7.5.05

It is sad...

I decided to write this post after reading lebanon.profile's comment below about Franz Ferdinand's appearance at the Byblos festival. For as frivolous as that comment seems, it managed to put its finger right on one essential wound. At least, my essential wound—and I suspect the lifetime dilemma of many an expatriate Lebanese. It is a dilemma of identity, of belonging, of major life choices, and many value choices. At first I hesitated to post right after the news of the bombing in Jounieh. But then I realized, this is not unrelated, nor any less important. That bombing, and all the conditions that enabled it, are the reasons people like me choose to abandon all that delight that lebanon.profile so teasingly described, and abandon things way more important than that (such a family, friends and loved ones) and decide to live abroad. And people like me are not the minority; we are the majority of the Lebanese. We outnumber those residing in Lebanon by more than three folds! How anomalous is that? And why? Is everyone just a “traitor”, a “coward”, a “sell-out”? Or is there something, still, terribly wrong with our country. I didn’t have to look any farther than lebanon.profile's profile to find my hint. “One of multiple students running Lebanese Political Journal. We are from the Bekaa, the Jounoub, and Kisirwan. We hate not being able to publish our identities, but with Syria now cracking down on newspapers we do not feel comfortable speaking openly. Also, our affiliations to different people and publications does not allow open disclosure.” How sad is that? And then it reminded me, I too write under an alias. For some reason or another, we hide behind these silly handles, behind our fears: they for living there, I for want of being able to visit there. That is the reason that people like me choose to be, according to lebanon.profile, “sitting at [our] computers next to fat North Americans eating donuts, guzzling petrol, watching Fox News, and getting excited when the new Walmart opens”. (And I have to note here, I hope unnecessarily, that this is just as accurate of a view of the people I work and live with as that of bomb-toting, beard-growing, tent-dwelling, camel-riding terrorists is of the Lebanese.) So yes, you will be “gorging [yourselves] on sun, music, celebrity, heaving and sweating beautifully tanned and heavily oiled light-brown thin voluptuous bodies swaying, thumping, and throbbing to the beats with Lebanese flags in [your] hands” while hiding behind such sad, sad masks as “lebanon.profile”. Our country leaves much to be desired. I pretend to be excited about Franz Ferdinand coming to Byblos while I didn’t bother lift a finger when they were here in Philly a couple of weeks ago. And “Coldplay, the Arcarde Fire, and tons and tons of other cool stuff”; right around the corner. It is for a reason than millions of Lebanese people have made the very difficult choice to leave the country and live, by choice, in our “bourgeois American/Canadian paradise”. And it is not for Franz Ferdinand. (And it’s not like Lebanon doesn’t boast its own even more indulgent, and by comparison far more corrupt, bourgeoisie!) My ultimate fear is that millions more, including lebanon.profile, would do the same as me if they only had the chance. I am not saying that making the decision of staying is any less difficult, and certainly I am not saying it is any less noble (I could actually argue to the contrary, in that tragic Greek concept of nobility). But I am saying that we have a lot to achieve, a lot of ground to cover, to become what we hope at best is the likeliness of a Western entity (be it Paris or Switzerland, or god forbid, New York!). So let us at least be humble about it. When our country can boast half of the respect for human dignity and civilization as such “retrograde” countries as the US do (at least in writing, at least for its own citizens), then I will be a happy man. Until then, both in your paradise/hell and mine, we remain sad, sad people…

19 Comments:

At Saturday, May 07, 2005 5:10:00 AM, Blogger Tempest said...

Hats off, arch.memory. Very heartfelt, very true.

