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.