Welcome to the Republic of Anarchy

Welcome to Lebanon.

Those were the words I thought I would be very keen to hear halfway through my stay in France. I’m almost two weeks in. And the last thing I want to do is go back.

As I sat in my French apartment, looking over a car stopping at a red light at 4 am in the morning, I started to wonder… what am I going back to in a couple of weeks?

And after the political unraveling of the last few days, that question’s broken disk kept spinning. I am not a Lebanese who has been so overly seduced by life in those “better” Western countries that the thought of life in Lebanon has become intolerable. I am perfectly able to live there as I’ve done for the entirety of my 22 years so far. In fact, the only thing I’ve done these past two weeks in France – apart from hospital duties – is to tell everyone about all the good that my country has to offer, slowly working on changing their stereotypes.

The ironic part is that just yesterday at noon some French person asked me about the situation in my country and I answered: there’s nothing really happening except in few select areas that you wouldn’t really go to.

How gullible of me? Yes, I know.

Once you’ve tasted the forbidden fruit of everything that those “better” countries have to offer and once you’ve dipped your toes into the waters of safety that are spread around all their land, you can’t but wonder: how are we living exactly?

Where am I going back in a few weeks?

To a place where we enjoy a security kept together by fragile forces enjoying an exquisite 69. To a place where “pilgrims” getting kidnapped is solved by some family’s army wing kidnapping people in retaliation. To a place where families have army wings. To a place where some families are called clans. To a place where these clans stick together. To a place where these clans threaten to make things worse.

Go back where you ask?

To a place where these clans decide to take things into their hands. To a place where clans actually have the option to take things into their own hands. To a place where you – irrelevant, clan-less, arms-less – are close to a bug, ready to be squashed. All for the greater good.

Go back to what?

To a place where any irrelevant person finding any irrelevant TV station can get the whole country to boil. To a place where people believe they have principles but are so brainwashed that they think they reached their opinions freely. To a place where saying your opinion can get you threats. To a place where freedom of speech is slowly becoming a myth. To a place where some people would much rather have you silenced than to defend your right to say your opinion. To a place where you would much rather stay silent because talking has become expensive.

Go back where?

To a place where we accept doing a war for a few prisoners in some country and eleven in an another but talking about those other prisoners who have been as such for decades is considered treason. To a place where some people’s only fault is not to be born into this family or that because that’s the way to get things done. To a place where each house has an arsenal of arms tucked away with winter’s carpets, ready to be unloaded at any second. To a place where the range of self-control is as expanded as the emotional range of a spoon.

Go back where?

To a place where the way people look at you is determined by your nationality, by the color of your skin or the religious symbol you wear around your neck. It might be the same in other countries, true, but I’m certain there are no other countries where workers of certain nationalities are threatened not to roam certain towns after a specific hour.

Go back where again?

To a place where some people have minds so messed up that they think messing up the whole country serves their best interests only when, in fact, the only interests being served are those of countries that we love to hate. And they do so willingly, lovingly, exquisitely and proudly.

Go back where?

To a place where we pride ourselves of being triumphant in non-sensical wars when, in fact, we are losing the more important battles of science, research, advancement, economy. To a place where we pride ourselves on the importance of resiliency – only when it comes to certain very specific things. Everything else? Well, the hell with that.

Go back where?

To a checkpoint that gives you digital rectal exams if you don’t have all the papers you’ve ever been given in the country, a checkpoint that turns you into a national threat while others kidnap citizens of other nationalities left and right and are left to go on with their business as if they are doing absolutely nothing wrong.

Go back where?

To a place whose airport road is closed 300 days out of 365 by those same irrelevant people who think they are so relevant. To a place where burning tires has become a meme we laugh at. To a place where the concept of a peaceful demonstration does not exist.

Go back where?

To a place where my MacBook charger gives me headache because the electricity we get sporadically is not only non-existent most of the times but of such a low quality that our electronics suffer in return. To a place where a smoker is always right. To a place where a woman is wrong most of the times. To a place where a woman driving a bus is deemed “mestarjle.”

Go back where?