 
At Saturday, May 07, 2005 5:50:00 AM, Blogger End racism said...

arch.memory, if you want to go and live there, you should go and live there. As simple as that. If you love your country enough, nothing should stop you, not fear, not anything else. I would live in Lebanon even if there is another war. I'm moving back very soon (on my own, with very little money), hopefully permanently. I left reluctantly - I was 18 back then, and had just graduated, and my mom (a rabid LF and Phalangist supporter and zionist to boot) dragged me to Canada because she thought I had "no future there" (I think she didn't want me to get drafted as well). Anyway, I've hanged around on the LF forum for quite some time and the question of why many Lebanese who talk so strongly against Syria and the current state of affairs don't go and live there has been asked many times; the reply I received was along the lines of "we're afraid and don't think it's a good idea at the moment; but we will come back when Syria leaves". I find that response to be inadequate. Nationalism (which has become too overrated for my tastes) is not about waving flags, it's about doing something for your country, even being ready to die if it will further the cause of freedom and sovereignty. But I find that most Lebanese expatriates are more interested in a pathetic arrogant attitude: "oh now I'm a citizen of a Western (supposedly more civilised?) state.. so I'm better than all you Lebanese living in Lebanon; I'm here to help you, so you better not criticise us for not moving to Lebanon". As for the Lebanese in Lebanon, I find that today's youth don't care much about anything. All they want to do is party, and when the party's over, come back and engage in their fathers' (since Lebanese society is still patriarchal) sectarian mentality.

 
At Saturday, May 07, 2005 6:51:00 AM, Blogger arch.memory said...

Marsden, thanks for being so open. And pardon my ignorance of acronyms, but what is "LF"?
I'd like to say, "Good for you! Good for the country! Wish it was me!" with more conviction than I feel. I left by my own volition. I do not think that I am any better than anyone in Lebanon for the mere fact that I am where I am and they are where they are. But I also believe, at least so far, that I am better off where I am. And I do believe that, at this point in history, Western cultures are more civilized than us. We had our moment in the sun; now we're trudging through our dark ages. And I don't want to be a witch at the stake...

 
At Saturday, May 07, 2005 9:08:00 AM, Blogger Mustapha said...

Arch.memory,

LF = Lebanese Forces (ouwwet)

As for the whole Sad Anonymous miserable living abroad thing, DUDE, that's exactly what the terrorists want. Terrorism's sole purpose is to plant hopelesness in the hearts of targets, so please, remove your mask and come to Lebanon. Mardsen said it best: he will live in Lebanon even if there is war!

As for me, well, The Beirut Spring has always been an optimistic blog, and no bomb is ever going to let me lose faith in my country..

And as a thumb in the nose to the terrorists, I have revealed my face.. you, lebanon.profile and everyone else should do the same.

Let's all keep faith in our beloved Lebanon, and have confidence that one day, we and our children will live in dignity, and people will come to Lebanon from all over the world to escape persecution.. It will happen, I promise..

 
At Saturday, May 07, 2005 2:36:00 PM, Blogger ThinkingMan said...

First, "oh now I'm a citizen of a Western (supposedly more civilised?) state.. so I'm better than all you Lebanese living in Lebanon;" - I am not sure I agree with that one at all. In fact, many Lebanese who have dual citizenship are back living in Lebanon too, so are they also "arrogant"?

Marsden- sorry to say that to you, but it seems that you have a "chip on your shoulder" and I'd like to help you out, but I can't put my finger on it.

Mustapha- great perspective on top of LP's. Each one has a role to play, whether in Lebanon or outside. Being outside does not make anyone a traitor or a lesser contributor. This world is a globally interconnected one. Our "interdependence" is our strength, and the Lebanese abroad have a big role to play in the future prosperity of Lebanon. Just like the strength of the Jewish diaspora is what fuels and supports Israel's inner strength, we have a model to emulate.
This issue is being discussed at great length on the OpenLebanon forum.
www.openlebanon.org/forum.

 
At Saturday, May 07, 2005 5:42:00 PM, Blogger arch.memory said...

