Modern Day Lebanese “Activists”

Long gone are the days when being a Lebanese activist meant bracing yourself against the tyranny of the Syrian army in order to get them off your land. Long gone are the days when being a Lebanese activist meant physically protesting the Israeli occupation of your country. Long gone are the days when Lebanese activists were truly active.

Today, you are called an activist if you have the following: a blog and a twitter account. Why so? Because the majority of self-proclaimed activists use those two means the most in communicating their ideology. The ideology in question is a neo-leftist manifesto that hides under an umbrella of no politics.

And so the activism begins. Some child is killed in Gaza, let’s tweet about it. Some woman is raped in Lebanon, let’s post a Facebook status about it. Gas prices are going up, let’s blog about it.

Now you might ask me: but you’ve done those exact same things!

Yes, I concede. The slight distinction is I’m not a self-proclaimed activist. I don’t want to be an activist. I don’t have the word activist in my twitter bio, nor on my Facebook account. I don’t want activists to start “free Elie” campaigns if I end up going to jail for something illegal that I did. I don’t want my blog to be that of a Lebanese activist. I am simply a proud Lebanese who shares his interests and the woes of his society that he finds relevant.

Lebanese activists nowadays have redefined activism.

A Lebanese “artist” possibly defames our president and is brought into questioning? This is an obvious breach of freedom of speech. Why? because libel is under the jurisdiction of free speech these days.

Two Lebanese “activists” decide to write anti-Assad slogans on a wall and they get arrested? This is a travesty. How is vandalizing public property not a form of artistic free speech?

An “activist” is called out for a blinded mentality? They all rally behind their own. They can never be wrong. You are never right. You cannot criticize them being arrested for any reason whatsoever. You lack empathy. You lack compassion. How patriotic can you be when these people are giving their all to save you?

You really don’t understand, do you? These are neo-holy creatures. Their sacrifices are incomparable. You cannot fathom how much they take out of their time just to give you a better country and community.

An activist gets arrested? It cannot but be because security had an eye for him/her for a long time. Someone who has done SO much for your country cannot be in the wrong. Ever. This is a fact.

They call for a state of law. Once the law is applied, which happens once in a blue moon, they cry against it. Why? They argue that worse things are still happening elsewhere. Well, try to make sense of that argument.

What’s worse, if you don’t agree with most of what’s previously mentioned then you are simply unworthy, for lack of better words.

Activism in Lebanon is tweeting your fingers away, updating your Facebook status, while checking in at the protest or at the site of where you’ve decided to draw a graffiti on foursquare . It’s choosing passepartout causes and going with the flow. Today’s topic could be AIDS, tomorrow let’s make it gay rights. The day after that, why not dabble our fingers in some cinema? And down the list we go.

Their revolutions are ones that consists of drawing graffiti on a wall or writing a scathing blog post about an issue. Their logic is so impeccable that comparisons are drawn between, well, anything: graffiti and gas prices? Why not. Movie bans and electricity? Of course.

Today, even our activism has become sedentary.

But don’t tell them I told you that.

Kony 2012: Hype? Activism? Scam? – An Opinion

I took my time to watch the Kony 2012 video that went viral, partly because I didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon of the movement’s supporters immediately without an educated decision, partly because of the polarizing views I had read of the video. And lastly because of the bandwidth, which I don’t have, that I’ll be investing in watching the movie.

Now, a few hours after watching the 30 minutes long video, I think I am in a position to judge it. And for that purpose, I will categorize my response to four main parts.

1 – The Non-Supporters:

Those who didn’t support the movement portrayed by the movie used arguments such as “what now?” and “what’s the point?” or “we don’t see a credible plan of movement.” And they have every right to their questioning. But allow me to ask the following. A few days ago, how many of you had heard of Joseph Kony (or Uganda for that matter)? How many of you had known on Monday what the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was doing and how many children it had abducted for its plans?

So for all matters and purposes, the Kony 2012 video’s main purpose is education. It is to let as many people know about the injustice going on in that part of the world. It definitely comes off as preachy. It’s very difficult to come off as neutral in such circumstances. Sure there are worse “bad guys” out there that need to be highlighted. But having worse bad rulers or military men out there does not render what this video has done irrelevant. You can complain about the rulers of other countries. It doesn’t mean you need to bash this movie to do so. Sure this is definitely helped by the celebrity momentum it’s been getting. But when the frenzy subsides, you’re still left with millions of people who know what Joseph Kony has done and is doing. And that’s the plan: get as many people involved in order to get somewhere. In the age of the internet, that’s a credible plan.

2 – The Supporters:

On the other hand, you have the absolute majority of people who basically threw their support behind the Kony 2012 movement by sharing the video, buying the advertised kit and helping in spreading the word. Over 60 million people have watched the video, a testament to how strong the momentum behind the movie has become. However, when it comes to these supporters, many believe the movement stops at that: sharing the video and posting a Facebook status. How many of those 60 million people will actually rush to the streets of their cities on April 20th to hang the Kony 2012 posters? How many of those 60 million people consider themselves now “activists” in a cause they may not really fully understand?

The internet has made it way easier for many people to be involved in such movements. But on the other hand, the internet has also made the supporters of such movements sedentary in their support: merely a form of passive spoon-feeding of information, which is passively passed on with near minimal understanding or tangible involvement of the cause at hand.

What the supporters also need to know is that the compassion they are feeling for the children of Uganda needs to be passed on as well to places where even worse injustice is taking place. If more people are aware of the killings in Syria, Myanmar or any other country in the world, then Kony 2012 has achieved yet another milestone: to increase the scope of awareness of people.

