Sunday, September 4, 2016

Do Lebanese deserve to have a country?

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We’ve inherited a little paradise, a gem of a country, and look what we’ve done with it. We've turned it into a garbage dump, ruled by mafias, eaten by corruption, plagued with snobbism, futility and sheer mediocrity.

We blame politicians, but we forget that we elected them. We voted for them twice since the Syrian occupation ended. A first time in 2005, and after they failed in doing anything remotely good for the country, we voted for them again 4 years later.

These elected politicians felt so comfortable and unchallenged, they took away our constitutional right to vote, canceled the next elections and renewed their own parliamentary mandate. Not once, but twice. Off course we said nothing both times. And when corruption scandals repeatedly shook the country, we were busy planning weddings and outings.

In other words, we have countlessly proven that we were gullible beyond reason and so immature, we would probably be rejected from any self-respecting kindergarten.

I'll never forget, right before the 2009 elections, my highly educated and supposedly intelligent friends repeating like a chorus of parrots: “zayy ma hiyyé! zayy ma hiyyé!” When I tried to reason with them, some accused me of doing the Syrian regime's bid, while others thought I was some sort of simpleton, not understanding the geopolitics at stake.

During that time, on the other side of the political spectrum, old comrades called me a traitor because I was pointing out the growing nepotism, the progressive betrayal of ideals and principles, and the shocking mediocrity of what was becoming of the Aounist movement.

Years passed, Lebanon got worse by the day, and the good old divide remained: March 8 vs. March 14, corruption vs. corruption, idiots vs. idiots.

Then came the garbage crisis. A non-sectarian and politically independent popular movement started to take shape. Sadly, most of its self-proclaimed leaders were more interested in stealing the media limelight from each other than finding a solution to the crisis.

The so-called "Lebanese left" got involved. Forgot all about the garbage rotting everywhere, started demanding anything and everything, and screamed for “regime change”, without obviously telling us what they planned to replace it with.

Most of these aging Marxists had a long history of failure and deceit. But it didn’t matter, the leftist pups were following them around, wagging tails and joyfully yapping at every one of their empty speeches.

When the summer ended, everyone went home. The holidays were over, kids had their fun, they played “revolution”, now they could proudly put their own portrait next to the Guevara poster on their bedroom wall.

Many months after that, came the local elections and their marvelous centerpiece: Beirut Madinati – perhaps the biggest and most organized media stunt Lebanon has ever seen.

They presented a program full of contradicting promises – a program most of their supporters didn’t read but adamantly defended. They pretended to talk reason while actually favoring the televised tears of a movie star over true debates with worthy critics.

Their supporters, mostly from the educated and well-travelled bourgeoisie, insulted anyone who didn’t agree with them. They were on a mission to save the world, no less. And if you dared ask questions or try to indulge in some political or sociological analysis, you were trashed and pointed out as the harbinger of corruption and of everything that’s wrong on the planet.

The elections happened. Beirut Madinati lost – even though they celebrated their victory! – then simply vanished, as if they never existed.

Now that the garbage is back in our streets, these Madinati knights in their shiny and eco-friendly armors are nowhere to be seen. Even though it's the ideal opportunity to prove that they are more than just a fiction, created and manipulated by members of the political establishment to annoy other members of that same establishment.

But I don’t have any high expectations. If we’re lucky, I’m guessing the best we can hope for is more televised tears from weeping movie stars.

After winning the latest local elections, the political parties we all so much love to hate started haggling among each other like cheap salesmen: I’ll make you Prime minister if you make me president, I’ll give you the electoral law you fancy if you give me parliamentary seats in your region, I’ll vote for you if you vote for me, I’ll share my chocolate bar if you give a piece of gum.

All the while the Lebanese people are drowning in garbage. Silently, willingly, obediently.

After everything that happened during the last decade, and will probably continue to happen in the next, I can’t but wonder if we, as a people, truly deserve to have a country as beautiful as Lebanon – or any country for that matter.

I’m not sure I want to hear the answer to that question. Because it may prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that everything so many of us fought and even died for over the years was simply a waste of time.

© Claude El Khal, 2016