Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Lebanon: So what happens when all securities turned out to be false?

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

Trust me you do not want to grow up in a war. Surrounded by people trying to make it through themselves while also trying to raise you. And a school system lost between the past and the environment it is in, and little or not guidance to why such and such teacher was reacting this way to your presence.

War never ends. It carries on like a trauma - especially if unhealed and not talked about and (oddly) glamorized and fetishized in the collective (un)conscience. Honestly if I ever hear "rizkallah 3a eyem el 7arb" (loosely translated as "may God bring back the time of war") one more time, I am literally going to blow up.

Now if you ever grew up in a time of war, the first you will look for is security.

You want security at all costs through whatever outlet, you're ready to pay the highest price for it, even if means sacrificing your own security in the process. 

No, no, this is not philosophy. 

You are ready to give, love, and care so much to hang on to anything or anyone who gives you security (or more specifically, who "in your own mind" gives you security) so you end up ditching your own mental and emotional security in the process.

Living in Lebanon right now, especially that I am smack from the war generation, is having all your security networks crumble. Remember "that's incredible!" TV show? Of course you don't - but they had these stunts where trapeze artists would perform all these stunning acts (wait for it) "without safety net".

Everyday living here feels so. I know what you are going to say - "Tarek, everyone in the whole world lives this way". No, the difference is that a lot of other people have pensions to look forward to, have Floridas to move to, have firm structures in place and stable pointers and debatable laws to abide by.

I know of people (unsurprisingly outside Lebanon) preparing for trips, and moving houses, while even others working on career moves or marriages - hey, I even know people divorcing.

You really have no idea what it is to drift - daily. 

It is not a coincidence that "religious practice/beliefs" are on the rise during such times. People go back to what they know - or what makes them feel safe. Studies have proven that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and religious practice are interlinked (note that repetitive gestures, the shielding one's self from the unknown) and of course, the rise in the belief of conspiracy theories.

As an aside, funnily (or sadly?), a few days ago Lebanon elected its Miss after 4 years of absence and the winner was a certain Yasmina Zaytoun. Also Wael Arakji was named MVP in the FIBA basketball tournament. Whereas Mr. Arakji was very gracious dedicating the whole team's play to Lebanon at large (going as far to tell the Prime Minister to shut up and that the PM's congratulations were not needed nor welcome), many voices on Twitter were adamant that this was "a good day for the Sunnite sect" (both Arakji and Zaytoun are Sunni Muslims).

However, truth be told, on the ground, at this point all fictional elements resembling stability have been erased from Lebanon. I am not going to repeat them (the money, the food, the fuel, you name it and it is a guessing game) but every day brings its own question mark. Lately it was about the lack of bread, which again, triggers memories of blockade in the Eastern region of Beirut in 1989 where neighbors ended up baking bread on an open-oven and sold me a pack reluctantly because the bread was supposed to go to the militia controlling the area.

Paradoxically, when you know all the security that you have been seeking elsewhere is - either you paid too high of a price for it, or is too fleeting, or too meaningless in retrospect - you go back to the drawing board. 

And try to find the security you wish for, within.