Welcome To The Republic of Cheap Controversy

We, as Lebanese, sure know how to breed controversies. We love it. We adore it. We feed our need for gossip off of it. And it happens so often without it becoming redundant.

We have a need for it.

The latest:

Yes, you guessed it: Mashrou3 Leila’s decision not to open for RHCP.

The discussion regarding Mashrou3 Leila nuclear bombing themselves by giving up their opening gig for the RHCP took a turn that I didn’t foresee. It became less and less about how they got to their decision and more about whether their decision was correct or not.

Of course, the debate isn’t about supporting the Palestinians or not. It’s not about hating Israel or not.

Were they bullied? Or did they reach their decision out of conviction? And it is here that I believe is the issue’s main question.

Mashrou3 Leila signed to be the RHCP’s opening act a long time ago. They knew RHCP had a concert in Israel and yet they still signed the contract. To say they didn’t know about the Israeli concert would infer they are massively ignorant, which they are not. So for all matters and purposes, they didn’t care about the next stops on RHCP’s tour.

And they canceled their gig. Were they bullied into it? Well, speaking from experience, the anti-Israel crowd have a knack for making anyone who doesn’t play for them feel as if he’s an accomplice to killing all the Palestinian children.

You’re not with us? Then you’re a traitor and I hope you can sleep at night knowing the blood of Palestinians is on your hands and knowing that you are also stealing their land. 

It is the same Bush-era logic that they love to hate: you are either with us or against us. You can’t be in between.

Select Lebanese bloggers know how it is when you don’t write in agreement with them. They will bash you. They will threaten you. They will call you names. They will make you feel as if you’ve done something wrong which you perfectly know you didn’t. And if you’re tough enough, you won’t budge.

Mashrou3 Leila budged. And the ripple that they caused was deafening. For instance, BeirutSpring, a renowned Lebanese blogger who doesn’t address all issues that happen in Lebanon and when he does, he addresses the issue with one short and straight to the point post, wrote not once (click here) but twice (click here) about Leila. That second post has a ton of comments, some of which are proclaiming exactly what I alluded to before. Treason and then treason and then treason some more.

The BDS people should be proud. Commenting from their awesome new Macbook.

Another controversy:

We might also be the only country in the world where enforcing a smoking ban is met with a wave of anger and disgrace and people throwing around brilliant logic to justify opposing the ban. You want a taste of that logic? Click here.

Has any other country in the world caused so much controversy by simply applying a law straight out of the 1980s in 2012? Definitely not.

But in Lebanon it did. A smoking ban became an issue of national debate even though it shouldn’t. Smoking somehow morphed into a basic human right, which it isn’t. Some restaurants are even opting not to follow the law – and they’re proud of it (click here).

Some people have said: “the smoking ban supporters preach. The restaurant owners speak facts. The former need to rest their case – they’re not making sense.” Our need for controversy transcends our ability for logical reasoning. So we go with the flow of beautiful rhetoric that pleases our brain cortices and tickles our enthusiasm. Scientific studies? The hell with that. For reference, this is a British case study that shows a positive economic impact for smoking bans (click here).

Previous controversies:

The Lebanese Olympic squad and its Israel-related incident may or may not have happened. But it sure has caused a frenzy. I even asked this simple question: wouldn’t it be a greater victory if we play and win? Wouldn’t it be greater if we debate them and put them where they belong?

All hell broke loose. Because expressing your opinion is frowned upon – unless your opinion is mainstream. Getting called a traitor? It’s become my favorite pastime lately.

The Republic of Cheap Controversy:

When you realize that two of those controversies happened within a week and the third one happened within a month of the other two, you get three national “debates” that have led nowhere except have people go at each other’s throats in such a short timeframe. That’s also without taking into consideration Michel Samaha, the Mekdads or Myriam Klink or anything else that happened in the past couple of months. The republic of cheap controversy unfolds in front of you.

It’s not a republic of shame as LBC wants you to believe. It’s not the republic of anarchy as I’ve told you before (here). It’s another face of Lebanon, one that we don’t notice because it has become so deeply engrained in the fabrics of our society that we don’t notice it anymore – we don’t even notice how often we do it.

Our controversies address deep issues sometimes but more often than not they simply scrap the surface of far deeper problems without diving in. We live off of that – discussions that give us something to talk about while steering clear from more “pressing” issues (the election law comes to mind). Sometimes the discussion is cheap and shallow. Other times, the “discussion” takes a dangerous turn when the allegiance of others and their moral values come into play.

And people are interested in reading and talking about it because it gives them a sense of participating. And we write about it because it makes us feel important – that we are heard and some people want to know what we have to say. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We’ve all done it.

When will the next controversy take place? I would say it’s a 50-50 chance for next week. Do we love it? Maybe not. Welcome to the Republic of Cheap Controversy.


Feeling Concerned in Lebanon About The French Elections? You Shouldn’t? Well, Why Not?

The French presidential debate between Hollande and Sarkozy took place yesterday and it was closely watched by many Lebanese enthusiasts who are interested in French and international politics.

As those Lebanese watched the three hour debate, myself included, others were saying all over social networks how “we were not concerned” with this, how we should “scan our French passport” with every tweet or Facebook status we updated and how we really have nothing to do with French politics to begin with. “Ktir 3eyshina, wlo!”

Those people asking us not to feel concerned are the almost the same group that preach about how Lebanon is a playground for superpowers and that we, as people, need to stop following either political sides of the country because one is a pawn for Iran-Syria while the other is a pawn for the United States-France-KSA.

How could you ask us not to feel concerned when you are willingly admitting that France has a substantial influence in Lebanon?

The way I see it, because Lebanon is a playground of superpowers, not feeling concerned is the incorrect way of handling things. But I wouldn’t judge you if you decided you didn’t want to be involved. Therefore, I would also like from you to extend me the courtesy and not make it seem like I’m a blinded g0-after-they-hype Lebanese.

I can’t vote? So what? Does that mean I don’t get to have an opinion that I can express? This whole mentality of us – Lebanese – not having a political horizon extending beyond the 10452km2 of our country needs to be abolished. Sometimes, foreign politics is way more interesting – and civilized.

How so? Well, watching these types of debates can only lead you to have a better understanding on how political life needs to be done in Lebanon. Did you notice how Sarkozy and Hollande, despite being subtly at each other’s throats, were very polite in dealing with each other? Did you notice how, after the debate ended, they both had had the exact same talk time?

Where do we see this here? Or don’t you remember the incidence when Moustafa Alloush and Fayez Shukr almost slit each other’s throats on national TV? Or how about Alain Aoun and Ahmad Fatfat during the most recent parliamentary sessions?

You don’t think French politics concerns you? Fine. Don’t take it out on those who disagree with you. A word of advice though, I’d stay clear out of social networks when the American elections roll around. If you thought we were too much with the French elections, the American one will be a bloodbath, figuratively of course.