Monday, June 7, 2021

Beirut is talking again - post financial crash and post explosion

Photo by Tarek Chemaly

Beirut is talking again. For a long time, the city was "mute". Believe it or not it happened before the explosion of August 4th. Something was odd, whatever Beirut was regurgitating was forumulatic things - through its walls and alleys and its whole sentiment and being. A long time ago (in 2008) and in an interview with a Swedish newspaper, I said "Beirut is like a snake, it needs to shed its skin periodically" - not caring who or what it hurts in the process.

Yes, Beirut is a treacherous entity. Schizophrenic, with different personalities cohabitating all at once, and as I said, all of them stopped talking at the same time. As if there was this whole new modus operandi being reworked, to sound cliché, a matrix being reloaded. But when I went to Beirut on Saturday for my first vaccine dose (yay!), I noticed something different about it - it was regaining life. Again, to be cliché once more, I am quoting Star Trek: "There's life Jim, but not as we know it".

When I say Beirut is regaining life, it is not the life "before". It is different than what was happening... before the financial crash and how it redefined socio-economic classes (see here) or the explosion which also targeted all strata of the society (see here). I know you might say I am just imagining this. Life is life after all. No, it is not. Not when the whole population went through the same trauma at the same time for the same reason, when already two prior generations (or more) had their war trauma undealt with.

Beirut (and Beirutis) is (are) still redefining itself (themselves) post-explosion and post-financial crash - and it is happening consciously or not. To quote that exceptional break up song by ABBA When All Is Said and Done, the city and its inhabitants are "slightly worn, dignified, and not too old for sex".

Nothing like a financial crisis, a pandemic, and an explosion to make a city reassess its identity.