Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mabrouk lal 3imad Slibnen. Asdi Sleimen. La Libnen.

Compared to the fiery, bombastic, retrospectively worthless speech that tripped over our infamous half-tongued, half-brained, half-principled, former half-president's tongue, what I heard from Michel Sleimen was an almost refreshingly down to earth spiel about a highly complex forthcoming mandate.

But as far as I'm concerned, and until words materialize into an altered political reality, a spiel is all it is and all it will be. This "consensus" president, the choosing of whom is a slap in the face of all democratic and constitutional principles, has a largely titular authority. All he can do is obstruct the issuing of decrees, for a mere fifteen days, and then watch them as they gracefully return to the Cabinet to get issued with or without the President's generous approval.

So, in all optimism, the recent resolution is two stitches on a wound over an abscess, and General Sleimen, well-suited and good-intentioned as he may be, is incapable of occasioning any significant change. He may be an arbiter, but a ruler is not what he is allowed, or likely to become.

Brings back Raymond Edde's words in the years following Taef, when asked in an interview whether he would want to be president. "No thank you" he retorted, "I do not want to be an office clerk".

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Obeying Traffic Lights

TV stations have been airing, for a few days now I think, an infomercial about obeying traffic lights in Beirut, or wherever they are available in the country. At first, I thought Lebanon had to be the ONLY country in the world where the city "advertises" the virtues of obeying traffic lights. But I was wrong. So does Hong Kong, and there may be others.
Oh poo. How utterly disappointing.

Anyway. Check the HK clip and compare. If you haven't yet seen our little pearl of civil advertisement, this is how it goes. A car is at a totally empty crossroad (not an uncommon sight as of recently), waiting for a red light to turn green (an uncommon sight as of, I don't know, the birth of traffic lights). Another car approaches it from behind, and the driver starts honking and yelling at the top of his lungs for the car in front of him to get going. A highly civil and respectful figure/policeman then appears, approaches the honking driver, and explains to him politetly how it is best to obey the lights and respect traffic laws, for his own and everybody else's sake. And the formerly-abusive-suddenly-model-motorist to promptly comply while, of course, nodding in agreement. An inspirational ad if I ever saw one.

The Honk Kong ad, on the other hand, is more like, obey the goddamn traffic light, you cow, or kiss your driver's license and the skin on your butt cheeks goodbye.

To my eyes, here's the bottom line. In Hong Kong, people have to be threatened with pretty hefty fines to obey the law. In Lebanon, there is no need for such disrespectful, inhumane postures. Just tell us, "bel zo2", what we need to do and we'll do it. We, the Lebanonese, as some like to call us, are civilized. We understand. And please, no fines necessary at all! Because for one, we don't believe in the philosophy of punishment, and two, we wouldn't want you to look bad begging for petty cash and not getting any. Walla anything for you ya watan, bass the situation is a bit difficult you know and the doe is not flowing. Yalla maybe next time.


How many eons do those Hongkongers need to reach our level of civility and communication? Many. I say we start counting, and maybe we'll be done by the time our model leaders come back from Doha, to bless us with even more wisdom and sense of civic duty than we already have.

Wou tosba7o 3ala alf kheir.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Definitely back, and maybe for a while

What an incredible time to turn back to blogging. Custom certainly has it that
when clouds turn black ahead and above our naked heads, we seek shelter and comfort
in most usual and unusual places, like bathrooms and corridors, words of prayer and
books of faith, virtual spaces and web pages, underground shelters and geographically remote havens of safety and calm. But no matter where we turn, it seems we always turn to one another, gathering forces, all forces, hopes, fears, bodies and minds, to face
and brave the inevitable, if not alter its course.

So here I am, after an absence of roughly a year and a half, turning my eyes and thoughts to all those marooned, like me, on the isle of uncertain tomorrows and dwindling dreams.

But dreams there are, and there will remain, finding form with the slow and heavy breaths of courage and persistence, and opening the path for new ones, always ready
to materialize of flesh and stone, no matter how idyllic, and foolishly ambitious
they may seem on the day they are conceived.

Yesterday and today, I was thrown head first in the climaxing bitter Lebanese political reality. A reality I had, until then, managed to adorn with positive spins and optimism, relatively effortlessly, despite ongoing political strife and paralysis. As of yesterday, my mission suddenly turned close to impossible. For the first time, I honestly wondered about how sound and sane I was when I decided to return, supposedly for good, on the first of October 2007. Thing is, I rationally cannot even come close to justifying my choice. Not then, not now, even less now, and possibly not in the future, although the future might hold the answer to all such queries. But I came back, and I'll stay, for as long as I humanly can.

And I'll stay, not for the lack of other options. My green card is in my hand and my degree allows me to work and thrive anywhere in the world I choose to be. I'll stay because I believe in the impermanence of juvenile, corrupt, power hungry theocracies and political systems, and the constancy of the communal, solidary human spirit when it is freed of its ill-informed, purblind obedience and allegiances.

Lebanon is an ancient land but a very young state, built on a divisive, falsely unitary constitution. The development and maturation of a political system and a
sense of nationalism that goes beyond the successive small circles of loyalty,
is a painstaking process, and blood has been and will inevitably be shed.

The likes of Nasrallah unwillingly, and unknowingly, contribute to the development of such a national identity, even if at first glance, the result seems strangely out of reach and contrary to reality. We witnessed it two years ago, when all Lebanese stood side by side, true to their country, in the face of brutal military invasion by Israeli forces. The price one has to pay to achieve national unity is often hefty, but it pales in view of what there is to be gained at the level of the nation and the people.

The reasons I came back and will stay are many, and I can wax sappy and poetic describing them, as I have done in the past. The bottom line remains simple and straightforward. Lebanon is young and beautiful. Its people are good hearted and strong, but they have fallen victims to diversity misjudged and misunderstood, and to the feudal/religious/sectarian legacies that cannot but be eventually forgotten
and overcome.

Many have become cynical and have lost faith, though it is much too early to surrender to grim fortune. I'm here now because I believe that my country and I will grow together, and believe me, the potential for growth is immense, and commensurate to how much we're willing to wait, give and sacrifice.

And to all who used to and will still read, welcome back to my Lebanese dream.