Wel lebneneh? El lebneneh 3onsore. El lebnene 7mar. El lebnene sheyef 7alo.
Those were some of the answers some Lebanese decided to come up with to the question asked by the Cheyef 7alak video above.
People are failing to realize that the video is not of real students in a real classroom situation and is an exaggerated representation of Lebanese society.
Therefore, the entire country is judged accordingly.
Is Lebanon a racist country? Sure, we have racism. But is everyone a racist? No. The correct designation for Lebanon would be: a country which has many racists. And this description applies to every single country on this planet – all 200 of them, with slight variations in the description.
I’m currently in France for a neurology clerkship at one of their country’s and europe’s leading facilities in the field. I see patients on daily basis who are losing their mind, therefore many of their social inhibitions, and who say whatever they feel like saying. I’ve also met enough French people to last me a lifetime and I’ve discussed with those French people politics on more than one occasion. And one thing has come very clear to me.
They are racist too.
“Est-ce que tu as voté, madame?” was something a physician asked a woman who thinks she’s still in then 1900s when Mitterand was running for elections. She shook her head. The physician asked her why. She replied: “Les memes personnes gagnent toujours… les Arabes, les Noirs, les Chinois….”
The physicians and interns, some of whom were Arab, took it with humor as they do everything in this country apparently.
But I knew better.
One of the many discussions French people seem comfortable to have with me as a Lebanese Christian is about Islam. And if you heard the things I heard, you’d be offended as I was – yes, even as a Lebanese Christian. Note that the discussion happened with Holland-voting people who should be more “tolerant” to the “others” in their country than right-wing voters.
So France is a racist country. Typical flawless Lebanese logic. Right?
No. Why? Because even in France, you will find people who do not think that way and who are open to other people around them. Just as it is in Lebanon. I would even argue that there are as many people who are worried about Islam in France as there are people in Lebanon who don’t like black people.
Racism is not a Lebanese problem and we might as well stop making it seem that way. Racism is a problem that derives from the basic human fear of difference – we are automatically inclined to like those that are different from us less. Those differences might be the color of their skin, their religion, their political views, etc….
The French, however, would say we are the retarded society because we can’t accept those who are different from us skin-wise. They fail to see that they are not accepting those who are different from them religiously. Even the French atheists have no problem with the Christians but have problems with taking in the French Muslim population.
And by the looks of it, it’s the same across Europe. It’s the same in the United States as well where you being from the Middle East comes with a baggage of stereotypes. The only difference between all those other “better” countries and us is that they don’t see it as a bad thing to have in their society. On the contrary, it is a constant matter for political debate that benefits different parties in their quest for political power.
In Lebanon, on the other hand, we absolutely love to bring down the Lebanese. Houwe sha3b bhim, sha3b 7mar, sha3b bajam…. And the list goes on. Sure, there are many things that we need to work on as a society, including racism and looking down on people from different nationalities. But we need to know that not everyone thinks this way and the majority might not be this ignorant. And if there’s anything that I’ve come to realize with me being away is that the good in us is absolutely great.
And if there’s anything that still makes me proud about my country it’s all the good that we, as people, have achieved again and again.
Our political problems? Sure they bring you down. They make you lose hope. They make you lose pride. They make you want to leave. They make you want to give up. Sometimes you try to change your community and sometimes your community breaks you down. Sometimes you stick around. And sometimes you just leave.
And it is when you leave that you see exactly how great the Lebanese really is – when they are in a country where they have to live by law and regulations and where their ambition isn’t limited by wasta. You randomly encounter a middle aged man who hears you talking Lebanese and see his eyes light with pride only to find out you should be proud of him being the head of neurosurgery at the hospital you’re working at.
You see other Lebanese who have managed to become interns at one of France’s most competitive medical programs. You find other Lebanese who have fought adversity and tough conditions to get into a Masters program in France.
You find other Lebanese who are heads of banks and enterprises. And you also realize that when the French talk of you as a Lebanese they don’t put you in with those “others” that they dislike. Why? because you as a Lebanese are their boss in more than one field.
Does it make me proud that the French don’t think that low of me? Honestly, I don’t care. Does it make me proud that my people are excelling in their country? Yes. Does it make me proud that my friends can actually apply to scholarships and not worry about getting rejected just because they don’t know someone? Yes. Does it make me proud to see my people reaching places despite their hopeless, country-less country? Yes.
Does it make me proud to see the achievements of my countrymen in spite of all those other countries that have turned their land into their playground? Yes.
El Lebnehe sheyef 7alo. Beddkon l sara7a? Bi7e2ello.