To a place where you are ripped off for the bare necessities every single day. And you can’t do anything about it. To a place where you have to beg for any little thing you want to get. To a place where phone companies are screwing you daily. To a place where consuming tap water gives you diarrhea. To a place where breathing gives you pneumonia. To a place where walking on sidewalks means maneuvering your way around cars, dog feces and drunkards. To a place where a public transportation system is non-existent and where going from point A to point B, despite them being within the same city, gets you to panic.

Go back where?

Somewhere whose capital is a concrete jungle, becoming uglier with each building getting torn down and a high-rise replacing it. Whose capital has very few select spots that we love to show to tourists because that’s really the only thing we’ve got to show. Whose capital is clinically dead in every possible way – except partying the night away in a pride element of “joie de vivre.” Whose capital dances so wildly on the tip of a yo-yo that you can’t really tell which road you have to take in the morning to get to work safely.

Go back where?

To a place whose regions are so close together and yet so segregated that telling people where you’re from comes with a baggage of stereotypes that you have to tolerate your whole life. To a place where those regions are always – always – unicolor.

Go back where?

To some place where shit hits the fan so frequently that you end up having no idea what kind of place you’d be going back to. And it’d be raining shit all the time. To a place where all the components for the situation to get messed up are in place. All the time. And somehow we always end up utterly shocked when it happens. It’s what was getting brewed when we were partying the night away at Skybar last night. Cheers by the way.

Go back where?

To a place whose “activists” are neo-socialists who want to advance their own agenda under an umbrella of independence. Where the only slogan those activists raise is beautiful rhetoric of a better tomorrow. Someone has watched that “Annie” movie often. Where those activists have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. But don’t tell them I told you that.

Go back to what?

To a place whose expats berate you for writing something similar to what you’re reading right now – because somehow that place is an awesome place, much better than the places they decided to immigrate to. And yet they are there – not here. Whose expats are so blinded by homesickness that they can’t really see how sick their home really is.

Go back where?

To some place whose national pride comes in the form of the following: Cedars, mountain close to the sea, skiing and swimming in the spring, Christians having an “active” presence, Jeita Grotto, whatever green we have left, Skybar, White, Gemmayzé, Byblos, the politician you think is next to God, the history you are not even familiar with, the fact that this place is so much better than those places around it, the resiliency, the “joie de vivre.”

And the list is limited to that.

At this point though, I don’t care about the few Cedar trees that we have left. I don’t care that the white in our flag is that of the snowy mountains we adore so much. I don’t care about a cave you have to pay a shitload to get access to. I don’t care that the president of the country always has to be Christian – something you somehow find yourself always saying to ignorant foreigners who think your country is a haven for Islamists. I don’t give a shit about Lebanese joie de vivre: let’s dance the night away tonight and not care about what’ll happen tomorrow. I don’t care about comparing Lebanon to lesser neighboring countries just because it makes us feel better about ourselves.

What I do care about is having a decent country to return to. A place I can be proud to call my land, my home. Where my rights as a human being, first and foremost, are respected beyond any other measure. Where I don’t feel a stranger in a land that is supposedly mine. Where I know that the safety I feel today will still be there tomorrow. Where a girl walking down the street in Gemmayzé knows that if she saw someone being involved in lude acts, that someone will end up in prison. Where I don’t have to be eternally grateful for any asshole for doing their job. Where I don’t have to kiss up to assholes for them to do their job.

What will this lead to? Absolutely nothing. It’s the way things are. And it’s the way things will remain. Thousands will read this. Some will love it. Some will have a sense of national pride miraculously kick in and decide than I’m not worth it. Others will get stuck at the fact that I alluded to that country that shall not be named and decide that I’m an ignorant traitor of a history they apparently know very well.

Others will say I should stop criticizing and come up with a solution. But what’s the point, really? It’s not like any solution you can come up with can get illiterate growers of hashish to decide they want to integrate in a country where you don’t even have anything to integrate in. A solution to what? Bring forth national unity?

Go back where again?

