Thursday, August 6, 2020

How an advertising billboard tells the story of a post-explosion Beirut

Credit: Hasan Jaber
You can always count in advertising to tell you the story. Always. Lately there was a campaign spreading, for better or worse, to entice people to place ads under the tag #اانا_اعلن which doubles as "I declare" (for the centennial of Lebanon's creation) and I advertise. For personal reasons, I made it a point not to talk about that campaign which ran under the umbrella of the Advertising Association. One of the billboards, in the campaign which tried to remediate to an estimated 90% drop in ad revenue, said "I declare my faith in a better future" - what is left of that billboard after the massive port explosion, is something that is torn, broken, defeated, and humiliated, only shows what it feels like now in a bitter twisted (literally) irony. 
Better future? Which one? People are grappling with the magnitude of the devastation no longer riding under the wave of adrenaline. The loss, in souls but also in material elements, can only add to the strain of the many problems the country is living in. And please don't anyone say "pity the nation" it is rather "pity the nations" - divided, fragmented, with each fragment following its leader. "Deux negations ne font pas une nation" as George Naccache brilliantly put it in 1949. A million negations will not make a nation.