Saturday, August 8, 2020

And what if it is not ONLY the government's fault?

Photo credit unknown

Dan Azzi (a friend, full disclosure) put it best: "Unpopular Opinion: Blaming our problems entirely on the political leadership ignores the issue of a cultural flaw when it comes to civic responsibility & ability to look at collective rather personal interests. It’s not just Killon yi3ni killon. It’s also Ni7na yi3ni Ni7na."
Yes, I am as tired, exhausted, frustrated as the next man. But the difference is, easy and simplistic answers do not do it for me.
Here is my question, with the tag #علقوا_المشانف (hang the nooses) trending (side note: am against capital punishment) - and the government gets toppled, then what? Hiba Yazbeck also nailed it in twitter: "What’s worse is that every time we face a tragic event, polarization increases among Lebanese, rather than solidarity. Perhaps we don’t deserve to have a country..." In times of crisis we tend to gravitate towards those who resemble us, those who share our beliefs, those who are "like us" rather than "like them" - sure, I am in awe in front of the volunteers who took brooms and went on cleaning streets, or those youngsters I saw yesterday who were gathering food and water and supplies, or the many initiatives that people are doing on a small scale. But let me go back to this theory I was discussing with my teacher at AUB in 1996, about why is it that people are clean in their own homes in Lebanon but are dirty in the street. Turns out the answer was that going back to the colonial mentality, because someone will pick up after you.
Picture this scene, I was at a seaside cafe in Tripoli. A young family was near me on the next table. Their daughter, about two years old, started throwing the content if the ashtray into the sea,then at one point seeing her mother giggling, she was encouraged to throw more objects. Until she tried to throw the ashtray itself, her mother sternly told her: "La2 3ayde 3ayzina" (no, this we need).
The image of that man sweeping glass debris on the street while wheelchair-bound is moving beyond words, yet I feel him to be the exception rather than the rule. But hey, there could be a silver lining, my friend Rachid Aschkar, says (in reference to the above-mentioned colonial theory) "maybe this time, the perimeter of "home" has changed to include whole country".