Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bring military serivce back to Lebanon

The title of the post says it all, and let the online fight begin.
But I am adamant. Military service was a good and smart element which happened in many young men's lives. It lasted a year, was filled with boredom, hurry-up-and-wait, routine, early waking up, many "unfairness" moments and what not. But it was also a time of discipline, inter-religious cohesion, inter-regional meeting, inter-cultural mash up, inter-frenchie-coucou meets die hard Spinoza-in-Arabic reader, and the list goes on.
It is exceptionally rare for young Lebanese men to meet other people in such circumstances - cut off from their daily environments, all thrown in a mumbo jumbo mess, dressed in fatigues and therefore obliterating obvious socio-economic exterior signs, suddenly the beauty of an egalitarian society shines through.
Am not stupid, I know a lot of those men activated wastas (or pistons) to be in such and such caserns and whatever have you, but this does not negate the closeness you feel towards someone coming from the other end of the spectrum who is in the same position as you. You bond, you connect, you influence one another, you smuggle cookies to the casern, you give free cola bottles to the night guards, you dislike that officer, you chummy up to this other one, you lament how the monthly rotation was set up - but deep down you actually create unforgettable moments with people you otherwise would not meet under normal circumstances.
Your view of humanity softens, suddenly not everyone is lumped up in one single category... "Hawde el.... [those] (insert any term which engulfs a whole multitude of different people here)". Because "those (whatever)" suddenly start getting differentiated. Start becoming humans. They have mothers who seem enamored with the same soap operas your own mother likes, they have social settings which have a lot in common with yours to your surprise, they invite you to their weekend homes which - save for their geographical location - are quite similar to your family's mountainous hangouts and the list continues.
In a country more divided than ever on the fault lines of "us" and "them", military service brings that unifying element which gets everyone to march to the same beat - on the same speed - and here I speak not of the compulsory military march exercises, but rather on the mental influence of all this.
Perhaps the military service had its shortcomings, am sure of that, but in retrospect, it was a personality-building, perspective-shifting, country-unifying effort which I truly believe was for the best.
Let us bring it back.

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