Once the barking stops

I wrote this on New Year ’s Day and was contemplating putting it up here, while that was happening a second explosion rocked Lebanon which, for the very first time, seriously hindered any hope I have for this country. Either way, my emotional relationship with my country doesn’t change the words I have previously written and from an objective standpoint I still believe that until an all-encompassing solution is found, change must begin from within us.

On Friday December 27th a 50kg explosive was triggered in the form of a car bomb in down town Beirut. The echoing boom sounded the 16th political assassination since 2005 in the place I call home, and ended the lives of 7 other civilians.

What ensued, in the form of personal reactions, ranged widely from calls to leave the country to a reaffirmation of nationalism and of course politically fueled bickering and finger pointing. On the spot dialogue, or more accurately described, individual barking, took over social media, TV, and dinner table conversation, and the same sectarian language and large scale discussions about the region and our national identity filled the air. Based on these conversations, the conclusion always was that Lebanon is in the hands of “other” international and regional players, a far cry from nationalism if ever there was one, but what I believe is that it’s more of a convenient excuse than anything that holds substance (no matter how true that statement may in reality be). You see I don’t feel like I’m under the influence of any international or regional figures, hell I’m not even under the control of national ones, and as far as I’m concerned neither are most of us, but somehow that’s an issue we all fail, or conveniently avoid, to acknowledge, and that is us, our collective selves and what we are doing for Lebanon.

I once read an interesting quote that went “power isn’t taken, it’s given” and we fell in the habit of giving away our power way to easy, maybe it was the 16 bombs, several wars  or the indoctrination we faced while sitting in on these dinner time conversations, whichever it was we lost the meaning of the word citizen and began accepting the way things are, we normalized to everything from bombings to horror stories of kidnappings, rapes, and bad traffic and simple day to day infractions against us as people. We caved to fear and paid with the loss of our individual dignity and more importantly the possibility of a brighter future for our country.

Driven by my patriotism, however, I have not lost hope, and yes I believe that we can reclaim our citizenship, and that yes change on the individual level is what will lead to larger change within our nation. So with this new year being heralded in by yet another assassination I think now is the perfect time that we say enough, for both the situation we are in and the continuous barking taking place around us, and more importantly to start reclaiming our citizenship, and in an attempt to avoid further barking, here is my humble opinion as to how we can do that.

1. Stay

Yes, it sucks here, there is low opportunity for employment, a horrible social security platform, and your chances of living independently are constantly hindered by that low salary you are paid at the end of every month (for those of us employed) but, if you are anything like me, middle classed with a decent family that can support you working an ok job, then you have everything you need to be a catalyst for change, education, money, time, and hopefully the willpower it takes to see things around you get better. And even if you don’t have all of those together dedicating at least one to your nation is more than enough there are many others out there willing to contribute their piece of the pie.

Also, If you don’t stay, then who are you leaving the country to?

 2. Confront

Our enemies are in front of us and they are not scary systems that will come crushing against us if we speak out; they are that guy on a jog weaving through traffic, the taxi driver spitting out of his car window, the darake on his phone letting traffic go to crap, the news anchor talking about sunni’s and shia’s, they are our parents, our neighbors and our co-workers, nothing out of reach especially with the use of social media. Don’t be afraid to speak out, stop your car and ask that darake what he’s doing,  tweet to the news anchor tell her you find her rhetoric disgusting and the topic she tackles insanely sub-par.

We all have something to say so let’s make sure we address these messages to someone.

3. Target

Stay away from politics those people are on a whole other level of dementia and are pretty happy where they are, but that doesn’t give the administrative institutions like the ISF, NSSF, public education sector, municipalities and others, which each have their own governmental body an excuse to do a shitty job.

By staying away from the hocus pocus of top level politics and focusing on institutional policy we can shift the debate from Iran and Saudi Arabia to things that directly impact our lives.

4. Rally

Whether you join one or rally people around you, you have more influence than you think.

We have gotten way too comfortable sitting on our couches accepting the way things are, watching videos of people get run over on youtube, and although social media makes it easier to get a message across there remains a reason why chants in the street and pen on cardboard is what really gets results.

5. Reclaim

A lot of what we have lost is simply due to under-utilization, public transportation, public spaces, and public beaches. We have left these things to be used by those who have no other alternative and as such will use them no matter what state they are in, of course for those people they can’t complain leaving any hope for improvement as abandoned just as we have originally abandoned them.

Adopt the needs of others as if they were your own and put your money where your mouth is.

6. Identify

You are Lebanese, no matter how shitty your country is. I’m not telling you to have the national anthem as your ring tone, but it won’t hurt to know the lyrics and stop complaining when it comes on at the beginning of every event and stand up like it means something. Our entire lives have been managed by differences in language, religion and area of origin, these are not things that we can get rid of but we can at least cherish them under one identity, that of our flag.

We will never be motivated to do something or understand how grave the transgressions against us are until we start looking at ourselves like citizens, individuals that belong here and have a duty towards our nation.