Saturday, April 30, 2011

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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.

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