January 25, 2015

Inspire Change

Yesterday I was skiing on the peaks of Mzaar (2,456 meters)

You live in a beautiful country,” a Dutch friend remarked as she saw my latest snow pictures online. Indeed. I do. Yesterday I was skiing on the peaks of Mzaar. Today I hiked around the mountain in the sun. Some of my friends are whatsapping their beach day pictures in Byblos. A beautiful country.

Today I hiked around it (The Mzaar Peak is right under the 'm' of 'meters)

There isn’t much pride in it, though. I was recently with a group of kids in a workshop, and the subject of nationality came up. They all claimed to be non-Lebanese. Quite a few were American, one Australian, a French child, a German child, a few were from the Gulf. But every child was actually Lebanese. With two Lebanese parents. Maybe not born, but most definitely raised in Lebanon for the past 4 to 5 years, if not longer. They had Lebanese names, Lebanese grandparents, Lebanese roots, spoke Lebanese and adhered to the Lebanese culture. Yet not one single child identified itself as being Lebanese. The only one who did identify himself as being from his own country, was a Syrian child. He was Syrian, and proud of it.
The reservoirs are filling up
If I have a Chinese passport, would that make me Chinese?” I asked the children. No, they agreed. That would not make me Chinese. But it isn’t good to be Lebanese, they explained. Lebanon is a ‘bad country’, to use their words. And we are talking about children from the upper regions of society, so for them, life here really isn’t that bad.

View on the Mediterranean Sea (where people were sitting on the beach), . . .
Is there a future for them in Lebanon? Probably not for many, unless they inherit the family’s business, or their parents’ fortune.  Or both. The rest will have to go abroad in order to make a decent living. But does that make it a bad country? No. An unfortunate situation maybe. But a situation that begs for change. However, it is obviously not a change they feel responsible for. And I often hear that. “What difference will it make?” they say. “The same people always run this place. It’s not in our hands. “
. . .  while we hike in the snow.
It is a very fatalistic view on life.
Now if life were like that in Holland, with only 1,550 hours of sunlight (versus some 2,500 in Lebanon), icy winter conditions, rules,  regulations and taxes up to the wazoo, and maybe 30 days of beach weather if you’re lucky, yes, I can understand you wouldn’t care. But we’ve got everything you’d need; from beaches to ski-resorts. You live by the sea, you’ve got a fantastic culture, great food, we’re pretty self-sufficient as far as fruits and vegetables go, a good family network. Isn’t that worth fighting for?
Yet, when 8 soldiers die, and 22 get injured in cross-border skirmishes, we pay as much attention to it as to the death of a 90-something Saudi king. So apparently not.

And yes, I hear you. In order to get to a country with equal chances and social equity, taxes would have to be substantially higher than they currently are in Lebanon. But children are not inspired by their parents to instill change. Parents have given up, and tell their children not to bother either, because indeed, those asking for a change most likely will get blown up. Ghandi was able to inspire change in the Indians for some 18 years before he got assassinated. Our heroes (have we had any?) tend to have a shorter shelf life.  
Possibilities for an ice-skating rink?

I confess, I am guilty too: I have sent my son outside to study because I know that he will not be able to raise his own family here from a salary of a $2,000 a month (If he’s lucky). But I believe we are wrong. We need to built a generation that believes in change and making a difference. Just not sure how to go about it.
Any ideas?


Anonymous said...

Wow! Nice photos.

Elie said...

It is sad how Lebanese think of their country. They are either ashamed or ridiculously proud. Both opinions being very unhealthy. Thank you for loving this country the way you do, we need more people like you.

Anonymous said...

I used to be proud to consider myself Lebanese when I was younger.. now that pride has turned into shame and disgust, sorry to say.. As far as Lebanon, I will always love the country, however not the people and the direction is has been headed in for a long time.

Aldo said...

One likes to be different.
I live in France and I am usually proud to say that I am lebanese. Grew up in Lebanon and the once "non lebanese" in my school are also proud to say they are now.
Man likes to be different and unique. This is all, no pessimism in that.
I believe that we have the best elite in the world because we were pushed to study abroad. Therefore, our education is not "single minded" but very rich and diverse. Give expats an ounce of hope and they'll come back and rebuild our country.
Change is upon us and Lebanon will rise once more, no doubt to that.

Love your blog.

Charbel Najjar said...

Hi, lovely blog! I'm glad you love Lebanon.

I am Lebanese-Australian with my heritage from Bcharre.

I am writing my thesis at the moment and would like to ask you some questions.

I cannot find your contact details on your blog, so if you can please contact me on charbelnajjar@gmail.com.

Looking forward to hearing from you. Charbel

Gerald (SK14) said...

what a predicament - of course many think the grass is greener over the hill - good that you can talk about it.

Anonymous said...

This used to be a nice country, but not any more. Can understand the kids feelings. Your blog shows the good side.that is why you have so many flowers, many of us want the good side and do not want to know the truth. Your Lebanese life is very different from most Lebanese. We are glad your happy ,that is what we wish for you always. As for me I gave up on Lebanon. You see the cup half full, but the cup is almost empty.

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised that kids will show off for having an occidental passport. This is for them a sign of pride. The Lebanese nationalism is something that comes with time, when we learn the history of our country (not the last 40 years though, as they are shameful ...).