Monday, November 11, 2019

The many Lebanons manifesting

Composite graffiti image "Thawra" (revolution) by Tarek Chemaly
"So Tarek, shall we meet? Thawra*? Coffee?" *revolution in Arabic. So came the message of an Lebanese artist who just came back from an international tour. Well, so the revolution is now a social event it seems. A reminder of my pun slogan "metro - manif - dodo" a riff on the original "metro - boulot - dodo" with manif short of manifestation (which I coined for the events in 2005) or the joke "what ar you doing tonight?" with the answer being "dari7, cine" (dari7 means the tomb - in that case of Rafic Hariri in downtown Beirut).
OK nothing against social events I assure you (I mean not for me, for other people. Am too introverted!). This does not take out the original "poitical" meaning. The two can cohabtitate together, and trust me, what's better than "crowd sings baby shark to appease toddler" or "couple marries among the Beiruti protesting crowd" or "DJ hypes protests in Tripoli" titles on international sites to make the events news worthy.
Now, let it be known - I don't know who is protesting. I heard "non-religious youth wanting a better Lebanon" or variations of this sentence. Problem is, the four times I heard it, it came from people in the liberal-art-marketing-BCBG (bon chic bon genre) people who come from relatively at ease economic strata , so my sample is biased on this one. There are also the leftists - and those too are artistically inclined (designers, artists, actors...) who I follow on Instagram and who post regularly about their activities there.
But there are also the de facto leftists, those who actually come from marginalized or disenfranchised classes. People forget or disregard how much economic disparity between classes actually helped ignite the events in 1975 which culminated in the all out war. I remember what someone in the Lebanese Communist Party told me in an interview: "All I wanted was enough fare to pay a "service" (shared taxi) - not to participate in the upscale events, but to see then from afar".
Naturally, like in every revolution or upheaval - there are the dreamers or idealists who want a far fetched goal such as "bring the system down" or something like that. And these abound in Lebanon.
Interestingly, the events at large still lack a centralized mouthpiece. And truth be told, they lasted more than anyone had expected them to. And whereas they held out in the rain, a blissful autumnish weather came in handy to them. I admit that there are images showing diminishing crowd numbers in Beirut, but the traction is still there as the manifesting people changed tactics by targeting government institutions on rotation.
All this reminds me of the movie the commitments whose slogan was "they had nothing but they were willing to risk it all". I truly feel to many people this is a last ditch effort to "dream" or "aspire" a little...
Now all this is divorced from the decision-making political spheres it seems, or more abruptly from the deepening financial crisis which we seem to be running into. At a fast speed.
So who else is manifesting? I am not sure. People who "used to believe in political parties" (and who re-re-elected them last year in the parliamental elections)? I find that had to believe. But I am told they are there. What that means in practise eludes me actually.
Lebanon has always been a "pays a deux vitesses" (a country at two speeds), no - make that 5 speeds! Some people I know (such as my friend Farid Chehab) think this is its strength. All these multitude of people coming from different places and backgrounds in such close geographical proximity. Some others think it its doom as this is like putting an exploding mixture and waiting for it to blow.
And blow it did. But not in the way it was expected.