Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fear and Loathing in Lebanon

I’m sure many of you have heard the following statement:
”We are still in a better position than the other middle-eastern counties. At least we don’t have a revolution in Lebanon!”
Honestly, I wish we had a revolution going on. At least, we would be calling for a change. But what are we doing instead? Nothing! And what can we do? Again, nothing!

I’m being pessimistic I know. But whom of us folks, currently living in this country, isn’t? I would love to meet them, get closer to them, raise my hand as if to shake theirs, then slap them across the face instead; then I would tell them to wake up!

What kind of future is my country offering me? The bleakest one possible. I have completely lost faith in the system. I challenge anyone to offer a single positive attribute of being a Lebanese citizen. This is the first time that I sadly say: fuck patriotism, when the country I should be patriotic about offers me nothing except depression, fear and insecurity.

I know many have already blogged about the terrible situation in Lebanon. But, that didn’t stop me from adding my voice to theirs. I have reached a level of loathing for my country, so high that I really can’t shut up about it anymore.

Suprisingly enough, there are still many who believe that Lebanon is an amazing country. Since this is a subjective thing, I cannot refute it; however, I will try to convince you with simple facts that those people are not living on the same planet as the rest of us.

The following are statements we’ve all heard—and sometimes uttered ourselves—which the Lebanese tend to say whenever they are trying to convince others, like foreigners for example, about the greatness of this country. Here’s what I think about each one of them:

-“We have a moderate climate in Lebanon. Winters are mildly cold, and summers are perfectly warm.”

As I write this post, with the month of May a couple of days away, it’s raining like crazy outside! Yesterday, howling winds were so strong that you had to be careful while driving not to be hit by a flying cardboard box(I wasn’t that careful).
Every single year, you hear elderly people say how much they miss the old days when we used to have four distinct seasons.
In my opinion, the above statement should say instead:
”We have crazy random weather in Lebanon. Winters are freezing and never come at the same time; summers are terribly humid and suffocating, and tend to stay forever.”

-“In Lebanon, one minute you could be skiing in the mountains, and in less than twenty minutes you could drive down to the beach.”

Traffic in LebanonThose who claim so are either incredibly naive or they are referring to the days when people travelled on the backs of donkeys.
Have you ever tried to drive down from Faraya to Beirut during the skiing season? You’d be lucky to make it under three hours.

Traffic has become unbearable in Lebanon—not only from Faraya to Beirut—but everywhere. The roads were designed to handle much less traffic(I’m not sure designed is an apropriate word for roads in Lebanon). And yet, a huge number of imported cars are crossing the border every month; while old obsolete cars are turned into public transportation. Just imagine the traffic jams we would be stuck in sometime in the future.
So, instead of the above claim I would say:
”Lebanon is the only country in the world where if you were to walk to walk to your destination you would arrive much sooner than if you were to drive there.”

-“Lebanese are extremely smart and witty; it’s in our genes. Many of the world’s leading people are of Lebanese origins.”

I can relate to one part of this claim. I lived in the United States of America for almost two years. I have noticed that we Lebanese are street-smart. I believe this is due to the difficulty of living in Lebanon. Because of the lack of facilitations and social services, we learn to do everything ourselves.
I agree that Lebanese people possess knowledge in many fields. However, when it comes to mastering one of these fields, I can’t point to any advantages for being Lebanese. In other words, we are a bunch of novice know-it-alls.

nassim taleb portraitThe part which I disagree with is the claim that “many of the world’s leading people are of Lebanese origins.” First of all, I wish there were any statistics that support this. I’m not saying that none of these successful people have a Lebanese heritage; however, most of the former folks aren’t.

An apropriate quote would be one said by David Hume, and which Nassim N. Taleb, a famous Lebanese American philosopher, have titled his book after:
“No amount of observations of white swans can allow the inference that all swans are white, but the observation of a single black swan is sufficient to refute that conclusion.”

