Sunday, July 10, 2022

Lebanon: Of herds, stampedes and eating grass

Artwork is a composite by Tarek Chemaly
I read the below paragraph in The Guardian today:

"It was Zahawi (Nadhim, who accepted the job of chancellor 24 hours prior to the conversation) that tried hardest to convince Johnson’s team that it was over. “The herd is stampeding,” he told them. “Once the herd stampedes, you’ve just got to get out of the way.” Griffith (Andrew, the current UK government policy unit chief), whose dismissive approach angered several ministers during the tense evening, hit back. “What you need to understand,” he retorted, “is that the herd will get tired after a while and go back to eating grass.”

Of course it strangely hit home. The thing about the herd that will get tired after a while and go back to eating grass.

I know a lot of people who could leave Lebanon, and they have. I know (of) a lot of people who couldn't leave Lebanon, and tried (via illegal boats). I know (and know of) people who requested asylum outside Lebanon - "I'll just pretend I am gay" said one, the other was actually a target for a political party's harassments. 

No matter, the end outcome is the same. At this point those who could go - went. And ironically what started the whole 2019 social movement (some dub it "revolution") was that there was supposed to be a tax on Whatsapp. Very recently, network providers started counting units with the "Sayrafa" monthly price as set by the central bank in Lebanon. Which actually is much worse than the original Whatsapp tax which started the whole shebang.

A close friend of mine once told me "I think you still like it there" as to why I did not go. Maybe, somehow, he is right. I always said I have my commitments here (mother who is not growing younger, the house, etc....) which could (or could not) have been an "alibi". But as I said prior, in many ways, I was always able to make it through here (being born in 1974 - you do the math about my age - starting anew elsewhere is not very easy let us be honest). Even now, my income from my business as a communication consultant is - gasp - actually rather decent considering that I did not decrease my prices and that my clients are mostly outside Lebanon.

This is not digressing. But I keep thinking about the herd thing mentioned above. After all the boiling and the chaos (I said it earlier from the get go my attitude for non-participation was "when you finish, let me know about the results"), there's very little to write home about in terms of results.

Sure, I am - like every Lebanese I presume - financially strained. On month-to-month basis. But also as I mentioned before, am still "middle class" or what is left of it (as at this time, with poverty levels hitting 80% in the last UN estimates there's just remnants of that class). 

I salvaged what I could salvage from the financial wreckage (meaning the money in the bank), by hook or by crook am getting medicines for mother (and also to my amazement the equation is working actually), and so on and so forth. Maybe I was too cynic to believe change would happen and sadly the results of the last parliamentary elections proved me right (though, some people said that the facade is cracking and that a new order is indeed coming).

Meanwhile, I honestly do not blame the "heard" for "go(ing) back and eating grass".

In the end, isn't this what herds are supposed to do?