Sunday, March 19, 2023

We are fine in Lebanon, set our mind at ease about you.

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

In 2021, I wrote about the fact in Lebanon, problems shared are not problems halved (here).

But 2021 seems like a different life altogether even if problems were still going strong. Because now we got turbo-charged and the whole country seems completely adrift on all levels, specifically economical level - oh mind you, the fact that we have no president, a caretaker government and a parliament which is hanging by a thread seems like something "in the background of the photo". If you have not bought anything as of late, you might be excused not to understand, if you did, you might be excused to be too exhausted to lament.

Still, I often wonder - is a problem a problem? No matter the magnitude, the scale, the proportion? I keep hearing from people I know in the UK that tomatoes are no longer present on the shelves in shops. A friend in Brussels wrote about how people are renting a bed in a room for 750 Euros a month. Oh yes, and the French are up in arms because of what is supposed to be the retirement age going up from 62 to 64. And the list goes on.

Why am I writing this? I honestly don't know. I mean, a friend in Germany tried consoling me saying "oh just have a mug of hot chocolate" - until I linked him to the page of a local supermarket and translated the prices of the said hot chocolate options. His eyes popped.

I mean seriously, I am sure there are parts of the world where the situation is worse than Lebanon. Hey, even in Lebanon, you might say I am remnants of what used to be the middle the middle class (for an analysis of the middle class go here) meaning I still have means of survival when others do not (ergo, "why are you complaining?"). 

But again, it is like we are drowning in problems, yes, even the remnant of the middle class is. A person I know - who prior to the crisis was extremely affluent - had to forego his rented apartment and moved back to the villa of his parents and he has to readjust the basement floor to fit him, his wife, two children, mother in law while his mother and househelp where in the first floor - honestly I felt for the man as his wi-fi kept breaking in the basement as he called me as he does periodically and explaining to me that he is adjusting the screws of one of his children's beds.

This is where the "but there are people worse off than you" kicks in. Or - what someone told me lately - "Tarek the rich man is not the one who has the most but the one who needs the less". Well, I have always been frugal, I have always needed very few things. Then why is it that when going to the store it looked as if I robbed Fort Knox while leaving home? I was carrying a wad of cash so big it was embarrassing.

I am reminded of the wonderful satirical song by Khaled El Habr "we are fine in Gaza, set our mind at ease about you" (nahou bi kheir fi Gaza tamminou ankom). So, I guess we are fine in Lebanon, set our mind at ease about you.