Mustapha, thanks for the clarification. As for the "that's exactly what the terrorists want" argument, I have to say I find it rather paranoid and simplistic. And as much as I admire your hope and determination, I don't think you'll be surprised to know that I don't exactly share it. Yes, what happened this spring did fill me with more hope than I thought my jaded self would be capable of. But also, a lot of what happened, and is still happening, only confirmed my old despair. And it is not that I can't return, it is that I refuse to compromise my quality of life by returning. And what I am talking about here, for me personally at least, isn't the chance to succeed or political freedom of speech primarily as it is basic human rights, namely gay rights. And as thriving as gay life is underground in Lebanon, I would like to live above ground, where at least legally, I know I am not liable. Here I have to agree more with "thinkingman" that "the Lebanese abroad have a big role to play in the future prosperity of Lebanon".

 
At Saturday, May 07, 2005 5:43:00 PM, Blogger Charles Malik said...

I wasn't intending to make everyone feel bad about being American/Canadian.
It's just that sometimes we do like to think we are getting the better end of the deal over here.
It's really sad when a rich American cousin comes to the village bearing gifts and everyone sprints over to tell them how glorious they are. The Western relatives who don't send money are ridiculed behind their backs.
Lebanon has potential to be great, but all of you are living in relative comfort. You can order sushi in at 4 in the morning. You don't worry about mukhabarat. You don't worry about bombings near your house.
So, let us enjoy what we do get: Sun, beaches, and concerts.

 
At Saturday, May 07, 2005 6:35:00 PM, Blogger End racism said...

I am not sure I agree with that one at all. In fact, many Lebanese who have dual citizenship are back living in Lebanon too, so are they also "arrogant"?

Yes, many are arrogant. That is not to say that ALL are, but from my experience, many if not most bring up the "I'm American" bit far too much for my tastes. My neighbours are of that kind. They are Armenian, and I criticise them for being like that. I also happen to think this is a phenomenon particular to the upper-middle class and upper class, and many if not most Lebanese expatriates in USA/Canada ARE well-to-do (at least relatively). Yes we all like going to concerts, we all like some of the stuff in USA/Canada, but to talk about it 24/7 as if your life cannot exist outside of that materialism is just too much. That's my take on this.

 
At Saturday, May 07, 2005 6:43:00 PM, Blogger End racism said...

I do believe that, at this point in history, Western cultures are more civilized than us.
Well I disagree. There is a lot of culture and civilisation in the Middle East (and in particular Lebanon). There are many educated people in Lebanon. I mean, look at the States, most Americans don't know where a certain country is located geographically; they don't know much about the history of other countries, only their own. This is not the case in Lebanon. I am proud to say that the education I have received in Lebanon exceeds that of the States and Canada by miles, even if you take into account such subjects as Maths and Physics. In Canada they are taught division in grade 5 or 6. In Lebanon we were taught division in grade 3 or 4. True Lebanon does not have big industries, but that's because our country is not that developed, partly due to the fact that we don't have as many natural resources as other countries, including USA.

Besides, what is the definition of "civilised"? Bombing the hell out of countries? Lebanon has not caused much damage to any countries in the region and around the world, whereas the same "more civilised" USA has done more damage than any of the "uncivilised" Arab countries. As for Mustapha's references to "terrorism", what is the definition of "terrorism"? Who defines it? Why is 9/11 terrorism but not Qana? Why is Sabra & Shatila not terrorism but Iraqi "insurgency" is considered terrorism? Is it because one is done by regular armies while the other by individuals and/or "unrecognised" armies? Or is it that when it's against USA and its allies, it's terrorism, but when it's done by USA and it's allies it's not?

 
At Sunday, May 08, 2005 2:27:00 AM, Blogger arch.memory said...

