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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The currency of hope

It’s not always easy for me to explain why I left Lebanon. I usually lie, by omission that is..
This is the second post I've written for the LBC Blogs project. The original post can be seen here.
It’s not always easy for me to explain why I left Lebanon.

I usually lie, by omission that is. I talk about my education, my career, the experience of living in a different culture… and while that all may be true, it overlooks the painful truth that I had come to terms with abandoning my own beliefs: I thought that we could fix this country. I believed that hard work, not emigration, was the answer. I figured that we, the post-war generation, would know best how to avoid the mistakes of our parents, and build this country anew, set a clean slate.. but many thought differently..

Think about teenagers discussing politics, talking about the civil war - a war they never experienced - only to justify their support for this or that party… listen to them echo the hate-ridden opinions of their parents..

Think about the amount of educated young people who wouldn’t live in areas whose residence majority is not of their own religion.. they should know better..

Talk to the generation that survived the war while staying on its sidelines, hoping they would live to see their country become the land they’ve been dreaming of, let them tell you how this country resists all change except for the one that turns our hair gray, wrinkles our skin, and weakens our will..

Look at the apathetic society we’ve become… then ask yourself: Has desperation taken over our lives? If it hasn’t, then surely there must be hope for a better day, but when you’ve seen so many take to the streets chanting hate-ridden slogans, and talked with so many others only to find out that their views are as skewed as they are bigoted, their values start seeping into your veins and eat away at your soul like a poison… and the currency of hope plummets. That’s when you tell yourself:

You have to leave.

You have to leave before you become one of them: buy an apartment in a quiet religiously-homogenous neighborhood, watch the news every now and then, curse at our hopelessness, then let apathy take over your mind as your hair turns gray and your life slips away.

You have to leave, or you have to find a new source of hope. Anything else, and you’re doomed.

I used to say "Lebanon is the best place to be Lebanese".. I think I might have been wrong.

Recommended Media:
Blend - Generation (song)

[graffiti by Banksy]


February 21, 2012 at 9:24 AM Mich

Never give up hope for your country. At least you have one. You can stay abroad for 10, 20, 30 years, but eventually you will go HOME. If more people stayed, it might help make a difference. Also I don't think the parents made mistakes that need to be avoided. They were in their country, trying to survive a 15-year-war as best they could. It wasn't a month in summer or a few days in winter, or a couple of weeks in spring. It was 15 YEARS in pre-Internet years without anything and often on the fringes of hunger. I think the younger generation should respect that, admire that and build on it and not always criticize. There is a lot to be said about the "arrogance of youth" who think they are now running the world. Hope is a very valuable currency. I hope you never exchange it :-)

February 21, 2012 at 10:14 AM Fadi

What if you go to your own country and you don't feel at home anymore ? What if "home" seems to have taken an entirely new definition ?

I used to be all for the "if more people stayed.." option, but not anymore, because for every reasonable person that stays there seems to be ten or more fear-mongering idiots ready to ruin it for everybody. And I don't agree that there was "wisdom" in what the past generation did, at least not all of it, I've seen enough documentaries showing men saying they took up arms as teenagers in the war because it was "hip, like smoking a cigarette", or god knows what other idiotic religious paranoia-driven reason. One of the reasons it lasted so long is because the Lebanese had no long-term vision, and they still don't. How else would you explain the lack of social benefits that a country that's been out of a civil war for TWENTY YEARS should have ? This sounds like such a cliche, but we complain about fast internet and we don't even have 24-hour electricity !

I'm not being a arrogant, I'm just pointing out facts: We are a failed nation. It's every man for himself, his immediate family, and people of his religion. That doesn't make us a "nation", by a dictionary's standards, and the reasonable people are never going to reach positions of power as long as the crushing majority is voting on instinct. So why should I sit there and hope for change that isn't going to come, in a country that I can hardly call Home anymore ?

February 21, 2012 at 11:03 AM Jhonny Ayrout

Fadi, you couldn't have written it better! I've lived in different countries for different amounts of time. I was born in Venezuela, at the age of 9 we moved to Lebanon and lived there for 12 years. And it came a time where I finally started to consider Lebanon also my home. But lately, after living also one year in the United States, and a few months in Venezuela, and went back to Lebanon, I noticed how much I've been missing! so, so much!

why do I need to think about what frickin' colors should I wear when I'm going out just to spare a problem in a pub! I mean, seriously?! If I wear a green shirt, or blue or red or whatever I'm taken into consideration as part of that specific party. before anyone asks you your name, they ask, "who're you with?". I'm from Zgharta (north), and since being part of Zgharta people directly assume I belong to a specific political party. I do not follow them, never did and never will. and for the sake of it, never have I ever followed any single party in Lebanon. Since I came from Venezuela at the age of 9, the first question I was asked in Grade 4, was "who're you with? and are you christian or muslim?". why?!?! why is it so important to know!? I never got the idea, and thankfully, never will.

In brief, I've lived 9 years in Venezuela, 12 years in Lebanon (2 of them in Beirut, and 10 in Zgharta), 1 year in USA, and I've been now working in Saudi Arabia for 2 months, and going to stay here for 2 years. As you see it's 4 different countries, 4 totally different cultures. Am I proud to be Lebanese? yes, but I just want Lebanon to be my 1-month summer vacation, not more. That's all I can take. It makes me feel so sad thinking about how our beloved country is going down, and it's not because of the politicians, not because of anything except the people themselves, they're destroying themselves and everyone around them.

