens you know.

Born This Way – Lady Gaga


Listen to Lady Gaga’s new single here:

Lady Gaga – Born This Way by gagadaily

Get the song on iTunes now.

My thoughts on the song:

After a few listens, it catches on. But that’s how it’s always been with me and Gaga’s songs. The only instantaneous ones were “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance”.

The lyrics are pretty great. I do not agree with those saying that this is a gay anthem. Sure, some parts of the lyrics can be interpreted that way but they can also symbolize any struggling person. The song is an empowering anthem to everyone who has ever felt teased or bullied, regardless of race or sexual orientation.

I understand that Lady Gaga is considered an icon for the gay community. But this doesn’t mean that a song about embracing who you are is directed at that community, exclusively. Many people struggle with their identity in this world where the media paints a certain identity that we should all follow. This song tells us that whoever we are is just enough because that’s the way God made us. The beauty of music in general is that it transcends cultural boundaries. I am Lebanese and find that the part where she references me describes what my country and I go through on almost daily basis.

Now, leaving the philosophical interpretations alone, I have to say that I actually felt that a slower tempo would have given the song more justice. After reading the lyrics, and regardless of what had been said that this would be an uptempo, I thought the best way to represent those lyrics would be on a piano. Lady Gaga does very good renditions of her songs acoustically so maybe she’ll start off her Grammy performance like that on Sunday?

Regardless of what I personally think of the song, it has already hit #1 in the iTunes store of 23 countries. It has broken Britney Spears’ record for first-day radio spins in the United States. The only thing that’s sure is that Lady Gaga is nowhere near done. You might like it, you might hate it… either way, you are living with it.