Saturday, May 8, 2021

Have the Lebanese discovered solidarity?

Well, let us be honest from the get-go: Lebanese are not exactly know for solidarity. Sure, we do have social security, post-partum vacation-days for women, a rather large and not svelte system of government employees as well as armed forces - which makes us look a little "lefty" in terms of social cohesion. But by and large, "solidarity" was reserved for political figures wanting to sway votes, political figures' wives wanting to look good (trying to spend money on something other than shopping sprees), political figures' children establishing NGOs under different guises, and the list goes on.

But what is happening now is different. With citizens left to their own devises by a state that crippled itself, with political parties now no longer high on the donor list of wealthy nations trying to influence Lebanese politics where said parties usually - as I said prior - did a tit-for-tat with votes and loyalty with their constituents and followers in a pseudo-feudal system of lords and serfs, and with society people having lost substantial sums of money in the Lebanese crash system - something I have not seen for a while is happening.

What I am talking about is something I have last seen in the war days. In shelters, in places where people where hiding, where they had no access to their bank accounts (at the time bank locations were so scarce if your region's branch was closed there would be no way to get money), where getting paid either was impossible or meant little due to inflation. It is basically about people helping one another. Sharing food, making sure other households had something to eat, "lending" small money (which not knowing if said money would be returned), sharing expertise without charging, giving away hand-me-downs sometimes to people one does not know. Just to be clear, I am not "romanticizing" the war, but it did have such an effect on people where bonds where created on the drum of falling bombs and whereas these bonds did not cross the level of "sects" or "political ideologies" usually closely related to geography, they did exist.

A pharmacy in my village keeps a box for unwanted medicines, or for pills no longer used that other people can use when they cannot pay for the price of a full packet. This is not state-managed, no, this is truly people helping people. And as I said, last time I saw such a camaraderie between people or households was during war days. Lately, it was a notorious thing to say that a "fatoush" plate was so exorbitantly expensive. Which is why, surprisingly, someone knocked at our door a few days ago. It was our neighbor from the house above carrying a Tupperware, all while moving on a walker. The large Tupperware contained a large fattoush dish inside. 

Le Bristol Hotel which ceased operation last year after being a witness to several decades of Lebanese hospitality grandiose times, has been donating its furniture to houses, 3000 houses in total. Honestly, what's not to respect in such a move? Here it is, a defunct institution, which is not even going a hypocritical act of Corporate Social Responsibility, which is donating its furniture in a city where two-thirds were wiped in a gigantic explosion in 2020. Most institutions would have preferred their possessions to rot, but not the Le Bristol.

People are stepping up to the plate, and are doing what taxes should have been doing had taxes not been pocketed by a huge black hole. Of course, saying I have "hope" in the Lebanese people is a long stretch considering they are still very "herd" in terms of political affiliations, but credit is given where credit is due. And today, I am ready to give that credit.