And this is to everyone still trying to convince immigrants to go back to Lebanon... Enjoy your Lebanon! Enjoy it as much as you can, it's not gonna last long. and I hope you have fun walking down the street without having fingers pointing at you dying to know gossip and babbling non-sense about immature subjects...

w khallikon 3am bt fannso 3a ba3ad, w te7ko 3a ba3ad, w t2oulo chou lebsit hayde, w ma3 min nem heda, cz by the end of the day if you look at yourself in the mirror and feel proud of yourself after doing all that, then you deserve to stay and rot in Lebanon. Have a nice life, I'll send you postcards from every corner of the 'living' world!

February 21, 2012 at 11:08 AM Sahar

I agree Fadi with most of what you stated. I was one of those" I would never leave Lebanon no matter what" people during the time I was still living there. I did not know any other way of living so to me it all seemed normal. Until I realized one day that I have the capabilities of doing more, more for me, for my family, and Lebanon if I just left and started all over again. Living in Lebanon dragged me down, wasted my energy on calculating the time of electricity cut outs, neighbor not respecting my parking space, and going around trying to keep up with all the exaggerated kids' birthday parties, to name a few.
Leaving was the hardest decision I ever took, and it was mine, no one imposed anything on me. I was the one who dragged my husband from a happy career abroad because I believed that Lebanon is the only place to be. I cried my heart out the day I left, as the first few weeks passed, I felt depressed and was at the worst emotional stage of my entire life.
Life in Kuwait seemed too slow, no worries, everything was smooth, people lived like they had all the time in the world. Everyday I would wake up and think, what am I going to do all day? Bearing in mind I have 2 kids, one was 6 months old at the time, and a full time job. That's when I realized that Lebanese live their lives backwards. The major part of their day is figuring out how to provide their basic needs like electricity & water, what's left of the day is where they actually work at what's important.
It is sad, and being realistic, I feel we might not witness the changes very soon.
However I agree with Mich that it is difficult to feel "home" in any other place than your own country no matter how contented with your life you may be. It will always be a temporary "home" which we should be thankful for and appreciate. We will always be treated as non-citizens, not that it is not fair from their part, but I am just pointing out that no matter what, we only have one home which eventually we will have to return to one day.

Excuse the long comment (more of an essay), and thank you for your very honest post.

February 21, 2012 at 6:31 PM Sietske

Wow, very strong: "You have to leave before you become one of them: buy an apartment in a quiet religiously-homogenous neighborhood, watch the news every now and then, curse at our hopelessness, then let apathy take over your mind as your hair turns gray and your life slips away."
How very true. You are spot on!!!!!

February 21, 2012 at 8:39 PM Youssef Chamoun

Some people are born poor,
Some people are born with a handicap,
Some people are born in "failed nations"
And after that moment, it is up to them to change their fate

I was born here, traveled around, seen the grass IS actually greener on the other side and decided to stay to fix this country.

Just go for another approach for change, start with ourselves, then the close family, friends, neighborhood ..... then the country

February 21, 2012 at 9:11 PM Fadi

I'd like to start off by thanking you all for sharing your perspective, I love how the discussion itself is longer than the original post :)

@Johnny: I've found out that most Lebanese expats have a tendency to love lebanon somewhere between ten days and two weeks at a time. We all somehow came to the conclusion "stay longer and it's a bit too much stress".

@Sahar: I agree more or less with the fact that you're never really "home" as a foreigner, but I think that depends on circumstances, such as how well you integrate, whether or not you're sharing your life with someone who is native of the country you live in, how big of an expat community your host city has, etc.. I'm holding reservation on the "which eventually we will have to return to one day" for now.. I guess time will tell.

@Sietske: That comment left a smile on my face for about 30 mins. I love it when you stop by :)

@Youssef: You know I respect your opinion (I used to agree with you, remember ?), I hope for your sake, because I know what a passionate and hard-working person you are, that Lebanon doesn't burn you out.

Cheers y'all ! :)

February 27, 2012 at 9:09 AM Mahmoud Tello

When I read this it was as if I was reading into my own thoughts! Fadi, you absolutely summarized not only yours, but also the thoughts of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese young men and women. I recently moved to Qatar and to think that the citizens of this country used to ride camels when Hamra Street and Place de l'Etoile were gushing with tourists, writers, and celebrities is just very sad. But honestly I think the Lebanese people deserve every bit of crap they are in right now simply because for 20 years they barely made any changes. After World War II it took Germany around 7 years to rebuild a nation that has become the leading economic power in Europe. The problem is that the family names present in parliament are more or less the same since 20 years (its like a divine right to them). I can seriously go on and on but what good would it do, simply because with the people currently following the so called "leaders" like puppets you can't do much can you?

Long live The Gulf and Canada two regions that provided a sanctuary for my family and I when Lebanon betrayed us.

February 28, 2012 at 4:03 AM Anonymous

I spent my childhood in Saudi and most of my adult years in Canada. I visit Beirut every year, but have never lived there. I dream of the day I can move to Lebanon and finally be ''home'', for good. Dream of change and dream of helping in any slight way to improve my country. But this dream has slowly faded away and I feel naive for even thinking it's possible. Its so sad really. I think of the potential but I also think of how it's Lebanon itself stopping itself from growing and moving forward. The dream is till there though maybe in a darker shade of grey, but I feel hope is still there. You need something to believe in. If not what else do we have?

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