DISCLAIMERS: I am not American; I am a "resident alien" here. The only passport I hold is a Lebanese one. And that is not out of patriotism, but rather out of lack of opportunity. Lebanon.profile, I am not trying to deny you or anyone anything. I was just reacting to something that was perhaps said in jest, but that nevertheless elicited in me a reaction I thought to be relevant to several Lebanese individuals. My being able to "order sushi in at 4 in the morning" and not having to "worry about mukhabarat" and "about bombings near [my] house" is a choice I made, and it comes at a price. You might not have had the chance to make it, the way that I haven't had the chance to assume another nationality yet. That doesn't make either of us better than the other.
As for Marsden, I respect your opinion that "there is a lot of culture and civilisation in the Middle East", but I have to admit that your argument strikes me as rather stale. I've heard it so many times before, even from such renouned figures as the late Edward Said, and every time it strikes me as merely disingenuous. I think it puts one in a position of power to be able to admit their limitations. And I do agree that the Lebanese educational system (of which I am a product) is a great one. And I certainly am not arguing for the Bush administration's barbaric policies. I do agree that there are a lot of way-less-than-civilized people populating the US, but so are there in Lebanon. And I am not a proponent for this vacant materialism that the US champions, but from what I've seen in my visits to Lebanon, we're just as wonderfully superficial. But I also can see that the US (and more so other more civilized Western countries, such as Canada and western and northern Europe) supports the arts and sciences and human rights and dignity more than all Arab countries lumped together. The Arab countries' output in the arts, sciences, industry, or anything productive is simply laughable! And I'm not even going close to their track on human rights. Let's not lose focus here of what we need to achieve and where we want to go by hiding behind vacant arguments of pride and vanity. Otherwise, we will never make it anywhere...

 
At Sunday, May 08, 2005 5:05:00 AM, Blogger End racism said...

I have to admit that your argument strikes me as rather stale. I've heard it so many times before, even from such renouned figures as the late Edward Said, and every time it strikes me as merely disingenuous.

Disingenuous? How so?

from what I've seen in my visits to Lebanon, we're just as wonderfully superficial.

Yes, sadly. And I see it more in those families that have one or two expatriates.

Many Arab countries' human rights records are despicable, true, but keep in mind that these same regimes are currently supported by the States. One example: Saudi Arabia. Another: Egypt. Yet another: Jordan. In fact, Syria was at one time also supported by USA (this was when Aoun allied himself with Saddam).

It's not about pride and vanity. It's about pointing out the obvious: that USA is in no position itself to criticise our human rights records, when it has the highest number of victims of capital punishment in the entire world.

 
At Sunday, May 08, 2005 6:00:00 AM, Blogger Brian H said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Sunday, May 08, 2005 6:02:00 AM, Blogger Brian H said...

Just an editorial English comment, since there is no direct email to this blog:

"We heart Lebanon" means almost nothing in English, except maybe in baby-talk. The heart icon you see here and there on T-shirts etc. is just a cute way of saying "love". It does not stand for the verb "heart", since there is no such thing.

 
At Sunday, May 08, 2005 3:20:00 PM, Blogger Ramzi said...

Brian H: We'll definitely look into changing that when the hard-copy of this blog is submitted to the Library of the US Congress.
Until then, bear with us?

Ay-ya-yay...

 
At Sunday, May 08, 2005 5:23:00 PM, Blogger Eve said...

Brian H,

thx for your note, but considering the members' knowledge of English here, I guess we already knew there is no verb "heart' in the English language. Yes, it means love, and I'm glad to see that, sometimes, beyond the border of grammar, logic and reason, a simple and direct message can go through. So, we all, here, heart Lebanon.

 
At Sunday, May 08, 2005 7:08:00 PM, Blogger arch.memory said...

Marsden, I feel like you're up to a very rude awakening in Lebanon... Might even do you some good!

 
At Monday, May 09, 2005 1:56:00 AM, Blogger Charles Malik said...

Arch.memory,
I wasn't trying to call you out as having made the wrong decision or me being better because I stayed.
I realize that is a game a lot of us like to play. "I'm working in loneliness in the west so you can have a good life with the family back home" vs. "I'm here fighting the good fight and putting up with all of this crap. It makes me more hardcore and genuinely Lebanese than you." I don't get in those fights.
Cool blogger name, btw.

 
At Monday, May 09, 2005 5:36:00 AM, Blogger End racism said...

I feel like you're up to a very rude awakening in Lebanon...
In what way? I've lived all my life in Lebanon.

 
At Monday, May 09, 2005 2:53:00 PM, Blogger arch.memory said...

Thanx, .profile ;)

 

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