Should I leave? Should I stay?

We hear it on every mouth at every corner of every street: Emigration. Emigration has become the highlight of Lebanon’s list of achievements for the past decade. Everyone knows that immigration hurts. It hurts the emigrant who’s leaving his/her native land; it hurts the emigrant’s family as it hurts the country in its socio-economical situation. Everyone knows indeed that emigration hurts, yes, but everyone is also willing to handle the pain. And why is that you wonder? Well simply because, despite all the difficulties out there, the price to pay is less than that of staying in the country.

20 years ago, Wadih el Safi sang “Ya mhajirin rja3ou” and Zaki Nassif “Raje3 yet3ammar Lebnan”… Today, Zein el Omar is singing “Chou 3meltelle bel balad“ and Najwa Karam “Leish mhajar”! Even artists acknowledged finally the fact that Lebanon’s situation is hopeless and their message matches perfectly the people’s demands:”If you want us to stay, help us to stay. Don't just tell us not to go. Give us other options instead.”

When Neila Tueini first wrote her article entitled “No for Emigration” right after the July war was over, I wonder if she knew at that time that her father will not be the last martyr and that the country will enter an infinite loop of political distortion! Four months since the July war ended, and what has changed? What argument could I possibly give in order to convince someone … anyone not to leave Lebanon? Is there something really still worth fighting for?

Many critics compare the act of leaving a country to that of abandoning a ship without trying any rescue attempt. In my opinion and in others’ as well, it is unfortunately too late for salvation missions for the ship is going down on all cases. It’s just a matter of time. The only thing that’s probably postponing the inevitable is the existence of Lebanese people abroad who have seeded the earth, from Brazil to Australia without ever renouncing their nationality. They’re proud of whom they are and they’re the ones who’re giving Lebanon its finest image! In here people are plainly breathing corruption, theft, piracy, and mostly hating each other! Out there they’re like brothers and sisters. In here we’re Christians, Sunnis, Shiites, Druze, “Fictitious majority” and “Clean Opposition”! Out there we’re just Lebanese.

Today’s Lebanese youth is being suppressed by harsh economical, social and political conditions. Our country has become an open land for assassins, mercenaries and all kind of soldiers of fortune! Our economy has witnessed its worse decline ever, partly because of the accumulated debt, partly because of the Hizbullah-Israel war, and finally because of the most recent events (needless to spell it)! Politically there is nothing that can be done! Or is there??? Well it depends on what you can do when some are striving to make Lebanon the new Hong Kong (with both its positives and negatives) and others are doing their best to make a second Hanoi out of it?
How can anyone ask the people out there to come back in this case? And what’s more odd, how can anyone ask the people in here to stay?! If we can do more good by leaving the country and building our future elsewhere, why not do it then? This has absolutely nothing to do with moral values or treason. It’s about doing something with your life, succeed, and this is what will help our native country. What’s the point of staying here for instance; depend on your parents till the age of 30 then if you get lucky you find a job, which is not even well paid or you don't get paid on time. On all cases, nothing functions correctly. You can never sleep assured for you never know when that “nephew” or “cousin” pops up in your life and gets the position you’ve been dying and working hard to get. This is Lebanon. You’re not protected. What am I saying? Nothing here is! You cannot guarantee your rights; in fact you can’t guarantee anything.

When I first started writing this post I wanted to make a point that we shouldn’t simply emigrate… but now after listing a tiny number of the problems I don’t know what to say? Personally I’d rather be in Lebanon than any other place. I dropped my fully funded PhD at UF and came back here simply because I couldn’t live in another country! At least for me the vision is clear I am stuck here! For good!! I am happy in Lebanon, and I believe that all these hard times are some sort of a special life experience! But what about those who are miserable in Lebanon and cannot find comfort elsewhere? What about them? Are they doomed to roam this world looking for happiness which should have existed in their country but someone else stole it from them? Who among you (living outside Lebanon) is happy and doesn’t want to come back? I would like to hear it from Krys, AM , Mirvat , Traffic, Coco and all the others!