I thought this was supposed to be an international campaign.

3 – The Conspiracy Theorists:

Many people are widely skeptical about Kony 2012 not because of its meaning and message but because of what it’s advocating: an American military involvement in Uganda. Why so? Because Uganda recently became an oil producer. However, what the movie is advocating is not really direct US military involvement in Uganda – it’s asking for more US political awareness for the children in that country and, possibly, more involvement in the political processes taking place there in hope for the capture of Joseph Kony.

The Obama administration has also not authorized direct military involvement of the personnel it sent to Uganda. And at this point of the presidential campaign, I highly doubt Obama would ruin the economical improvements he has been working for more than three years on just to please a movement that will, eventually, tone down to regular non-frenzy levels.

4 – The Reality:

When it comes to Kony 2012, you cannot but care about the matter at hand. If you don’t, then you simply lack compassion. However, the whole affair is not exactly very peachy. The organization responsible for the movie, Invisible Children, doesn’t allow its finances to be audited. Therefore, you cannot know where your donations are actually going. However, approximations have it that only 31% of the donations Invisible Children receives actually go into helping out the children of Uganda. The rest goes into movie making, the travel expenses of its personnel and whatnot.

Moreover, when it comes to Uganda, the LRA has been rendered inactive since 2006 and the Ugandan army has been slowly taking over in parts of the country where the LRA was in control. However, that doesn’t mean the Ugandan army is much better. In fact, reports have shown that the army has been using rape as a weapon in its fights. Besides, Yoweri Museveni, the current Ugandan president, has abolished limits on presidential terms. He has been serving as Ugandan president since 1986. He’s accused of democracy oppression. Invisible Children supports his regime.

Finally, one interesting thing to note is that the LRA is to Christianity as Al Qaeda is to Islam – both are extremist religious groups, led by men who have no understanding of the scripture they follow. The difference between LRA and Al Qaeda is that the latter is seen as international terrorism and the former is seen as a Ugandan affair. What they have in common, on the other hand, is that the killing of Joseph Kony will do as much harm to the LRA as the death of Osama Bin Laden did to Al Qaeda.

But regardless, oppressors need to be stopped on the hope that maybe tomorrow the world for the visible children of Uganda and the world becomes safer.

Watch the Kony 2012 video here:

Lebanese “Activists” Call for Lara Fabian Concert Cancellation


Spread around the Lebanese highway are billboards announcing two concerts for Belgian-Italian singer Lara Fabian, on February 14th and 15th at Casino du Liban. This is the third time she has concerts in Lebanon.

All is well, right? Fabian has many fans in Lebanon, mostly of the older generation. Her repertoire includes songs that many fans of older French music know.

But as it is with many so-called “activists,” they are now calling the Lebanese government to cancel Fabian’s concert because Fabian performed at a concert celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel.

For reference, French-Moroccan comedian Gad El Maleh had his sold out comedy show at the Beiteddine International Festival also cancelled because of his ties with Israel. Armin Van Buuren’s most recent NYE-1 concert was also met with resistance because Van Buuren has pro-Israel stance. Steven Spielberg’s name was hidden off his movie poster in Cinemacity because he donated money to Israel… And the list goes on. The latest casualty: the French singer behind Je T’aime and J’y Crois Encore.

I am not an Israel-supporter. If my country is in a state of war with a country, then, regardless of what I personally think about that war, I am supportive of my country’s stances regarding its enemies. But I, as a Lebanese, cannot expect people from other nationalities to also conform with my ideas. I also cannot condemn them if their ideas are different from mine – even if they are about Israel.

Most foreign artists are pro-Israel. It is simply a byproduct of being in the countries they come from, where the existence of the state of Israel has become associated with a redemption for the holocaust and where the Palestinian political leaders are as inept about defending their cause as the media portraying them badly. Those artists, however, are not coming to Lebanon to spread their pro-Israel ideas. They are coming here to sing, act, give you a comedy show. They are coming here to share their talent with you. The fact that some “activists” cannot see beyond their finger and are so adamant about the whole “OMG FIGHT ZIONISIM” mantra is none of my concern as an individual who simply wants to be entertained.

Look at it in a different way as well. How many of those “activists” use laptops & smartphones? How many of those “activists” go to Starbucks on daily basis for their daily “activism” meetings? How many of those “activists” are so drenched in Israeli-related products that their shouts of disdain become meaningless, childish and non-sensical?

You know, perhaps instead of shouting against Israel (which people, for the record, have the right to do) those Lebanese (and other nationalities) “activists” need to look at the injustice going on in their own backyard before lashing out for the causes of neighboring countries that have, like it or not, also caused their country harm. Are those activists as vocal about their support for the fight rape campaign as they are for artist bans? Are those activists as vocal about the eaten rights of their fellow countrymen as they are about the rights of Palestinians? Are they as vocal about the people losing their lives to Lebanon’s rent laws? Are they willing to help those people?

One only needs to look at the state of Christians in Egypt and Iraq, at the situation of women in the region, at the lack of freedom and all the other basic human rights that the region lacks to know that those “activists” are as empty as the shouts and slogans they will chant outside the Casino du Liban when Lara Fabian sings there.

I understand some of those “activists” are not Lebanese. And I always tried to steer away from discussing Palestine-related stuff on my blog. But let me tell those “activists” this: do not bring your fight to your country, especially with things as meaningless as this.

So sing miss Fabian, sing. And don’t you worry. Irrelevant people will remain irrelevant as long as their priorities are not sorted.


Update: Fabian has canceled the concerts.