Monday, August 20, 2012

The Mother of All Banana Republics

When all hell broke loose in Lebanon with kidnappings and counter kidnappings, road closing and counter road closing, not to forget the ceremonial tire burning and ultimate airport shut down, it seemed unimaginable for my trip through Beirut to go through.

Just like most in the same situation, I considered canceling, postponing until we see what’s going to happen. Because in the absence of law and order in Lebanon, incidents like these can inflame entire regions and with weapons flying freely in the hands of ordinary people, there is no telling how or when things can get out of hand and how bad things can get before they can get better. That’s where all plans come to a halt until something happens by way of a miracle or settlement. Because in Lebanon, reasoning and compromise have lost their way in a lawless culture where people feel taking matters into their own hands is more reliable than the entire government and its institutions.

In a country where anyone and their cousin can decide the security alert of the entire population and the fate of tens of thousands of travelers through this crossroad for business and leisure travelers, government hides and chaos rules. Thus, to be stranded on a trip to Lebanon or through its capital has become part of the touristic attraction!

With such dire conditions and unpredictable outcomes, it is a wonder how anything runs here anyway. But then again, does anything run at all in what is supposed to be a great Metropolis? The simple answer is no. Nothing runs like in normal countries. What runs, does so by pure luck or by mere coincidence or because of Lebanon’s unique quality of “organized chaos!” In this developing Mediterranean country where people live way beyond their means and focus much more on appearances than substance, the government is a failure, the security apparatus is a failure, all systems are failures and any plans you make can be a failure if you don’t luck out and end up on the right side of the organized chaos.

In a moment of serious doubt about my trip and whether I should delay, reschedule or wait, I did the only thing I know how to do when it comes to Lebanon. I joined the circus. I went along with the original plan and hoped deep down that by the time I get there, things would have calmed down enough at least to make it to the airport and out in time and in peace. One thing I grew up doing so well in the country of my birth and my early adulthood is challenging the status quo not out of courage but out of desperation at times or as a survival tool at other times.

It worked although I cannot explain how, why or for how long. One thing is certain, things were quieter when I landed in Beirut and the roads were open albeit tension could be felt on every face and in every corner.

The past week is perfect proof of Lebanon’s lack of authority, lack of leadership and flagrant government failure. And, if anyone was in doubt before, now we can say with confidence that Lebanon has earned its stripes as the Banana Republic par excellence!


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