At Monday, January 15, 2007 5:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The one thing preventing the Lebanese ship from sinking is ADDICTION!

As simple as that, we are addicted to Liban. Why else would anyone hold on to the one thing that is causing him/her all kinds of troubles, economic crisis, loss of hope, high blodd pressure, cancer (Chikka's factories, in case you are wondering) and disgust, if it is not a huge ADDICTION for Liabn??!!!!

At Monday, January 15, 2007 5:12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as always, sorry for the spelling mistakes, I never like to re-read my posts before publishing them

blodd = blood
Liabn - Liban

At Monday, January 15, 2007 7:20:00 PM, Blogger Ibn Bint Jbeil said...

seven M,
the term is emigration, not immigration.

At Monday, January 15, 2007 7:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to say that it's worth to go back home, I really do. But other than Lebanon being a place for the annual holidays, I, unfortunately, cannot figure a proper concept for this country. Lebanon is nothing more than a dream, an ideal, and if you really think about it, it's better to live in this beautiful dream, away from it, than to see it as ugly as it is, when you're so close. i'm sure many feel the same, even though they may not admit it, or be aware of it.

but you know what else? it's the place where I'd like to be buried many years later, I hope.

very good post MMMMMMM, thanks for shedding light on this topic. and Ibn bint jbeil, if you have nothing else useful to add, I suggest you check this

At Monday, January 15, 2007 7:56:00 PM, Blogger Mirvat said...

this is a very good post MMMMMM...
i sympathize with your decision to leave your phd and go back. we all wanted to do this at one point or another. i know someone who had a severe culture shock here, got a leave of absence and went back for 3 months..only to realize the mistake he made and to come back to the phd program..
i for once have realized that with all the problems we are facing back home, i want to go back. i can't live in constant longing and nostalgia. i'm not happy here. very few people i know are happy outside lebanon. these past events made us, if anything, want to go back even more as maya@nyc put it, now we have more reasons to go back. the lebanese counsel tells me that we never adapt elsewhere and that brings me to your description of lebanese people abroad which is very accurate socially, politically though people are divided everywhere. the social aspect of the lebanese microsocieties abroad shows us that we don't want to let go. lebanese in dubai have made a little lebanon for themselves and we see it everywhere..

i'm not here because i'm an immigrant, i'm here because it happens that the education in my field is better here. you have to take the bad with the good mmm.. that's the trick. we have a wonderful lifestyle but that really mostly comes from the war culture i think. we learned to live for the day which is tough in the bigger scheme of things but it helped us have a wonderful attitude which i can't find anywhere else in the world.
i wouldn't replace lebanon for any other place.

you have to remain hopeful and this is part of our duty too. we have to really keep in mind that we don't have the right to give up on our country. i'm not big on nationalism but i'm big on home and giving back to the home that raised you and made you who you are. this becomes very clear to us when we step out of lebanon and find ourselves defending it with our heart and soul.

the country will come back in shape. politicaly we are used to the ups and downs and the economy will revive soon (in a year).
meanwhile we have to keep the country running.. services and trade and business.. education and building, who will do this if not us?

i know americans who want to go live there and help with the education system. who am i to decide i'm better than my country?

life is too short for one to face struggles? life is also too short for us to keep running away.

amjad, gus, laila, ghada, maya, mazen, wassim, tina.... etc... so many people feel that we will never belong anywhere else and that is something..

At Monday, January 15, 2007 8:10:00 PM, Blogger MMMMMMMMM said...

