Thursday, June 15, 2017

My father is not Hummus

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My father is not Hummus and my mother is neither Tabboulé nor Man2ouché. I’m not made of chickpeas, parsley or zaatar. I’m a person, not a dish. I’m made of flesh, blood and bones. And a Fairuz song doesn’t say more about me than one from David Bowie, Edith Piaf or Leonard Cohen.

I was born in Lebanon but lived abroad for over twenty years. I lived in several countries and travelled to many others. I have more in common with likeminded people I've met in London, Amsterdam, Cairo, Cape Town or Kuala Lumpur than with 100% homegrown Lebanese trigger-happy thugs, crooked politicians and corrupt officials.

I don’t love Lebanon because it’s the country I was born in. I’m not a patriot out of misplaced narcissism. I love Lebanon because it’s an idea. A beautiful and powerful idea. The idea that people from different faiths can live together in perfect harmony.

So please, enough with the hummus-tabboulé-ma2ouché-Fairuz-songs nonsense. Folklore doesn’t define me. Ideals define me. Principles define me. As do experiences I’ve lived, choices I’ve made, people I’ve loved, movies I’ve watched, books I’ve read, words I wrote and causes I’ve defended.

A country is not just great food, emotional songs, endearing memories and beautiful sceneries. A country is a people, a quality of life, a political system and a social structure. If quality of life in Lebanon is fading away, if the political system is rotten to the core, if the social structure is broken beyond repair, if the people are selfish, egotistical and superficial, why should anyone want to stay?

When someone I know decides to leave, searching for the decent life every one of us deserves, I can only wish him or her good luck. I surely wouldn't pretend to be one of these holier-than-thou Lebanese that invokes the cedar on the flag, the Raouché rock or the Jeita grotto because they have nothing real to offer.

Lebanon has become a place where anyone can be randomly shot by armed thugs, where tons of garbage are dumped into the sea, where the air, the water and the land are poisoned, where the happy ruling few live above the law, where unemployment has reached an unprecedented high, where more and more families are going hungry.

It has become a place where people care more about being in the Guinness Book than about standing up for their rights, where lying and cheating has become a way of life, where everyone moans and groans but almost no one lifts a finger to change things for the better.

When I moved back to Lebanon, many years ago, I promised myself I’d never leave again. But today, I’m no longer sure I can keep this promise.


© Claude El Khal, 2017

9 comments:

MYRNA NAOUM said...

Right 200%! That's the way I'm feeling about Lebanon. But living abroad for more than 35 years, I sometimes dream of going back home. Why? I really don't know! U tell me...
Luv Myrna

. said...

There is a big gap between Lebanon the idea (ideas may we say?) and Lebanon the actual Lebanon.
Politically, if your idea of Lebanon (I suspect it to be the progressive, diverse one) would end up becoming the reality, it would mean that all the world's problems can be solved.
Of course we all know how flawed Lebanon is. But many people don't mind staying not for tabbouleh or Fairouz or ski-in-the-morning-sea-in-the-afternoon bullshit. It's because there are nice people. There are nice places. There are nice things to be done. We still have forests, plains and beaches, however polluted and destroyed. There is a certain "dolce vita", that might be more mediterranean than Lebanese.

And as a personal advice: I think you are too much reacting to the long-running shitshow that is the Lebanese media and social media. The Lebanese regime has transformed most of us into the depressed spectators of the mediocrity of our state, our politicians, our mafia bosses, our judiciary system: our society's failures.
It wants us to always be outraged, and eventually leave.
Deconnecting yourself from the news cycle would allow you to be an even better actor of Lebanese society than you are right now. As a media yourself, you are more efficient when you develop a discourse more independent from the news cycle, like Le Monde Diplomatique does.
And btw your blog is dope so don't give up on it please.

Anonymous said...

After having lived abroad between Europe and acquired citizenship I decided to go back and live in my country in 1998. I missed my Lebanon, I missed my family and friends. I missed my mountains, my beaches my drives, my "Lebanon". I said to myself I love my country and I'll give it my 100%. I was fought and I was accused of "not adapting" to their way of living. In 2005 I made the decision to leave, I saw the direction the country is heading into. It's sad. I cannot say I've not tried. I did. I did try hard. But my Lebanese surrounding was an entourage I could not agree with. Too much religion, too much "image" and no substance. The lebanese "byetdyan la yetzayan" I was surrounded by corrupted minds who do not want a change for the better. It's 2017 and I don't regret my decision. Enough of living in a loop!

Anonymous said...

The idea of Lebanon is just an image.
Just like the image each Lebanese want to project about Lebanon suspending the fact that Lebanon is a religious divisive country. Lebanon is the families who want to keep what they own on the expense of others.
The Lebanese men and women are all about their own image. Arrogance, selfishness and nothing closer to the truth, fact is that today we are a dump.
Change comes at a cost. By all means when I say I don't believe in god in Lebanon they don't accept this.
They must put you in a corner and say you're muslim or christian all the time. Because you're not considered to be an individual. You're a muslim or christian wether you like it or not.
The Lebanese require a shake up of their "lies" they have created.
The fact that all the Lebanese go to Harissa and praise a sculpture, and those who carry their islamic identity and praise it all the time makes them pathetic in my own humble opinion.
The good are few, the corrupt are many.
Fix it ! Go figure!

Anonymous said...