To a place that has literally (check this) remained the same for the past 142 years when it comes to the basic fabrics of its society. To a place where Sunnis hate the Shiites who hate the Druze who hate the Maronites who hate the Orthodox who hate the Catholics who hate the Jews who hate the Shiites who also hate the Sunnis who in turn hate the Maronites and what you’re left with is a clusterfuck of sects hating each other. And you can’t begin to dream to change that because if there’s anything that our meaningless history has taught us it’s that diversity is beyond overrated.

There was a week back in July where I lost hope in Lebanon (check here) ever becoming a country I would love to be in at least in the foreseeable future. But I retained my pride to be Lebanese. There’s a love/hate relationship with this land that you can’t escape from.
But today, as I’m typing these words on a subway taking me to the hospital where I’m gladly working 10 hours a day, I’m even considering if this national pride is enough anymore. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it isn’t. But when it’s gone, the only thing I’ll be left with is me caring.

Some French people here, as well as people from other nationalities, commend me for being overly patriotic. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s a good thing. I’m beginning to wonder if my pride that should be non-existent in a country that can’t begin to dream to function is stopping to me as an individual from moving on and becoming something.

If there’s anything I noticed from my stay in Europe is that no matter what you do and how well you integrate, you will always be looked at as the intruder to their culture. You will always be looked at as the outsider, the person who was not there when it all began and the person who will always be looked down upon.

Then you look at your “culture” back home and, despite having people who share your thoughts and dreams and aspirations, you are faced with the realization that you are a minority. You are not where your country is heading. The culture currently sinking its teeth into the land you hold dear is not that of liberties and freedom but that of fear and hate and disgust and lack of law.

Welcome to Lebanon. I thought I would be dying to see that sign two weeks into my stay in France. Two weeks in, the only sign I can see looming above my country’s airport is: welcome to the republic of anarchy.

And do I really want to go back there?

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14 thoughts on “Welcome to the Republic of Anarchy

  1. Spot on Elie,
    this post pretty much summarizes the situation in Lebanon.

    I would love to hear a counter-argument, for the sake of getting a glimpse of hope for this country.

    PS: You forgot to mention Hommos, a moderate climate, the first alphabet and Fairuz in the national pride list.

    Reply
    • Great piece Elie, however out of this chaos has emerged one of the most resilient races on the planet, this enigmatic enclave has produced some remarkable people from all clubs ,gangs ,clans (& ashab electric motors) on an 80/20 basis the Lebanese dynamic has driven a culture rich in diversity of food ,(notably hommos)) climate ,family values,and joie de vie envied by many inc. myself, She is on the verge of becoming financially self sufficient with advent of recent oil discovery,but as we all know not without restrictions,until Lebanese sort their own house ,and stop blaming others it will not change ,hommos yes homage. NO.

      PS Lillian if gangs are not to be challenged (or judged ) as they are culturally acceptable ,then a death by someone going the wrong way down a 1 way street must be covered by “This is Lebanon ” yet another cultural pastime……….

      Reply
  2. As much as I might agree with some of the points you make, you’re very ethnocentric. There are many types of people in Lebanon, we’re not all duel citizenship holders who can go to Paris and have some croissants. As much as I don’t agree wit what’s going on and think the clan situation is shit, you can’t say things and judge from your angle. They’re a clan, and in their culture they stick together and defend each other, and to them what they’re doing isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m not agreeing with their actions, I really am not, but with different people of different social/cultural backgrouns with different views of right and wrong from you, you can’t be condensing and judging.

    Reply
    • Who said anything about me having a dual passport? I’m in France for a month because I worked hard enough at uni to get an exchange program to a hospital here. So please, spare me the preaching.

      Reply
      • The rest of the comment still stands. It’s not a preaching, it’s called constructive criticism, which obviously you’re not open to.

        Reply
        • I categorically disagree with you on that as well. Just because they think is right does not make it even remotely acceptable.
          And yeah when you are basing your comment on that fact that I am coming off from the perspective of an outsider just because I’m blogging from France, I’m very much entitled to be offended and not accept your version of “positive criticism.”

          Reply
    • You can judge the actions of a clan – sticking together and helping their own is a measure of most neighbourhoods, religions, etc… but when they start to stick it to other people under the guise of protecting their own there are no differing views of right and wrong – there is only the law.
      You break the law, you are wrong. No discussion.

      Reply
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