Lebanese highways change a lot in the space of a week. Not the roads, obviously, but all those billboards overflowing on their sides sure do.
While going back home North yesterday, one particular billboard caught my attention: sa7eb mabda2, with Samir Geagea looking pensively at his shoe.
You’ll notice the first of those in Dbayyeh with others sprinkled from there onwards to Batroun, each bigger than the one before it. I haven’t gone past Batroun but I’m assuming they should, theoretically, round up the Lebanese geographical bible belt.
Here’s the billboard in question:
The businessman in question, Ibrahim El Saker, is obviously vying for some political power through his politician of choice. Forming our new government is in progress, as I last heard, and many cabinets are up for grabs. Why not him?
In case you don’t recall, he’s the same businessman who also flooded the highways pre-theoretical parliamentary elections last year with billboards declaring that same politician as the savior of Lebanese Christian. I always thought that guy was Jesus.
Of course, with everything that’s happening in Lebanon lately (can you imagine they’re banning alcohol-mixed energy drinks?), such posters are very low on the importance scale. But it’s the concept behind them that’s sad: the fact that some people have a need to show their undying devotion to their politician by spending a ton of money on flashy billboards; the fact that such billboards are actually allowed to grace our highways; the fact that the entirety of the situation we’re in hasn’t deterred people from actually viewing our politicians as men of principles.
It’s silly, I guess, to assume that we could have regulations to counter such propaganda, especially given that such regulations would be put in forth by those who are served by this propaganda. It’s even sillier to assume that those with money and decent enough means won’t do such things to try and get positions of power. It’s their country, we just live in it. They don’t even care about the unnecessary provocation that such campaigns entail at a time when such provocation is the last thing we need. Of course, the people behind such billboards and messages probably couldn’t care less since they are immune to whatever might happen subsequently to their schmoozing.
In another world, I’d have liked to believe our politicians are beyond such petty, silly and immature tactics. But our experience with them over the past few years has proven that they are not beyond such childish games. It’ll only be a matter of time before the next one comes up with flashier and bigger slogans while we observe and watch as they play their little “mine is more popular than yours” game as the country burns.
This isn’t about Samir Geagea and his poster. It’s not about him being a man of principle or not. Any Lebanese politician could have such propaganda take place any time, any day. I’m not venturing out around Beirut and the country much but I would assume each specific region’s politician of choice has his own set of billboards proclaiming him as the next coming of the Messiah, proclaiming their turf and making you feel like an outsider in the process.
Of course, our politicians and their posters are getting increasingly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Their supposed “principles” – whether in action or on billboards – aren’t translating to our political and social realities in any way whatsoever, leaving the country in limbo, on the precipice of collapse and the people in it on guard all the time, at the ready to latch at each other’s throats when the green light is given. What principles are we talking about here? I guess the first one that comes to mind is “all flashiness and no substance.” Now how about you print that on a billboard with all their smiling faces?