In my opinion, instead of the above claim a more adequate one would be:
”Lebanese immigrants are extremely smart and witty; they leave Lebanon as soon as they realize they are special”


I can go on forever refuting similar attempts to single out the qualities of Lebanon; instead, I will list some of negative aspects of this country:

A perpetual financial crisis; hugely expensive—as well as terrible—ectricity and telecommunication services; The worst internet connection in the world—or shall I say Ontornet; never ending political instability; a serious case of stagflation; a huge public debt to GDP ratio; high rate of unemployment; very low wages compared to prices; a marriage between religion and politics; transparent political corruption; and even an unpredictable weather, unacceptable traffic jams, and a highly naive population (for the last three I’m being ironic).

In conclusion, I would like to respond with the following to those who proudly say “We are still in a better position than the other middle-eastern countries. At least we don’t have a revolution in Lebanon!” There are two simple reasons why we are not undergoing a revolution in Lebanon: The first reason being the fact that we don’t have a distinct ideology against which to protest; but rather, we would have to rally against the whole Lebanese culture. The second reason is the fact that even if we succeeded in forming a protest, against which party would we rally? In other words, no one is offering a solution which we could on which we can base our demands; we simply have no replacement to the current situation.

Saturday, April 30, 2011 by Eli ·


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Questions, Language and Interpretation

The post-modern world is increasingly about questions, language and interpretations… What do Christians mean when they talk about God? What do Muslims mean when they talk about Allah? Obviously not all Christians understand ‘God’ in the same way, just as there must be differing interpretations of ‘Allah’ within Islam…

Does Atheism mean a lack of spirituality? Is it a rigid rejection of all forms of organised collective spirituality? Is it a rebellion against religious parents? Or, is it a dismissing and rejection of the irreconcilable squabbles between opposing religions and religious factions?

Are atheists anarchists by default? Or, are there branches of positivist atheism?

Are there any statistics on Lebanese atheism?

How does atheism relate to communism? Is there a place for an atheist political platform in Lebanon? As an atheist, do you accept that people have a right to believe in their particular religion?

I loathe to pigeon-hole myself, but if I had to I’d say “I’m anarchist”. I don’t believe in the Christian idea of God as “the Creator”, I’m not sure what the dominant interpretation of “Allah” is within Islam. Some of the most generous people I know are deeply religious. I don’t agree with them but I accept their choice to have faith in something they’ll never know to be correct or not…

Is there a ‘greater force’ that connects us all? Could one apply the word ‘God’ to the Universe itself? God as the creation, not the creator? I am the proud wearer of a pagan Celtic cross tattoo – a cross that shows the physical elements of water, earth, air and fire working together to create the 5th element, which is consciousness.

Are religions merely crude doctrines that were necessary for organising societies in times of scientific ignorance? Or, were religions always used by the social elites to control the masses ‘beneath’ them?

Maybe you know the answers to some of these questions, or have strong opinions on what the answers should be… One thing is for sure though, whatever our opinions are in the realms of God and religion all they can ever be is just that – opinions. The whole God/Religion thing is totally improvable, which is why I like the response Buddha had to the question ‘Is there a God?’, he is said to have replied ‘Who, on earth, can answer that question?’ Don’t you dare try and call me Buddhist though!

Saturday, April 23, 2011 by Unknown ·


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Two New Writers Join Free Thinking Lebanon

Today, a week after announcing that Free Thinking Lebanon is looking for new writers, I’m glad to welcome two new bloggers to the team: Diana and Ed.

We have received quite a few emails in reply to the request we have put out. Both Ed an Dania’s emails caught my attention. I’m not going to publish their biographies (they might want to tell you about it themselves); nevertheless, I can tell you that both of them are very passionate writers, and have past experience in writing articles for blogs.

We are certain Diana and Ed will be a great addition to the team. Their solid style and openness, as well as their passion for writing about Lebanon will be an added value for this blog.

It would be great if you can join us in giving them a warm welcome. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the enthusiasm.

