Monday, October 17, 2011

A World Movement Skips Lebanon

Since writing about the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States, the movement has spread to so many countries around the world and thousands of cities. Images of people peacefully taking to the streets just because they cannot take it any longer are making headlines around the world and every day more groups join in.

How this movement has missed Lebanon is a mystery since Lebanon itself grabbed the world’s attention in 2005 when hundreds of thousands filled the streets of Downtown Beirut demanding “The Truth” behind the assassination of Rafik Hariri. The March protests of 2005, dubbed the “Beirut Spring,” brought down the government and led to the swift and unconditional pull out of the Syrian army after a presence that lasted over two decades with its iron fist over Lebanon that lasted almost as long.

Don’t the Lebanese feel disenfranchised like many around the world who are taking to the streets today? Aren’t they angry at the status quo that they find themselves living in day in and day out? Don’t they want better living conditions, better salaries, better benefits, better government, better representation, better opportunities? Aren’t they tired of daily power and water shortages, lack of governmental accountability, poor social services, disrespect for basic human rights and the slowest Internet on the face of the earth? Don’t they feel bad that the Lebanese passport is one of the most difficult to obtain a visa on just because the country is still feared around the world for terrorism and remembered for its civil war rather than all the other achievements in entrepreneurship, technology, economics, literature, the arts and entertainment they have exported and continue to export to all four corners of the globe?

Of course they do realize all the shortcomings, we hear the complaints all the time in various forums but especially on the Internet where the space is still open and provides a quasi-safe arena for them to vent. Why the venting is not turning into anger or rage to take to the streets has a simple yet very complex reason: The lack of cause commune.

If we are to be honest with ourselves let us try to answer this question: What is one cause that is dear to any Lebanese heart and that will unite all the Lebanese around it? We can think of a hundred reasons that will unite the Lebanese and drive them to the streets to demand change. The heinous assassination of one icon such as Rafik Hariri did just that in 2005.

But neutralizing the hundred reasons are a few serious reasons that prevent a union from happening.

Baggage is the main obstacle. How many in Lebanon can shed the baggage piled on them by generations of ancestors. It’s the same baggage that they will knowingly or unknowingly pass on to their own children? Many? Most? All?

The second obstacle is fear. How many great thought-leaders do we need to see thrown in jail or assassinated to learn a lesson in remaining quiet? Lebanon’s track record in political, cultural, religious and thought assassinations remains equal to none.

Cliché labels are also one of the major obstacles to any kind of expression in Lebanon. Say anything and you’re labeled, “traitor” “Zionist” “Syrian spy” “Israeli agent” “Iranian puppet” “Western mole” whatever these terms mean! Any constructive dialogue can be terminated by throwing one of these clichés around marking the end of any possible communication.

Today we are witnessing a movement of grassroots revolt and reform sweep the Middle East region, followed by a worldwide movement demanding real change; but the country with the history of standing up for what they believe is right and demanding what they know they deserve, the country that boasts a few dozen “independent” media organizations when others have none; the nation with a history of freedom of expression that is the envy of many, stands now on the sidelines and observes how others are writing with their sweat and with all the might they can muster through one shout and one determined raised fist, they are writing their own history even with their blood sometimes.

In many ways I understand the Lebanese; but in far too many other ways, I don’t!


Keep the conversation going...

Anonymous Lynn said...

Have you checked out https://www.facebook.com/occupysolidere ?

October 18, 2011 at 1:13 PM  

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