Thursday, December 20, 2007

Season of Beirut

By Joseph El-Khoury

Another holiday season… and the Lebanese are flocking back like migratory birds to warmer or colder climates (depending on whether they work in London or live in Brazil). It feels odd that despite the ongoing political crisis and threats of war, civil or not, the planes are full and the atmosphere festive. Many see this as a sign of the resilience of the Lebanese and their determination to carry on whatever the cost. This attitude is worthy of praise when you are suffering from terminal cancer and decide to run the marathon but Lebanon is not suffering from a terminal illness, it is at the centre of an international struggle to which powerful elements in the country have chosen to align themselves at the detriment of internal unity and the welfare of the common people. This is not a tragedy over which we have no control and are left to dedicate our energy else where.This is a disaster waiting to happen that is of our own making. In response; denial, repression, sublimation or any other Freudian psychological mechanism is inappropriate and harmful. Human societies react differently when faced with conflict and uncertainty. Priorities change for some while others see opportunities in chaos. A vibrant nightlife and consumer confidence are not signs of hope when not linked to a broader context. In the absence of the state, what is required is for students, professionals, unions, civil society and others to remain vigilant and remind us that Beirut was still the Paris in the Middle East a few weeks before indiscriminate sectarian killing started in 1975. Eid Moubarak and Merry xmas to all of you out there. By all means party but keep an eye on the storm brewing in the horizon.

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