Those who are looking for signs of Lebanese hopelessness need only look out over the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean sea, or to the doors of Western embassies in Beirut. The sea is where the Lebanese tragedy is really being played out, as hundreds board rickety vessels for the perilous journeys to neighboring Cyprus. We need to abandon the illusions that such deadly trips originate from countries other than Lebanon. A brief glimpse at the news, with all the stories of drowned and dead Lebanese, is more than enough to liberate us from the delusions of Lebanon’s “exceptionalism.”
Emigration stories are part of Lebanese folklore and literature, transmitted to children and grandchildren, if not by parents, then by books. But today’s stories lack the romanticism of the past – at least as narrated – and are replete with the tragedies and the humiliation of Lebanese families standing in front of foreign embassies to fill out emigration applications. Hussein Termos’ statement (cited in the Guardian article) sums up the state of many Lebanese: “Believe me, if I get a visa to any country in the world, I’d be out of here in a heartbeat.”
Is Lebanon disintegrating as the Guardian writes? While a majority of observers consider the port explosion the event that ushered the country's disintegration, others trace the onset of decay to a much earlier period when the legitimate state vanished, a development predating the port explosion by decades. I cannot quarrel with this statement.
While this space is not for political theorization, a brief rundown of Lebanon’s social and economic crises leaves no doubt that the country is unraveling: the currency in free-fall, hyperinflation, mass unemployment, the fear that government subsidies for flour, medicines, and fuel will soon end, nearly 70% of the populace living below the line of poverty, as well as the threat of the life savings of many Lebanese being wiped out by the imploding banking sector.
Faced by all these crises, the Lebanese oligarchy turns a deaf ear to pleas of its subjects, and even ignores appeals from countries like France who would like to rescue Lebanon from the madness of its politicians. Instead, the country is held hostage to a diminishing president who insists on bequeathing the office to his son-in-law at any cost, even if it means that the country “vanishes.” The “ruling family” subscribes to a tradeoff strategy: its alliance with Hezbollah rests on passing the presidency down to Gebran Bassil (Aoun’s son-in-law) in return for providing Hezbollah with domestic political cover for all of its foreign military adventures. For those who are unfamiliar with the shadowy character of Michel Aoun’s son-in-law, allow me to cite a tweet by the respected Lebanese author and journalist Antoine Saad: "Gebran Bassil’s speech yesterday affirmed that he does not have the sophistication, wisdom, or even ordinary intelligence. In any case, there are no longer any smart people in the Free Patriotic Movement (Aoun's political party).” Imagine Lebanon’s future resting on this guy’s wisdom and intelligence, not to mention patriotism!
To read the Guardian article, click on the link below:
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