IBJ noted :D i always confuse the terms!

btw it is 9 M ;) i never get this one wrong

Mirvat & abu bitar, the following is part of one of my posts while i still was in Florida, can you tell me my assumptions are correct:

"in order to get the PhD you need 4 or 5 years, if you manage to live those years on your own away from your people, then it would be too late, you will never come back home. You will finish you PhD, look for a job that pays a lot, and spending your life working your a$$ of and going to your home country twice a year. "You will return to your empty apartment, and start calling people seeking for remorse but nothing is like a hot plate that your mom does", "all the money in the world are not important compared to a life at home next to your loved ones"

At Monday, January 15, 2007 8:27:00 PM, Blogger MMMMMMMMM said...

abu bitar: so my initial word was correct? or both work?

At Monday, January 15, 2007 8:45:00 PM, Blogger callipyge said...

interesting post, MMMMMMMMM (how many Ms? too lazy to count).

I live in Texas and do not have any plans to return to Lebanon in the near or far future. But thats also because I only lived only 7 years of my life in Beirut (1995 to 2002) and because I married an American who shudders at the thought of leaving his own country ;-) I guess I'm good at adapting and I guess the whole framework of Lebanese emigrating anyway makes it easier to cope with. I know a lot of Lebanese who live away from their families and their home country, so it appears to be like a "norm" for me.

However, I was talking with a friend from India the other day and we were both discussing conditions that would make us want to return to our respective countries. We both agreed that unless civic sense and civic education and respect for civic institutions was instilled, there would be no way we could be happy over there.
When you have a strong civic sense is when you start thinking of your own place within a country and stop thinking so individually. A naive part of me thinks that when Lebanon will achieve this (putting the state above all else), the level of emigration will likely decrease.

At Monday, January 15, 2007 10:26:00 PM, Blogger Mirvat said...

it really depends on what you want to do in your life. it depends on your personal life too (like callipyge said). you can spend 5 years doing your phd and if your plan was to only leave lebanon for this then you'll go back. if you care about more money then you'll probably stay for a while or end up in an arabic country.
a bunch of us are facing this decision now and it varies from one to another depending on what we want out of life.

if you are specifically asking because you might be considering going back to florida, tell me and i can help you with this.

At Tuesday, January 16, 2007 12:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1- ya mmmmmm you made it seem as if the people who are hanging in Lebanon aren't doing Lebanon any good
2- Sorry to tell you, but I lived abroad for a short time, 3 months, but it was "living" and not just visiting, and no, sunnis, shiites and christians are not like brothers and sisters, actually they're more prejudice than people I know here.

At Tuesday, January 16, 2007 12:42:00 PM, Blogger MarxistFromLebanon said...

you betcha Liliane

I know from when I worked in the gulf, the Lebanese were divided between the racists, sectarians, and seculars.

In Canada and Australia, my friends and comrades tell me that the Lebanese are more divided in a sect manner than in Lebanon

In Detroit, AMAL and Hezbollah entered several fist to fist fights, whereby other smaller parties present had to explain to the authorities why such fights occurred

Again, the core problem is not to migrate or not, the Paris III for example is another good excuse why we should travel while sectarianism and bi-polarity also pitches in the migration rate...

No government can offer Lebanon salvation with its size and status quo.


At Tuesday, January 16, 2007 5:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

M, that's not true that lebanese abroad are only lebanese! At least not in Paris, they are lebanese when you run into them in the subways or at Noura (the famous lebanese restaurant) or while walking on the Champs (u hear lebanese talking more than french there). But that's it, when it comes to serious stuff they are more divided than in Leb.
I lived for one month in a residency for lebanese students, and for some silly elections for sports activities, it was like "laaaaaaa ana ma bsawet la heyda liano ...(chi3a or masi7e or whatever)" and it was even worse when it came to the elections of the residency comitee, the one that takes care of everything.
And there's more at my place of work where everybody(they are all lebanese) was criticizing a friend of mine working there too because they thought he's not christian!!! And actually he's christian, called ghassan and nothing in him refers to any specific religion and they didn't beleive me until they personally asked him if he is christian or not...This is just pathetic!!!