I lived abroad and came back willingly to Lebanon in 1997. I came back with hopes of living and eventually "dying" in my own country. I came across many challenges in my own country, even though I was born in Beirut, the challenge was to deal with my own surroundings judgments that I should " tawil beleh" .
Many welcomed me back and many told me I should adapt to the corruption I've seen. Beside the fact the I'm an atheist no one would take my conviction seriously. The idea of Lebanon is in the minds of all the Lebanese is one image (which is the yaba yaba stuff) and one sound "fairuz", and a lot of bullshit.
Fact is: there is no patriotism in Lebanon.
Fact is: loyalty is bought.
Fact is: No one is loyal but to his own corrupted circle.
Corruption buys corruption.
After careful consideration and after the assassination of Hariri I took my family and left to Canada.
A challenge I am willing to do at 50 years of age rather than dragging myself with what my parents dealt with in the past !
I hold all the politicians and those who voted them in, In Lebanon, and those who support them to have pushed me and the likes of me outside my country. To the Lebanese who envy those who left, don't. We have to build our lives from zero when move out ! Don't think it's a voyage ! This time it will be a one way ticket.
Now I'm proud to say Canada is my country.
Lebanon is my country of birth and that's it.
and frankly I don't want to listen to Fairuz songs. It's the war and it nothing i'm interested to have on my mp3 players. (Nothing against Fairuz) Blame the radios who had nothing else to play when bombs were falling on our heads !!!

Anonymous said...

The truth hurts especially when you are capable of packing and leaving and "try" to build yourself a new life and new set of friends who share with you similar values (abroad)

The world is changing and moving out of Lebanon is not easy.
100% true that Lebanon need a serious change in it's core of leaderships with a major divorce from religion. (Impossible)

Lebanon has been an idea sold to the weak. The strong ones left and don't look back. The other strong ones are corrupt and controlling the weak inside Lebanon! Powerful families and political parties buying votes through social services with absence of a real government.

I used to have the hopes of coming back to my country, but lately I brought my mother to live beside us. She's been breathing cancer, the pollution (Generators) provided by our leaders and the rich and comfortable ones. Did I mention garbage accumulation next to our home in Beirut? Mother is sick but at least she will rest among her family with little time left.

Going back? Not anymore. Keeping property there? To hell with that. It's sad, but we have to thrive elsewhere and I want to give my children anything but an illusion. Hommos, Tabbouleh, and Folklors are just entertainment now. It's food. It's a theme. You can create a theme of all the plays of the Rahabni, or a theme of Wars (plenty of chapters on our diaspora)

Gathering on a home cooked Lebanese meal is just reserved to loved ones and not hypocritical individuals who live off the misery of others. After all you don't sit on a table with enemies or do you?
That's the kind of politics Lebanon is teaching the new generation.

The Lebanese today are those who like to live to "show off" to others. Showing off to others what we have as parties, and beaches, arak, Ski, and more parties: It is the least important thing when we're living in "shit" (quite honestly we are) The country is filled with garbage (people and trash) Pick your Garbage. Plenty of it around.

I ask every Lebanese who is in Lebanon and outside who are preaching me about "being a Lebanese" I ask them all, why don't you show me how can you take charge of the "idea" of Lebanon you want, because all I see is hypocrisy lies and deceit among all the Lebanese.

I have given away my Lebanese citizenship and decided to be loyal to a new country named Canada.

and for those Lebanese Canadians who we all know criticise and abuse their Canadian citizenships, I ask them to Leave Canada and stop trashing Lebanon and Canada. Because they have no love for themselves or anything in this world. The Lebanese who "cries on the old days" and those who say I want to see the sunset in my country, those people are living an illusion.

Harsh words and ideas in what I said, but I don't blame you for considering to leave.
Lebanon is no longer for the Lebanese.

The previous comments I've read in that blog are sad and honest especially when we all know many Lebanese left Lebanon due to the severe instability and the continuous corruption that's been going on for so so so long.

I salute every true Lebanese with core values who made a life for themselves outside Lebanon and proud of their origins. The success stories outside Lebanon are the ones I am proud of.

I salute the honest and humble Lebanese in our country and those who don't have the luxury of leaving who are facing the music in a country that deserves peace.

Peace 4 all.

Maya MK said...

It is the sad truth that haunts me everyday. A mother of a two year old who wonders every day what world I've brought her into. Who worries about the quality of fruits she's eating and the air she's breathing.
I live in Lebanon a few months a year as my permanent residence is in the Gulf.
And it's a game of the lesser of two evils.
I don't want to stay there but does coming here make things any better?
I blame us. I blame the Lebanese citizens and I wish they would just revolt. But is a revolution enough to extract a corruption so deep and metastasized?
All we are left with is hope that things would change. And that hope is dwindling.

Anonymous said...

I did like it in all, but I don't listen or read anything about specifics on how to disarm Hezbollah. Everyone talks about "A new Lebanon". I ask the writer, and all those dreamers out there wishing for change, are you willing to sign a peace treaty with Israel without Syrian approval? Are the Lebanese in favor for Civl law that takes away powers of Religious Institutions and build a secular Lebanon? I hope The Lebanese do so. Because Lebanon needs a drastic Change. Enough Dreams!

Anonymous said...

Enough winning and complaining, many of us re-immigrated to Lebanon and are doing fine, true it's mire challenging than living abroad, but we stood fast and are making ripples here. When the going gets tought, the tough gets going. So please!!! Be Canadian, US, French or whatever, but stop criticizing who are making it here. Crime is everywhere, corruption is everywhere, pollution is everywhere, we are trying here, mayebe it's not perfect but at least we are trying... Us Lebanese!!!!