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 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:
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:
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.
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.
I agree with you 100%. I’ve always been an advocate of Lebanon, constantly telling people of how things can and will change, and how there’s always a chance for this country.
Now, I just feel helpless and like an idiot for thinking this country will ever change… I’m honestly starting to feel like leaving is the only way.
There should be a glimpse of light somewhere and surely there is still a part full of the glass, maybe 5%…..it is there, but how to ignite it to start the change…otherwise everyone should leave…..my teens years were during the days of the civil war; which by the way I believe is still going on but in a different face; and we had days where darkness was much more than what we are experiencing now…..in short, there is a light somewhere, the younger generation should not give up, you have much more tools to ignite change than what we had in our days…you have the power of social media.
We should replace the water in full half (or 5%) and put oil – and ignite it. There is no recovery without people going to the street – despite the politicians they follow
The Jumblat thing was sarcastic, no?
innu the news title was a shitty attempt at rephrasing what he said and making it sectarian.. so he blew it out of proportions and made fun of it and kept it going. No? You didn’t get that?
I don’t trust Al Akhbar for news especially when they editorialize such as the case with Jumblat. But his statement is essenstially: I’ll cover the West Beirut and southern regions while other leaders cover East Beirut and northern regions, which is a horrific statement given the trash crisis is affecting everyone equally.
I see your point. But we live in a sectarian country with sectarian laws sectarian people and sectarian subdivisions. Dividing the tasks amongst sectarian leaders doesn’t seem to bad of a call.. that’s how we function. We can’t live with global ideologies here. LGBT rights and equality are great things. But it’s lebanon. His call is as outrageous as the fact that the president is a maronite or any other sectarian quota. It’s fine.. He’s a nice guy once you forget about the few thousands that he killed. :p
Yeah I get you, but it seems too much when talking about garbage don’t you think? Imagine the headline: “Lebanese politician wants garbage to be handled according to sectarian divisions.” Enno w er? :p
And yeah he seems like a cool tweep. 😂
the sad part is what is Jumblatt role here to decide on garbage except how much he can make and dump the garbage on his followers to breath its stink
Uhhhhhh! That’s exactly how I feel. And the sadder part is that I’m not looking forward to come back to this “country”. I feel I simply lost my identity. And welcome to the club! J
If Jonblat’s statements you are refering to are those made in his tweets…then i don’t know what to tell you other than you should’ve known better! They were obviously sarcasm and satire over the current situation. Actually garbage was secterianized by sukleen and its proponents to keep its monopolism of lebanese trash.
I Never read your posts on this blog regularly but now i probably will, you have a point in all of this, like spot on. it’s nice to see we still have people who are educated and just “Get it” i hope to write about events in the country on my blog one day, you’ve inspired me.
thank you and goodluck 🙂
Sadly nothing to do
Sadly only few
Can say that we do
Want to be living too
Like others do on another continent or
On a mountain dew
But so sadly again
Our history was written by politicians
And still is
For no victory has ever been done but given
No glory for this country except corruption
For this we are number One.
You are absolutely right. I shared your column on my Facebook page.
Though I agree with most of what you said, I disagree with last part. We should not forget about the books of Gebran. If anything, we should always remember them. He is the major Lebanese figure which wrote about Lebanon devoid of sects. His quotes are ones we should recall and adhere to.
“ويل لأمة تكثر فيها المذاهب والطوائف وتخلو من الدين ، ويل لأمة تلبس مما لاتنسج ، وتأكل مما لاتزرع ، وتشرب مما لاتعصر ، ويل لأمة تحسب المستبد بطلا ، وترى الفاتح المذل رحيما ً، ويل لأمة لاترفع صوتها إلا إذا مشت بجنازة ، ولا تفخر إلا بالخراب ولا تثور إلا وعنقها بين السيف والنطع ..
ويلٌ لأمة سائسها ثعلب، و فيلسوفها مشعوذ، و فنها فن الترقيع و التقليد. ويلٌ لأمة تستقبل حاكمها بالتطبيل و تودعة بالصَّفير، لتستقبل آخر بالتطبيل و التزمير. ويلُ لأمة حكماؤها خرس من وقر السنين، و رجالها الأشداء لا يزالون في أقمطة السرير. ويلٌ لأمة مقسمة إلى أجزاء، و كل جزءي يحسب نفسه فيها أمة.”
And this is the problem exactly, not the politicians, but the people as a whole. The best way to tackle that is to find unifying ground among the Lebanese.
I wasn’t talking about the content but rather the pride of “oh my god a Lebanese wrote The Prophet.”
…remember LebanOn and LebanOff , 24h electricity in 2014? 🙂
…the water? the roads?
…remember the oil fields?
we keep paying the salaries of the people and they have failed us on every single occasion in every single facet of basic human rights.
law, order, health, water, power, telecom, public transportation, city management, politics, foreign relations…
and we still pay their salaries
Sectarian trash making trash sectarian.
Slightly too proud of that wordplay.
I understand your anger and disappointment and i agree with what your saying… But like it or not this is our home country, we have to live here and provide a stable future for our children. we are responsible for whats happening since we always choose the same politicians and give power to thieves and crooks instead of educated leaders who will actually make a positive change… You think we hit rock bottom but i think this is the only way where we can revolt and let people be aware of the bad choices they made over the years. we can create a new Lebanon. We need a lot of devoted people and patriots to achieve this. Lebanon cant handle pessimists. I think all the articles now should not talk about disappointment or us leaving the country (which i have thought about it for over a million time) but lets be realistic we all love Lebanon and us standing together to alter our situation is the only possible getaway.. Just don’t give up yet…
As a decent and law-abiding citizen, I refuse to be held accountable for the situation in Lebanon. Unfortunately, in Arab democratic countries, it’s the masses who choose the leaders, not the elite. Unless Lebanon becomes a monarchy, we, the good citizens, will continue to suffer the ill choices of the masses.
If this is rock bottom it means we can only strive higher!