As for emigration, nobody's happy abroad "On n'est pas heureux mais on en a l'air" and that's because we have to make our life eventually.
Personnaly a part of me never left Lebanon. I came to Paris to continue my studies, I was planning to study for 3 years and then come back, settle down in Leb but what is happening lately is not encouraging and I am at a stage of my life where I should take a decision.
So I decided to stay, though I can't work unless I pass an exam including all the courses that I took during 5 years in Leb(and beleive me,in my major we are way too much performing than the french people yet we have to pass the exam), wait at least 6 months to get the "autorisation de travail" and as long as I don't have the french nationality I can't own my place of work but after all this I will be having a safe "mode de vie" and earning a lot of money but that includes also working around 12 hours a day, living in 20m2 appartment, eating junk food, sometimes ur phone doesn;t ring all day long except for work, no family gathering et j'en passe...
And if I return to Leb next year, I actually start working but I[ve seen my friends who started to work, actually they are barely working, people are not paying them, and practically they are all considering working abroad specially in the arab countries.
Nobody wants to leave Lebanon intentionnally but I guess we are forced to do it as long as everything;s falling down there.

I am 24 years old and it's been 24 years that I am hearing that it's a transition phase, things will be ok and the country is going to rise once for all...and where is the country now???

I may have decided to stay abroad and make my life on my own away from all the people I love, away from all the memories I have there, and with people I barely know, convincing myself that these are my new friends, my new "way of living".
France is an awesome country, and living in Paris is just great,a dream come true, bas lech ta nekzoub, NOTHING compares to Lebanon and living there with all the ups and downs. Everytime I leave after a short or long vacation and even after the war (yep cause I got there 2 days b4 the war and stayed till its end), it's always the same scenario with the same wondering "why am I leaving, I wanna stay, hell with studying and everything"....But I beleive we have a life to live, a career to manage, and life's too short to sit down and just wait for things to get fixed up.

I am very happy in Paris, and thank god I have almost all of my childhood friends here and lots of family members, but beleive me I never go to bed without feeling "la gorge serree" thinking about home and when will I ever come back....

At Tuesday, January 16, 2007 7:49:00 PM, Blogger MMMMMMMMM said...

Guys thank you for your extensive comments, i really appreciate it, really!

Mirv: No i am not planning to go back to florida, but perhaps newyork, so what do you think.

Krys i know what you mean, your blog is a living proof of what your life is like!
Cally: i heard that americans might like lebanon!

At Tuesday, January 16, 2007 10:32:00 PM, Blogger callipyge said...

:-) my husband visited twice and so did my in-laws. They absolutely loved it.

At Wednesday, January 17, 2007 3:29:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frankly I am not addicted to lebanon at all.
if my family moves somewhere else, I will probably never visit lebanon again.
like I said before, the only thing that I like in lebanon is the nightlife, family and friends.
if family moves out, and since most of my friends already moved out...I can find other places with a good nightlife to spend my holidays in.

At Wednesday, January 17, 2007 6:02:00 AM, Blogger Mirvat said...

new york is the best place to be here, as far as my opinion goes.. esp. if you're willing to venture into the grad school life, you need a big cosmopolitan to be able to survive.. smaller towns are good for later, settling down, all american town house and SUV life.. for a start, nyc is the place to be. i think everyone fits here because the city fits with everyone's taste and life style.
what kind of phd are you thinking?

At Wednesday, January 17, 2007 9:04:00 AM, Blogger MMMMMMMMM said...

Mirv: Either biostatistics or epidemiology, what are the best schools in this field?

At Wednesday, January 17, 2007 10:18:00 PM, Blogger Mirvat said...

biostat columbia of course.. in nyc that is. i don't know anything about epidemiology but NYU has a grad program for that and it's a good place to be.. the best location and the best housing.. you'll have a lot of fun being there and NYU students are a lot of fun.
tell me when you send your application and i'll see if i know someone where you apply.

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