By Joseph El-Khoury
Activism is back! The free people of Lebanon have forced TSC Sultan, the Kuwaiti group which acquired Monoprix and related retail outlets to sell alcohol in full public view. This must be one of the oddest campaigns I have heard of. A campaign to facilitate access to alcohol at a time where developed countries are looking for ways to encourage responsible limited drinking. I don’t have a problem with alcohol. I love nothing better than a nice glass of white wine to accompany my Syiadiye, an Almaza to wash down the peanuts or a Cuba Libre to go with my nachos. Alcohol is and will always be part and parcel of my social life. On the other hand I am very uncomfortable with the massive hysteria displayed by some Lebanese against what can be best described as a silly decision by an Arab Conservative establishment to position their alcohol beverages in an awkward corner of their stores. While the Kuwaitis showed complete lack of business sense, for reasons that I can only speculate on; the Lebanese (Christians mostly) behaved as if their entire existence depended on how prominently their Sauvignon Blanc was displayed on supermarket shelves. Faced with a fledgling democracy, a corrupt political elite, lack of opportunities and dependence on these same Gulf Arabs for employment and investment they choose to fight for their right to get drunk. Is it conceivable that this was the first step towards banning alcohol altogether and enforcing the veil when the Beirut nightlife rivals Miami in hedonism and booziness? Well, yes! According to the conspiracy theorists behind the Facebook group which gathered thousands of supporters in a matter of days. And this was not all. Apparently ‘brands of Pork products are limited’. Scary! A more militant group even advocates the broadening of the boycott to include (quote unquote):
● BOYCOTT " Dekkané " a store that just opened in Achrafieh, for not selling alcohol or pork.
● BOYCOTT " Pain d'or " because it doesn't serve alcohol or ham.
● BOYCOTT " Patchi " : no truffes au cognac ni au champagne.
● BOYCOTT " Grand Café " : no alcohol, jellab and tea only.
● BOYCOTT :" Burger king " for withdrawing bacon from it's menu .
● BOYCOTT : "Mac Donald's " for not serving bacon while doing so in other countries.
● BOYCOTT :" Spinneys Tripoli " for selling alcohol in a different and specific area.
● BOYCOTT : " Dunkin donuts " for not serving bacon although they do worldwide.
● BOYCOTT : " COOP broumana " , it has a seperate section for alcohol with a seperate cashier
Originally I thought this a spoof of some sort, then I heard rumours that distributors and related business interests were behind the initial move to boycott. Others have mentioned that some political movements were feeding into the hype for electoral reasons. Whatever the mechanism, a move to boycott is a political statement and is disproportionate in this context. It would have been wiser to highlight this issue in the media and rather leave it to the customers to vote with their feet. Given it a political and existential dimension only serves those who have still to benefit from the ghetto mentality that remains unshakable among Lebanese Christians. The net result is a false solidarity and a misplaced victory for the bigots running our country. Bacardi will not preserve your way of life and Johnny Walker will not bring back Lebanon‘s glory days. I strongly suggest you look for your redemption elsewhere!