Lebanon: citizens must stand up

This post appeared on Blottr.com on 7 February 2012.

When I think about Lebanon, an image of a dot that one needs to search for on a globe comes up; a tiny piece of land that has suffered and bled.

I close my eyes and see a project draft of a dream.

Lebanon is a small country where culture was influenced by the Phoenicians; its first inhabitants and all the civilisations that passed by, conquered and occupied it. It absorbed bits from all of them making its own personalised version a rich cultural mosaic which cannot be defined unless all the cultures are combined. A society made of 18 sects that apparently look like they are living together but still shows fear from the different ‘other’ and resists mixing: civil marriage is not yet possible but recognised if done abroad.

Lebanon has also produced great minds that made it all the way to the top on the planet. With a poor infrastructure, I doubt that they had any other choice but leaving to succeed. How do we ask from both men and women to play a productive role in society when they still do not stand as equals in the eyes of the law?

Lebanese people are known for their love for education and technology. With a small market and difficulties to export, the economy is having hard time to boom. They also love sports, but not all of them are equally supported and the national team at the Olympics looks like anything but a team.

The youth loves to party, eat out and have fun. But as I look at them, I stand concerned about their future and the capability of the country to absorb them all: there is a worrying mismatch between the population that graduates from educational institutions and the demand of the employment market.

Lebanon has a diversified and rich land with epic sceneries and flora, grottos and archeology that attract thousands of visitors every year. When I go around and about myself, it is obvious how so little is done to preserve, protect and make educational tourism; finalising the border demarcation on land and water with the neighbouring countries is taking forever.

Some municipalities are trying their best to serve their localities and serve as models to follow while others are stealing funds for personal benefits. Amongst other matters that I find disturbing; the fact that I am allowed to vote for matters that concern my village in the mountains that I visit in weekends but have no say in the city where I have been living for more than 15 years.

I hear and appreciate creative works by Lebanese artists. But the big corporations, exhibition centers, record companies etc… go only for the trendy style that sells and leave real art behind.

Dare I dream?

I open my eyes to reality and realise the infinite opportunities and the great challenges. There is so much potential; so much work to do with locals, private companies, NGOs and the government.

That tiny piece of land fell behind due to civil war, suffering from deep corruption and greedy politics. There is an engraved mentality of pistons and clans. The corrupt judicial system and overpopulated prisons are a burden to the families concerned. People suffering handicaps have to suffer more from society’s perception to them and live in a place that is not accessible to them. The economy pushes for certain types of tourism while overlooking agriculture and industrial production. Although there is a new wave of entrepreneurs who are tapping into different sectors challenges remain enormous.

There is a whole generation that is thriving to change things for the best; activists are voicing out their concerns to bring awareness to the population and NGOs are proposing new laws. A debilitating bureaucracy has made many lose hope to see any change done.

The Lebanese are good with adapting to any situation. It’s a necessary skill for survival. But also, it is a double edged sword making people less reactive to problems: less reactive to the point of carelessness.

I am a firm believer that it is not greener on the other side. Changes need to happen because there is no other solution. We have experienced what it is like to live in chaos: the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. A country needs to be sustainable. We, the people, need to stand up and unite.

Is it normal for unstable politics to dictate the economy? Is this really helpful to attract investments? Is it still acceptable for private companies to go about their business while overlooking the society in which they are operating in? Is it fair to open the market without giving the locals the same chances other producers have for granted in order to compete? Can we really consider ourselves immune to the regional turmoil?

I think that every citizen has to try to answer these questions. We can pretend that we are not concerned with anything but we can’t run from our responsibilities. We are bringing families up in Lebanon, therefore, whatever is going on concerns us all. Are we leaving a good legacy to our grandchildren and the future generations?

Parliamentary elections are coming up next year. Will the Lebanese people vote for the same politicians who have driven the country over the edge?

Photo by Fady Nammour

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