Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A trick on how to survive 2020

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

Am going to start this post with an admission: I have had it with my European friends and their first world problems. Only yesterday a friend in Vienna was complaining that he had to show his ID at the border and answer questions as to why he was travelling. I wanted to tell him about how last time, after grueling bureaucracy I got my work visa to Europe only to be put in a glass chamber in front of all the airport for no reason at all for 45 minutes. But honestly, what is the point? 

Europeans have no clue how bad 2020 is for Lebanese people. It is exponentially bad. I have called it before, the "perfect storm" (whereas I was talking about the advertising sector, same can apply to the country at large). 

Capital controls? Check. Political meltdown? Check. Devastating explosion? Covid-19? Unemployment? Poverty? Check, check, check. The list is astronomically long. And all elements in it feed on one another. I spoke to someone the other day, and he asked me if the Dollar was going to go back to 1500 Liras. I tried to make him understand that we are currently paying that peg with the current crisis. His brother was certain that we were going to get money - as in huge quantities of money - from Europeans, particularly France. I did not have the heart to poke his dream. And again, the more you talk to people the more fallacies you hear, and the more the scenarios are outrageous.

Yet one thing I learned about 2020, is that, by hook or by crook, one needs to survive it. Like everyone else, my money is stuck at the bank (unlike everyone else, I believe long term thinking will solve it). Like everyone else COVID-19 has changed my daily routine (unlike everyone else, due to diabetes and common sense, am taking it very seriously. Or as I mentioned earlier, it was not the original hysteria which broke out that got me worried, but rather what would happen later.) Like everyone else I was about to die (twice) on the day of the Beirut explosion (unlike many, I escaped unharmed). Like everyone, I have made it to October pseudo intact (unlike everyone else, I know how taxing this is on mental health, admit to it, and have tried to to amend to it as much as humanly possible).

Well, so what is my magic trick to survive 2020? From the get go, I stopped comparing it to previous years. Everything: The Dollar exchange rate, the bank withdrawals or lack of it, the new normal (or rather abnormal), the price of things, etc... I keep reading all these people ranting on Instagram - two specific people come to mind - who have zero economic vision, no financial knowledge, and yet who act as moral arbitrators and assign the blame on anyone who is anyone, not understanding their ranting - though popular on Instagram - is actually hollow.

But once you stop comparing, once you go on living as you used to (within one's means), once you do not see today's pricing in the view of last year's economy, once you accept that this is a tricky phase where one must "make do and mend" (literally, I found, not one, but two great tailors in a city nearby), once you understand that subsidizing the fuel must end because it is eating away what is left if the central bank's Dollars... Only then will 2020 make sense to you.

But again, once you stop comparing. Once you readjust your expectations to reality, you will end up surviving 2020. With three months to go, that is no mean feat.