PS: We are still accepting application. If you would like to join the team check out this post.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 by Eli ·


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Writers Needed


Next month marks the first anniversary of Free Thinking Lebanon. Amongst the few changes I’ve been considering is the addition of new blood to the team, in order to diversify the topics on this blog.

As of today, if you are passionate writer, and would like to contribute to Free Thinking Lebanon, I would be happy to hear from you. In order to apply please follow the instructions below:


Send the following information to

- A brief note about yourself

- Which topics are you interested in writing about (preferably related to Lebanon and/or Middle East)

- In what language you would like to write (English, Arabic or French)

- Whether you have previous blogging experience (which blogs?)

- If you have any articles/poems/reports/reviews written by you, it would be nice if you could include a link.


Once I receive your application I will try to reply as soon as possible. Don’t hesitate to apply even if you haven’t published any material on the internet before. As long as you are interested in sharing your thoughts, and are capable of finding the words to express it, we would be happy to have you.


Update: Some people have been asking me whether this is a paid job; no it is not. Those who will be joining the team will actually be contributing simply for the love of writing and expression.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 by Eli ·


Monday, April 11, 2011

“Paul” A Comedy With An Atheistic Twist

Paul-2011-Movie-PosterWhen I saw the poster of the movie “Paul” at the movie theatre (left) I said to myself “meh, another children’s movie with an alien”. Sifting through the pages of IMDB I came upon this title which displayed a decent rating that led me to read more about it.

The info on IMDB got me interested in seeing this movie. I called my girlfriend—she makes my movie experience a lot more beautiful, and told her we’re going to see a comedy tonight. Up until the opening scene I had mixed expectations. Amazingly though, for the whole 104 minutes Thee and I couldn’t stop laughing. The plot was very interesting and smooth—very fast paced.


Ruth Buggs: The world is 4000 years old and can only be the product of intelligent design.
Paul: [offscreen in the bathroom] That's horseshit!


However, being a funny comedy is not the reason I’m writing this post. The actual thing that hugely surprised me is the very obvious atheistic message embedded in the script. It wasn’t a sublime message or a passing comment, it was really a straightforward message.

Besides the fact that I enjoyed this original twist, what intrigued me most was how come this was showing in Lebanese theatres when it has such a strong anti-theistic—anti-Christian more specifically—message. Could it be that freedom of expression is being given more room to swivel in? Or are the people at the media censorship department clueless of this fact? Either way, I’m glad I saw this movie. I highly recommend it!

Monday, April 11, 2011 by Eli ·


The Cube: A Lebanese Book Review Blog

The CubeBeing a book lover myself, I was very happy to stumble upon The Cube: a Lebanese community of readers discussing and reviewing books.

I haven’t had the time to delve into all the reviews yet, but I plan to.I really find it nice to learn what other fellow Lebanese are reading; actually the mere fact that they are reading is great: reading books is not an interesting activity for youngsters in Lebanon.

I can’t wait to submit my own reviews. Keep up the great work, and hopefully our government will be similarly encouraged and increases the number of public libraries we have.

by Eli ·


The Lebanese National Anthem Is Actually Not Lebanese

A couple of days ago, while stuck in traffic—a daily activity we Lebanese have come to enjoy, my girlfriend and I were discussing how terrible the situation in Lebanon has become. Even though in terms of people’s uprising we haven’t had our share—compared to Egypt, Libya, Tunisia etc.— still our political and economicis worsening day after day.

Zeina was telling me how she no longer possesses that famous patriotic and nostalgic feeling toward Lebanon. She remembered how when she used to hear the national anthem she would sometimes get shivers down her spine; but that was before. Now when she listens to it she is only reminded of the pessimistic future this country promises.

Well Thee, here’s a little something for you to be more proud of our national anthem—or maybe not.

The following video shows a news report from New TV claiming that the Lebanese National Anthem is not our own; it is a plagiarized identical copy of a Moroccan anthem.. This is really sad!

by Eli ·


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