Can You Swim?

My next couple of posts are strictly about Lebanese issues, and I apologize in advance if I come off as harsh, but these are things I’ve been wanting to say for a while.

They’re predicting apocalyptic events in ten days: Water levels are expected to rise by over 20 meters all over the planet, and unless we can find a way to protect ourselves, it will be the end of humanity as we know it. World leaders are working around the clock to come up with solutions to avoid annihilation to their people, and of course, cooperation is out of the question: Everyone is on their own boat. The American president made a speech in which he urged all Americans to join in building a giant wall all along the coasts to protect the country from flooding. Europe’s leaders are trying to re-imagine their cities as floating havens, with gondolas as new cars. Benjamin Netanyahu is planning on sending every Jewish person to another planet to start over elsewhere, and the Lebanese president.. (Well, yeah, it is a fictional story, and although having a president is apparently as likely as water levels rising 20 meters the world over, let’s say we do…) So the president holds a press conference. Lebanese people, proud of their high mountains, are hopeful of the country’s chances of surviving the disaster. Few people have such a percentage of their country this high above sea level, so for once, Lebanon seems to be quite lucky in its geographical dispositions. It sounds funny to say, but people in the country are actually optimistic, and the president speaks: “My fellow Lebanese, I come to you today with urgent news. Water levels are expected to rise in just ten days the world over, and it seems like much of humanity is going to be wiped out. Lebanon has a long history of hardship and struggle, and this disaster should not frighten us. We will adapt and learn how to endure, and so I declare that we now have exactly ten days… to learn to live under water.”

lebanon.jpeg

Nothing sums up what I perceive to be the Lebanese mentality par excellence as well as this joke. We learn to live with our problems, no matter how small, instead of dealing with them. And I think this applies across all fields and scales, whether it’s families dealing with bullying fathers, or people learning how to live without electricity, or tolerating zo3ran, or any of the many problems we live with. In a way, it’s pointless for me to say anything about all that’s happening in the country these days. We all know it well, and extremely articulate people from Tol3et Ri7etkom already said it all better than I ever could. It’s so difficult to live abroad at times like these, when I would want to be involved, to help, with my body and my voice, in the amazing struggle these young people are waging against oppressive, corrupt mafiosi. Again, all this is obvious and clear, although how the people will prevail in this fight is not.

The only thing I would like to add to this is what I perceive as a fundamental flaw in the way we, as Lebanese, have learned to behave, as a coping mechanism. We let go of things, we’re lazy when we should be precise, we laugh when we should be grave. How many young Lebanese do you know can stay serious when discussing our issues? I know it’s a defense mechanism, but at the end of the day, our country is split between the few who care too much and can’t do anything about it, and the many who have learned not to take anything seriously as a coping mechanism. And the way this comes off? We accept all kinds of problems, and always revert to blaming the government for all our shortcomings. We cannot keep learning to live with problems to praise our resilience, our adaptability. We need to start demanding action, solutions, and we need to be hopeful for our future, because we have everything we need to turn this around. But it all begins with people taking themselves seriously, and recognizing that this rampant corruption that plagues the country begins with every stupid “tayib ya man, 3isha” uttered on the streets. It’s a country of “bad students bullying the nerds” to keep quiet. It has become a culture of its own, and I can’t see how we can solve the problems we all suffer from without a serious attitude shift. We need to be serious, and we need to listen to each other. And it’s funny, but I can already hear all my friends laughing about it, “oh man, this guy. He’s just so intense. Khalas man, enta ssarlak ktir zamen mesh 3eyish hon, you’re too serious.”

Maybe I am. But then, all that’s left is to make sure we’ll all incredible swimmers, because the tide’s coming in, and it’s going to be pretty rough.

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